Earth

Don’t Believe in Climate Change?

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Source: NOAA)

This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, provides evidence that atmospheric CO2 has increased since the Industrial Revolution. (Source: NOAA)

Must admit I’m still stunned when I talk to an actual human being (one who seems intelligent) and they tell me that they do not believe in climate change. Anyone with an 8th grade education who can read should be able to figure out that the evidence is overwhelming.

NASA has this Global Climate Change website and the graphic above comes straight from their page entitled “Evidence.” With all of that extra CO2 in the air — a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and is a concept even an 8th grader who has been in a hot car could understand — the evidence goes beyond what we can see and experience ourselves. Seeing, analyzing and cataloguing the data from space and satellites is an amazing set of tools to collect it all and prove climate change is real. 

From NASA’s Evidence page:

  • normPage-3Sea level rise: Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) in the last century. The rate in the last decade, however, is nearly double that of the last century.
  • Global temperature rise: All three major global surface temperature reconstructions show that Earth has warmed since 1880. Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years.6 Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, surface temperatures continue to increase.
  • Warming oceans: The oceans have absorbed much of this increased heat, with the top 700 meters (about 2,300 feet) of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
  • Shrinking ice sheets: The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass. Data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment show Greenland lost 150 to 250 cubic kilometers (36 to 60 cubic miles) of ice per year between 2002 and 2006, while Antarctica lost about 152 cubic kilometers (36 cubic miles) of ice between 2002 and 2005.
  • Declining Arctic sea ice: Both the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly over the last several decades.
  • Glacial retreat: Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa.
  • Extreme events: The number of record high temperature events in the United States has been increasing, while the number of record low temperature events has been decreasing, since 1950. The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall events.
  • Ocean acidification: Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the acidity of surface ocean waters has increased by about 30 percent.12,13 This increase is the result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hence more being absorbed into the oceans. The amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by the upper layer of the oceans is increasing by about 2 billion tons per year.

It might be too late to stop the acceleration in global CO2 levels. When it comes to climate deniers, maybe they will wake up when their crops whither and die due to abnormal heat and little rain, or when the oceans rise and either they’re inundated with water or millions of refugees flood their towns and neighborhoods. 

North Dakota’s 7.5 Billion Barrels of Oil Means We Have All We Need, Right?

bakkenWhat if reducing our dependence on foreign oil wasn’t just about renewable and alternative energy sources—wind, solar, battery-powered electric vehicles—but also meant harvesting our own fossil fuel sources here at home?

N.D. oil is more plentiful than previously thought in this morning’s Minneapolis StarTribune also pointed out that, “The government has sharply increased its estimate, and some think it is still too conservative.” Though the U.S. Geological Survey estimates 7.5 billion barrels, “Continental Resources, the largest acreage-holder in the North Dakota oil patch, estimated in December that the basin contains 20 billion barrels of oil and 4 billion barrels of liquid natural gas.” 

Wow. That’s a lot of energy. There is no question that there is a huge oil boom in that region of the country and my family is benefiting from it, even though my own personal focus is on being ‘green’ and finding ways to optimize my own energy use.

My grandfather, Martin Wolla

Martin Wolla

As a young man my maternal grandfather and his pals acquired mineral rights to areas around Tioga, ND, right in the heart of the Bakken Formation. These rights were split between my mom and her brother and, after mom passed in 1994, they went to my dad and ultimately will be split between my three sisters and me. While the royalties are laughingly diluted by the time they’ve made their way to us (now worth a couple of decent meals at a restaurant each month) the amounts are rising little-by-little and it will be interesting to see if they become even remotely meaningful to our incomes at some point.

My biggest concern, however, is that the government, automakers, oil producers and others will take their eye off the ball when it comes to developing alternative energy sources. Why? That StarTribune article said it best when discussing the new 7.5 billion barrel estimates and whether or not companies could safely ‘invest’ in the region: “The new estimates should give potential investors confidence that the oil boom could have decades to run. At the current rate of production — 22.5 million barrels in January — it would take 27 years to remove 7.5 billion barrels from the ground.

27 years. Seems like a long time, right? The point is that even this new, substantial source of energy will run out

We Just *Cannot* Be Alone

The more I learn about the vastness of the universe, the deeper is my belief that we simply cannot be alone in the universe. Watch this animated flight through the universe made by Miguel Aragon of Johns Hopkins University with Mark Subbarao of the Adler Planetarium and Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins. There are close to 400,000 galaxies in the animation, with images of the actual galaxies. The images and data came from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS).

When you figure that our Milky Way galaxy contains an estimated 200-400 billion stars our own home galaxy is incredibly likely to harbor life. Astronomer Carl Sagan‘s once said, “The universe is a pretty big place. If it’s just us, it sure seems like an awful waste of space

Sagan also continually described the universe’s potential for life being due to the “billions and billions” of planets out there. Though I’ve been watching the Mars Curiosity landing and the first pictures that have returned from that barren planet like this amazing 360 degree panorama, I do so with the knowing (and a tinge of sadness) that it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever leave this planet and explore another world. 

Don’t even bother to do the math on 200 billion+ stars times 400,000 galaxies and the planets and the possibilities and…

…just watch the video. It’s cool:

Fox News Lies about Greenland’s Ice Melt

Extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8 (left) and July 12 (right). Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. Image courtesy NASA (click for larger view)

Amazing how Fox News — you know, the ‘Fair and Balanced’ one — seemingly takes just about any news story and twists, spins and mangles it to fit some conservative agenda. This time they’ve taken this week’s NASA announcement of the ‘unprecedented’ Greenland ice melt and ignored the gist of it so their counterview could be used as an anti-global warming article entitled, Skeptics put the freeze on NASA ‘hot air’ about Greenland ice

But them trying to position this in that way is bullshit.

Let me illustrate why Fox News using this one quote they pulled out of the press release, positioning it as a glaciologist’s comment that was pooh-poohing the magnitude of the event:  Read More

Is the Prius a Polluter?

Just saw a cousin’s Facebook post about her new (actually slightly used) Toyota Prius. She had talked to me earlier about my Prius, how I liked it and so forth, so I was intrigued that she and her fiancee purchased one. She looks pretty happy in the photo, doesn’t she?

Then a friend of hers commented, “Yay the “green” that is the most damaging to the environment to build.” Someone then asked what he meant and he went on with, “Prius pollutes more is based on the production and transport of nickel for the on-board rechargeable battery pack. The nickel is actually mined and smelted in Sudbury, Ontario (Canada) by Inco. The nickel is then shipped to a refinery in Europe. From there, the nickel goes to China to produce nickel foam. Then, it goes to Japan. In Japan Panasonic manufactures the battery itself, then it’s off to the Toyota plant for final vehicle assembly. Lastly the cars are shipped to the United States, completing the world tour required for a Prius battery.

That was certainly a bit of cold water thrown on her excitement! I’ve had exactly the same reaction from many who pooh-pooh driving a hybrid or electric car, think those of us who do are “greenies” or goofballs,  all while they climb in to their car or truck that, on a good day, gets 18mpg and costs them $100 a week to drive.

So I took a moment to refute and minimize what this kid had said and also thought this entire discussion would make a great post:  Read More

Our 2011 Family Trip

We had an amazing trip to Germany, Austria and Poland and yes, if the internet access had been easy to obtain and ubiquitous, it would’ve made the trip A LOT easier and more enjoyable. Click the photo below to open the Flickr album with pics of our adventure:

Our Family Trip to Germany, Austria & Poland, Summer 2011

Louis C.K. on Why Appreciate ‘the Amazing’

Comedian Louis C.K.  has this very funny rant on how people don’t appreciate technology, flying, Wifi on those flying planes and more. This is EXACTLY what I’d love to say to people when they complain about their smartphone while they’re riding in a car (“it, like, is totally slower than my home internet“) but you’re in a CAR going down the HIGHWAY AT 75MPH! Or those who complain about the nearly 13 hours it takes to fly from Minneapolis, MN to Narita, Japan (“oh my butt is so sore“), a trip that took weeks by train and then ship less than 75 years ago!

My 2011 Road Trip

treasurecityAfter coming to the realization that the compulsion to jump in the car with my new camera and head out on a road trip was not going away, I took off for a week and did it.

The following slideshow is not representative of the 700+ photos I took—many of those taken were done for dramatic and photographic effect—but these select ones give an overview of this adventure.

The most profound thing was all of the history I discovered and had reinforced on this trip. I’m still absorbing what transpired on this road trip and may post about it again soon.

Click the photo below to view my Flickr photo album:

Steve's 2011 Road Trip - 1

Bachmann is Not the Brightest Bulb in the Sign

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, in a continuation of her tirades against the “nanny state” and “government takeover” of seemingly everything, reintroduced her Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act which essentially demands proof of compact fluorescent light bulb safety (due to the mercury it contains) and the carbon emissions purported to be reduced if incandescent bulbs begin their current governmental mandated phase-out in January of 2012.

Even though her amended bill seems to include a focus on “the people” vs. her usual focus on business, I have my doubts but can’t figure out what her real motivation is in trying to kill this 2012 mandate. In part her bill states that proof is needed that compact fluorescent bulbs, “…will not pose any health risks, including risks associated with mercury containment in certain light bulbs, to consumers or the general public, including health risks with respect to hospitals, schools, day care centers, mental health facilities, and nursing homes.” Really? I highly doubt Bachmann cares at all about “consumers and the general public” since she’s not showing ANY leanings in that direction during her Congressional tenure.

I’m still trying to figure out who wins here. Is she in the pocket of “big light bulb”? Not likely. Is it just low-hanging fruit to get the non-thinking masses riled up? Probably. But even that isn’t clear and I highly doubt she’s just being her usual short-sighted, screamingly goofy on any anti-Obama issue so other GOP’ers don’t have to be, self.

For the last five years (see this post from 2006) I’ve been closely watching what’s going on in energy and, especially, the ONE, MOST WASTEFUL energy use WORLDWIDE: incandescent light bulbs. The US Department of Energy, the European Union energy ministers, and anyone with half-a-brain can do the 2nd grade arithmetic necessary to easily see the energy wasting nature of this lighting source.

This article (written in 2006!) from the Economist summed up the primary reason why we MUST get off incandescent lighting:

Worldwide about 20% of all electricity generated is used for lighting. Several studies reckon that LEDs could eventually cut that amount in half. That would not only save billions of dollars in electricity bills, but also significantly reduce energy demand, environmental pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions.

So is Michele Bachmann a terrorist who wants us to remain dependent on foreign oil? Is she concerned that big oil companies will have their revenues lowered if the U.S. moves toward efficient and energy saving lighting? Seriously, I can’t think of what the hell her motivation is here other than finding any reason to jump on an issue that gets people riled up one way or another.

What do you think?

Will Google Experience Control Data’s Fate?

An early Control Data system with supercomputer genius Seymour Cray at the controls

Google’s recent announcements about their focus on wind energy and these five initiatives bring up the possibility that they’re following in the footsteps of Control Data, a Minnesota corporation that took its eye off the ball and lost their lead as one of the nine most influential computer companies and are now out of business.

Control Data Corporation (CDC) was a supercomputer firm. For most of the 1960s, it built the fastest computers in the world by far, only losing that crown in the 1970s after Seymour Cray left the company to found Cray Research, Inc. (CRI). CDC was one of the nine major United States computer companies through most of the 1960s; the others were IBM, Burroughs Corporation, DEC, NCR, General Electric, Honeywell, RCA, and UNIVAC. CDC was well known and highly regarded throughout the industry at one time. —from Wikipedia

William Norris, founder and CEO of CDC, was a computer visionary but also a social activist. One of his key initiatives was computer-based learning, an initiative that took an increasing amount of his time and made many people who worked there (and I know dozens and am related to many former CDC employees) continued to be befuddled over the lack of focus on core competitive moves and what seemed like an acceleration in “cause related” investments over the years. Yes, losing Seymour Cray was devastating but there was so much more to the core business than chasing the supercomputer end of it.

Sadly, those of us in Minnesota who looked up to CDC watched it slowly fade away and sell off bits and pieces of itself until it was non-existent.

The Google Self Driving Car

Google’s stated business mission? To, “…organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Beyond the mission they post items like this “Ten Things We Know to be True” manifesto which outlines core beliefs like, “Focus on the user and all else will follow” and when it comes to their primary business, search, that “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.

So help me understand Google: How do windmills and self driving cars fit in to the focus of Google and everything you stand for and believe?  There’s a lot of buzz in the tech community about the “Google brain drain” as people bolt to go to Facebook and other startups and I’m not the only one that wants to see them focus, and I’d hate to see you haunted by the ghost of William Norris who’d hate to see another leading company lose its way.