Monday, March 10, 2008

Math is hard.

Don't expect see any celebrities talking about this. I understand the gist, but the actual equations look like Greek to me. I wish I'd taken thermodynamics...

Researcher: Basic Greenhouse Equations "Totally Wrong"

"Runaway greenhouse theories contradict energy balance equations," Miskolczi states. Just as the theory of relativity sets an upper limit on velocity, his theory sets an upper limit on the greenhouse effect, a limit which prevents it from warming the Earth more than a certain amount.

How did modern researchers make such a mistake? They relied upon equations derived over 80 years ago, equations which left off one term from the final solution.

Miskolczi's story reads like a book. Looking at a series of differential equations for the greenhouse effect, he noticed the solution -- originally done in 1922 by Arthur Milne, but still used by climate researchers today -- ignored boundary conditions by assuming an "infinitely thick" atmosphere. Similar assumptions are common when solving differential equations; they simplify the calculations and often result in a result that still very closely matches reality. But not always.

That I understand. That's a common trick in first-year physics; assume an infinitely long wire, a frictionless pulley, a spherical chicken--you disregard certain parts of reality to better concentrate on what you're supposed to learn. But it's understood that it's not a real-world solution.

The 80 years part, that's astonishing. We were aware of atmosospheric boundaries at least 50 years ago (I'm not up on Tsiolkovsky...note to self).
So Miskolczi re-derived the solution, this time using the proper boundary conditions for an atmosphere that is not infinite. His result included a new term, which acts as a negative feedback to counter the positive forcing. At low levels, the new term means a small difference ... but as greenhouse gases rise, the negative feedback predominates, forcing values back down.

How 'bout them horseapples? :)
NASA refused to release the results. Miskolczi believes their motivation is simple. "Money", he tells DailyTech. Research that contradicts the view of an impending crisis jeopardizes funding, not only for his own atmosphere-monitoring project, but all climate-change research. Currently, funding for climate research tops $5 billion per year.

Color me unsurprised. That's a lot of research jaunts to Alaska/New Zealand/Bali.

And that's sad, because the people who think I should shit outside in a hole, give up my car, and not eat fresh citrus in winter--won't someone think of the planet!!--listen to "NASA scientists."

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