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Erik Hare

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Member Since: Mar, 2007

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Nine Inches of Snow and the Ebony Princess
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An empathic young nurse driven to help and heal others since childhood after watching her mother languish for months before finally succumbing to cancer, Aziza Lopez abho..  
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Blogs by Erik Hare

Sunspots
10/15/2007 6:00:07 PM    [ Flag as Spam or Inappropriate ]


Itís Tuesday, which is the day I answer mail. But over the last week, Iíve gotten nothing but nice messages full of warmth and support. Thank you. I like getting these, I really do, as I rarely think my writing ability is remotely adequate (I canít stand re-reading my own stuff after itís published). But a Midwestern sense of modesty prohibits me from answering only happy letters, so I wasnít sure what to do Ė skip the mailbag routine, or risk looking like an arrogant jerk?

As always, Iím taking the third way out. Iím going to dive into some discussions I found myself in yesterday. Itís sorta like getting mail.

Apparently, Monday was "Blog Action Day on the Environment". Many people took part, and I honestly have no idea how they all knew about it. I certainly didnít. But, then again, Iíve never been one of the cool kids.

Many of the bloggers chose to write about global warming, especially since the Nobel Peace Prize went to Al Gore, the first Emperor of Mars (thatís an obscure "Futurama" ref). I can see why they chose it Ė very topical stuff. But Ö well, I had a problem with it.

My problem is largely academic, and Iím sure many of you will think Iím a total crankshaft for it. But I donít think that global warming is likely to have been caused by humans. There are many other reasons to eliminate our use of fossil fuels, ranging from sulphur oxides to cadmium to mercury, in addition to the terrible social problems and war the junk has caused. I advocate complete elimination of fossil fuels, and I think it is entirely possible (as I have written before). But I donít think itíll cool our planet down one bit. I have three problems with the prevailing theory:

First, I have run infrared spectrometry (FTIR) for many days on end. This is where you shine an infrared light through a sample and look at the wavelengths of light it absorbs. To do this, you have to purge the machine with dry nitrogen to eliminate the water and carbon dioxide, because both are such good infrared absorbers youíll mask your sampleís signal. When I ran this, I had many things fail at various times. If I ran low on nitrogen, I got a big olí carbon dioxide peak. If my drying column went bad, I got a HUGE water blorch right in the middle of your signal. Water is a massive infrared absorber, but carbon dioxide much less so. And thereís a lot more water in the Troposphere, the lower part of the atmosphere. Combining the absorption coefficient and the higher concentration, youíd expect the water to absorb 40-80 times more infrared than carbon dioxide. Yet we focus on the miniscule changes in carbon dioxide concentration? No one has ever explained this to me. It simply seems that water is a far more important "greenhouse gas" than carbon dioxide, and itís plain everywhere.

Secondly, we really donít know much about how the output of the sun fluctuates. What we do know is that sunspots are a measure of solar activity, and that an increase in them is an increase in solar output. How much? People are working on it. Whatís interesting is that sunspots have been measured since 29BC in China. The data collected show that sunspots were numerous during the Medieval Warming, 1000 years ago, almost nonexistent during the "Little Ice Age" from 500-200 years ago, and peaking like crazy now. The level of sunspot activity is higher than ever recorded at this moment. Now, consider that the temperature of the planet is equal to the energy radiated in, minus the energy radiated out, times a heat capacity. Letís assume that heat capacity is constant. That means that for a rise in temperature from 0 to 5 Celsius, we need 1.8% increase in energy Ė because this has to be done on the absolute Kelvin scale, which is Celsius plus 273. Has the sun fluctuated by 1.8% in the last century and a half? Very possibly, weíre not sure. Things sure got cold when the sunspots went to zero in the Renaissance, so why wouldnít they get hot when the sunspots came back with a vengeance?

Lastly, the temperature of this planet goes up and down all the time. Itís been very warm and very cold. Weíre in the middle right now. Nothing that we are experiencing is outside of the normal range that Earth knows very well. Even the apparently rapid rate of change is not that different than the Younger Dryas, a period of time when tropical plants were frozen intact in glaciers because the climate changed so rapidly around them.

So if I advocate eliminating fossil fuels anyways, isnít this just a bunch of academic hoo-hah? Well, yes, it is. But I think itís important to know that while weíre probably not helping things by pumping carbon dioxide into the air, we also probably canít make it any better. Change is just going to happen, and we have to live with it.

Thereís another point that I find particularly fascinating in all of this, however. People actually seem to like the big story, and are drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I think itís very comforting to people to believe that we are such a big important species that we really can screw up our planet completely. That may sound strange, but when I propose that we are actually a very small and insignificant species my readers invariably bristle. It seems to be an excuse for doing whatever we want, since small things canít mess it up too badly, yes?

But consider for a moment the natives of the prairie. Imagine yourself spending the summer following the bison and pitching a tent for the evening. When you look out to an approaching storm off miles away, all you can do is wait for it. Standing there and watching it roll in, thick and black, makes one thing very clear to you: You are very small. You canít help but feel that way out on the endless prairies.

The people whose culture and blood captured this feeling are the people that are often used as the model for those who revere Mother Earth as a nurturing spirit that must be preserved. They were the Dakota people of my home on the edge of the prairie, what would become the state of Minnesota. They understood that nurturing wasnít always easy, and that those who received it must be grateful for what they got. They knew just how small they were.

We may indeed be adding to the climatic change that our planet is undergoing. But I see no reason to believe that we are particularly responsible, or indeed that our planet sees any of this as unusual in any way whatsoever. Not only do I see no reason to believe that we are some grand manipulator, glorious or malevolent, I think it makes a lot of sense for us to understand just how small we really are.

I have some very basic questions about the current theory that no one has bothered to answer. I am content to remain the small boy who says that the Emperor has no clothes, if thatís all I ever get. But hey, if it gets much hotter, naked may be the way to go!

Thatís the end of the longest post I ever wrote. Perhaps Iíll finally get some hate mail out of it, and weíll have something to talk about next week. Whether you like what I have to say or not, I still like to hear from you. Honestly, I have little other way of knowing that anyone is out there reading this stuff!

So send your letters to wabbitoid47(at)yahoo.com and Iíll be happy to chat with you!


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More Blogs by Erik Hare
• Let the Real Games Begin - Sunday, August 24, 2008
• Soul Mate - Friday, August 22, 2008
• Breaking the Code - Tuesday, August 19, 2008
• The Investment Express - Sunday, August 17, 2008
• The Verse of a Song - Friday, August 15, 2008
• Generic Politics - Tuesday, August 12, 2008
• Reductio ad Extremis - Sunday, August 10, 2008
• I'll Have it Bronzed - Thursday, August 07, 2008
• Lotsa Vacation - Tuesday, August 05, 2008
• Generations: Re-Invention - Sunday, August 03, 2008
• Happy as a Pig. Just a Pig. - Friday, August 01, 2008
• The D Word - Tuesday, July 29, 2008
• Writing Bubble - Monday, July 28, 2008
• Munchie - Friday, July 25, 2008
• Ode an die Freude - Wednesday, July 23, 2008
• Citizen Journalism - Monday, July 21, 2008
• Truth of the Cottonwoods - Monday, July 21, 2008
• Barking at the 'Net - Saturday, July 19, 2008
• Brasilian Way - Thursday, July 17, 2008
• Leadership - Tuesday, July 15, 2008
• No Safe Harbor - Sunday, July 13, 2008
• Open Yer Mouth - Thursday, July 10, 2008
• 15 Second Politics - Tuesday, July 08, 2008
• Nice Work if You Can Get It - Sunday, July 06, 2008
• Fly the Flag - Thursday, July 03, 2008
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• Depressing Events - Monday, June 30, 2008
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• IRV - Wednesday, June 25, 2008
• Convention Wisdom - Monday, June 23, 2008
• 500 Year Floodplain - Thursday, June 19, 2008
• Desaparecidos - Tuesday, June 17, 2008
• Write on! - Monday, June 16, 2008
• Techno High School - Friday, June 13, 2008
• Urban Return - Wednesday, June 11, 2008
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• The Team - Thursday, June 05, 2008
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• Ancient Music - Friday, May 16, 2008
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• Net-Work'd - Tuesday, April 29, 2008
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• Urban Core - Wednesday, April 23, 2008
• But Fear Itself - Tuesday, April 22, 2008
• You've Got a Friend in Pennsylvania - Monday, April 21, 2008
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