Friday, 17 May 2013

Late Spring? I blame the solar panels ...

As I write, the fog swirls past the windows. The weather forecast says I can look forward to heavy rain during the day, and possibly storms. There is a cold wind blowing from the North-East and the temerature outside is struggling to reach double figures. Looks like a certain Sheltie is going to need towelling again when we get back from our walk.

I note, thanks to Yahoo News, that the weather in the UK is as confused, and, as usual it is all to do with "Global Warming". Now there I confess I get confused these days. I have recently read several purportedly very learned papers by 'scientists' in this field. One says the oceans are warming and this is causing the atmospheric cooling, another says its because the oceans are cooling that the atmosphere is ... When you look at the actual data from satellites the trend seems to be a downward one, but the landbased thermometers - many of which are located in what are called 'Urban Heat Islands' - the temperatures appear to be rising. As for the ocean temperatures, it depends on where you are measuring and who is collecting the data. Which is perhaps why the scientists using all this stuff massage the data by 'averaging' it, then 'adjusting' it and doing all manner of other tweaks to it, so they can feed it into a model that tells us 'the sky is falling; we're all gonna dieeeee!'

Then, quite by chance, I stumbled across something interesting concerning an experiment in the US to reduce heat absorption by buildings. They painted the roofs of all the buildings in certain areas white - to reflect the heat away. Interesting. But then someone else noted the rainfall recorded in these locations has gone down. I checked, and something odd seems to happen when you blanket an area with solar panels as well. The explanation is that while some wavelengths are absorbed, others are reflected, and those reflected interfere with the process that results in cloud formation. There appears to be a change to the convection columns above them as well. As most school boys discover when playing with mirrored surfaces and sunlight, you can create some fun chaos by bouncing your reflected light off things. So, increase the size of the mirror, put lots of them together in one place and focus them all in the same direction ...

Alright, I'm having a bit of fun here. It's a dull day, I'm putting off mowing the grass (too wet anyway) and it's wet and cold outside.

More seriously, and picking up on the point made by Professor Hulme of East Anglia University, I cannot help wondering what the impact of some of the attempts to tap into 'renewable' energy will be longer term. If we make vast areas of the surface of, say, the Sahara a vast mirror, what effect will that have on air currents? How will it affect the absorption or reflection of IR and UV wavelengths? Someone may know the answers on a small scale, but my understanding is that you cannot simply 'scale those up' to get the answer for a larger scheme.

I think this is one of the dangers of what Professor Hulme identified as the Climate Myth "Constructing Babel". We are 'doing something' to reduce CO2 emissions without, I think, properly considering the consequences of changing the parameters of something else. To use an analogy from my own profession, if I change the state of a fuel, for example wood logs by grinding them to dust I have just changed the ignition properties and the amount of energy I require to get ignition.

Somewhere down the line reflecting heat away with nice shiny solar panels must have some impact - probably small at present, but as more are installed do we really know what the impact will be? Probably not, but then, this is always the problem with poking around at single parts of a very complex machine. As a notice I used to have on my very good (for the time) HiFi used to say -

Bitte nicht gefingerpoken und mittengraben.
Das machine ist easy schnappen das springenwerken
mit spitzensparken und poppen noises.
Bitte sitzen, relaxen und watch das blinken lights.

Perhaps we should put up a similar notice on the environment and the climate ...

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