Global warming in Oxford?

21 11 2015

I just returned from a trip to England where I gave a talk at the Geological Society of London on “Biological modification of pH in the earth system”. More on that later . . . After my talk I visited Green Templeton College at Oxford University where I worked as a Visiting Fellow in 1997. Located at the college is Radcliffe Observatory, home of the Radcliffe meteorological station, which has provided weather data since 1767 and constitutes the “longest series of temperature and rainfall records for one site in Britain“. This station is (was) part of the Central England Temperature record that purports to be “the longest instrumental record of temperature in the world“. Thus, with regards to surface observations on climate, this station is one of, if not, is the most important weather station in the world. (Update – Some commenters have pointed out that this station is no longer being used in the daily CET record. Based on this it does not seem to qualify as a most important record in the world. H/T Nick Stokes) I’ve been intrigued by this station ever since I saw it in the mid 90s, and have wondered what the area was like more than 200 years ago, and how the subsequent urbanization has affected those weather records.

When I arrived at the college I was a bit horrified to see this . . .

Radcliffe weather station A

How do you suppose this affects the temperature readings? The warm exhaust air from the heater is located about 20 feet from the temperature sensor. The porter said it was a temporary structure that was set up every so often. I was unable to consult with the weather observer about how this situation came about or whether any corrections are being made to the data.

Radcliffe weather station B





Scientific meeting on Gaia at the Geological Society of London – November 11, 2015

5 10 2015
Carlsbad caverns. Photo by Lee Klinger.

Carlsbad caverns. Photo by Lee Klinger.

On November 11, 2015 there will be a meeting entitled “Puzzle of Earth’s Uninterrupted Habitability” to be held at the Geological Society of London (GSL). This meeting will have a strong emphasis on Gaia theory and several prominent Gaian scholars will be speaking, including Tim Lenton, David Wilkinson, Toby Tyrrell, and David Schwartzman. As a Fellow of the GSL I have been invited to speak at this meeting. Here are the title and abstract of my talk:

Biological mediation of acidity and alkalinity: Does habitability require regulation of environmental pH?

Lee Klinger, Independent Scientist, Big Sur, CA USA

Abstract – Climatic cycles such as ice ages represent large excursions in global temperatures and are associated with significant changes in atmospheric CO2, non-sea salt sulfate, and dust, as recorded in ice cores. Ice age excursions in the pH of marine waters are predicted to result from the altered concentrations of CO2 in those waters. In addition, there are a number of biologically mediated processes affecting the pH of terrestrial and marine environments.

During interglacials terrestrial ecosystems are dominated by forests and grasslands that experience frequent disturbances, especially fire, which tends to alkalinize the soils. At the onset of glaciation higher latitude fire regimes subside and the forests become podzolized, with a corresponding decrease in soil pH. Many of these areas are eventually paludified, owing primarily to the acidifying and swamping effects of mosses and lichens, which eventually dominate the expanding peatlands. Mosses and lichens are known to stimulate silicate weathering rates to levels that could significantly reduce atmospheric CO2, and the cooling effects of peatlands are thought to play a role in ice age initiation. There is evidence that the production of iron-rich organic acids by peatlands greatly enhances phytoplankton blooms in adjacent coastal areas. Rainfall chemistry from the Pacific northwest points to the occurrence of biogenic acid rain likely originating from DMS and other biogenic sulfur compounds emitted by the phytoplankton. A feedback results through the nss-sulfate deposition enhancing the growth of mosses.

As ice ages progress and glaciers grow, dust levels in the atmosphere are also seen to rise. Much of this dust is due to an increase in glacial loess. The iron content of the dust stimulates marine productivity in open ocean areas. Oceanic inputs of iron from volcanic ash and glacial outwash are also seen to increase during glacial periods.

The culmination of the glacial period is defined by feedbacks involving the expansion of glaciers into areas formerly occupied by peatlands. The high mineral content of the glacial loess, along with episodes of volcanic ash would tend to alkalinize the terrestrial ecosystems and discourage the proliferation of mosses and other acidifying organisms.

Thus, the pH excursions in the ice age cycle may be related to the biogeochemical coupling of the iron and sulfur cycles. This coupling could have its roots in the Precambrian banded iron formations (BIFs), cyclic depositions of iron-rich minerals that are likely biogenic in origin. BIFs are seen to be closely associated with snowball earth conditions.





Gaia and Climate Change

10 01 2015

Earth

Today an article I wrote on Gaia and climate change was published in The Ecologist [link here]. The article summarizes my thoughts and concerns around the science of climate change. This is the comment and discussion thread for that article.





Acid rain in Big Sur – 2010-2011 season summary

14 06 2011

[Update: Another late season storm moved through Big Sur yesterday (June 28) depositing 0.42″ of rain with a mean pH of 4.74. I’ve adjusted the seasonal rainfall data below. These new data have no effect on the overall mean weighted pH for the 20010-2011 rain season.]

The 2010-2011 rain season in Big Sur seems to be over, finally, after a late season June storm. This season we received a total of 32.66” 33.08″ of rain, which is very near the average of the previous three years (32.0”). The rainy season lasted for 8 full well over 8 months, with the first rains arriving on October 6, 2010 and the last rains falling on June 6, June 28, 2011.

Sun casting on the side of my home in Big Sur being dissolved by acid rain. Photo by Lee Klinger.

Rainfall from 36 37 events, totaling 23.04” 23.46″, was measured for pH. The season volume-weighted average pH was 4.66 ± 0.10. This mean pH was lower than the average of the previous seasons (mean volume weighted pH 2007-2010 = 4.78).

Season length: October 6, 2010 to June 6, June 28, 2011

Total rainfall: 32.66″ 33.08″

Measured rainfall from 36 37 events: 23.04” 23.46″

Mean volume-weighted pH (± s.d.): 4.66 ± 0.10

For summaries of previous years see “Acid rain in Big Sur 2009-2010 season summary” and “Acid rain in Big Sur”.

The graph below shows the mean volume-weighted pH values recorded from Big Sur for the past 5 rain years, along with the mean volume-weighted pH values reported from six National Acid Deposition Program (NADP) sites along the Pacific coast, from southern California (Tanbark) to southeast Alaska (Juneau). Note that the NADP sites have data only through the 2009-2010 rain year. Data for the most recent rain year are not yet available from NADP. Read the rest of this entry »





Acid rain in Big Sur – May 2011

6 06 2011

Acid rain falling on Big Sur. Photo by Lee Klinger.

It has been an unusually rainy spring here in Big Sur. We received 1.86″ of rain in May and have just had another full on winter storm here in the first week of June. I’ll be summarizing the 2010-2011 rain season data once it is clear the rainy season had ended.

The rains in May were notably acidic. There were five measurable rainfall events with pH values ranging between 4.46 to 4.63. The table below shows all the results for May 2011. Read the rest of this entry »





Life and the Planet – Part 3 (The Hockey Stick still lives in 2011)

23 05 2011

The Hockey Stick graph, presented in May 2011 by Dr Jan Zalasiewicz as evidence for unprecedented anthropogenic warming

The final talk of the meeting was by Jan Zalasiewicz titled ‘Looking back from the future at the Anthropocene’. It is clear from this talk that some geologists have already decided humans are having a dramatic effect on the earth, which reinforces efforts to give the current geological period of the earth a separate classification, the Anthropogene. I find this kind of science disturbingly self-serving. A few days after the talk after I wrote Dr. Zalasiewicz the following letter: Read the rest of this entry »





Life and the Planet – Part 2

23 05 2011

Lynn Margulis, who as Lovelock said earlier “put the flesh and bones” on Gaia, spoke on ‘Evolutionary novelty in the Proterozoic eon: Symbiogenesis in Gaia’. She described a sequence of evolutionary events involving eubacteria and thermobacteria coming together to form the first eukaryotes. This occurred not through random mutations but through symbiosis occurring over evolutionary time scales, or symbiogenesis. While Lynn is often credited with the theory of symbiogenesis she emphatically states that others preceded her in this idea, particular a Russian scientist, Boris Mikhaylovich Kozo-Polyansky, who in 1924 published a book “Symbiogenesis: A New Principle in Evolution”. Still, Lynn undoubtedly put the “flesh and bones” on the theory of Symbiogenesis as well.

Nicholas Butterfield spoke on ‘Multicellularity in deep time’ where he described the early fossil record of various multicellular life forms. He pointed out that by ~1 Ga ago there is evidence for clonal colonies of cyanobacteria, coenobial and filamentous green algae, and branched multicellular filaments of red algae. There is even a 850 Ma old fungus-like fossil with complex multicellular vesicles/hyphae. He states, however, that at this time there is “not a whisper of land plant fossils”. Doubting that this is a preservation issue, he left open the question of plant and animal life on land in the Proterozoic.

Speaking on ‘Neoproterozoic glaciation: Microbes at work in terrestrial oases’ Ian Fairchild acknowledged that even under the most extreme conditions of Snowball Earth life must have persisted and even flourished in places. He described stratigraphic sequences from northern Svalbard which bear units of sandstone, rhythmites, and carbonates which appear to owe their origin, in part, to microbial mats of cyanobacteria. He concludes that “extremophile” life flourished at this time and provided a geochemical record of the Cryogenian (Snowball Earth) period. Unfortunately, he offered no ideas on possible biological feedbacks on the climate. Read the rest of this entry »