Updates on Carbon Dioxide and Our Data

As is seeming to be my norm of late (in fact, probably as much as the last six months or more), rather than regular posts, here’s another sporadic update. My apologies, but work and personal commitments have squeezed much of my former free time.

Here’s a comparison of the carbon dioxide levels from my research site compared to the global averages (sourced from here – don’t you love free and easy access to such data? I know I do. But then again, I’m a fan of making graphs, clearly).

Click the image to enlarge it. I’m always keeping an eye out for NOAA updates. Our data heads back up in March, as it did the year prior, but I need to wait for more NOAA data to include that.

Recently, I have also been re-running our raw data through the EddyProTM software produced by Li-Cor to compare outputs against our in-house processes. So far, the results are promising, with less than ±5% difference between the output of both. Of course, as both start with the same raw data, this still needs explaining – an interesting project awaits.

What I really like about the EddyProTM software is that it includes some really interesting / useful outputs that are not included in our standard in-house analysis. The two that stand out are 1) quality flagging that indicates suitability of data for journal grade studies and 2) analysis of the fetch, that is, how far away from the tower the actual flux most likely occurred. The latter, combined with wind direction would be incredibly valuable, especially as the heterogeneity of the test area increases (we’re fairly lucky – looking at images from the top of the tower, it’s easy to see just how uniformed our test area is for many kilometres in any direction).

The following is some of the resulting analysis of my first run of the data through the EddyProTM software.

I mention the morning bias on CO2 uptake in the average 24hrs over the entire research period to date (the data covers from the beginning of Aug 2010 until the end of March 2012), however, if you look a the monthly graphs, you will also notice the same bias appearing in many of the warmer months (Spring through to Autumn). The entire research period so far has been over a wetter-than-average section of time (at least when compared to the preceding decade).

Does it mean that the vegetation is so evolved that it doesn’t rely on rainfall as an environmental cue; that it “knows” better than to trust rainfall as an indicator of a boom year? Does it rely on ground water deep in the soil rather than rainfall? Is it instead the timing of rainfall rather than the amount?

There are a whole host of questions worth answering and it just goes to show how amazing any ecosystem is; our humble woodland doesn’t have towering mountain ash or a mind boggling assemblage of invertebrates per square metre, but it does have it’s secrets and those secrets are of value and interest to know about.

Saturated Riverland mid Summer

Now that I’ve shaken all that nastiness off, back to the interesting side of life. Following my unsuccessful site visit last week, I posted some photos from the swollen River Murray and promise some more shots to follow.

Here’s a couple shots from the water logged Riverland closer to my monitoring site. Note, this is arid in land Australia, in the middle of the Aussie summer. I’d expect fire damage and extreme weathers too hot to merit site access – not landscapes like soup after months of heavy rain (around 100mm from each of the three previous months).

Shots taken by my Dad.

Field trip of mid February 2011

It’s been a very wet summer. So much so that I got a rude shock today – the site was inaccessible. The park rangers were willing to attempt the trip with me – bringing a couple vehicles so as we pull each out of the inevitable bogs, but I made the call it wasn’t worth the effort. I can remotely access the data, so I’ll make the effort to download the ~25920000 time stamps worth of data and just hope the site is otherwise in good working order.

But I did manage to get some get pictures.

In Nov 2010, this was a platform was by the bank. This is Dec 2010, with the first Qld floods.
Same spot, 2 months later (Feb 2011), after further Qld floods, many heavy down pours and also flooding in Vic
The eucalpyts love it? Salinity will likely be another talking point when the water reduces again, but it is good to see them getting a drink!

I should have some more pictures up soon!

A Profitable Future in Climate Change

An Unreasonable Debate

Sometimes you feel like you're talking to a...

In all of the near endless debate and discussion, regarding climate science and the effect of greenhouse gas concentrations, there seems to be an unrealistic expectation that we all can get involved at a technical level. It brings to mind an episode of Family Guy that I once saw where Peter Griffin made use of a cheap and nervous surgeon who relied on his patient’s active involvement in actually assisting with the operation – a moment that was hysterically funny only due to utter madness of it.

Now, I’ve never pretended to be a climate scientist. My field of study was ecology and simply due to the rand0mness of life, I’ve spent most of my career in data analysis and technical maintenance of ambient environmental monitoring. Currently this is in relation to eddy covariance monitoring – a sideline and certainly useful field to climate science. My earlier approach in writing (and where I am currently shifting back into) was to argue that the entire debate over anthropogenic climate change is irrelevant when we looked at a whole range of related issues, because all lead to a future without the burning of fossil fuels. This, however, shifted into more of a climate science focus because I found myself under the attack of various unscientific (and arguably unhealthy minded) individuals who had found a fun topic to latch onto and exploit for obviously unrelated past failings.

Again, I find myself back to a point where I question the very nature of the debate and the reality of the agendas that fuel it. Only an idiot would be unaware of the fossil fuel funding that keeps afloat the various think tanks out to “debunk” what is clearly a political victim of  a science. Indeed almost all the loudest antagonists are not scientists and of the few that are, their speaking outside their field. There is of course nothing wrong with this, except for when they time and time again are proven wrong but still continue on the same tone. In fact, I’ve come across no real scientific argument that has confounded the general weight behind anthropogenic climate change.

The only real argument that appears under more guises than I care to think about is a simple one; “Prove it!”

Every one of the loudest supporters of this anti-science campaign celebrate in asking for a technical explanation that they either couldn’t understand or don’t care to. The excellent work carried out by John Cook and others behind Skeptical Science have, in reality, catalogued a staggering number of “prove it!” questions and their appropriate answers. That there is such scepticism still within the public and criticism on ACC orientated blogs demonstrates that anti-science campaigns have been effective and that deniers are not really after an answer.

Who wouldn’t be stunned by a patient who, when their doctor informed them that the tests point out that they have a form of cancer, smugly retorts, “prove it!”

The idea is ludicrous. However, it is not altogether too surprising. Personally, it’s difficult to accept that my actions are helping to change the climate. I refuse to believe that the many products that surround my life are at the expense of poorer nations and unsustainable exploits of natural resources. And if I was religiously inclined, it would be beyond reflection when the word of God has said that this is all for our amusement and neither He, nor I will ruin the Earth – it blatantly questions my faith!

All the while, we hurtle on towards an increasingly difficult future. We really don’t have any room to be so damn indecisive.

The Pitfalls in Addressing the Unreasonable

Arguing common sense, as I once tried, leaves too much room for pointless philosophical debates. Arguing science only works when the other party also wishes to adhere to scientific rules (which, as I mentioned above, is not the case with most, if not all, who argue against ACC). Metaphors are lost on some and laughed at by the rest.

All that seems left is to employ both risk management and the opportunities of a world post fossil fuels.

Unfortunately, the very people that this would be aimed at are the very same that selectively ignore the evidence that would make up the basis of the risk management plan. Likewise “opportunity” is often seen as a euphemism for “cost”, which does a lot to detract most people from even mild  consideration. How strange that, a few years ago, I sat with a number of business leaders and public servants discussing, with enthusiasm, eco-mapping, emission reduction targets and new technologies and now I find a whole bunch of average Joe’s near spitting in my face for being, what they perceive me to be; a heathen to the industrial world. I obviously couldn’t disagree more – I would say that I’m all about innovation (another word that has attracted a lot of mud).

The conversation is left as one that cannot be improved upon and is thus left in a stale-mate position. Deniers reject all evidence, reason or suggestion, imposition is against free-will and all else is simply against an arrogance borne from progress (see this post for more). Of course, the same deniers will complain that no-one told them about the imminent oil peak, that no-one provided the single paper that proved anthropogenic climate change or the detrimental effects of said changes on ecosystems, human health / standards of living, food and fresh water cost and availability – which is of course, a lie (ie. feel free to look around my space and those I link to), but will be trivial when it’s eventually uttered.

The Only Profitable Option

All that I can see that’s left is that industry leads the way forward – and selfishly. There will be little in the way of governance or even general public support. However, there is an excellent resource in expertise available. Just as investment companies already factor in climate change to their risk assessments, brave entrepreneurs could claim a developing niche before others have a chance to even contemplate it. Oil is on the road to ruin, with expense of dependency soon to rise – there’s sure to be a few quid to be made in new modes of transport, agriculture and alternatives to plastics, to name a few. The value of ecologically rich land too will rise as climate zones shift ever further, placing increasing pressures on species. Clean water will become increasingly expensive and profitable. As cars change and population grows, alternatives in lifestyles will be needed – smart planers and investors would look into developing nodal transit and pedestrian orientated developments of multi-use services, surrounded by multi-use open space – thereby capitalising on maintaining / improving standard of living, open space  benefits (profit in local agriculture, conservation, entertainment facilities, carbon offsetting etc etc etc).

In short, we are facing an interesting and changing future. This is one that our leaders are too weak to face and the majority of the public are confused and annoyed by. I doubt that detrimental and irreversible effects will wait for a public consensus on anthropogenic climate change. The smart players will sneak out in front and charge a toll on the rest when they’re forced to cross that bridge.

First Mallee Eddy Flux tower in action!

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It’s been a long road to get to this point (made more difficult, I suppose, by having to build a tech-lab from scratch), however, it’s up and working! Now, it’s a question of communication issues and data validation (so much less fun than the physical tech jobs).

The pics above are more or less a picture diary of the field venture, starting in May and constantly halted until completion by the end of July.


Tower’s up

Mouse Spider - not too happy with me.

In the last two days, I spent 25hrs out in the field with the riggers, but at least the mast is up and waiting for the equipment. I can tell you; I’m stuffed. Driving to Renmark both days hadn’t been in the original plan, however you’re left with little choice when the crane gets bogged and you’re only able to get it out of the station at dusk with a whole host of jobs still waiting.

The mast

It’s good that it’s more or less done now though.