Perihelion!

By Phil Plait | January 2, 2010 8:00 am

Does the Sun look a little brighter to you? Maybe that’s because at nine minutes after midnight (UT) tonight, January 2/3, the Earth will be at perihelion, the closest point on its elliptical orbit to the Sun.

At that moment, the Sun’s center will be 147,098,040 kilometers away from the Earth’s center (that’s 91,402,484.5 miles for you Murricans). That is, assuming the distance from the centers of the two bodies is 0.983289667 Astronomical Units, and one AU is 149,597,870.7 kilometers. You can compare that to when we reach aphelion, our most distant point from the Sun, which in 2010 will occur on July 6 at 11:30 UT, when we’ll be 1.016701958 AU or 152,096,448 km (94,508,351.3 miles) from our star.

That change in distance — about 5 million kilometers, or 3 million miles — is only a small fraction of our distance from the Sun, so it doesn’t change the Earth’s temperature very much: a few degrees Celsius, but that’s about it. So, of course, that’s not the reason we have seasons. If it were, then we’d have winter in July in the northern hemisphere! But of course, the international cabal of astronomers covers this fact up.

Still, when you think about it, the Sun is a frakkin’ long way off. Even now, at our closest point, it would take over 20 years to fly to the Sun in an airplane at 800 kph (500 mph)! And the TSA would make you sit silently with nothing in your lap for the last 3 years of the journey, too.

But my point is (in case you were wondering if I had one) that the Sun is hot, and there’s a lot of it. I’m glad it’s so far away, even when it’s at its closest.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Astronomy, Cool stuff, Geekery
MORE ABOUT: aphelion, perihelion, Sun

Comments (84)

  1. philippec

    A few degrees celcius? really? Isn’t that a lot?

  2. JAK

    This is the second blog post that I read here that helped me realize that our distance from the sun is not the reason for the seasons. I can’t remember what was the first, however, what the first post did was to have me research the cause for seasons and things about our wobble on axis etc.

    While I am still not fully clear on all the reasons/variables that cause our seasons, the point I am trying to make is (and I did have this since the other blog post :-) ) in my childhood my teachers taught me that seasons were due to the shape of our orbit and I lived lot closer to the equator then, so maybe it was a convenient way out for them, or maybe they didn’t know better. However, can someone suggest a good guide to help understand this issue better.

    I am hoping that the teachers and the students that may be reading this blog might avoid the same fate as me.

  3. I’ll look out the window at nine minutes after midnight to check.

    Happy new year.

  4. Spectroscope

    @ 1. philippec Says:

    A few degrees celcius? really? Isn’t that a lot?

    Well I think that’s meant to be enough to fry our entire planet and end the world according to the Gore Bull Warming Alarmists isn’t it? ;-)

    PS. Here’s a suggestion for a (late but better than never! ) New Years Resolution for you BA – to resolve to be more skeptical about the issues & people you agree with too like the AGW hoax which we now know to have been at best exxaggerated because of the leaked Climategate emails. ;-)

  5. @philippec … well if you think in terms of the Habitable Zone, which is between (roughly) 0.7 and 1.5 AU for our sun, you can extrapolate that a few degrees change is about right. Also, Earth’s atmosphere and oceans mitigate the differences even more.

  6. Messier Tidy Upper

    Cool .. er .. hot news. Thanks BA. :-)

    How many sunspots does our daytime star boast now and is its count rising?

    @ 4. Spectroscope: I think the AGW apocalypse is meant to kick in at about 4 or 5 degrees rise not 1 or 2. Plus 5. scibuff is right about what he (?) said too.

  7. Peter B

    JAK said: “While I am still not fully clear on all the reasons/variables that cause our seasons, the point I am trying to make is (and I did have this since the other blog post :-) ) in my childhood my teachers taught me that seasons were due to the shape of our orbit and I lived lot closer to the equator then, so maybe it was a convenient way out for them, or maybe they didn’t know better. However, can someone suggest a good guide to help understand this issue better.”

    Even better, perhaps we can help you here.

    Firstly, let’s remember that the Earth orbits the Sun, and it takes a year to do so. Secondly, the Earth’s axis is tilted at about 23 degrees to its path around the Sun, which is why globes of the Earth are tilted in their frames. For the purposes of this article, the tilt is fixed (it alters over a period of thousands of years, but this can be ignored in this explanation).

    The tilt of the Earth’s axis means that in December the South Pole is inclined towards the Sun, and the North Pole inclined away. Six months later, when the Earth is on the opposite side of the Sun, the North Pole is inclined towards the Sun and the South Pole is inclined away.

    Each day, the Sun rises, climbs across the sky, then descends and sets. The maximum height the Sun reaches in the sky (expressed as an angle above the horizon) is determined both by your latitude and the time of the year. For example, here in the Southern Hemisphere, the Sun reaches highest in the sky in December, and has its lowest maximum height in the sky in June. The higher the Sun’s maximum height in the sky, the longer the time between sunrise and sunet.

    Two things combine to make summer warmer than winter. Firstly, the Sun spends longer in the sky, so it has more time to heat that part of the Earth. Secondly, when the Sun is higher in the sky, the Sunlight passes through the Earth’s atmosphere at a less oblique angle. This means more heat reaches the surface of the Earth, rather than being dispersed through the atmosphere.

    The consequence of all this is that each hemisphere of the Earth is warmer when it’s tilted towards the Sun.

    Does this explanation help?

  8. Astroquoter

    This line:

    Even now, at our closest point, it would take over 20 years to fly to the Sun in an airplane at 800 kph (500 mph)!

    Reminds me of these five quotes which add some perspective and hopefully interesting comparisons:

    1. “Space isn’t remote at all. Its only an hour away if your car could go straight upwards.”
    - Page 43, Sir Fred Hoyle, ‘The Wonderful World of Space’, Heather Couper, Octopus Books, 1980.

    (But …)

    2. “If it were possible to drive straight from the Earth to Neptune, taking the shortest possible route and keeping up a steady 60 m.p.h., the journey would take nearly 5,200 years.”
    - Page 57, ‘The Sky at night’, Patrick Moore, WW. Norton & Co, 1986.

    3. “Suppose the nearest civilisation on a planet of another star is, say, 200 light years away. Then some 150 years from now they’ll begin to receive our feeble post-world war II television and radio emission.”
    - Carl Sagan, ‘Pale Blue Dot’ page 388, Headline Book Publishing, 1995.

    4. “Since our Sun was formed more than 4 billion years ago, it has travelled around the Galaxy 16 times.”
    - “Two of the Milky Way’s Spiral Arms Go Missing.” NASA e-newsletter news release 2008-June-4th.

    5. Our Sun’s brightness is gradually increasing by about 10 % every billion years.
    – McNab, David & Younger, James, ‘The Planets’, BBC Worldwide,1999. & “The Planets” final episode – ‘Destiny” , BBC TV, screened circa 1995-2005. (?)

  9. Brian

    The amount of energy the earth receives from the sun averages out over the course of a year. Every orbit has an aphelion as well as a perihelion, and we actually spend a little more time out near aphelion, if you think back to Kepler’s laws. Basically the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit is completely irrelevant from the point of view of global warming (discounting hemispheric albedo differences and more complicated dynamical processes), and anyone who tries to point this out as a refutation of global warming is merely demonstrating their scientific ignorance. It’s too bad there’s not a vaccination for *that* horrible disease. ;)

  10. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 3. Vagueofgodalming Says:

    I’ll look out the window at nine minutes after midnight to check. Happy new year.

    Thanks – same to you. :-)

    As for looking out the window to check the size of the Sun at midnight – can I presume you are sending us your comments from Antartica? ;-)

    @ 9. Brian Says:

    The amount of energy the earth receives from the sun averages out over the course of a year. Every orbit has an aphelion as well as a perihelion, and we actually spend a little more time out near aphelion, if you think back to Kepler’s laws.

    How much more time do we spend at – or rather in the zone of aphelion than perihelion? Does it make our winter’s longer or anything & if not why not?

    Basically the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit is completely irrelevant from the point of view of global warming (discounting hemispheric albedo differences and more complicated dynamical processes), and anyone who tries to point this out as a refutation of global warming is merely demonstrating their scientific ignorance.

    Correct.

    It’s too bad there’s not a vaccination for *that* horrible disease.

    Well it can be corrected by choice – you can remedy ignorance by being willing to learn ..

  11. Dave

    Also, due to the lower angle of incidence in the winter, the sun’s rays are spread over a larger surface area, and so deliver less heat per cm squared than when the angle of incidence is greater and the sun’s rays are concentrated on a smaller area….. but that’s kind of the same effect as atmospheric dispersion of energy.

  12. Eighthman

    Perihelion has one effect of significance this time. Coupled with the just-full Moon, tides will be their highest of the year. With a huge storm brewing off the Canadian maritimes, which is expected to “back up” into the coast, shorelines could be whipped up. Not sure if there are similarly effected weather systems elsewhere on the planet.

  13. T_U_T

    Well it can be corrected by choice – you can remedy ignorance by being willing to learn ..

    Willful ignorance can not be corrected by choice.

  14. Brian

    How nice that perihelion happens to coincide with Palindrome Day (2010/01/02). Happy perihelion everyone!

  15. Chip

    Re: sunspots question. We are now in Cycle 24 (Or at least the 24th cycle of sunspot increase since people started tracking these things.) Started late and there are still very few spots on the sun at present- sometimes days with none. It’s supposed to peak around 2012, with predictions of a lower peak than in past cycles. Stay tuned as they say. (Tons of absolute B.S. on sunspots if you do a web search. Maybe Phil can do a bit on the truth about sunspots sometime before 2012.)

  16. alfaniner

    A serious question — I know the opening statement was supposed to be a little joke-y, but is it actually a perceptible effect, and how often does it happen? (I assume about once a year?).

    There have been times when I really did think the Sun was brighter than usual and joked about the old Twilight episode about Earth losing its orbit and falling into the Sun.

  17. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Then some 150 years from now they’ll begin to receive our feeble post-world war II television and radio emission.

    Very feeble. In fact, I seem to remember recent claims that these emissions dive below any practical SNR a l.y. or so out? (Practical for the way they are coded. Any wide-band coding could extend the range somewhat.) Maybe someone can set me straight on this?

    I assume that nuclear blasts are visible another order of magnitude away or so, which should make it to our nearest neighboring stars. Happy New Year greetings from Earth! (o.O)

    @ Chip:

    Thy wish is granted. Phil did that a couple of times few weeks back, search it. (“The return of sunspots! Maybe!”, “Here comes the Sun(spot)!”, and various pieces on the 2012 BS.)

    I would rather have an insightful piece on how this extremely timely phenomena, that seem to elucidate mechanisms behind this chaotic behavior as already covered above, also presents an opportunity that the astrophysical society has grasped with spotless enthusiasm.

    IIRC some probes are looking at background phenomena that are usually hidden or disturbed. Perhaps the change in solar wind will show up as observable changes in the heliopause. And I seem to remember that the gravity probe GOCE that dives deep into the stratosphere will have an extended lifetime of 3 years or so, which is “heavy” news if true.

  18. Spectroscope

    @ 9. Brian Says:

    The amount of energy the earth receives from the sun averages out over the course of a year. Every orbit has an aphelion as well as a perihelion, and we actually spend a little more time out near aphelion, if you think back to Kepler’s laws. Basically the eccentricity of the earth’s orbit is completely irrelevant from the point of view of global warming (discounting hemispheric albedo differences and more complicated dynamical processes), and anyone who tries to point this out as a refutation of global warming is merely demonstrating their scientific ignorance.

    Wait on a second – I was specifically responding to the comment by philippec (#1.) about how much difference a few degrees make or are supposed to make & NOT claiming anything at all about Earth’s orbital eccentricity. :roll:

    I did say I’d try & restrain myself on this topic – & I’m trying, honestly I am, but I did think that point worth making.

    Might I please also remind people on the topic of science (& apparent ignorance thereof) that the scientific method works – or at least is supposed to work – thus:

    1) A theory is proposed.

    2) This theory makes predictions which are then subjected to evidence based tests.

    3) If the evidence supports the theory then the theory is considered *provisionally* supported. (Not “Settled beyond doubt” or decided by consensus or Garbage-In-Garbage-Out computer modelling.)

    BUT

    If the evidence contradicts the theory then the theory is falsified and scrapped and its back to the drawing board for better ones.

    Right? With me so far?

    Now, lets see how the AGW “theory” compares to this ideal:

    1) Theory proposed is that human pollution specifically C02 is causing dangerous and rapid global temperature rises.

    2) Prediction? Obviously that temperatures will keep rising at a rapid & increasing rate if Human Co2 emissions continue.

    Now … Testing data vs prediction – look at the records:

    Hottest year ever = 1998!

    1998 – not this year, not last year not even in the last decade but twelve years ago!

    Rapid, alarming warming? No.
    Warming at all? No.

    In fact, global temperatures in the last decade either stabilised or slightly fell while humans kept pouring more ..& more .. & more Co2 into the air.

    So we can safely conclude – are levels of human-made Co2 rising? Yes.
    Are temperatures correspondingly rising? No!
    Therefore the AGW theory is falsified and demonstrated to be false. Q.E.D.

    So shouldn’t we then accept this reality and conceed that the myth of human Co2 causing climate change is busted?

    Where exactly am I wrong in my argument above?

    Do tell, no really, please do.

    It may be a short & simple argument but I think its devastating to the AGW Warmers – & if you can show me otherwise and convince me that I’ve gone wrong somewhere there then I will change my mind.

    Because unlike the quasi-religion of Green ideology & Gore worship my mind is skeptical and open to the truth.

    Also the truth of the desperation and data manipulation of the Warmer Alarmists stands starkly visible in the Climategate scandal. Perhaps the BA can excuse the word “trick” perhaps one or two emails by themselves may be out of context or whatever other rationalisations the Warmers come up with but all 1,000 plus of them Come on! :roll:

    Put all the Climategate emails together & they clearly build up a very nasty picture of scientific malpractice and suppressing dissent to “hide the decline” and delete rather than share the data. What are they hiding? What else hasn’t been revealed? Aren’t any of you even the slightest bit curious and skeptical here? Are you really too scared to be a politically incorrect heretic to see what seems blindingly obvious to me?

    I feel quite certain that Climategate is another key factor that proves the AGW skeptics right and the AGW Believers wrong & you’ll have to find something very powerfully convincing indeed to make me think otherwise.

    But as I said, if you think you can do it – I challenge you to try and convince me & I am ready to be swayed by superior logic.

    Just NOT insults like “Denier” nor calls to STFU or to rely on the “authority” of people like Mike Mann, Phil Jones and Al Gore who have shown they are NOT to be trusted. Or do you think that Al Gore really did invent the internet too? :roll:

    Hey, I even promise not to mention this subject again for the rest of this year *if* you can convince me that my logic on the “1998 = dispoof of AGW” there is wrong & come up with a reasonable scientifically legitimate explanation of Climategate. So the challenge is set … have at you! (as they say in ye olde duels.) :-)

  19. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    “already covered above”. In Phil’s previous articles, that is.

  20. Crab

    If you want some answers on sun and sun spots visit http://www.solarcycle24.com/
    Solar physicist Leif Svalgaard often visits their forum and answers questions, he also answers question on Anthony Watts’ blog (in his sun related posts).

  21. Brian

    10. Messier Tidy Upper Says:

    How much more time do we spend at – or rather in the zone of aphelion than perihelion? Does it make our winter’s longer or anything & if not why not?

    Kepler observed that orbiting bodies sweep out equal areas in equal times, equivalent to the statement that a body’s orbital angular momentum is constant. To first order, the perihelion/aphelion difference is about 3% in distance (5 million km/150 million km or 1 part in 30), so we must move roughly 3% slower near aphelion, such that the product of orbital distance and orbital angular velocity remains unchanged.

    The solar energy received when the earth is at a distance r scales as 1/r^2 (inverse square relation), so it differs by about 6%. The energy radiated by the earth – if it were a black body – scales as T^4, so the earth’s equilibrium temp should increase from aphelion to perihelion by about the fourth root of (1+0.06), or a change of about 1.5%. For a global mean temp of 281 K, that means a change of roughly 4 degrees kelvin (or celsius). This assumes a perfect blackbody, and doesn’t take into account albedo or radiative transfer effects in the atmosphere, which is where the greenhouse gases do their magic.

    IANACM (I am not a climate modeler), but I think that the albedo differences between the hemispheres (produced by the differing landmass/ocean areas) and dynamical processes (transport by winds and ocean currents, etc.) are probably more significant than the differences produced directly by the change in solar insolation. The processes are very complex, which is why you need to have detailed computer models (and also specialize in this field) in order to say anything *quantitative*. I believe that most of the people who do so are intelligent and acting in good faith, though I must admit that even I have my doubts about the motivations of some (a very few, mind you) of them. Politics corrupts absolutely. As long as there exists a skeptical *and* scientifically literate populace we should be able to separate the facts from the fiction.

  22. DrFlimmer

    Hm…. 0.09 UT…. *thinking*… that’ll be at 1.09 am my time…. looking at the sun is not dangerous at this time…. can’t get blind…. think about doing it…. oh, it’s the middle of the night, the sun is not up… too bad. :(

  23. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Spectroscopy:

    Oh, you were serious?!

    If the evidence supports the theory then the theory is considered *provisionally* supported. (Not “Settled beyond doubt” or decided by consensus or GIGO computer modelling)

    Wrong!

    - A theory (or an observation) is commonly taken to be settled beyond reasonable doubt if it passes tests to a practical precision. There is no ‘provisional’ in science theories and facts. That is the falsified theory of inductionists, known to be wrong since 18th century or so. Falsification on the other hand passes tests ;-) , so is consistently a correct theory.

    There _is_ quantifiable uncertainty (used in tests), mistakes (bad tests) and so on, but under _no_ circumstances ‘provisional’ facts and theories. Inductionism is popular among fundamentalists, whether creationists or anti-scientists as climate science deniers or anti-vaxxers. Precisely because it obscures the meaning of facts and theories.

    For observations, especially unsupported by theory, practical (im)precision can amount to many sigma (5-9 are usually seen). As for theory, it depends on subject. In physics, I would say that 3 sigma is usually taken, at least if there are several other tests passed to similar (un)certainty.

    For example, inflation is tested by WMAP and other observations on the CMB and is part of the overall standard theory. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be an alternative to explain CMB gaussian statistics and space flatness.

    But the precision is currently shy of 3 sigma (IIRC ~ 2.6). And coincidentally AFAIU inflation is still considered unsettled.

    Observing phenomena that involves a lot of contingency, like our only universe, Earth or populations in medicine, can at times demand lower standards. For example, the difference between a healthy eye and a glaucoma eye is lower than 2 sigma in humans, with a great deal of overlap between distributions.

    The same goes for climate research, where “normal forced” and “anthropic forced” climates overlap for low forcing. Nevertheless one _can_ observe the difference in model populations, i.e. running the models enough times to wash out individual contingency.

    - GIGO modeling isn’t used in science, as peer review uncovers such problems.

    Where exactly am I wrong in my argument above?

    Confusing weather (one year of noisy data) with climate (usually observed over 30 years, I believe – or at least, speaking of sun spots, over a solar cycle average). Cherry picking. Confusing established climate science with social debate. And on and on.

    If you have any climate predictions from an alternative model that can compete with what climate scientists accept, you are welcome to publish your data. Absent that, you are just covering your eyes from established facts.

  24. Peter B

    Spectroscope asked: “Hottest year ever = 1998! 1998 – not this year, not last year not even in the last decade but twelve years ago! Rapid alarming warming? No. Warming at all? No. In fact, global temperatures the last decade either stabilised or slightly fell while humans kept pouring more ..& more .. & more Co2 into the air.”

    My understanding is that the significance lies not in a single year, but trends over decades. If you were to take rolling averages of temperatures, say, the average over 10 years starting every year from 1950 (thus, the averages of 1950-1959, 1951-1960, 1952-1961, and so on) what would they show? To point to a single year is as misleading as pointing to the performance of a sporting team in a single match as an indicator of its season.

    “So we can safely conclude – are levels of human -made Co2 rising? Yes. Are temperatures correspondingly rising? No! Therefore the AGW theory is falsified and demonstrated to be false. Q.E.D.”

    As pointed out above, what are the trends?

    “So shouldn’t we then accept this reality and conceed that the myth of human Co2 causing cliamte change is busted? Where exactly am I wrong in my argument above? Do tell, no really, please do.”

    I’ll assume this is eagerness and not sarcasm.

    I think you’re wrong in that human contributions to the atmosphere represent only a portion of the process. We know, for example, that massive volcanic eruptions cool the Earth temporarily, and that changes in the Sun may cool or heat the Earth. Therefore the Earth might cool after carbon dioxide levels increase because a natural cooling event is more powerful than our warming actions. However, the carbon dioxide humans add to the atmosphere make the Earth [i]warmer than it otherwise would have been[/i]. This might not be a problem if we experience a series of natural cooling events. But as we have no control over these sorts of events, it seems unwise to do things which might exacerbate the situation if nature throws a series of natural warming events at us.

    In other words, it’s the precautionary principle.

    This is not to say I blindly accept all claims made by proponents of global warming – I have questions, and I’m curious to know the answers. It’s just that I also see incidental aspects of global warming. For example there are now birds endemic to where I live that weren’t here twenty years ago – they used to live in warmer locations, but their range now includes my home town.

  25. Crux Australis

    Perihelion: Not the reason for the season.

  26. Brian

    17. Spectroscope Says:
    “Wait on a second – I was specifically responding to the comment by philippec (#1.) about how much difference a few degrees make or are supposed to make & NOT claiming anything at all about Earth’s orbital eccentricity.”

    Yes, and you were equating a regular periodic change (like the voltage in an AC circuit) with a long term constant change (like the DC voltage from a car battery). Which makes me suspect your analytical abilities, if not your motives. If your statement had nothing to do with AGW, then why did you bring it up?

    As I said in a previous post, IANACM, but I get tired of hearing people with degrees in accounting or truck driving spouting on about how “it’s all sunspots”, or “it’s the volcanoes”. What is is, is DOGMA. None of those people really KNOW anything, they just BELIEVE something. Generally speaking, they lack the skills to distinguish between truth and BS in this particular arena, although it never stops them from doing so.

    If I wanted to go to Vegas and place a bet on what the global average temperature would be in twenty years, I would seek out an estimate from an expert in the field, not a grocery store clerk or a medical doctor. Sure, the expert might be wrong, probably will be in fact. Modeling is about making your best estimate based on the current available knowledge. The problem with climate science is that most of the non-science public wish to cast it in terms of certainty, rather than probability, and then look on every deviation from prediction as “proof” that the whole concept is a crock.

    Every time I get in my car there is a small probability that I might be involved in an accident. The prudent person purchases automobile insurance to protect themselves from a catastrophic loss in case that should come to pass. If I make my trip and return home safely was I “lied to” by the insurance agent? Have I been “defrauded” by false warnings about the dangers of driving? I think not.

    As a society, we’ve received a warning about possible future hazards produced by our current behavior. A choice has been presented – should we make small changes now in order to avoid a potentially much larger hazard down the road, or will we just keep speeding blindly along and then act surprised when something bad happens?

    I know how I choose to respond, and I’m not going to do any more evangelizing about what anyone else should or shouldn’t do. In this, as in all other things however, I suggest that we all learn to differentiate between what is “believed” and what is “known”. (And yes, just as general relativity eventually replaced Newton’s Laws, what we “know” can evolve over time, too.)

  27. bad Jim

    It may be that in the tropics there is a noticeable difference between perihelion and aphelion. At the equator, the sun is overhead at the equinoxes and maximally oblique at the solstices.

  28. earth2allie

    Well this explains a lot. I nearly fell down when I walked outside this morning– was blinded by the light. Could chalk it up to being a grad student whose eyes haven’t seen the Sun due to being locked in the physics building OR the fact that it has been cloudy in Georgia for as long as I can remember lately OR the fact that we’re at perihelion. Maybe it was a combination of all. Leave it to the BA to blind us all with science!

  29. MadStar

    There is a simple scientific test to determine if Global Warming is real or not:

    1) Do nothing, just keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere.
    2) Wait a few decades.
    3) See if we have destroyed civilization.

    If civilization is destroyed by major climate change, then we’ll know that we should have done something NOW to prevent it – or mitigate it even if it is part of a “natural cycle”. If not, I’ll admit that the Alarmists (don’t you love the capitalizations?) were wrong.

  30. Flavio

    @Spectroscope

    http://www.realclimate.org … ‘nough said!

  31. Rupertdragon

    I think we should declare Perihelion day the new new year’s day. That makes sense. This is the start of the earth’s yearly orbit around the sun, if any day is. I think that is why Jan. 1st was designated as such. But anyways, we are off by a few days. and that should be corrected. I am celebrating New Year’s Day today, because of the perihelion.
    It is similiar to a new moon moment. Well, this brings me to another point and misconception. You only have one birthday, the rest are natal anniversaries of that date. When someone’s ‘birthday’ comes around, i always send them a New Year’s card, because that what it is in fact, the start of your own personal year. That brings me to another misconception: Halloween. That was originally celebrated as the peak of the Fall season, when the sun is 15 degrees in the sign of Scorpio, or 45 degrees from the Autumn Equinox. This goes for the other sacred holidays at the midpoints of the seasons, the point when the season’s energy is at it’s optimum level. this brings me to say Happy Perihelion to all before its over.

  32. Wayne Robinson

    00:09 UT works out to be 8:09 am here, so I’ll look to see if the Sun looks brighter, although I don’t think that it is a good idea to look directly at a 200 million billion billion Watt light globe.

  33. Todd Ferguson

    @Spectroscope, #18

    His comment was directly addressed to your original comment, in that the 1 or 2 degrees difference made by perihelion is balanced out by the 1 or 2 degrees difference in the other direction by aphelion.

    As to the rest of your comment, you sent wrong in your argument by doing what AGW-denialists always claim climatologists do: you reduced the situation to simply f(CO2)=temperature. There are myriad things that affect the climate, and the climatologists that study climate change take all of those factors into account when making predictions and engineering models.

    As to your claim that 1998 was the warmest year on record: bzzt, sorry, you lose. No consolation prize. Lots of data actually show 2005 as being warmer than 1998. Whoops, that was just (barely) 5 years ago, a lot close to the present.

    Also, please note, before you start shouting that 2005 was the warmest year on record and now things are cooling, as already stated by others in this thread, this is about long term trends, not differences from year to year. After the previous peak in 1998, things were cooler in 1999, but then, 2000 was warmer than 99, 01 warmer than 00, 02 warmer than 01, etc. We’re seeing the same thing now, 07 warmer than 06, 08 warmer than 07, and so on.

    Analogy time: if you were sick, and you had a fever, and it reached 103 degrees F, and then it dropped back down to 99.7, you wouldn’t say you were healthy again would you, without continuing to monitor the situation. Would you continue to claim, that since your fever was now less than it’s high of 103, you were just fine, even though that 99.7 has crept back up again to 101? If I got a different thermometer and took your temperature and it was 104, would you still claim that your fever broke after it dropped from 103 and there’s no problem?

    You want a solid, scientific experiment showing the reality of global warming, how about this: CO2 absorbs specific frequencies of infrared light (ie, heat). If CO2 were increasing significantly, we should be able to tell by looking at the infrared light being reflected back into space. It would decrease overtime, as more and more of that light was absorbed and trapped in the atmosphere by CO2.

    Well guess what? People did decide to measure that. You won’t believe what they found:

    http://www.eumetsat.int/Home/Main/Publications/Conference_and_Workshop_Proceedings/groups/cps/documents/document/pdf_conf_p50_s9_01_harries_v.pdf

    That’s right! Longwave radiation (ie IR), in the spectrum band absorbed by CO2 has greatly diminished in the amounts reflected back into space.

  34. Todd Ferguson

    Also, because they haven’t already posted, and I would like to post something on topic:

    http://www.treelobsters.com/2008/12/happy-whatever.html
    http://www.treelobsters.com/2009/12/perihelion-fundraiser.html

    I hope you all have your grapefruit and blue marble!

  35. BobH

    So what time is 9 minutes after midnight UT translated into EST? UT-5?

  36. Phil, I want to nominate the title of this post for the “Weirdest Misspelling of Pareidolia” award for 2010. Congrats!

    Peter B@7, minor nit. Actually, as the Earth’s orbit precesses, over a period of about 25,000 years, the tilt remains the same at about 23 degrees. The axis slowly draws a circle (23 degrees in radius) around the ecliptic pole. However, over a longer period of 41,000 years, the tilt changes from about 22.1 to 24.5 degrees and back. There are other, much quicker periodic changes in the earth’s axial tilt (nutation), but these are much smaller effects. The largest, the 18.6 year wobble caused by the Moon, is only about 9″ seconds of arc and the others are at least an order of magnitude smaller.

  37. Spectroscope

    @ 19. Torbjörn Larsson, OM Says:

    “already covered above”. In Phil’s previous articles, that is.

    Not to my satisfaction. The BA did not answer the logic summed up in 1998 = hottest year nor did his excuses which focused on trying to explain away a single word while ignoring the vast majority of the piles of Climategate evidence strike me as anything but a feeble and sadly unskeptical & unthinking following of the Green Warmist line.

    As I noted in my comment # 18, one word or one or two emails can *perhaps* be dismissed but NOT all of them combined! Put together the leaked CRU emails build up a picture of political bias & vested interests (i.e. getting funding & grants , media attention and political power and being able to publish in a scientific community that blindly follows the AGW orthodoxy) that overrides & even suppresses the real science. As I’ve said before, Warmers are exactly like Creationists in deciding what their conclusions will be and altering the evidence to fit those conclusions rather than allowing the evidence to determine what their conclusions will be.

    This is as invalid when those conclusions are “AGW did /will do it” as it is when it is “God-did-it” & in both cases the arguments are not based in science & logic but rather are based in the ever-toxic and corrupting mix of faith and politics.

    Climategate with its admissions of using “tricks” to “hide the decline” & Trenberth’s admission to his Alarmist colleagues that the warming which they predicted just is not happening & they can’t explain this “travesty” is proof of this.

    Oh &, yes, I am very much serious both about my arguments and my challenge. I meant what I said & I am a man of my word.

    (NB. more to follow later ..)

  38. Todd Ferguson

    Spectroscope:

    1998 is not the hottest year on record. I already called you out on that. Not to mention that I thought I had a pretty good analogy that answered the “logic” and showed the flaw in your reasoning, even if 1998 were the hottest year on record, not to mention the fact that multiple people have already said this is about long term trends, not one year in isolation.

    You didn’t address the fact that longwave radiation in the spectrum absorbed by CO2 has consistently been less and less reflected back into space. That’s perhaps the strongest evidence of the effect of extra CO2 in the atmosphere, but you don’t even address it.

    The CRU e-mails show human foibles. They do not represent a global conspiracy. CRU does not control all, or even a a majority of, climate research. If they did, you might have something there, but it doesn’t and you don’t.

  39. Timmy

    Lets have some fun Phil. For a long time we have used the expression “full moon”, “half moon” etc to reference what actually could be called full shadow or something else. Point is, the moon isn’t doing squat to creat the effect (except by being there). Lets give the earth some credit. Lets rename “full moon” with something else.

  40. truthspeaker

    Does the phase of the moon really have anything to do with tides? The phases of the moon have to do with what part of the moon is facing the sun, not how close it is to the earth, right?

  41. Johno

    Spectroscope,

    It seems to me that you are confusing weather and climate. Weather is an instantaneous description of meteorological conditions, whereas climate is a long term average, usually measured as a 30 year running average. If I adopt your methodology, I could claim that April is the driest month of the year, because it was the driest month last year. I could claim that this is a scientific fact, based on data collected well equipped weather stations last year. However, it is nothing more than anecdotal evidence, because the weather varies a lot around here, and April was the one of the wettest months of the year about 4 years go. Perhaps that will help you see where your methodology falls down.

    johno

  42. Johno

    truthspeaker,

    During a new moon, the gravity of the sun and moon are both pulling on Earth in almost the same direction. This causes higher tides during a new moon. It’s not the phase of the moon that causes the high tides, the phase and the high tides are both symptoms of the moons position. That’s the easiest part of the problem to understand.
    Most parts of the world have 2 tides a day, which I believe is caused by some form of resonant effect in the oceans. This also allows high tides to form when the sun and moon are on opposite sides of the Earth, ie during a full moon. These tides are never quite as high as the new moon tides however. If anyone can add further detail to the reason we have 2 tides each day, I’d love to read it.

    johno

  43. Peter B

    @ Buzz Parsec

    You’re absolutely right. I meant to say “the direction the axis points doesn’t change…” My excuse is it was late at night when I wrote it and should have been in bed.

  44. Peter B

    Truthspeaker asked: “Does the phase of the moon really have anything to do with tides?”

    No. The tides are caused by the presence of the Moon and the Sun. The tides raised by the Moon are about twice the size of the tides raised by the Sun. So tides are at their strongest when the Earth, Moon and Sun are aligned.

    “The phases of the moon have to do with what part of the moon is facing the sun, not how close it is to the earth, right?”

    Yes. When the Moon is closer to the Earth, it simply appears slightly larger than when it’s further away.

    The phase of the Moon is determined both by the part of the Moon facing the Sun, and also the part of the Moon facing the Earth. When they’re the same parts of the Moon (that is, when both the Sun and the Earth are facing the same part of the Moon) we see a Full Moon, and when the parts the Sun and Earth face differ by 90 degrees, we see a Half Moon.

    However, to be correct, when the Moon is closer, the tides will be slightly higher, but I think the effect is negligible.

  45. Peter B

    Johno said: “If anyone can add further detail to the reason we have 2 tides each day, I’d love to read it.”

    My understanding is that we get a tide on the opposite side of the Earth to the Moon because that part of the ocean is attracted least by the Moon’s gravity.

    That is, the ocean on the Moon-side of the Earth is closest to the Moon, so gets the largest pull. Then there’s the Earth, which on average is further away from the Moon, so gets pulled less. Then there’s the ocean on the opposite side of the Earth to the Moon which is further away from the Moon than the Earth on average is, so it gets pulled the least.

  46. Michelle R

    I knew the clouds were brighter than usual!

    Stupid clouds.

  47. me

    “People are not born stupid, an education makes them such.”

    Let me guess, Brian just had his third shot of Mercury and now ready to pay his tax for breathing … Not.

    His love for Palindromes strengthens my suspicion about his affiliation with Internet shills even further.

  48. Spectroscope

    @21. Brian Says:

    IANACM (I am not a climate modeler), but I think that the albedo differences between the hemispheres (produced by the differing landmass/ocean areas) and dynamical processes (transport by winds and ocean currents, etc.) are probably more significant than the differences produced directly by the change in solar insolation. The processes are very complex, which is why you need to have detailed computer models (and also specialize in this field) in order to say anything *quantitative*.

    The point is that, yes, natural variations are complex and chaotic in nature – too hard for us to predict accurately at our current understanding despite what the pseudo-scientific climatologists boast. Therefore, simply blaming everything on human C02 is simplistic and, frankly, ridiculous.

    As skeptic, author & scientist Professor Ian Plimer writes:

    “To reduce modern climate change to one variable (co2) or, more correctly, a small proportion of one variable (i.e. human-produced C02) is not science especially as it requires abandoning all we know about planet Earth, the Sun and the cosmos.”
    - Page 11, Heaven & Earth 2009. (Brackets original, emphasis added.)

    Our ever changing and cyclical climate is a very complex area with an enormous number of natural factors that interact in many complex and hard to predict ways.

    As another source ( http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/GlobWarmTest/start.html ) notes the major causes of global temperature shifts include:

    ***

    (1) Astronomical Causes

    • 11 year and 206 year cycles: Cycles of solar variability ( sunspot activity )

    • 21,000 year cycle: Earth’s combined tilt and elliptical orbit around the Sun (precession of the equinoxes )

    • 41,000 year cycle: Cycle of the +/- 1.5° wobble in Earth’s orbit ( tilt )

    • 100,000 year cycle: Variations in the shape of Earth’s elliptical orbit ( cycle of eccentricity )

    (2) Atmospheric Causes

    • Heat retention: Due to atmospheric gases, mostly gaseous water vapor (not droplets), also carbon dioxide, methane, and a few other miscellaneous gases– the “greenhouse effect”

    • Solar reflectivity: Due to white clouds, volcanic dust, polar ice caps

    (3) Tectonic Causes

    • Landmass distribution: Shifting continents (continental drift) causing changes in circulatory patterns of ocean currents. It seems that whenever there is a large land mass at one of the Earth’s poles, either the north pole or south pole, there are ice ages.

    [We can also add here the role of mountain building such as the rising Himalayas & weathering and limestone deposition - Ed.]

    • Undersea ridge activity: “Sea floor spreading” (associated with continental drift) causing variations in ocean displacement.

    ***

    … & these are just some of the ones we *think* we know of right now!

    With so many complex, unpredictable and poorly – if at all – understood processes which all interact; sometimes reinforcing each other and other times cancelling each other out, to blame everything on Co2 is absurd!

    And to claim absolute certainty on this & insist we risk destroying our civilisation as we know it in attempting to change less than 1% of just *one* out of all these possible factors is outright madness.

    Co2 is a minor, non-toxic, life supporting trace gas which makes up far less than 1% of our atmosphere & is a natural product of biological life, geological processes such as volcanoes and the natural carbon cycle. Demonising this one inoffensive chemical compound is downright silly. Without Co2, Earth would be lifeless.

    Besides Earth has had far, far more atmospheric Co2 (25 x higher than now at least) in the past. Even, & this is interesting, during past ice ages, Co2 has been so very much higher than now & yet calamity has never ensued. Carbon dioxide levels, in fact, are at near record low levels currently. So why didn’t Earth overheat in the past – and why will it not do so now?

    To answer this, there is something we need to consider & not overlook as the AGW cult so totally does. This is that Co2 is most effective as a greenhouse gas only at certain concentrations & beyond these concentrations its heat trapping ability diminishes and even becomes totally negliable. As noted skeptic and scientist Prof. Ian Plimer describes it:

    “Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere operates like a curtain on a window. If you want to keep out light add a curtain. A second curtain makes little difference, a third curtain makes even less difference and a forth curtain is totally ineffectual. Co2 operates the same way. Once there is about 400 ppmv CO2 in the atmosphere, the doubling or tripling of the CO2 content has little effect on atmospheric temperature because CO2 has adsorbed all the infra-red energy it can adsorb.”
    - Page 374, Heaven & Earth 2009.

    Plimer notes too that the greatest impact Co2 has is in the first 100 ppmv after which adding more Co2 quickly has less and less effect. That seems to explain why the runaway Greenhouse effect has never eventuated & why AGW is bunk.

    History bears this out as the Earth has undergone many cycles of cooling & warming in the pre-industrial era – the Holocene Optimum, the Minoan warming, the Roman warming, the Medieval Warming & so on. Humans’ weren’t causing those – so why the blazes must we assume we are responsible this time?

    It is pure hairshirt hubris – & a violation of both Occams Razor & the Copernican Principle to do so. It is, in my view, scientifically unsupportable and ludicrous – but politically the AGW scare makes a great excuse for justifying socialist taxes and attempts by the “watermelon greens” (politically green -outside & red-inside) to control people’s lives and derail their own self-destructively hated “imperialist” capitalist society.

    I believe that most of the people who do so are intelligent and acting in good faith, though I must admit that even I have my doubts about the motivations of some (a very few, mind you) of them. Politics corrupts absolutely.

    Indeed it does & Climategate should have opened your eyes and everyone elses. We now know that people like Mike Mann, Phil Jones and, it almost goes without saying, Al Gore all lied to us for their own gain. Why are we not more skeptical of their scare-mongering? I don’t know That baffles me – but I guess political correctness & the power of the Green lobby has a lot to do with it.

    As long as there exists a skeptical *and* scientifically literate populace we should be able to separate the facts from the fiction.

    Have we *ever* had a skeptical & scientifically literate populace? :roll:
    If so, when? We sure don’t have one today as the BA’s constant attempts to debunk patently silly woo illustrate.

    Too many people seem to want to raise taxes, tax perfectly natural and unavoidable things that have never been taxed before, to give away fortunes and economic advantage to hostile or at best indifferent nations like China and miscellaneous money-wasting highly corrupt third world dictatorships, to handicap our nation & the West generally and empower our enemies and potential enemies, to surrender our national sovereignty and, worse, our personal liberty & the right to pursue happiness to faceless UN bureaucrats and green ideologues. All supposedly justified by the demonstrably false fraud of Gore’s AGW Bull.

    Are those supporting or going along with this “skeptically & scientifically illiterate”? Well, how can they *not* be described as such really? And to think they call taking such crazy extreme measures – which wouldn’t work anyhow – to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist “precautionary”! Truth is that following the Green ideology not precautionary at all – its just shooting yourself in the head dumb. :-(

    PS. Afraid I’m out of time for now but will again respond to other replies later when I can. Not ignoring anyone don’t worry just Real Life getting in the way as ever.

    Oh & BTW, Thanks Bad Astronomer for letting me have my say here even although I know you so far to date disagree with me. I ask only that you please consider what I’m saying seriously & rethink your own position here in light of the evidence.

  49. Wayne Robinson

    Yes Spectroscope (comment #43), everything you say is correct, and perhaps AGW is false. But:
    1. Do you want to take the risk that it might be true? There are 6.5 billion people on the Earth. One of the first major countries that would be affected by global warming is Bangladesh, and any great refugee stream from that country would destabilise both India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed and having fought wars in the past.
    2. Fossil fuels aren’t infinite. Oil will run out by 2050 (or it will be very expensive to recover). America might have enough coal to last 200 years, but only at the cost of strip mining the entire Appalachian Mountains. Making fossil fuels more expensive (which is going to happen anyway, but by market forces of supply and demand instead of taxation) to make alternatives economically viable can only be a plus.
    Peter B (comment #41), regarding why we get 2 high tides per day, I think a author (I can’t remember his name, I think his initials were something like PP) wrote a book (I think it was “Bad Astronomy” or something similar) in which he claimed that the gravitational force of the Moon on the Earth was greatest directly beneath the Moon, zero at the centre of the Earth and negative on the opposite side of the Earth to the Moon, so the oceans are pushed away (page 68 in the paperback edition). All BS of course; I think your explanation is the correct one.
    Galileo used the tides to to demonstrate the heliocentric theory. The Catholic church at the time accepted Tycho Brahe’s model, which had Mercury and Venus orbiting the Sun and the Sun and all the other planets orbiting the Earth, which was stationary (both models give reasonably accurate predictions, and geometrically are almost identical). The heliocentric model met so much resistance, because obviously the Earth is not moving, any fool can see that.

  50. bad Jim

    Ah, the invincible ignorance of the autodidact. Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens. Climate science, like health care reform, is part of a global socialist conspiracy. When someone asks, Cui bono?, it’s occasionally alleged that shadowy international bankers stand to profit; it’s left for the reader to connect the dots to George Soros and others of his ilk.

    Global warming deniers never acknowledge that the extremely wealthy energy industries have a direct interest in continuing to do business as usual and spend freely to encourage fear, uncertainty and doubt. Probably few of the commenters here repeating their well-worn canards are witting agents of big oil and big coal, but they nearly always convey talking points originally crafted by corporate hacks earlier employed by the tobacco companies.

    Which reminds me that “Thank You For Smoking” is never mentioned in best 10 lists for the last decade. There were so many good movies that mere excellence is not enough.

  51. Wayne Robinson

    Comment #45 reminds me of Frank Schätzings latest science fiction novel “Limit” about a conspiracy to destroy the brand new space elevator and the new lunar colony mining lunar regolith for the helium 3 used in the new cheap fusion reactors (optimistically set in the year 2025).
    SPOILER ALERT!
    SPOILER ALERT!
    SPOILER ALERT!

    After 1304pages, it turns out that oil companies were behind the conspiracy and were just trying to stay in business for another 20 years so that they had the time to move into some other business.

  52. @46. Wayne Robinson Says:

    Wich on itself is a silly idea, British Petroleum has been the largest manufactures of solar panels in europe, Shell is seeking ideas in how to incorporate AGW in their market strategy, as a matter of facts most if not all companies are already planning for the period after (cheap and easy) oil. So when Helium 3 comes in to play, the former oil companies will make sure that they will get their share of the profit, and those profits will be huge once we set foot in space.

    This off course if they a given a chance to be on this new market, if they are excluded on the other hand than a “Limit” scenario becomes likely.

  53. DrFlimmer

    So, the GW-debate is back again, although the topic had originally nothing to do with it. This reminds me of “Anaconda”, who always saw EU-topics in threads which had nothing to do with it.

    Anyway.

    Co2 is a minor, non-toxic, life supporting trace gas

    I don’t know the exact concentration of CO2 that is needed, but place yourself and any other animal of this planet in a room with enough CO2 and you and the animals will be dead rather soon. CO2 is a deadly poison for any animal that relies on oxygen.
    Plants, on the other hand, depend on CO2 and as a byproduct they emit oxygen. A nice circle.
    It is true that CO2 levels have been higher in the past. But, as far as I know, they were higher when there were less plants on earth. When can that happen? During ice ages! So, we have an ice age, less plants, higher CO2 levels and the temperature can rise. Then the ice is receding, plants spread out, the CO2 level drops and the temperature can fall again. Seems logical, doesn’t it?
    What is happening now? We are at the end of an ice age, so plants should spread out and should drop the CO2 level of the atmosphere. But what are humans doing? We rise the CO2 level in a period when it should drop AND we destroy large parts of the rain forest, so less CO2 can be processed. This seems to be the opposite of what “naturally” should happen.

    Don’t take my word for it, that is what I heard in a talk recently, but I am no expert in this field.

    But still, and here I go with Wayne Robinson:
    Spectroscope, here is a little task for you.
    Ask yourself a few questions beginning with “What if…”. Just produce some worst case scenarios. They might not happen, but then ask yourself:

    Is it worth the risk?

  54. Peter B

    Spectroscope

    I note you quoted Professor Ian Plimer a couple of times.

    I’ll start my response by saying that it was thanks to Professor Plimer that I’m a skeptic, after seeing him on Australian television and buying his book “Telling Lies for God”.

    But in his book “Heaven + Earth” he makes some extraordinary claims about the Sun (about page 110-120 of the paperback: that the Sun was built on the remains of a supernova, that the Sun is a pulsar, and that the Sun primarily consists of metals such as iron.

    When someone makes claims like this in a book which is supposed to be a serious science text, it makes me doubt everything else he says, even if he was the person who effectively set me on the path to being a skeptic.

  55. @48. DrFlimmer

    First of al you need a bit of CO2 for your breathing reflex

    CO2 is dangerous when it makes up 8% of the atmosphere you breath, that’s about 80.000 ppmv, although it is wise to avoid anything more than 2%-4% for longer periods of time, on average an indoor situation has around 600-2500 ppmv (0.0006 – 0.0025% co2) sometimes even more, the official CO2 content of our planetary atmosphere is 387 ppmv (0.000387%).

    Carbon Monoxide (CO) on the other hand is an almost certain death at 600-700 parts per million since it causes hemoglobin to produce carboxyhemoglobin, which is ineffective for delivering oxygen to the body.

    Carbon Monoxide is a result from partially burning of fuel when there is a insufficient supply of oxygen to form Carbon Dioxide. When you hear about Carbon poisoning it is usually Carbon Monoxide who is the culprit, not Carbon Dioxide.

  56. DrFlimmer

    @ Robert

    Thanks for the additional information! Still, in high doses CO2 is a poison, just what I said and intended. I didn’t question that there substances that are far more dangerous than CO2. I just questioned the statement that it is “non-toxic”.

  57. Yes at large amounts CO2 is a poison, wich also can be said for water, drink enough of that and you get Water intoxication (water poisoning) wich can be lethal.

    Point is that living beings can not live without HO2, CO2 and even CO, the amounts of CO2 needed to pose a direct threath to ones live is so high that it is impossible to occur naturally unless you find your self in special circumstances like for example a volcanic eruption, in wich case you have more direct concerns that need attention before you would suffer the effects of a prolonged exposure to high levels of CO2.

    Co2 in our atmosphere is not acting as a poison, the CO2 in your Coca Cola is not a posion, Co2 is only a posion in high levels for a prolonged time, a situation wich will in nature only occur under very special localised circumstances and not in every day live.

  58. dkary

    Is 400 ppm really the cutoff beyond which CO2 doesn’t absorb any more? So then what does this character think is responsible for the 500 K of greenhouse warming on Venus? I’m sorry, but the claim that after 400 ppm there is no difference in IR trapping makes absolutely no sense. Yes, IR trapping can saturate, but it happens at much higher concentrations than 400 ppm.

  59. Wayne Robinson

    I think the 400 ppm saturation for CO2 is correct, but I have heard an explanation as to why it doesn’t apply to Earth’s atmosphere. The saturation effect is measured by shining a beam of long wave light through with varying CO2 levels, and I think percentage absorption does reach maximum at 400 ppm.
    I think the explanation why this doesn’t apply in the Earth’s atmosphere is that the long wave light is absorbed and then retransmitted in all directions, including downwards, to heat the Earth, which then re-radiates the heat again to be reabsorbed in the atmosphere. Also, I wonder if part of the explanation might have been that the height of the atmosphere containing 400 ppm CO2 might be greater too? I think that 10 km of 400 ppm CO2 is going to absorb more than 5 km of 400 ppm CO2.

  60. Brian

    Saturation of an absorption line will occur first at the core, i.e., the middle of the absorption line – think of a rounded v-shaped bite out of the spectrum. Once the transmission (amount of radiation escaping) goes t0 zero at the line core, adding more of the absorber won’t make any difference *at the line core*. However the line’s wings – the part of the v not at the center – will continue to absorb. The amount of absorption will just decrease more slowly as you add more of the absorber. This is known as a “curve of growth” in spectroscopy-speak. CO2 is a molecule, and has many different absorption features at many different wavelengths, each of which may begin to significantly overlap the others as the amount of CO2 along the path of that outgoing radiation increases.

    Figuring out how much absorption takes place in the Earth’s atmosphere also requires handling absorption by all of the other species as well; methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, in fact. In the end, however, the people who model this kind of stuff do so in “Gorey” detail (pun intended), and all of the effects produced by this “radiative transfer” process are dealt with in their models. This is generally not done directly, as it is computationally expensive. Instead a detailed model that handles radiative transfer is run for varying amounts of the absorbing species and the results are then tabulated or “parameterized” for inclusion in a general global climate model. This same parameterization process takes place for most of the other physics in such models, e.g, for aerosols, soot and particulates, ocean/atmosphere CO2 exchange, CO2 uptake by plants, and so on, ad infinitum (or so it must seem to the poor modelers).

    Details aside, the final point to make is that we now CAN model the way these complicated, inter-dependent and non-linear processes operate with some degree of confidence. It is not “useless” to try and determine an answer, any more than it is useless to try and calculate the trajectory of a space probe looping about Saturn. Sure, we can’t write out an exact analytic solution for the N-body orbit problem, but we can approximate the hell out of it, and we have the results to prove it. Check out the course correction logs for the Cassini mission if you don’t believe this. We don’t yet have that level of accuracy in our climate models, but they are getting there. To say that the results have no validity and should thus be ignored is a very ostrich-like behavior. And when was the last time you saw an ostrich flying a spacecraft or even listening to their iPod? Science works, mmm, yeah. What he said. -> http://xkcd.com/54/

  61. Brian

    Turns out the American Institute of Physics has an excellent and concise description of the whole CO2 issue right here (http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm) that thoroughly debunks some of the assertions made in comments above. If you’re seriously concerned about AGW (regardless of your belief in it or not) and not just another ‘net troll you’ll take the time to read it.

    Interesting fact noted there – back in 1951 the American Meteorological Society rejected the idea that CO2 could alter our climate. In the best skeptical tradition, however, they were willing to learn – and changed their minds.

  62. I am not sure if 400 ppmv is the maximum, but its like wearing sunglasses, the first one filters out the most sunlight, a seccond one not as much and by the time when you are putting a 10th layer before your eyes it won’t even matter.

  63. Wayne Robinson

    Robert,
    I suppose the 1700 inhabitants of Lake Lyos in Cameroon in 1986 who died from a discharge of CO2 from deep lake water, would have preferred a volcano. At least a volcano you can see, to run away from. Anyway, humans are putting 130 times the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere than volcanos.

  64. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 21. Brian Says:

    10. Messier Tidy Upper Says:

    “How much more time do we spend at – or rather in the zone of aphelion than perihelion? Does it make our winter’s longer or anything & if not why not?”

    Kepler observed that orbiting bodies sweep out equal areas in equal times, equivalent to the statement that a body’s orbital angular momentum is constant. To first order, the perihelion/aphelion difference is about 3% in distance (5 million km/150 million km or 1 part in 30), so we must move roughly 3% slower near aphelion, such that the product of orbital distance and orbital angular velocity remains unchanged.

    Thanks for that. :-)

    What’s that extra time in terms of months / days / hours /seconds though is what I was asking. Afraid my maths isn’t really good enough to work that out.

  65. Petrolonfire

    As I’ve said before, given the uselessness and inadequacy of the response to climate change /global warming so far (eg. Copenhagen) I think we’d all better really *hope* the skeptics are right! ;-)

    Because if the AGW skeptics are wrong & the extreme scenarios of the Warmers are right then we are stuffed. :-(

  66. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 15. Chip Says:

    Re: sunspots question. We are now in Cycle 24 (Or at least the 24th cycle of sunspot increase since people started tracking these things.) Started late and there are still very few spots on the sun at present- sometimes days with none. It’s supposed to peak around 2012, with predictions of a lower peak than in past cycles. Stay tuned as they say. (Tons of absolute B.S. on sunspots if you do a web search. Maybe Phil can do a bit on the truth about sunspots sometime before 2012.)

    Thanks for that reply – to my question there – too. :-)

  67. Spectroscope

    @31. Flavio Says:

    @Spectroscope ww . realclimate. org … ‘nough said!

    RealClimate is a propaganda lobby site run by Mike Mann, the Alarmist “scientist” notorious for faking the “hockey stick” graph infamously used by Al Gore’s flawed well-known ‘Inconvenient Truth’ movie. (The truth is indeed inconvenient for the AGW Alarmists making that title unintentionally comical! ;-) )

    The RealClimate propaganda site was among the organisations discredited by the Climategate scandal with leaked emails revealing they actively censor dissenting viewpoints and do NOT provide the facts or allow the facts to be provided by Climate change skeptics. It is a site with absolutely zero balance and zero credibility and anybody relying on it for information is badly misinformed.

    *Now* enough has been said on that! ;-)

    @ 23. Torbjörn Larsson, OM Says:

    @ Spectroscopy: Oh, you were serious?!

    Its *Spectroscope* actually not “spectroscopy” so you are already getting things wrong there TL,OM & yes, I’m very serious.

    -A theory (or an observation) is commonly taken to be settled beyond reasonable doubt if it passes tests to a practical precision. There is no ‘provisional’ in science theories and facts. That is the falsified theory of inductionists, known to be wrong since 18th century or so. Falsification on the other hand passes tests, so is consistently a correct theory. There _is_ quantifiable uncertainty (used in tests), mistakes (bad tests) and so on, but under _no_ circumstances ‘provisional’ facts and theories. Inductionism is popular among fundamentalists, whether creationists or anti-scientists as climate science deniers or anti-vaxxers. Precisely because it obscures the meaning of facts and theories.

    Que? I don’t follow you there. Also note that I did say insults such as “denier” are invalid and prove only that you are being rude as well as lacking in the ability to argue logically & fairly.

    The correct term for someone who disagrees with the politico-religious AGW orthodoxy is “skeptic”.

    One of the good things about science is that it is never settled – there are NO proven theories and even things like gravity and Einsteinan physics are open to reveiw and replacement by better ideas just as Einstein’s theory replaced Newtons. You can never say *any* theory is settled or proven & this applies triply or more so to the nonsense which is the AGW conjecture for reasons I have already explained.

    For observations, especially unsupported by theory, practical (im)precision can amount to many sigma (5-9 are usually seen). As for theory, it depends on subject. In physics, I would say that 3 sigma is usually taken, at least if there are several other tests passed to similar (un)certainty. …

    I have no idea what are you talking about here! What do you mean by sigma? Error bars? Uncertainty? Those are things that the AGW lobby tends to ignore & which contradict the supposed “certainty” of Gore’s AGW mob.

    Observing phenomena that involves a lot of contingency, like our only universe, Earth or populations in medicine, can at times demand lower standards. For example, the difference between a healthy eye and a glaucoma eye is lower than 2 sigma in humans, with a great deal of overlap between distributions. The same goes for climate research, where “normal forced” and “anthropic forced” climates overlap for low forcing.

    Again, I don’t get what point it is you are trying to make here, TL,OM.

    Are you trying to point out the overlap between natural climate variation & the supposed human influence on our climate? And how that makes it difficult perhaps even impossible to tell thedifference between what’s “natural” and what’s “artificial” when it comes to our ever-changing climate?

    That’s how it seems to be reading but it runs completely against the AGW Alarmists & supports what I’m saying which is the AGW idea is bunk. So … thankyou for helping prove my case I guess! ;-)

    Nevertheless one _can_ observe the difference in model populations, i.e. running the models enough times to wash out individual contingency. – GIGO modeling isn’t used in science, as peer review uncovers such problems.

    Well it may – *if* its allowed to but, as Climategate has revealed, the peer review process has been corrupted by the Warmer Alarmists who have resorted in their own words to distorting and changing the meaning of peer review.

    If ‘peer review’ meant skeptics as well as believers asessing the climate computer models you may have a point but a mutual onanism circle of Alarmists each congratulating each other on how alarmingly scary their GIGO models are & trying to think of ever more far-fetched reasons to fear the sky falling in has zero credibility.

    Computer modelling can be useful but it can also be little more than science fictional imagings & esp. when something as complex as chaotic as porrly understood and hard to predict as climate is involved. I do indeed think we don’t know enough about the myriad of factors both known and yet to be discovered to make the simplistic and already proven invalid models even vaguely approximate reality.

    (Remember none of the Warmer Alarmists predicted temperatures to stabilise and cool post-1998 & Trenberth confessed to colleagues it was a “travesty” that they couldn’t find the predicted warming.)

    Confusing weather (one year of noisy data) with climate (usually observed over 30 years, I believe – or at least, speaking of sun spots, over a solar cycle average).

    It is NOT confusing weather & climate at all to note that the peak of the breif decade or two trend of was reached in 1998 and that it has since cooled. I am baffled how *you* could possibly think so.

    Its like going to a beach and seeing a highwater mark of wet sand and seaweed. That marks the furthest point of the tide when it was at its highest point and it is very much analogous here in that 1998 was when the Late 20th Century Warming peaked and has since begun to recede. We had a warm spell around the 1930′s it cooled for a few decades to the 1970′s, its warmed to the 1990′s and temperatures are heading down agin – that is climate fact and whether you can weather the fact it ain’t weather or not, it remains the stark reality contradicting any Alarmist spin.

    Cherry picking. Confusing established climate science with social debate.

    Examples please? Where exactly, inyour opinion have I done this & please explain why you think so?

    And on and on.

    Or in other words you cannot find any actual flaws in my logic and are just trying to falsely imply that you can. :roll:

    Specifics please if you can see any faults in my argument there why not say so specifically & in detail rather than using such vague and uninformative bits of rhetoric.

    If you have any climate predictions from an alternative model that can compete with what climate scientists accept, you are welcome to publish your data.

    Its already been published by other AGW skeptics – please read Ian Plimer’s comprehensive book or read the many other skeptical books that have been published such as Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists use Threats, Frauds & Deception to Keep You Misinformed’ by Christopher C. Horner & ‘The Real Global Warming Disaster -Is the Obsession with Climate Change Turning Out to be the Most Costly Scientific Blunder inHistory’ by Christopher Booker. Or visit a huige number of skeptical websites such as Andrew Bolt’s or Anthony Watt’s & so on.

    Absent that, you are just covering your eyes from established facts.

    Sorry TL,OM, but the one hiding from established facts here is you & the other AGW believers & as you can see the facts are far from “established” and the contradictory reality is represented by a number of reliable sources and publications.

  68. Spectroscope

    Correction – this :

    Its like going to a beach and seeing a highwater mark of wet sand and seaweed. That marks the furthest point of the tide when it was at its highest point and it is very much analogous here in that 1998 was when the Late 20th Century Warming peaked and has since begun to recede. We had a warm spell around the 1930’s, it cooled for a few decades to the 1970’s, its warmed to the 1990’s and temperatures are heading down again – that is climate fact and whether you can weather the fact it ain’t weather or not, it remains the stark reality contradicting any Alarmist spin.

    was NOT meant to be in italics & is my comment & not TL,OM’s.

  69. Spectroscope

    @ 56. DrFlimmer Says:

    So, the GW-debate is back again, although the topic had originally nothing to do with it. This reminds me of “Anaconda”, who always saw EU-topics in threads which had nothing to do with it.

    Well, its not really relevant to my argument but I was responding to something somebody else said here regarding the degrees that are supposed to make a diference. AGW Alarmists seem to think 4 or even 2 degrees difference in temperature has catastrophic world-ending consequences – the fact that Earth’s temperature varies by that and more over the course of a year seems to have escaped their notice. :roll:

    I’d like to post on specially dedicated threads here but on this issue the BA has been very reluctant to provide relevant threads largely ignoring what is the probably the worst scientific scandal of the century. Worse yet for fans of the BA, when he does deign to pay the Climategate scandal some attention he has come in on the side of the Warmists woo rather than the skeptical side in a disappointing display of how anyone can be blinded by their political biases – in the BA’s case towards the “Watermelon Green” left wing. :-(

    I don’t know the exact concentration of CO2 that is needed, but place yourself and any other animal of this planet in a room with enough CO2 and you and the animals will be dead rather soon. CO2 is a deadly poison for any animal that relies on oxygen.

    Well only at certain super-high concentrations when oxygen is displaced. No, we can’t breathe an atmosphere with insufficent oxygen but hardly makes Co2 a threat at the levels we’ve got it or even much higher levels provided its still a mainly nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere.

    Plants, on the other hand, depend on CO2 and as a byproduct they emit oxygen. A nice circle. It is true that CO2 levels have been higher in the past. But, as far as I know, they were higher when there were less plants on earth. When can that happen? During ice ages! So, we have an ice age, less plants, higher CO2 levels and the temperature can rise. Then the ice is receding, plants spread out, the CO2 level drops and the temperature can fall again. Seems logical, doesn’t it?

    Yes. The key factor there is that Co2 levels have been higher in the past – much higher. The nonsense that Co2 levels are at unprecedented highs today due to Humans is totally false and absurd.

    Moreover, we have historical & geological proof that the AGW end-is-nigh scenarios are humbug and utter rubbish & not to be taken seriously at all. Let alone used as an excuse to surrender our lives to overseas bureacrats, extremist Green ideologues and a reason to destroy our economy, culture, way of life and whole civilisation.

    What is happening now? We are at the end of an ice age, so plants should spread out and should drop the CO2 level of the atmosphere. But what are humans doing? We rise the CO2 level in a period when it should drop AND we destroy large parts of the rain forest, so less CO2 can be processed. This seems to be the opposite of what “naturally” should happen.

    Rainforest is over-rated. Its good sure but most of the biological life exists in the ocean and as plankton & bacteria. Chopping down abit of rainforest isn’t going to change our atmospheric composition – certainly not enough to be too harmful. Now that’s not to say we should destroy the rainforests – they are interesting places worth preserving for their own sake and we can learn much by studying them but nor should we make them out to be more significant than they really are.

    Oh & humans are part of nature too don’t forget. ;-)

    Don’t take my word for it, that is what I heard in a talk recently, but I am no expert in this field. But still, and here I go with Wayne Robinson: “Spectroscope, here is a little task for you. Ask yourself a few questions beginning with “What if…”. Just produce some worst case scenarios. They might not happen, but then ask yourself: Is it worth the risk?”

    The risk of what?

    Climate change is a natural and unavoidable part of living on this planet. The climate changes and that’s what its done throughout history. Reality is that nothing humans could do will affect the Earth’s climate* much one way or the other with the sole possible exception of all-out nuclear war creating a “nuclear winter.” So until we learn to alter Earth’s orbit, move the continents where we choose or change the light output from the Sun, we really & truly don’t have to worry. All we can do is adapt to natural climate change and that’s what Humans have done since we began existing and nothing new anyhow.

    Now there is another “what if” factor here & that is what if we do what the Radical Greens and AGW Alarmist mob want? Suppose we tax carbon, handicap our economy, advantage our enemies, give them a fortune of our tax-payer dollars, institute schemes to trade Co2 emissions rights, etc .. Isn’t that too taking a risk? Indeed a lot *more* of a risk?

    One we don’t need to take that will bring us in the West nothing but harm and have no environmental benefit anyway because the problem its trying to address doesn’t even exist?

    Do *you* want to put on an AGW hairshirt for no valid reason, give up travelling by car, hand over your life to the lunatic Greens & UN bureacrats and people hostile to the best system of living humans have yet come up with – democratic capitalism? All because of an absurd myth that human Co2 is doing something that we know it isn’t doing? Would *you* surrender your quality of life and inalienable rights for a mob of liars with their own political manifesto that has historically been proven to fail everywhere its been tried from East Germany to Cuba to China?

    If the “precautionary principle” says anything here it says we do NOT need to take any steps to address this non-problem at the cost of our society until we know *for sure* that there is very good reason to do so based on sound sceince – and the real science as oppsoed tothe CRU “tricked” science says that the AGW is demonstrably false baloney & we do NOT need to take any measures at all – *especially* not any that cause us economic and political harm.

    Finally, if I’m wrong then I’d rather trust our technology and capitalist enterprise and ingenuity to solve (or at least adapt to) the problem through technological intelligent means rather than resort to going back to the caves & the miserable failure that is socialism as the green lobby prefers.

    —————————————————————–

    * Regional climate is another matter but even there it takes an awful lot to make any major change – we can add urban heat islands, create new artifical lakes with dams or divert rivers which alter local climates and so forth but that’s another topic entirely & not relevant here.

  70. Flavio

    Realclimate is run by 5 scientists, if you think Mann is biasing every post there, you should provide proof. Anyway that’s a blog that explains climate theories to a layman, such as me. There are others, and a famous one on the denial side.

    If 99% climatologists agree on anthropogenic warming, I can try to research as much as I want on Google university, but still the consensus remains there.

    I also wonder what scam this world-wide conspiracy would be after: less carbon fuels, less pollution, more green energy? Wow, that would really bring the Earth to doom and destruction…

  71. Wayne Robinson

    I think we are being a little harsh on Spectroscope.
    To summarise his position:
    1. AGW isn’t occurring.
    2. New technology will mitigate the bad effects of AGW.
    3. We shouldn’t try to get the necessary technology or do anything to gain time to get the new technology.
    Sounds completely reasonable to me.

  72. alfaniner

    Can no one answer my question? Is it a perceptible effect or not?

  73. Buzz Parsec

    Alfaniner,

    I don’t think you would notice without keeping very careful observations. The Sun is about 3% closer now than in July, so is about 6% brighter. However, several things conspire to hide the difference in brightness. 1) changes in angle (the sun is much higher in the sky in summer, thus there is less atmospheric extinction.) I think this is a much bigger effect, either to hide the difference in the Northern Hemisphere, and to exaggerate it in the Southern Hemisphere. 2) Our eyes are logarithmic, hiding small differences in brightness. 3) Our eyes adapt to the prevailing light level. 4) We would be trying to compare current brightness of the Sun with our memory of how bright it was 6 months ago.

    Also it depends on what you mean by “perceptible”. If you mean just looking up or around you and noticing, “Hey, it looks a little brighter outside right now than it did 6 months ago!”, almost certainly not. If you mean could you tell which of two Suns, one at July brightness and one at January brightness that you could directly compare, was brighter, I think it would be easy to see the difference. If you mean can we tell which is brighter using simple instruments (comparison sheets or a camera light meter) I think it would be pretty easy to tell it’s brighter now.

    Messier Tidy Upper @10 asked how much longer the Earth spends at aphelion than at perihelion, which Brian partially answered. (But the AGW troll took over and most of his answer was about that…) To provide a slightly less partial answer, compare the time from the March equinox to the September equinox to the other “half” of the year. For this year (if I’ve counted days correctly) it’s 186 days 10 hours vs. 178 days 20 hours for the Sept.-Mar. half of the year. Because aphelion appears about in the middle of the Mar.-Sept. half year, it takes about 8 days longer.

    To elaborate on how much faster/slower the Earth moves in its orbit due to its ellipticity, that’s what the analemma (figure-8 shaped marking on a globe, usually in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) is all about. The calender marked around the “8″ shows you how far north or south the Sun is on a given date (the vertical dimension of the 8), and how much “early” or “late” the Sun is on that date (the horizontal dimension). The earliness or lateness of the Sun is cumulative, about ten seconds a day, adding up to about 15-20 minutes at the extremes. The Earth revolves on its axis once a day (actually once every 23 hours and 56 minutes) with respect to the stars. This rotation period is extremely constant; it hardly varies at all. However, during the time it rotates once, it has also revolved almost 1 degree around the Sun (360/365.25 degrees, since it travels around the Sun once (360 degrees) in a year (365.25 days).) So it has to rotate for an additional 4 minutes to put the Sun at the same point in the sky from day to day. (23:56 + :04 = 24 hours for the “mean Solar day”)
    This however is just an average. Since the Earth orbits faster at perihelion and is closer, it actually needs to rotate more than the additional 4 minutes to catch up with the Sun. On the other hand, at aphelion (in July) it is moving slower and is farther away, so it will over-rotate in the extra 4 minutes, and the Sun will not quite be at noon 24 hours after the previous noon. The Sun will be running late.

    So over the course of the year, the Sun appears later and later, and then earlier and earlier and then later and later again and then earlier and earlier and repeats. (I’m not sure why the analemma is a figure 8, with two “earliest” and two “latest” dates, rather than just a circle or ellipse with only a single “earliest” and a single “latest” date each year, though. I’d probably flunk Astronomy 10 for not knowing this if I took it again and didn’t study :-( )

  74. Brian

    The figure eight appears because there are two effects at work here, one produced by the eccentricity, and one produced by the obliquity. The eccentricity component produces a change in the sun’s apparent _rate_ of motion across the sky (faster near perihelion, slower near aphelion), while the obliquity component changes the apparent _direction_ of that motion with respect to the celestial equator. Only that component of the sun’s motion parallel to the celestial equator (the right ascension part) manifests itself as a change in mean versus apparent solar time. When you combine the two effects you get the characteristic figure eight shape. There’s a nice explanation on Wikipedia under the “Equation of Time” entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equation_of_time

  75. Wayne Robinson

    To add to Buzz Parsec, the analemma has an “8″ shape, because the length of a solar day (midday to midday)is greater than 24 hours at the Summer and Winter solstices and less than 24 hours at the Spring and Autumn (or Fall, if you’re American) equinoxes. This means that around Dec 21 and June 21, noon is getting later on successive days and earlier in between at the equinoxes. The main reason is because the Earth is tilted at 23 1/2 degrees. If the Earth wasn’t tilted, it would have to rotate through a constant extra 1 degree (or 4 minutes) per day on the Equator. Tilted it still has to rotate an extra degree, but it’s on the great circle which is tilted at 23 1/2 degrees to the Equator (which just “kisses” the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn at the solstices and crosses the Equator at an angle at the equinoxes. One degree on this tilted great circle crosses more than 1 degree of longitude at the solstices (and is therefore more than 4 minutes of rotation), and less than 1 degree of longitude at the equinoxes, and therefore less than 4 minutes of rotation.
    You need to look at a model to appreciate it.
    It’s also the reason why sunrise for a few weeks after Dec 21 (in the Northern Hemisphere) are still occurring later each day, although daylight hours are getting longer.In the Southern Hemisphere, sunset occurs later each day after Dec 21, even though daylight hours are getting shorter.

  76. StevoR

    @ 57. Peter B Says:

    Spectroscope, I note you quoted Professor Ian Plimer a couple of times. I’ll start my response by saying that it was thanks to Professor Plimer that I’m a skeptic, after seeing him on Australian television and buying his book “Telling Lies for God”. But in his book “Heaven + Earth” he makes some extraordinary claims about the Sun (about page 110-120 of the paperback: that the Sun was built on the remains of a supernova, that the Sun is a pulsar, and that the Sun primarily consists of metals such as iron. When someone makes claims like this in a book which is supposed to be a serious science text, it makes me doubt everything else he says, even if he was the person who effectively set me on the path to being a skeptic.

    I’ve met Ian Plimer & talked to him personally as well as attending several talks he has given to the local astronomical society & he comes across as a very honest and genuine bloke. Given my own personal experience I am inclined to trust him.

    I don’t think his making one mistake which has nothing to do with his arguments on climate change invalidates the rest of his book – I mean can you show me any text – especially one the length of Plimer’s work – that is totally 100% flawless and free of even the slightest error or ambiguity?

    I don’t know that AGW is a Green Left conspiracy but I do think there may be a lot of exaggerating and spinning going on around it making it seem more certain and worse than it is.

    I would venture a guess that this quite likely because the climatologists have a sub-conscious desire to boost the importance and excitement of their field. There are a couple of horror stories that Climatology could offer – ice age or frying planet & with the evidence suggesting the planet isn’t going into an ice age this century (which is actually by far the scarier scenario IMHON) they’ve gone for the opposite extreme. To say that the truth is most likely a prosaic matter of global average temperatures oscillating between slightly warmer and slightly cooler decades (eg. 1970′s cooler, 1990′s warmer etc ..) would probably make the lives of climatologists much less fun and interesting &, of course, also cause them to get a lot less grants than if the situation is presented as “OMG! We’re maybe all going DIE! You’d better fund us more so we can study this HUGE problem!”

    I do think there is a big over-emphasis on Co2 and possible human causation rather than
    considering that a lot of the factors here could lie in geology, astronomy, physics, etc .. Maybe the AGW is a phatom created by specialists focusing too narrowly on one aspect rather than looking at the bigger picture – including the bigger timescale?

    I used to be absolutely sure the AGW was real. I am no longer so sure & would have to confess I am now skeptical as to its reality and severity. Listening to & reading Plimer’s book is one major reason for that.

  77. zamia

    #70 Spectroscope

    You can believe whatever you want and obviously you think you are smarter than thousands of climate scientists, biologists, glaciologists, farmers and outdoorsmen who are observing the changes already underway due to global warming.

    But you are making outrageous accusations about Dr. Mann, a noted researcher who publishes in respected peer-reviewed scientific journals. You are indulging in the politics of personal destruction by making utterly unfounded claims. It may be “strangle the messenger” in your case. However, most of the doofuses that generate and propagate the personality attacks are doing so under the (indirect) aegis of some fossil fuel companies. Think about that: why didn’t ExxonMobil go out in public denying AGW with their in-house scientists? They hire very bright people. They didn’t want their name associated with it, and so they money-laundered the funding of the doofuses through a chain of nonprofits.

    You are also spamming this board with nonsense. Plimer’s notion that carbon dioxide at some point quits absorbing heat — where did that come from? — counters basic chemistry. Take any absorbing substance in a test tube, you add more absorbing molecules, more stuff will be absorbed. Even if you added so much carbon dioxide to our air that no sunlight gets to the ground, adding more CO2 would still cause more absorption at the top of the atmosphere.

    Volcanic activity, tectonic changes, and orbital cycles all require tens of thousands or millions of years. They don’t act as fast as adding 38% more CO2 to our air. That’s why Plimer’s list is nonsense, it doesn’t apply to what’s happening in present decades.

    AGW is not a theory. CO2 absorption of sunlight has been measured. Long ago, before research funding was available. AGW is an old theory and no scientist doing serious research has found any basic contradiction. Did you know the earth would be as cold as our Moon if there were no CO2 (and other greenhouse gases)?

  78. Buzz Parsec

    Brian and Wayne, thanks for the explanation. It doesn’t all make sense yet, but it is getting there!

    Visualizing moving objects in 3D always makes my head hurt. I usually find that if I can imagine the right place to look from, it gets easier, but I haven’t found that yet.

    To try to get these comments even more off topic than Spectroscope has, I have often wondered whether Martians would have developed the Copernican
    model of the Solar System more quickly than us Earthlings, given that they could most likely observe the Moon orbiting the Earth without telescopes, and possibly also, being about 1/2 AU closer at opposition, been able to observe Jupiter’s moons as well.

  79. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 76. Buzz Parsec Says:

    … Messier Tidy Upper @10 asked how much longer the Earth spends at aphelion than at perihelion, which Brian partially answered. (But the AGW troll took over and most of his answer was about that…) To provide a slightly less partial answer, compare the time from the March equinox to the September equinox to the other “half” of the year. For this year (if I’ve counted days correctly) it’s 186 days 10 hours vs. 178 days 20 hours for the Sept.-Mar. half of the year. Because aphelion appears about in the middle of the Mar.-Sept. half year, it takes about 8 days longer. To elaborate on how much faster/slower the Earth moves in its orbit due to its ellipticity, that’s what the analemma (figure-8 shaped marking on a globe, usually in the middle of the Pacific Ocean) is all about.

    Thanks (belated but sincere) – that’s exactly what I wanted to know. Much appreciated. :-D

    Great to have the explanation & extra info. from you & Wayne Robinson (# 78.) too. :-)

    @ 81. Buzz Parsec Says:

    To try to get these comments even more off topic than Spectroscope has, I have often wondered whether Martians would have developed the Copernican model of the Solar System more quickly than us Earthlings, given that they could most likely observe the Moon orbiting the Earth without telescopes, and possibly also, being about 1/2 AU closer at opposition, been able to observe Jupiter’s moons as well.

    I think that’s likely right – and the higher orbital eccentricity of the Martian orbit would likely help there too.

    However, I could be wrong but I think the only place in the solar system where the Jovian moons can be seen with the unaided eye (Jovian system apart) is Ceres & maybe some other asteroids. I think Mars may be too far away still for even Ganymede and Callisto to be spotted without optical aid – but I’m not 100% sure …

  80. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Late reply, but FWIW:

    @ Spectroscope, #38:

    “already covered above”. In Phil’s previous articles, that is.

    Not to my satisfaction.

    My comment was a clarification of my reply to Chip in comment #17. It has nothing to do with answering you. For that, see my comment #23.

    The rest of your comment doesn’t address the issues raised in #23.

    @ Spectroscope, #70:

    yes, I’m very serious.

    Well, excuse me for being surprised that someone can visit a science blog and argue anti-science! :-D

    insults such as “denier” are invalid

    That isn’t an insult but an observation of fact – a denier denies something, here established science.

    The correct term for someone who disagrees with the politico-religious AGW orthodoxy is “skeptic”.

    Skeptic organization are clear that skepticism is based on established science. As in AGW.

    The rest of your claim here is just a rejection of argument, without addressing its points.

    So … thankyou for helping prove my case

    This you could only claim by stopping at that point and not addressing the subsequent elaboration. You are not trying to be serious, so there is no point in addressing your argument further.

    The science on this is, as I noted, clear. Anyone really interested can read about it in for example IPCC 2007, which sums up the climate science known to that point.

  81. Peter B

    StevoR said: “I’ve met Ian Plimer & talked to him personally as well as attending several talks he has given to the local astronomical society & he comes across as a very honest and genuine bloke. Given my own personal experience I am inclined to trust him.”

    Fair enough. But honest and genuine people can still be mistaken.

    “I don’t think his making one mistake which has nothing to do with his arguments on climate change invalidates the rest of his book…”

    Not directly. But I think finding mistakes should put readers on their guard. It makes me want to check a few more references in his book to see if what the reference says is what he says the reference says.

    “…I mean can you show me any text – especially one the length of Plimer’s work – that is totally 100% flawless and free of even the slightest error or ambiguity?”

    Of course I can’t. But Prof Plimer’s mistakes are far more than “…slightest error or ambiguity.” They’re absolute howlers. What would you have said if he’d made statements like that at one of his talks at your astronomical society?

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