Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Guardian on Climate Imbalance

I had a minor contribution to a recent post on The Guardian: Climate imbalance. The article discusses how research addressing climate sensitivity is handled. Climate sensitivity refers to how global temperature will respond to changes in Earth's energy budget. If you double atmospheric CO2, the enhanced greenhouse effect from this change will raise the average global temperature about 1 degree Kelvin, and that rise will sustain a higher level of water vapor, which is a more potent greenhouse gas. The increased warming from CO2 and H2O will reduce ice cover, which will mean less solar energy is reflected to space, allowing for a bit more warming. Additional feedback effects will add warming and cooling influences. Climate sensitivity estimates range from 1.5 to 6 degrees K. Note that the average temperature difference between a warm inter-glacial and an ice age is about 5 degrees K, so a few degrees K represents a significant change in climate.

The Guardian reports on a review of how research on climate sensitivity has been handled in the media. Authors who are known for their low-sensitivity estimates have been exalted by some media. However, each of the low-sensitivity estimates have been rebutted thoroughly so that it would be irresponsible of any media to report low-climate sensitivity without the caveat that it's a refuted, minority opinion (very high climate sensitivity is also a minority opinion).

To help the reader sort through the various papers cited, I contributed this illustration:

Open circles are a low-sensitivity paper and the open circles of the same color or rebuttals to a paper. My original illustration was slammed on Twitter for having an unlabeled x-axis. I intended no x-axis and added horizontal spacing to stack each colored set in it's own column. The criticism of an implied and unlabeled x-axis was embarrassing but fair, and I quickly responded with an "oops, may bad; how's this new drawing?" Within the day, I had a corrected version. What I find interesting is how Twitter enabled me to communicate with a scientist who read the Guardian post and get an illustration quickly corrected.

This Guardian article came out a convenient time for me to share with my city council who are considering a climate action plan for Wildomar.

By the way, I'm on Twitter under the name @jg_to, where I'm likely to make errors and correct them again.

jg


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Salmon Moon, the Lunar Eclipse of April 2014

Last night I watched and photographed the lunar eclipse from start to finish. I haven't worked on my photos much and will do that over the next few weeks in my ample spare time. My first impression is that this eclipse was a bit bland, not quite as rich as others I've seen and photographed before. You can see a little color difference in these moons, one taken at the peak of the 2007 eclipse and the other from the peak of the April 2014 eclipse:


These were taken with the same telescope and camera, the only difference is that the 2014 photo is using my camera's medium setting for file size and in 2007 I used my camera's maximum setting. The difference is their pixel densities, which I don't believe account for the 2007 eclipse appearing a stronger orange over the maria.

Here's the eclipse at it's peak:


Here are pre- and post-peak images, at time when the camera speed can be manipulated to reveal color gradients from white to purple to orange:
Pre-peak:

Post-peak:

I believe the color gradient is caused by different layers of the atmosphere transmitting different wavelengths: e.g, the purple band is caused by ozone or other stratospheric gases and the red zone is the troposphere's scattering of all but the red light. I'm not sure about the stratosphere imparting a purple color and hope to check on this. 

The size difference between photos is a result of adding a focal reducer to my telescope. I photographed the first half using my telescope's prime focal length, focal ratio F6.3, and the second half at F5.0 with the focal reducer. I saw no appreciable difference in image quality. I used the focal reducer so I could include the star Spica in my field of view:



Early in the eclipse, I thought I was watching the moon pass in front of a star, but upon examining my photos, the star emerged from behind the moon. The eyepiece inverts and flips images, so it's easy to lose track of which way the moon is moving. I put a few images together in this animation:



I still need to sort through my photos for more discoveries that may make for good animations.

jg






Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Climate Action Plan for Wildomar, Part 2

I've read Lake Elsinore's Climate Action Plan (LE CAP) and it has answered many questions about how the general climate mitigation measures cited in Western Riverside Council of Government's draft climate action plan would look when implemented in a Wildomar plan. The Lake Elsinore plan was written by Rincon Consultants, Inc. of Ventura, CA. A qualified consultant can do a good job, but I hope that Wildomar can produce a climate action plan without the expense of hiring a consulting firm.

I've also tried to download the software used to create emissions inventories for cities in our region. I believe it is available at the link below, but I have yet to hear a reply to my request for the software:
I'm using the Lake Elsinore plan to supplement my understanding of the climate mitigation measures that Wildomar is participating in according to WRCOG's draft climate action plan. I've commented on these measures in previous post, and here I'm mostly adding information from the LE CAP.

The city of Wildomar will be incorporating the following measures in it's general plan:
  • Yard waste collection for areas not already served. This diverts waste from landfills and has no other measurable climate mitigation benefit. 
  • Traffic signal coordination. This makes vehicle traffic on the city's major roads more efficient, with fewer starts and stops.
  • Mixed use developments.This passage from the LE CAP helps define what mixed-use development will look like and is intended to do:
    Land use patterns affect the amount and type of travel that occurs in an area. Having different types of land uses near one another, such as with mixed-use development, can reduce vehicle miles traveled since trips between land use types are shorter and may be accommodated by non-auto modes of transport. Density (the number of people and businesses in a given area) and infill development also affects the distances that people must travel and increase the use of transit, walking and cycling (USEPA, 2007). In addition, locating higher density development near transit will facilitate the use of transit by people traveling to or from the development. 
  • Increased density.  I thought one of the benefits of increasing density would be less impact on open space. This benefit may occur, but inferring from the LE CAP, protecting open space isn't the stated goal:
    ...Density Bonus Incentives [apply] to a residential project located within 1,500 feet of a regular bus stop or rapid transit system stop; located within a quarter mile from a public park or community center; or within a half mile from school grounds/facilities open to the general public, a full-service grocery store, hospital, medical clinic, or pharmacy. Placing residences close to key retail services, recreational facilities, schools, and bus stops increases the likelihood that an individual would walk or drive to such destinations, or use the bus as transportation"
    Density will reduce fuel consumption of residential activities (e.g., travel between store and home) but not necessarily reduce long distance commuting. I am concerned about the goal and appearance of increasing density and whether it is a feature that Wildomar wants and needs.
  • Expand areas served by public transit
  • Expand the times served by public transit
  • End of trip facilities. Shower and locker facilities encourage cycling to locations in Wildomar. This will probably be achieved by conditions on new construction.
    From the LE CAP: Despite improvements to the bikeway system, citizens may still be deterred from biking if there are not places to park or shower once they arrive to their destination. This measure ...stipulates that new developments provide bicycle lockers, showers, and bike racks on site in order to incentivize bicycle commuting. By requiring these facilities, citizens will be encouraged to bicycle rather than drive, thus lowering the City’s emissions.
  • Add bicycle parking.
    From the LE CAP: Short-Term Bicycle Parking: If the project is anticipated to generate visitor traffic, provide permanently anchored bicycle racks within 200 feet of the visitor entrance, readily visible to passers-by, for 5% of visitor motorized vehicle parking capacity, with a minimum of one two-bike capacity rack.  Long-Term Bicycle Parking: For buildings with over 10 tenant occupants, provide secure bicycle parking for 5% of tenant-occupied motorized vehicle parking capacity, with a minimum of one space.
In addition to the measures that Wildomar will adopt, I'd like to see the following measures from in the LE CAP added to Wildomar's:

Promotion of shade trees
From the LE CAP: Through the development review process, require new development to plant at minimum one 15-gallon nondeciduous, umbrella-form tree per 30 linear feet of boundary length near buildings, per the Municipal Code. Trees shall be planted in strategic locations around buildings or to shade pavement in parking lots and streets.

"nondeciduous, umbrella-form tree?"
By this, I assume they mean "palm tree." If so, then this is the only objection I've have to the LE CAP. They've ignored their consultant's advice:

Researchers have found that planting deciduous trees or vines to the west is typically most effective for cooling a building, especially if they shade windows and part of the building’s roof.

I recall reading in the Press Enterprise that some cities have regretted planting too many of certain types of palms. I saved this diagram from the article:
Palms provide only a fraction of the shade provided by a wide crown umbrella-form deciduous tree, and probably are more water dependent than a tree that is native to our region. I urge Wildomar to use a variation of the LE CAP that says require new development to plant at minimum one 15-gallon shade tree (preferably native or low water and non-invasive) per 30 linear feet of boundary length in strategic locations around buildings or to shade pavement in parking lots and streets. 

Reflective roof tops.
From the LE CAP: Amend the City Municipal Code to require new non-residential development to use roofing materials having solar reflectance, thermal emittance or Solar Reflectance Index (SRI)3 consistent with CalGreen Tier 1 values (Table A5.106.11.2.1), and implement through conditions of approval.
Cool roofs are most effective in hot, sunny climates...because the buildings stay cooler, less energy is used for air conditioning and GHG emissions are reduced. Cool roofs deflect some desired heat gain during the winter. In general, though, cool roofs result in net energy savings, especially in areas where electricity prices are high (USEPA, 2009).

Low water and native plant landscaping (primarily affecting public buildings). Per the LE CAP, in 2010 Lake Elsinore adopted a landscape ordinance to require landscaping [that] is water efficient, and thereby consumes less energy and reduces emissions. Landscaping with native plants consumes less energy, lowers maintenance and costs, and reduces GHG emissions.
My native plant garden. The automated sprinkler control has been broken for a few years, and I've had no need to fix it.

As most of my suggested additions are prototyped in the LE CAP, I hope Wildomar can follow Lake Elsinore's strategies.

And last, there are few measures that aren't described in a regional climate action plan. I don't know of Wildomar can add it's own items to the CAP menu. If it can, I hope to explore these:
  • Covered pools. An open, heated 15x20-foot pool is comparable to having a dozen dripping faucets in one's home. If the pool has a waterfall, evaporation is even greater. Riverside building codes require door alarms for homes with pools. These alarms are very unforgiving in that they go into alarm when a door, such as a sliding glass door which people like to leave open, is open for about 10 seconds. I suspect most people who get permits and install such alarms later disable them. A pool safety cover would eliminate the need for alarms and would double as a insulator for heat and reduce evaporation. It seems that codes that require alarms could require easy-to-use covers instead.
  • Protection of large trees. The rate of CO2 uptake increases with age, making large trees, with a proven survival record, worth preserving.
  • Aimed lighting. Better lighting would improve the darkness of the night sky and liberate residents from the nuisance of light trespass and the safety hazard of glare. Any light that is aimed downward is more energy efficient, as well as more effective at providing light for safety and security.
  • Reclamation of waste-water and run-off.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Rattlesnakes

I believe this spring will be a good year for rattlesnakes. I've already seen three, two in just this previous weekend. 

Rattler from 4/5/2014:




Rattler from March 20, 2014:



Rattler from 4/6/2014: 
(Better quality videos are here: rattlesnake1rattlesnake2.)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Water logged

As a unilateral gesture of good will to a neighbor, I'm cutting down one of my climate mitigation assets. My sycamore tree shades my house in the morning and would shade my neighbor's house during our blistering afternoons, especially in autumn. But in return for these services, the tree drops leaves, quote generously I should add. Despite it's benefits, I figure we all must live together and cooperate, so "timber!"

Another part of the mitigation benefit is indirect. My tree absorbs atmospheric CO2. I've been asked if plants get all their carbon from atmospheric CO2 as opposed to getting some from the soil. I believe that the atmosphere is their only source, as I've described here: Rubisco Enzyme. In this mitigation, I'm still doing well, for I keep a small stream of new trees ready to replace any that may die in other parts of my yard. My remaining trees shade mostly my home's western exposure which I've recently learned is the most effective cooling benefit you can get from trees. Lake Elsinore's Climate Action Plan has this to say: 
Researchers have found that planting deciduous trees or vines to the west is typically most effective for cooling a building, especially if they shade windows and part of the building’s roof (USEPA, 2009).
But back to my tree and the reason for this post: While cutting, I removed a wedge and was impressed with how wet it was to the touch. I've known that much of a live tree's weight is in water. Having a freshly removed, wet slice made a good sample to weigh. The slice would quickly lose it's water, so I could get a before and after measurement. Here is my slice. You can see the wet wood but also that the thinner portion has started to dry out, hence, the color difference.


Also from this photo, you can infer a significant change in water availability. Four growth rings near the middle are thicker than  the 11 outer rings, suggesting that 11 years ago the tree had a change in water availability, and therefore, a change in it's growth rate. When I moved into my home about 14 years ago I inherited a water logged yard, front and back. Within three years, the yard was replaced with low-water, native plant landscaping. And the tree was still happy.

My slice has been on a scale for 7 days. Initially, it weighed 152 grams. Today it weighs 82 grams. So, 70 grams was water, and 82 grams is wood and any remaining water. It should be noted that the water content will vary with humidity. I'm not surprised that the tree was nearly half water by weight. I am surprised that the wood was saturated to the middle of the tree. Wood tissue's primary function is the transport of water, but I hear that this transport is suction via evapotranspiration through the leaves. My water logged tree had no leaves because I started cut off the limbs in January. My guess is that the evapotranspiration saturated the tree and the osmotic suction of the wood cells held the water in place. And, the approximately 20 years represented in this slice s not enough time for the water conduits to become clogged.

Though wood's primary function is to transport water, it also provides structure, allowing trees to grow taller to compete for sunlight. When crafting with wood, the cabinet maker knows to allow for wood's first calling. Wood workers allow for normal contraction and expansion due to humidity changes. This is why classic furniture will have panels set into a frame rather than be a solid slab. (Think of the design of a panel door. The modern panel door build form metal or composite material often imitates the traditional wood door by included panels purely for aesthetics.)

Many of us know that a board left on the ground and in the sun will warp. The warp is caused by the differential drying. The ground side stays cool and wet, the top side dries out faster. As the drying wood cells on one side shrink, the board warps. This is a flaw in wood as a building material, a feature that has be compensated for. However, I have evidence that this same quality to warp can be a benefit to a plant.

Two years ago I was given a limb of a cactus. I tossed it into my yard and left it, much like discarding a scrap of wood in the yard. After a few months, it warped. 



I believe this warp is from uneven exposure to the summer sun. I dropped the cactus in July and by August, the differential moisture changes curved the limb so that's two ends were upright, allowing the cactus to better compete against other ground plants for sunlight. The cactus is now rooted in at it's middle. And the cactus is happy.

jg



Friday, April 4, 2014

Tangential Arc

Last night while conducting an astronomy program, I saw a tangential arc. I was caught without a good camera and this cell phone photo failed to catch the full color of the 5-minute phenomenon. Also visible to my eye, but not well shown in this photo, was the 22-degree halo around the setting sun.



This is the second tangential arc I've seen. The last one was on Dec 2010 and was accompanied by a very faint circumzenithal arc:

jg

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Climate Action Plan for Wildomar

The City of Wildomar may adopt a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that comes to us from the Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG). I'm using this post to collect and criticize my position that Wildomar should adopt a climate action plan, though the plan falls short of what a city could do. I also believe that the plan is designed to fit with what a city would normally do, therefore, it doesn't ask the city to take much financial risk.

Our climate is changing at a pace that has no precedent in at least a million years and humanity is the culprit. This is reason enough for a city council to take some action to reduce our emissions. Additionally, some undesirable changes could affect our community. The current drought in the Southwestern United States is the type of climate predicted for our region and may be a result of climate change (Sewall 2005). Also, we could go from drought to flooding quickly due to how global warming is making the jet stream more prone to slow moving storm tracks (see links in this post). If this happened here, we'd quickly learn how poorly drained some areas in our community are. 

It should also be noted that global warming is a tragedy of the commons in which the commons is the atmosphere and our climate. The atmosphere is a free dumping ground for CO2 and the climate is a common asset. Wildomar, the state of California, or the USA will not avert the effects of climate change by acting alone. We can only adapt to what comes our way and mitigate (reduce) our emissions hoping the world follows suit to avert the worst of what could come our way. However, the larger the target for mitigation, the larger the dent in emissions and the better chance of persuading others to follow. Also, the smaller the target, e.g., a city, then the less we should ask of the target to spend on mitigation; a small city cannot afford to make a significant dent.

Where is the primary burden and opportunity to mitigate climate change?