Food Stamp Cowboys

Sad but true. The food stamp cowboy is a close relative of the OSHA cowboy:


A food stamp cowboy would actually need all the protections afforded by OSHA. A real cowboy would not.

A cowboy fills a niche. Ironworkers are cowboys too. This is how the big cities were built:



Life is dangerous. Every generation develops its own definition, but getting nothing done is dangerous too.



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The Religious Left

I have never been a fan of the religious right. These folks seemed always against the Theory of Evolution, women’s rights, and generally in favor of literal interpretations of the Bible.

Doesn’t work for me.

Now comes an insidious religious left, clothed in the trappings of science, yet every bit as doctrinaire and opposed to progress in science as the religious right.

The religious left is the Calvinistic “Science” of dangerous human warming. No matter the mountain of contravening data. Nothing matters but chapter and verse. You must have credentials to think.

Doesn’t work for me.

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79-9.101 Shiprock

This picture was taken in September 1979. There is a print of it in my office, faded a bit. When I wax geological, the sheer improbability of this mineralogically unusual salient weighs heavily. High in Magnesium, Potassium and Sodium; low in silica. Indicative of deep mantle provenance and deep crystallization.

It is not alone. It is the oldest and largest of a late Oligocene/early Miocene Navajo Intrusive Complex. When you drive to Kayenta, Arizona, you see the foreshadowing, mafic menhirs begin punctuating a red landscape .

We were young then. We had climbed the highest peaks in the major ranges of Colorado and were headed for a river trip down the Grand Canyon. Foolish perhaps, we steered our VW bus down a dirt road in the dark. Knowing full well it was Navajo land. Knowing full well the site was sacred and climbing had been banned.

We hadn’t come to climb. We came to worship. Maybe that spirit was somehow clear to a few pickup trucks that slowed to check us out. Whatever, they let us be, and I took this picture as the first sun washed it in the morning.

Unforgettable, at least with a reminder on the wall, and business and fate carried us back there last week.


From the south the shoulders of scree are less prominent and you get a perspective on one of the three dikes that radiate from Shiprock in nearly 120 degree increments.


The real story here may be the uplift of the Colorado Plateau. Like at the rim of the Grand Canyon, your feet are in the Triassic, and to see when the dinosaurs roamed you look not down, but up. You try to imagine a Mesozoic section as tall as from the rim to the river that has been eroded away. This is the story of Shiprock. It’s ultramafic low silica magma intruded a mile of sediments since removed.

Why this uplift and under plating should have happened here, at a time between the Eocene Laramide buckling of the “ancestral” Rocky Mountains, and the general uplift and extension of the intermountain West since the Miocene, remains a mystery. So much so that Navajo legends of an uplifting creature saving their ancestors is still nearly as good an explanation as any.



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What is Waiting in the Wings?

We recently finished a series of posts on the 2 good greenhouse gas in which we established that all the “earthlight”, the long wave spectra emitted at the temperature of the planet surface is extinguished within about 100 meters of the surface in the bands comprising the fundamental bending strike zone of CO2.

This past series established what CO2 cannot do to warm the planet. We are told that the “wings”, bands outside the fundamental bending zero transmission zone will pick up the slack and warm the planet. This series will explore what CO2 can do to warm the planet.

Modtran Transmission v Fundamental bend

The argument is very simple. The earth emits a finite amount of light. When that light is extinguished by complete absorption and zero transmission, it’s gone! It can’t just sneak around somewhere. The atmosphere completely blankets the earth.

In the graphic above transmission to the tropopause at 280 ppm CO2 is shown. There is a large flat spot of zero transmission. This flat spot is defined by the fundamental bending mode of CO2 shown here at 400 ppm. The zero transmission zone grows accordingly when 400 ppm transmission is plotted, but the point here is that zero at 280 ppm and zero now equals zero difference.

The red plots are the significant excitation bands for CO2. The fundamental 667.4 band represents nearly 90% of the total energy, and the other bands had to be exaggerated orders of magnitude to even get them to show up in the graphic. Four of these bands fall outside the primary zero transmission flat spot, but two of these, 647.1 and 720.8 form their own zero transmission troughs even at 280 ppm. This leaves only 544.3 and 597.3, shown with dotted lines to their corresponding troughs as candidates for warming in the wings.

What of these wings? Below are MODTRAN CO2 only 280 ppm vs 400 ppm comparisons for a few altitudes:

Modtran 5km 280v400ppm CO2

Modtran 10km 280v400ppm CO2

Modtran 15km 280v400ppm CO2 Modtran 20 km 280v400ppm CO2 Modtran 70 km 280v400ppm CO2

If your eyes are anything like mine, you will see that there is very little difference between the 280 and 400 ppm plots for CO2 alone and that no large lateral “wings” of radiance emerge. Ain’t much chicken on them wings.

In the next post we will explore what makes the “wings” take flight. Water.

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The 2 Good Greenhouse Gas III (Looking Up)

We have been looking down so far. What happens when you stand on the ground and point a spectrometer up? Interesting things.

downwelling ground up


In the CO2 bands around wave number 667 a spectrometer pointed up from the ground sees radiation at very near surface temperature. In the cases above that near surface temperature was about 245  K in Barrow and 300 K at Nauru. The spectra are very different in form as a result of different humidities in the atmospheric window and ozone bands to the right. In the cold, dry air at Barrow the instrument reads near zero except for the ozone bands. Those photons are running away straight to space and there is nothing to see. In the warm, moist air of Nauru the window is very “dirty” and noisy due to scatter and radiation by water.

Looking Up Barrow and Nauru vs Looking down Sahara

We can add our trusty Sahara looking down for comparison. The hot dry air is a good inverse for Barrow.

All Up

Finally we add an interesting spectrum looking up from Cerro Toco at 5 km altitude (but still on the ground) in the Atacama Desert in Chile. Notice how in the dry desert air the atmospheric window very closely matches Barrow with the photons fleeing at the speed of light and the instrument seeing next to nothing, while the higher near surface temperature shows clearly in the CO2 bands.

Note the difference between Barrow and Cerro Toco. The dip in the Barrow (Grey) CO2 bands results from a strong surface inversion. Close to the instrument, the radiance reads at a lower temperature. You essentially get an inverted altitude profile of CO2  absorption. Below is the 1 meter path at 400 ppm.


infrared_spectrum surface looking up and down Arctic Ice

In an amazing experiment shown above, the same instrument, one pointed up from the surface of Arctic ice, and another looking down from some sort of platform at 20km took measurements of the same place at essentially the same time. In the atmospheric window the U-2 looking down sees a very chilly near surface at~267 K. The one on the ice looking up sees a much chillier 160 K. The 20 km looking down sees a very clean signal of high intensity, the ice looking up sees a noisier signal of very low intensity.

They both see a clean blackbody signal in the CO2 bands with the 15 micron/667.4 wave number “spike” pointed up towards higher intensity and temperature. No surface inversion here.

In this series we first explored the lack of correlation between temperature and CO2 at long time scales, the dependence of CO2 on temperature at Neogene scale, and the dependence of CO2 variation around the trend on temperature, but not the trend itself as the trend becomes distorted by human emission in the satellite era.

We followed up with a look at radiance on the IR earth bands and found that satellites are seeing CO2 radiance taking place between ten and twenty kilometers in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere. We then found that the same instruments pointed up from the surface see CO2 radiating very near the surface.

The problem is that the 2 good greenhouse gas  gobbles up all the surface IR within a hundred meters of the surface. This is clear from transmission.


Even at 280 ppm preindustrial levels of CO2 there is ZERO transmission of  surface IR to the tropopause in the fundamental bending bending bands. Furthermore, the 667.4 band and its homologous rotational bands DEFINE the zero transmission gap.

The fundamental bend commands 89% of the Boltzmann absorptive and radiative potential of CO2. This is why it gobbles up the surface IR so fast. This is why CO2 does not drive temperature at any time scale. It has already eaten all the earth photons in its strike zone at preindustrial levels. Adding more CO2 has no effect in these bands.

It is just too good.

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This is just a bit of fun attempting to graphically represent the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at 400 ppmv. The area of the square is set to 1. The problem becomes how to show an invisible molecule with a length of about 3 Angstroms. The choices range from putting a single dot with an area of .0004 to a hundred dots at .000004. The latter option results in dots that are barely visible.

A case can be made for the single dot. You could actually render a single realistic CO2 at this scale. Maybe another day.

Anyway, this exercise represents three dimensions in only two and having more dots seems more satisfying today. It calculated as 11.11 dots at this size. I put in 12.

What a generous guy, no?

Changed my mind and did it today.

CO2 2

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The 2 Good Greenhouse Gas II

When show a Carbonist that there is no evidence of CO2 causing significant “global” warming at any scale from deep time to the last 35 years as we did in the last post, they usually look at you funny and say, “Hey man, it’s a greenhouse gas, how can it possibly not cause warming?”

It is a very reasonable question. The answer can be found in the text speak of the title, and will be developed below.

Thanks to the cold war and the clear need to understand the spectral properties of the atmosphere for targeting and guidance systems, we have extensive laboratory work and computer code on atmospheric spectra and three levels of computer models meticulously calibrated by aircraft, balloon, and satellite to ground measurements. Much of this work was done at the Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratory at Hanscom Air Force Base.

Unlike the climate models currently undergoing first order calibration, the HITRAN, MODTRAN, and LOWTRAN models are mature and have undergone four decades of ever more accurate development. The following is from chapter 18 (Fenn et al, 1985) in  the Handbook of Geophysics.

Fenn et al 1985

It shows what the IRIS spectrometer on Nimbus 3 at 1100 km saw looking down. It also shows their calibration process. Below is a radiance spectrum by the same instrument class from Nimbus 4 at a similar altitude over the Sahara. This cartoon also shows the Planck temperatures that match the spectrum and the lapse rate of the atmosphere with possible altitudes that match the Planck temperatures. It also shows the “atmospheric window” where only the ragged and weak water bands and the shark bite of ozone mar a perfect Planck curve.

Nimbus 4_Planck Bounding_Lapse Rate annotated

We need some lower altitude readings to limit the possibilities. The information is unavailable to the common man, or at least the exact aircraft and instruments used are hard to find. The Air Force had a number of planes that routinely flew at 20 km. There is a widely available spectrum looking down from 20 km meters and simultaneously up from the Arctic. We will explore that later, but it is hardly the place to go for a typical spectrum. Fortunately, the information is embedded in their code, and we have the MODTRAN spectrum at 600 ppm CO2 from 20 km altitude below.

Nimbus 4 vs Modtran 20km


From 20 km it is crystal clear from the intercepts that all the signal is coming from the troposphere or lower stratosphere. The irradiance units in the MODTRAN output were transposed to radiance by this method. What is most interesting is what has changed and what has not. The MODTRAN is for a U.S. standard atmosphere and the Nimbus is over the Sahara. The ~35K difference may be a bit much for average temperature difference, or not, depending on time of day and season. A bit of lapse at 280K cannot be ruled out from the intercepts. The weak water bands in the atmospheric window show a lot less amplitude as well as cooling a lot from 1100 km over the Sahara to 20km over the U.S. This seems to an an interesting general difference between arid and more humid regions as we will see.

By far, the most important result of this exercise is that while all the  water and ozone bands (and the CO2 “wings” at 600 ppm) shift to a lower temperature, the bottom of the CO2 bands does not within the accuracy of this cartoon, and may even increase a bit.

All Down Looking, Planck Bounding


Here we jump back up to Nimbus and add two spectra from the tropical West Pacific. (Real time science need not follow a straight path.) You see how this works. In the atmospheric window outside the ozone “bite” in clear skies the spectrometer sees pretty much surface temperature and that temperature changes from place to place. Even the ozone bite changes temperature which is very interesting because it suggests the absorption is taking place nearer the surface than the stratosphere. What never changes is the “flat” bottom temperature in the CO2 bands.

The spectrum from the top of a thundercloud anvil is also very interesting. What makes it so cool is we know exactly where that is. The reason thunderclouds form a flat “anvil” top is because they hit the inversion where warmer temperatures above prevent further rise. Didn’t want to clutter the graphic, but trust me, through the atmospheric window (now shut) except for the bumps in the CO2 and ozone bands, the temperature tracks the 215K Planck curve like it was on rails. That was the temperature of the cloud top that day and the CO2 and ozone bands were radiating at a higher temperature. This strange behavior foreshadows Antarctica as we will see.

We have been trying to follow a consistent line of reasoning. The problem with all prior analyses has been inconsistency. They switch units in mid stream, making real understanding very difficult. We have followed earth spectrum radiance from Nimbus level 1100 km to MODTRAN 20 km altitude with the same units. Below this level the data vanishes. Maybe it is classified? Maybe the troposphere is too noisy for the old instruments?

Anyway, there seems no choice but to switch units. The information for the troposphere is available in model form as “transmittance” and “absorption.” These are inverse (one minus the other) and expressed on a scale from zero to one. Before switching to a troposphere scale format transmittance at 280 ppm or pre industrial CO2 is added to the current platform below along with the ozone profile.

280 ppm transmitance and ozone added

What is interesting is that the zero transmittance flatspot at pre industrial CO2 is broader than the “flat” bottoms all the satellite and MODTRAN radiance spectra show at 217 K, and the “arms” of 280 ppm transmittance are broader than even the 600 ppm MODTRAN radiance.

We have shown that all the measurements and model looking down from above the tropopause see photons in the CO2 bands radiating at the temperature of the lower stratosphere. We have established that a virtual spectrometer flying just below the tropopause and looking down (as represented by model transmission) sees nothing in a somewhat broadened “flat spot” in the same bands. Zero transmission.

Somewhere between the surface and the tropopause the 2 good greenhouse gas has gobbled up all those photons. We will explore this and start “looking up” at troposphere scale in the next post.


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