Environmental chemistry

Soot climate forcing via snow and ice albedos

Abstract: plausible estimates for the effect of soot on snow and ice albedos (1.5% in the Arctic and 3% in Northern Hemisphere land areas) yield a climate forcing of +0.3 W/m2 in the Northern Hemisphere. The “efficacy” of this forcing is ∼2, i.e., for a given forcing it is twice as effective as CO2 in altering global surface air temperature. This indirect soot forcing may have contributed to global warming of the past century, including the trend toward early springs in the Northern Hemisphere, thinning Arctic sea ice, and melting land ice and permafrost. If, as we suggest, melting ice and sea level rise define the level of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, then reducing soot emissions, thus restoring snow albedos to pristine high values, would have the double benefit of reducing global warming and raising the global temperature level at which dangerous anthropogenic interference occurs. However, soot contributions to climate change do not alter the conclusion that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been the main cause of recent global warming and will be the predominant climate forcing in the future.

Soot climate forcing via snow and ice albedos, Hansen, J. , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 01/2004, Volume 101, Issue 2, p.423 - 428, (2004)

Hydrogen cars some time off yet

Many agree that replacing conventional petrol driven cars with hydrogen is a good idea provided the hydrogen does not originate in a process involving oil as the only product from hydrogen burning is water, rather than carbon dioxide.

However the road to hydrogen-powered vehicles will not be easy, industry experts state. Representatives of European and American car and energy companies at the National Hydrogen Association convention said hydrogen technology is feasible, but faces big challenges to become commercially viable.

"We all have our homework to do in the coming years," said Klaus Bonhof, manager of the alternative fuels division of DaimlerChrysler AG. "We must produce technology viable in volume, and that technology must be commercially applicable."

Several car compnaies had hydrogen-powered vehicles on display at the conference, but all have similar technological challenges, including costs that range up to a million dollars a piece and limited range on a hydrogen fill-up. While a hydrogen-pwered car can travel 45 to 50 miles on a gallon, the fuel tank only provide a range of 125 to 150 miles. This is because hydrogen is put in a car as a liquid at very low temperatures, but reverts to a gas as on warming. The gas produced has to be vented while the car is not being used so that after a few days the tank will be empty.

The industry is working on this and BMW vice president of clean technology Frank Ochmann said BMW is testing an insulated tank that would keep hydrogen cold and liquid. "If you put in this tank a snowman, it would take about thirteen years to melt down," he said.

Developing hydrogen fuel station is easy part, experts said as hydrogen is already shipped to industrial users in tanks or moved through pipelines. BMW estimates it will be 2025 before hydrogen powered vehicles are commonly produced and sold.

The Great Global Warming Swindle

Here in the UK, Channel 4 just screened an interesting documentary. Good viewing and challenges what seems to have become the accepted view that global warming is caused by man-made CO2 emissions. Instead, the programme points out that climate change has always been with us (including a medieval warm period, even balmier than today, and a mini ice-age in the seventeenth century when the River Thames froze so solid that fairs were regularly held on the ice). The programme presents some evidence to suggest that the rise in carbon dioxide lags behind temperature rises by 800 years and therefore can't be the cause of it. It also suggests that man-made sources of carbon dioxide are dwarfed by natural sources and that the source of variation in temperature is really linked to variations in sun activity.

The programme suggests that we can hardly be surprised when "environmental journalists" whose continued employment requires publication of stories produce newsworthy doom-laden stories. After all, why would the media publish stories from such journalists the gist of which is there is no need to panic because climate variation is nothing to do with us.

Anyway, if you are able, see the programme again in the UK on More4 (Monday 12 March 2007, 10.00pm): "Polemical film challenging the consensus that man-made CO2 is heating up the earth. Featuring leading academics, the film questions the science behind the accepted reasons for global warming and argues other explanations for climate change are not being properly aired".

Water on Mars

A NASA press release claims that the Opportunity rover "has demonstrated some rocks on Mars probably formed as deposits at the bottom of a body of gently flowing saltwater." "Bedding patterns in some finely layered rocks indicate the sand-sized grains of sediment that eventually bonded together were shaped into ripples by water at least five centimeters (two inches) deep, possibly much deeper, and flowing at a speed of 10 to 50 centimeters (four to 20 inches) per second," said Dr. John Grotzinger, rover science-team member from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass.

Soot major culprit of global warming?

The observation that soot makes global warming "worse" is well covered today. The BBC covers this - largely because it appears that soot is more important for global warming than realised earlier. Dr James Hansen and Larissa Nazarenko, (Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA, and Columbia University Earth Institute) suggest that trying to reduce the amount of soot produced would be easier than cutting carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Concentrations of soot are often high over China and India, where coal and organic fuels are used domestically, and over Europe and North America, where the main source is diesel oil.1

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