Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Disclaimer: I did not receive payment from any political or corporate institution to write this post. Written content can be found included in lecture material at Massey University, Palmerston North. Well okay, minus the smart comments. They’re mine.
So, Climate Change. Welcome to part one of a two part miniseries.
A lot of people do not understand it. In this miniseries I am going to explain how it works as well as we know, because we do not know everything. Yes, anthropological climate change will be discussed, but I will lay out the evidence for you to make your own mind up. Because I’m a smart cookie, I know not everyone is like me and doesn’t necessarily get off on science, so I’ll try to make this as easy and entertaining a read as possible. I promise pretty pictures.
The first thing you need to understand about climate change is there is both long term climate change and short term climate change (under which falls anthropological change theory). The second thing you need to understand is the causes are like dominos arranged in an erratic jumble. If one climate system is altered, the others will be affected by the alteration.
In part one, I will talk about long term change.
Orbital forcing is the main driver behind long term climate change, but it does not explain everything. Orbital forcing is how the earth travels around the sun.
In laymans terms, the Earth is a lump of rock rocketing around a nuclear fusion reactor and is held in place by gravity.
Well, sort of held in place.
The lump of rock we call home does not have a smooth orbit at all. We actually rocket through space on an ellipse, and we do a lot of wobbling on our tilted axis. I’m glad we’re a little unstable, because then we get seasons and I’m not left in eternal winter freezing my backside off at the bottom of the globe.
The sun is not even at the centre of the ellipse. It is off to the side.
There are three parts to orbital forcing, starting with the procession of the equinoxes.
As the Earth cruises round on its ellipse, it receives varying amounts of solar radiation. The sun is rather warm, and remember how I just said the sun is not at the centre of the ellipse? The point closest to the sun is called the perihelion. The perihelion is where we receive the most solar radiation.
Also, because the Earth is tilted on its axis (currently 23.5 degrees. Yes, I said currently. Who wants to talk about polar shift?), this radiation is not distributed evenly. At the current time, Northern Hemisphere summer occurs at the aphelion, which is the opposite of the perihelion. So for me down here in the Southern Hemisphere, I spend winter freezing and summer frying.
Now, because the Earth wobbles on its axis, the direction of the tilt varies. After 10.5ka (1ka is 1000 years) it is completely reversed. Basically, it is the Northern Hemisphere’s turn to fry in summer and freeze in winter. After 21ka the cycle is back to where we are today.
The second part to OF is the aforementioned tilt. The tilt of the Earth varies between 21.5-24.5 degrees. The greater the tilt, the greater the difference between summer and winter. This runs on a 41ka cycle (there and back again).
The third part, and this really is the fun part, is the orbit changes. Yes, we are a little rock flying through space on gravity. But, the shape of our orbit cycles from being an ellipse to almost circular every 100ka. Being an ellipse, we have more pronounced contrasts between summer and winter.
These three parts are glued together. Play with one and you’ll play with the others. Deep sea core samples suggest our climate has been dominated by the 100ka cycle. Our period is called the Quaternary period, and it has been around for 2.7 million years. The time between glacial periods has been roughly 100ka for the bulk of the Quaternary. The 41 and 21ka cycles have either amplified or moderated the effects, depending on where we were at the time.
I did want to provide you with an animation of orbital forcing, but Havard are being very stingy. Nevertheless, if you want to download a 74MB animation follow this link: http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~phuybers/Inso/index.html
And here is a page with some diagrams: http://astro.ocis.temple.edu/~andy/Contents/Research/orbitalforcing.htm
And here is another pretty picture looking at the relationship between orbital forcing and glacial periods: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Milankovitch_Variations.png
As you can see, there is a relationship between glacial periods and orbital forcing.
However, orbital forcing only accounts for 77% of the variations occurred during the quaternary. Records indicate climatic cycles have shifted. 800,000 years ago we were on a 41ka cycle and then we shifted to our current 100ka cycle. There are other elements involved.
What elements are these?
Oh boy, here we go.
Disposition of continental landmass, tectonic activity, oceanic circulation, extent of ice cover and possibly variation in carbon dioxide, methane and dust. This is where things get tricky, because once again these guys are all dominos who like to knock each other over. For example, when the Panama Isthmus (the link between the Americas) closed, oceanic circulation was altered, which affected the climate. Also, the continents have drifted towards the poles.
But really, scientists are still working out how the other 23% works. What are the causes and what are the effects?
If you’re interested, take a look at the temperature trend of the quaternary period: http://www3.hi.is/~oi/quaternary_geology.htm
That is an oxygen isotope record. Basically, peaks represent a warm planet and troughs mean it’s cold.
You’ll notice the trend is we’re getting colder, and have greater variation between warm and cold periods. We’re also nearing the peak of a warm period. It is also interesting to note we get warm fast and cold relatively slowly.
Long term climate change theories still have a lot of gaps to fill in. Right now, some new ideas include connections between the magnetic field and climate (i.e. Venus has a crap one and the solar wind steals all its hydrogen, oxygen, etc and leaves it to belch carbon and sulphur dioxide into its atmosphere. We on the other hand, have a good magnetic field and we keep our nice molecules.) and Solar Resonant Diffusion.
That is all for today kiddies. Next I will cover short term change, hopefully while keeping my backside firmly in Switzerland as promised.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Something thudded in the closet.
I stopped, gripping my gun. Great, more random crap. I wasn’t going in there. Not in that bloody house.
“Secret Service. Open up or I’ll open fire. You have five seconds,” I called.
I swapped my tranq gun for my silenced pistol. I didn’t care if the bloody Pope was behind the door, it was getting shot up.
I reached for the door and threw it open.
A naked woman fell into the hall. She was quite obviously dead. I kicked her over. She was middle aged, slender, and riddled with my bullets.
Jesus, I’d just shot the PMs wife.
Her face was strange. It was contorted, euphoric. I knelt and touched her skin. It was still warm, very warm. Warm, pink and slick with sweat.
Someone was behind me.
I exploded, twisting round and chopping with my hand like a striking rattlesnake.
A slender hand caught my own. Facing me was a woman robed in white. Her hood covered her eyes, but her thin lips and silver hair enchanted me. I could stare at her heart shaped face forever. She was the most lovely woman I had ever seen.
She raised her finger and pressed it to her mouth, the pale digit contrasting with the deep red of her lips. I stared. I would be quiet, I would be anything for this woman.
She smiled. Joy frothed in my chest, bubbling and dancing away. It had been so long since I was truly happy. I was a secret, and secrets don’t feel.
The woman reached into her cloak and pulled out a slender blue rose. She lay it gently between the dead woman’s breasts. Then she lowered her head, stroking the woman’s hair, and kissed her lips with such sweet tenderness. I wanted her to kiss me like that. I needed her to.
The white woman released my hand and it went cold, so cold. I looked at her, begging for her to take it back, but she just smiled. A single tear slid down her cheek.
Then she vanished.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
I walked through the sliding glass doors of the Royal New Zealand Bank and took off my shades, putting them in my coat pocket. I casually glanced around, studying the joint.
Not much was happening. Typical fucking bank. Gigantic hall with marble overload, ten bank tellers, and about three customers and a dog.
Well fourteen customers actually, but I never exaggerate.
They were all pretty average. Accountants, trust fund brats, lawyers. But if someone here was interested, they would make sure they were average. Sitting on a bench reading the paper was secret agent suicide thanks to Hollywood.
I strode to a teller, my heels clipping on the floor. A few people glanced at my suitcase. Why the client needed the metal on the outside of the suitcase beat me. But that’s the New Zealand Secret Services for you. Logic is not our strong point.
The teller smiled. Yeah whatever, he was so pleased to see me my ass. He probably wanted nothing more than to go home and watch porn.
Me, cynical? Never.
I put on my young professional act. I reached into my pocket and gave him some I.D. I’m Bella Nichols apparently. I also gave him a letter from the NZ Police. It basically said “do this or get fucked over.”
Mr Happy Bank Teller opened the letter and went a little pale. He glanced at me quickly before ducking out the back to get the special forms. I waited, keeping my face bored but professional. I’m considering taking up acting if I ever get out of this shit business. I’d be good at it, and I’m decent enough eye candy for the boys and their action movies.
He came back with the papers. I didn’t even bother getting my glasses out, I just signed them almost off by heart, with Bella’s signature. I slid them back under the glass.
“Thank you Miss Nichols. Please go to that door down there and someone will be there to assist you.”
The guy looked like he couldn’t get rid of me fast enough. What a spineless bloke, it was only a letter from the cops. Sure, it has some threats in it but every bill my dad gets seems to revel in the prospect of burning our house to the ground and looting our corpses. If only they knew who paid their bills. The expression on their greedy faces would be classic.
I walked down to a side door at the far end. Two burly security dudes stepped forward, puffing their chests out and giving me hard man looks. Yep, sure guys, you’re the tough men round here and I’m the pretty little girl.
“We’ll take that for you.”
I handed him the suitcase. Our guy in there would make sure these guys did what they were supposed to. I smiled and thanked them before heading for the doors. That was easy, thank God. I hate it when some asshole makes trouble and tries to kill you. I don’t get off on this shit, I’m just a girl who wants to sit in front of the TV eating chocolate.
I stepped out into bright sunshine. A white Toyota Corolla rolled in and idled by the kerb. I chucked on my shades and kept my head pointing in the general direction of the car, scanning the area with my eyes from the safety of mirrored lenses.
Nothing was amiss. Just boring Aucklanders’ living their typical boring Auckland lives. Yeah, I’m not a local. I’m a Palmy gal and like the rest of the country, I take the piss out of Aucklanders’ instinctively.
I popped the handle and jumped in shotgun. No black BMWs for the NZSIS. We save the world in your mum’s car. Aston Martins have this habit of drawing attention.
I buckled up and sighed, staring out the window. Another delivery down, and the rich asshole who asked the government to protect his assets had his stuff delivered without killing the messenger. Not that he probably gave a shit. He’d be glad I took the hit and pat himself on the back for showing such good judgement.
“Go all right?” The driver asked. We didn’t share names. People had this habit of screaming them when you applied hot things to their skin.
“Yeah, the package is sweet.”
The bank exploded.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Well, actually it's good morning, but I digress...
I'm going to talk to you about the universe.