Tuesday, May 26, 2015


What  if  they  had  a  Nuclear Winter,  and  nobody  noticed ?

Taking a page from  Saddam Hussein's 1989  Kuwait Oil Fires playbook, Iran's wannabe Islamic caliphate has torched oil fields from Mosul to Tikkrit,  and set fire to the nation's largest oil refinery,  creating  soot plume large as Lebanon  and  Israel combined

But instead of turning the soot pall seen in  satellite photos into The Mother of All  Geoengineering Experiments,  solar heat absorption by the dark cloud has failed to loft it into the stratosphere. The 'solar buoyancy' mechanism on which'nuclear winter' models depend may not exist in real world meteorology, for the cloud downwind from the fires remains stuck in the troposphere, where short arerosol lifetimes and rapid rainout militate against  global transport or significant regional climate impacts. 

Nature does not always follow apocalyptic art, and as with the implosion of the 'Population Bomb' the reality  scarcely resembles the air-brushed cover of Paul Ehrlich and Carl Sagan's 1984 'Nuclear Winter' manifesto, The Cold And The Dark , which was based not on dynamic simulations but an irreducibly simple one dimensional model  that proved no more fisk-resistant  than Monckton & Soon's recent effort.
So though this sooty holocaust is still going strong, few outside Iraq have noticed. Even as the fires shade the ground in Iraq,  temperatures in South Asia  remain scorching, and thousands are dying in an Indian heat wave

Although the plume has been visible for weeks,  not a word has been heard from the luminaries who endorsed  the 'nuclear winter ' model with a view to scaring the world into disarmament.They got burned the last time  when Carl Sagan tried to amplify the impact of their  Cold War P-R campaign by telling TV audiences the Kuwait oil fires would collapse the monsoon and doom Asia  to famine. Asked by Nightline's Ted Koppel if the effects could rival the catastrophic asteroid  impact that caused the  Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction, Sagan replied:  "Precisely."

It didn't happen.  but the failure of that apocalyptic prediction has left an ironic coda:
in the decades since The Cold And The Dark  appeared, black carbon aerosols  have been recognized instead as a major source of man-made global warming.

 But  don't get your hopes up  for  Strangelovian spinmeister S. Fred Singer's "nuclear summer" hypothesis, which assumed cirrus cloud IR trapping would somehow outdo the impact of a stratospheric soot pall blotting out the sun for 40 days and 40 nights- a basic 'parameter assumption ' of  Sagan's TTAPs model  that went to that Biblically dubious extreme to elicit  a predictably apocalyptic response to the model's equally fanciful hemispheric optical  depth of e^20, as seen on the cover of The Cold And The Dark.

I realized something was seriously amiss with the normal  climate modeling paradigm when, seeking a word with the artist who painted it (One dimensional models like TTAPS do not lend themselves to computer graphics as cover art)  I was directed to the Creative Department  of Porter Novelli Inc., P-R men to the stars.

The sad paradox this end of the history of science presents is that honest climate modelers are obliged to share the cultural stage with more than Heartland Institute carnival barkers like Viscount Monckton. They still have to contend with prophets of doom who fail to deliver, some of them political reductionists  of a very low order.