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November 24, 2004

Ambient Pentameter

In a comment on Certainly There's More Hot Air, the Engineer-Poet,* writes Mars is known to have greater extremes of axial tilt than does Earth. This affects the climate independently of the weather on ol' Sol.

What does this mean in practice? Mars could be warming up on its own AND our fuelishness could create dangerously high temperatures here. So long as the facts don't rule this out, we ought to be a lot more cautious.

Certainly I agree that we ought to conserve fuel. My preference when it comes to energy policy is that we should increase the CAFE standards--making the change politically palatable, or impalatable, depending on how far left one leans--by tying it to ANWAR drilling, but my stance on the matter springs more from a distaste for putting money in the pockets of the funders of terrorism than from any conviction that the planet is about to run out of oil.

In actuality, I agree with Julian's Simon's conjecture that Earth's supply of natural resources, including crude oil, is essentially infinite. Higher oil prices spur more exploration and production, delivering an increased supply, which, combined with an ever more efficient market, drives down the cost of filling up my Explorer.

What I found interesting was the idea that the gradual increase in average temperature on Mars was being driven by axial tilt, which I hadn't seen offered as an argument before.

The difference in the axial tilts of Mars and Earth is about 2% (25.2 degrees as opposed to 23.5). That's enough to produce a greater range of Martian seasonal temperatures, both hot and cold, but I don't see how axial tilt could fingered as a culprit for a change in average planetary temperature unless the change in tilt--currently accepted as taking place on Mars over a 100 million year period--is progressing much faster over time. In any case, if axial tilt is to blame for global warming on Mars, why isn't it considered as on of the major candidates for global warming on Earth, which, after all, goes through an even faster period of axial shift?

And what are we to blame global warming on Triton on, not to mention Pluto, even though that planet is moving into the more distant portion of its orbit?

Which is more likely, that there are four separate explanations for global warming on 4 different heavenly bodies, or that the warming in all 4 places arises from a common source, i.e. a rise in the output of energy from the sun?

*Man, that sounds like a nice job, Riding the rails, spinning out light verse.

The Passionate Rasta Trainspotter To His Love

Shall I and I compare de to a standard-gauge GN O-1 dray?
Thou art more Irie and more tem'prat
Babylon do shake the ganja buds in May,
And the cutchie pipe comes round too late.
Yet come wit me and be my dread,
And we'll share the shelter, of my single bed.

Posted by Bigwig at November 24, 2004 10:10 AM | TrackBack
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My poetic bent is more toward limericks and the blues than Shakespeare.

You should have noted that Mars' axial tilt shifts chaotically, Triton is/was having an extreme summer (there's that axial tilt again), and Pluto may still be warming from its minimum temperature (or may have volcanism, we have never taken a close look at it).

Earth's relationship between the summer solstice and aphelion is currently at its maximum and thus not changing rapidly, so we have to look to other causes.  Unlike any other body in the solar system, one of the potential causes is us.

Which does not mean that I made it a big issue when I proposed what to do about US petroleum dependence, but the use of oxygen-blown IGCC plants would allow the capture of about half of the carbon dioxide as a byproduct of a water-loop H2S scrubbing step; you could put this CO2 anywhere you wanted at minimal cost, such as down old oil wells.  CO2 has the nice property of dissolving oil, so you might yet get something more out of those fields in Pennsylvania.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet at November 24, 2004 01:12 PM

Bigwig - it's axiomatic that you should never argue with an engineer: first off, people won't know the difference; second, the engineer likes it.

No, wait a minute. That's not where I wanted to go. I stick by my earlier assertion that the reason we don't have more engineer-poets in this society is because Halliburton had them ground into hi-octane Caddilac Escalade fuel.

Posted by: Blackavar at November 24, 2004 08:35 PM

Axial tilt? Like Earth? Uh, regional - even if the region is half the planet/moon - not global?

Nope, I still think it's all those SUV's that GM is selling out there, and I want them to divulge their space drive so the rest of us can take vacations in wierd places.

Posted by: John Anderson at November 25, 2004 10:29 PM

I thought it was "... it wastes your time and annoys the engineer."

John, axial tilt is apparently responsible for Earth's cycles of glaciation.  It is certainly responsible for the wide fluctuations of atmospheric pressure on Mars.  Seasonal variations of heating in different hemispheres on Triton could certainly account for the same sort of phenomenon.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet at November 26, 2004 08:48 PM

I believe the quote you're all looking for here is "Never teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig."--though its relevance to the current debate is somewhat questionable.

One might also argue that if the "relationship between the summer solstice and aphelion is currently at its maximum," then the fact that we're currently experiencing the warmest temperatures on record (save for the Medieval warm period--dismissed by greenhouse gas global warming proponents as a regional variation) could be a result of that.

But I'm not sure what you mean by that, EP, as the wikipedia article states that the current axial tilt is actually between the extremes of 21.5 and 24.5 degrees.

Posted by: Bigwig at November 30, 2004 09:27 AM

You take all the fun out of it by stating the original without so much as a pun.

I have no idea how far the medieval warm area extended.  Perhaps there is tree-ring data from Asia, S. America, Australia etc. which shows whether it was regional or global, but I have not studied this; climatology is not my bailiwick.

Yes, our current axial tilt is not at an extreme; what is at roughly the maximum is the duration of summer in the northern hemisphere, as aphelion coincides more or less with the summer solstice.  Being at or near maximum it is changing very slowly if at all and any short-term climate variations are all but certainly due to other factors, one of which is us.

Last, I wrote a little blues that might amuse.

Posted by: Engineer-Poet at November 30, 2004 12:25 PM
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