Monday, April 09, 2007

Climate Change and Gravity; The Secret

In my last post about climate change and the IPCC Summary for Policy Makers I quoted excerpts that I found surprising (that it was measurable) and yet intuitive, on ocean acidification. This is caused because dissolving carbon dioxide in water creates an acid: carbonic acid. I remembered as much from the chemistry texts I read in my youth. I also remember discussions about atmospheric carbon and the carbon absorbing properties of the sea and sea life with someone from NRG - I was making a case (mid-1990's) for the carbon fixing potential of sod forming prarie grasses and deep rooted forbs. I should have sat down and done the math then... but that was before I got very interested in marine invertebrates and mollusks, and about that time I felt I sucked at the chemistry in my aquaculture class, mostly because I choked on pronouncing the English names of fairly common chemicals, not remembering the grammar rules for -ites vs. -ates (nitrate and nitrate, and the microbes that convert ammonia to nitrite, nitrate to nitrate are important both for the health of fish, and the health of humans in regard to levels present in drinking water). Oh well, and in any case, I've digressed to far. Its a good thing that I failed in academia, because I would be both an absent-minded and completely lecherous professor.

What I did not notice in the IPCC summary, because it was not there, is the equally intuitive but previously difficult to measure, globally, impact of climate change on the gravity/weight of surface water. After seeing some images from a cover story on GRACE in Discover Magazine (See the article: GRACE in Space), just wasting time someplace, I started to think about the assertion of some farmers in Aceh, that the cataclysmic trouble started before the tsunami, with a disruption in seasonal rains. They wanted to know if or how the two catastrophes were related.

I thought for a long time about gravity interactions between melting glaciers and magma chambers, like Mt. Ranier, and wondered if there would be an impact closer to home, an increase or decrease in volcanic activity and threat in the Pacific Northwest, but had trouble visualizing the mass involved on even those small scales, vs. the impact of reduced surface water retention in Sumatra due to development, deforestation, declines in rainfall from climate change on pressure on the various faults there. Luckily, smarter people with more training and the right kind of computers, and more access to GRACE data have done a lot of this work, and I am surprised, looking at the volume of publications, that nothing at all about this made it into the IPCC summary.

Even if it is not likely to be directly linked to cataclysmic earthquakes, the GRACE data does show the drying of major river systems (in Africa, and elsewhere), increasing seawater levels, and confirms the fears and predictions of seawater influxes into populated deltas may isolate populations from the freshwater sources that initially supported their foundation and growth...

Even before the GRACE satellites made this sort of data available, it was fairly widely acknowledged that deglaciation could trigger local earthquakes, even major seafloor earthquakes in modern times, such as the The March 25, 1998 Antarctic Earthquake (8.1 in magnitude).

Here is something more easily digested from the popular press: How Melting Glaciers Alter Earth's Surface, Spur Quakes, Volcanoes.

Another glaring ommission is any concern about climate change liberating ocean floor deposits of methane hydrate.

This piece, Methane hydrates and anthropogenic climate change, is apparently by the same author.

Anyway, there are more criticisms from science bloggers on other parts of the IPCC report here and misconceptions in media reports about it: The IPCC sea level numbers, and The IPCC scientists “Final Draft” on climate change impacts before government editing negotiations

I still think the greatest threat* to life on earth is the fact that Oprah revealed "the Secret" to her viewers, and now millions of meditating American housewives will harness the zero-point energy and quantum weirdness, and turn everything in the universe, all energy, all matter, into their most materialistic desires - as Oprah betrayed the truth to them, "thoughts become things"... We will soon be swimming in a veritable sea of vibrators, iPods and designer handbags. We are surely fucked.

That seems like snark, but it really isn't. If there is something to "the Secret", and I am sure there is, selling good, sustainable fantasies becomes more important than selling almost anything else...

Automatic thoughts, self-limited dreams wasting human potential, dreams that necessitate the mental, economic, matrimonial or literal enslavement of others not consciously choosing those fates suck, and get in the way of human evolution and comfortable human survival on both household and national scales. It will be interesting to see what happens when Oprah fans start to dream big, but hopefully it won't all be about things, but some processes (might I suggest impeachment?), too.

(*I initially mispelled this accidentally, as treat - the greatest treat to life on earth, vs. threat. Let me know what else I screwed up, or subconsciously got right, if anything, in the comments.)

Update February 13, 2013: NASA study to be published Friday in Water Resources Research utilized NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment or GRACE satellite data and found the world's second fastest loss of groundwater storage in and around Iraq


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