Greening of the Desert: Open Climate Models (1)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 8:33 PM GMT on November 21, 2010

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Greening of the Desert: Open Climate Models (1)

A couple of years ago a student of mine brought me the following problem. He described a project where desalinization plants would be built off of the West Coast of Africa. The water would be used to irrigate the Western Sahara for agriculture. The project proposer realized this would change, in a fundamental way, the surface of the Earth. Presumably it would change from white reflective sand to green absorbing leaves. And there would be huge changes in the water.

The person proposing the project knew that there was a relation between the Sahara and hurricanes in the North Atlantic. The question posed was whether or not there might be a weakening of the hurricanes, and perhaps, the project might engender support because of this. Of course there would also be the possibility of increased risk, and opposition to project.


Figure 1. Schematic of African Easterly Waves that I use in dynamics class, but I forget where I got it originally.


In a general sense, this is not a crazy question. The Sahara is an important ingredient of regional climate. There is enough heating in the Sahara that the normal condition of temperature decreasing as you move away from the equator is reversed during the summer, leading to the conditions that cause African easterly waves, which do influence the generation of hurricanes. But there are other influences of the Sahara that are more direct. Even the Romans talked about dust from the Sahara influencing Europe. Therefore, a large regional agricultural or energy project that altered the surface of the Sahara is likely to have regional, perhaps even global, climate effects. There might be benefit, or damage, or risk, or liability.

If we are to imagine alternative energy sources like wind and solar being built to large enough scales to displace fossil fuels, then that will require huge alterations to the surface of the Earth. In 2005 David Keith investigated changes that would occur if wind farms were placed near population centers in the Northern Hemisphere; these covered 10% of the land surface. Nathan Lewis on his web site talks about the scale of the projects needed for alternative energy projects.

The Keith et al. paper referenced above is the type of simulation that is needed when preparing for climate change, new energy systems, and providing energy and food for increasing population. That is, we have to alter the surface of the Earth in some significant way, and then compare, for example, the costs and risks of wind energy, to using other types of energy, including continued emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Regional climate impacts also need to be investigated fully.

If you compare this sort of simulation to weather forecasting there are several differences. While there have been studies of weather modification in the past, for the most part we think of weather forecasting as defining with observations what the atmosphere looks like at a particular time and then projecting forward for a few days what the atmosphere will look like. Climate projections are, however, mostly about how the forcing of the climate changes. Forcing? How is the energy budget being changed? What changes absorption and reflection? How does the surface change?

We often focus on how will the greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide change? While this is the most important global problem, when we think about what I will call large-scale adaptation, major energy projects that cover the Earth’s surface with windmills and solar panels, these land-use changes might be more important. And their importance might be in terms of local changes to the weather. Going back to the question posed at the beginning of this entry, benefits, risks, and liability for a specific project, I imagine the desire, the need, maybe even the requirement to do climate impact assessment studies.

Such an assessment study would necessarily be a set of model simulations with changes to the land-surface. There would need to be experiments designed to extract any possible signal from what is bound to be significant noise – variability within the system. New analysis techniques would be required. Given the need to evaluate specific projects, project designers would need access to and the ability to change climate models. This means that the ability to configure, run and evaluate climate simulations needs to exist outside of government laboratories and universities. Compared with weather forecasting, where we are pretty settled on the idea of collections of observations of the current state of the atmosphere, followed by prediction of the future, this is an enormous change. That is, there are few people who have the vested interest to want to play around on the insides of a weather model, but there are potentially many people with the interest and desire to play around with the insides of a climate model.

With this as introduction, the next articles will be a series on the challenges of how to address this potential need: the need for communities other than scientists to have access not just to the results from climate models, but the ability to configure climate models for particular changes to the Earth and investigate the impact of those changes.

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Doctors Without Borders

The International Red Cross

MERLIN medical relief charity

U.S. State Department Recommended Charities

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Portlight Disaster Relief at Wunderground.com

An impressive list of organizations


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198. Ossqss
3:34 AM GMT on November 29, 2010
The truth comes from the future. When one accepts that of which they are told without question, we all lose.

Fix the real pollution, not the frivolous... and save the energy, and help your environment.

What impact does every letter you type have? Put down you computer, high speed connection, and cable TV/Satellite, and think about it :)

Does the word "hypocrite" come to mind when one thinks about their consumption of energy here compared to the average human ? Ya think you are gonna stop the desire to have the same from 5-6 billion others who don't have it yet?



an example
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
195. Ossqss
12:39 AM GMT on November 29, 2010
Quoting martinitony:


You show so well the real problem with liberalism. It is not your belief in having an open mind. I am conservative and I have an open mind. Your problem is that you don't believe that there are good and evil, black or white, truth or falsehoods, wrong or right. You believe that your type of open mind must not be certain of anything except perhaps your wrong-headed beliefs about conservatives. All must be shades of gray.
I am pretty sure you are a fine and decent person. A lot of fine and decent people have been fed to the lions and tigers.



Hummm, interesting related read from 2006. Interesting indeed....... after doing some homework...... and I do my homework :)

We need to take care of the planet, it is our home. Who makes the call, is the question?

http://www.scribd.com/doc/23689403/The-Rise-of-the-Eco-Nazi


Step up ~!

Manmade Global Warming: The Solution
Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
192. martinitony
9:08 PM GMT on November 28, 2010
Quoting paratomic:
We're all in denial about something. Whether it's human-caused global warming, lebron james, war, environment, big government, evolution, human rights, obama, family values, violence and sensationalism in media, irresponsible career choices, globalism, conservatism, economic opportunity for hard pressed peoples versus protecting the environment, healthy food, television, internet, politics, you name it! We all have shortcomings. Everyone has vices and biases and prejudices. In hte end, we can't do everything or be everything. We have limits and there're points at which we cannot cross. We have to each be ourselves and fight for our causes and hope to god that all of this synergistic behavior amongst the widely different peoples and cultures works out for the planet as a whole. Because it might not.

There're no second chances, and no single person or idealogy determines the fate of humanity. Because someone disagrees with you it does not mean the end of life on earth as you know it. Disagreement is a virtual certainty. If there's a god, disagreement was probably built into the system to facilitate change when it's needed. Granted, change will sometimes occur when it's not needed or helpful, but change appears to be the one thing certain to happen. Perhaps the good brought about by it outweighs the bad.

I ask all this of myself because I often find myself not trusting military authorities. This is one example of an issue I usually am distrustful of, directly opposite of some of the people you might find in the american legion or in a patriotic rally in support of the troops. The mess in Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and Korea is bothering me. I am a liberal, but I expect myself to be reasonable. Contrarily, I am much more open to the premise that humanity is screwing the planet up by its vast civilization experiments. Why am I so welcoming to this idea when I am so unwelcoming to military matters? Is it possible that I myself am a denier too? I think so. I think it's very possible that I can be welcoming and open to one idea while being radically irresponsibly opposed to another. I battle with it constantly. I do not want to be in denial.

Could it be that since I am a liberal I am biased to believe in human-caused global warming and that conservatives are biased to believe in war and that the truth is in the middle? Could it be that we're both wrong and that we exist on the extreme ends of things? Or might it be that it's hit and miss. Could it be that sometimes the liberals are right and sometimes the conservatives are right, and that there's no real rhyme or reason for it. Or might it be that the truth is always in the middle, so fittingly available for moderates? I doubt that because we're humans and no human can be everything or know everything. So I doubt people in the middle somehow represent all that is truth. More likely, I think we all get it wrong sometimes, whether we're on the right or the left or in the middle. It's everyones duty to be aware of what's going on so that whatever choice this nation makes it will be moderated.


You show so well the real problem with liberalism. It is not your belief in having an open mind. I am conservative and I have an open mind. Your problem is that you don't believe that there are good and evil, black or white, truth or falsehoods, wrong or right. You believe that your type of open mind must not be certain of anything except perhaps your wrong-headed beliefs about conservatives. All must be shades of gray.
I am pretty sure you are a fine and decent person. A lot of fine and decent people have been fed to the lions and tigers.
Member Since: July 29, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 970
191. paratomic
8:38 PM GMT on November 28, 2010
We're all in denial about something. Whether it's human-caused global warming, lebron james, war, environment, big government, evolution, human rights, obama, family values, violence and sensationalism in media, irresponsible career choices, globalism, conservatism, economic opportunity for hard pressed peoples versus protecting the environment, healthy food, television, internet, politics, you name it! We all have shortcomings. Everyone has vices and biases and prejudices. In hte end, we can't do everything or be everything. We have limits and there're points at which we cannot cross. We have to each be ourselves and fight for our causes and hope to god that all of this synergistic behavior amongst the widely different peoples and cultures works out for the planet as a whole. Because it might not. Look at the human body as an example. It's a synergistic organism composed of many different lifeforms and processes. A human body can fail for multitudes of reasons. Being synergistic does not make it immune.

There're no second chances, and no single person or idealogy determines the fate of humanity. Because someone disagrees with you it does not mean the end of life on earth as you know it. Disagreement is a virtual certainty. If there's a god, disagreement was probably built into the system to facilitate change when it's needed. Granted, change will sometimes occur when it's not needed or helpful, but change appears to be the one thing certain to happen. Perhaps the good brought about by it outweighs the bad.

I ask all this of myself because I often find myself not trusting military authorities. This is one example of an issue I usually am distrustful of, directly opposite of some of the people you might find in the american legion or in a patriotic rally in support of the troops. The mess in Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and Korea is bothering me. I am a liberal, but I expect myself to be reasonable. Contrarily, I am much more open to the premise that humanity is screwing the planet up by its vast civilization experiments. Why am I so welcoming to this idea when I am so unwelcoming to military matters? Is it possible that I myself am a denier too? I think so. I think it's very possible that I can be welcoming and open to one idea while being radically irresponsibly opposed to another. I battle with it constantly. I do not want to be in denial.

Could it be that since I am a liberal I am biased to believe in human-caused global warming and that conservatives are biased to believe in war and that the truth is in the middle? Could it be that we're both wrong and that we exist on the extreme ends of things? Or might it be that it's hit and miss. Could it be that sometimes the liberals are right and sometimes the conservatives are right, and that there's no real rhyme or reason for it. Or might it be that the truth is always in the middle, so fittingly available for moderates? I doubt that because we're humans and no human can be everything or know everything. So I doubt people in the middle somehow represent all that is truth. More likely, I think we all get it wrong sometimes, whether we're on the right or the left or in the middle. It's everyones duty to be aware of what's going on so that whatever choice this nation makes it will be moderated.
Member Since: September 17, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 182
190. idontknowforsure
8:19 PM GMT on November 28, 2010
The Crown Jewel of Global Warming is a Fake. By Art Horn, Meteorologist
For two decades now we have been told over and over again that global warming is melting the world glaciers and this will flood coastal cities and farmland and in fact it’s happening now! The historic and unprecedented flooding will displace millions if not billions of people and wreak havoc with the global economy, not to mention nature. This apocalyptic proclamation, the crown jewel of global warming alarmists has been the primary rallying cry in the effort to “stop global warming” by shutting down the carbon based energy producing companies of the world. This is the ultimate goal of the hundreds of environmental groups across the globe. The big problem with all of this is that the dazzling jewel of disaster has been proven to be a fake. A couple of satellites turned it over and found a big crack.
In its latest 2007 climate assessment report number 4 the IPCC states that sea level increased at a rate of about 13.5 inches during the 20th century. This number is considerably higher than the 6.7 inch per century rate derived from tidal gauges around the world. David Burton found the rate of rise from tide gauges to be only 2.4 inches per century. Data from the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite mission launched in 1992 indicated a 12.2 inch per century rate based on data from 1993 to 2005. In its latest report the IPCC has predicted sea level will rise as little as 7 inches to as much as 118 inches (ten feet) by the year 2100. Some are predicting much greater rises. Recently Fen Montaigne a senior editor at Yale Environment 360 wrote that if the west Antarctic ice sheet melts sea level will rise 16 to 20 feet. Al Gore is predicting a 20 foot sea level rise by 2100. Dr. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies is predicting the possibility of an 82 foot rise by 2100. These frightening predictions are the crown jewel of the global warming establishment.
The degree of sea level rise from these predictions ranges from no change from the current rate, about 7 inches per century to somewhere around 20 feet of rise by 2100. The alarmists are quick to point out that things could get much worse if the IPCC’s worst case scenarios come true. Currently ocean expansion is the primary cause of sea level rise. This expansion is a response to the small amount of warming that has taken place in the last 150 years, about 1 degree Fahrenheit. The alarmist community feels confident that predictions of the climate, of which much is still not understood, will be accurate 100 years into the future. Based on these “accurate predictions” sea level could rise dramatically based on the current rate of rise and forecast increases.
There is a problem with all these predictions. It’s the data released from the GRACE (Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment) tandem satellite system. The analysis has revealed a large and obvious crack in the supposedly impenetrable crown jewel of global warming. The data reveal that global sea level is rising at a rate of .04 inches per year. This equates to 4.0 inches per century. This rate is far lower than the IPCCs rate of 13.5 inches per century and well below the TOPEX/Poseidon rate of 12.2 inches per century. What this means is that real world data is showing that the threat of long term massive
sea level rise is a no show. The satellite data says there has been no acceleration of sea level rise and in fact the rate of rise is three times lower than the most recent IPCC assessment.
Despite all the TV news stories, documentaries, newspaper headlines, magazine articles, pleas from environmental groups, highway billboards, university studies and international climate change conference reports there is no sign of rapid sea level rise, none. It’s all a prediction of what might happen, not of what is happening. Television networks need ratings, newspapers and magazines need readers, universities, environmental groups and climate conferences need funding. Scary stories of coastal cities gulping for air as the oceans wash over them creates a morbid sense of fascination that attracts both audiences and money.
The alarmist climate change industry will combat this data and its results. The results will be attacked, revised and contorted to keep the threat alive and the money flowing. Most of the time the attackers use the assumption that the future predictions of global temperature rise are correct. There is no evidence that this is even remotely true. The real inconvenient truth is that the earth’s temperature has been falling for 3,000 years as revealed by the Greenland ice core data. Current temperature changes are but tiny blips in the overall cooling. The temperature has dropped some 3.75 degrees Fahrenheit since the Minoan Warm Period some 3,300 years ago. The ultimate irony will be that if the long term trend continues shivering future generations may look back and wonder why we saw warming when the next ice age was staring us in the face.
The global warming monster that feeds on the dying carcass of man made global warming will continue to scare people as long as it can. It will continue to devour billions of dollars until it ultimately chokes of its own gluttony. Unfortunately many innocent people may be hurt before the beast is dead. The threat of massive sea level rise has been the primary weapon of fear for those looking to control how we make energy and who rules the world. For those who can see clearly the crown jewel is in full sight and the evidence says it’s a fake.

Link
Member Since: January 17, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 291
186. Ossqss
2:07 AM GMT on November 28, 2010
Quoting EnergyMoron:
Thanks Doc:

Heavy stuff. Got to take time to digest it.

The windfarm paper is going to be very interesting. Not a quick scan sort of paper, to be sure.

Actually got the question "Can wind farms cause warming" at a talk at a local college. Not totally stupid since there is draught conditions in the Texas areas with windfarms. But, the second law is the second law and removing energy from the system should result in less heat (the abstract of the paper you cited is in line with this).

A zinger Doc.


MIT paper from earlier this year, final revision and free PDF.

Potential climatic impacts and reliability of very large-scale wind
farms
C. Wang and R. G. Prinn
Center for Global Change Science and Joint Program of the Science and Policy of Global Change, Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Received: 17 August 2009 – Published in Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss.: 14 September 2009
Revised: 17 December 2009 – Accepted: 10 February 2010 – Published: 22 February 2010


Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8188
175. EnergyMoron
4:35 AM GMT on November 27, 2010
Thanks Doc:

Heavy stuff. Got to take time to digest it.

The windfarm paper is going to be very interesting. Not a quick scan sort of paper, to be sure.

Actually got the question "Can wind farms cause warming" at a talk at a local college. Not totally stupid since there is draught conditions in the Texas areas with windfarms. But, the second law is the second law and removing energy from the system should result in less heat (the abstract of the paper you cited is in line with this).

A zinger Doc.
Member Since: December 8, 2009 Posts: 0 Comments: 3

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.