Desk and Derrick Region VII Keynote Speech

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Desk and Derrick Region VII Conference in Edmonton, Alberta. Evening keynote speech, May 29, 2010.

Desk and Derrick Region VII Conference in Edmonton, Alberta. Evening keynote speech, May 29, 2010.

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  • Earth studies and atmospheric sciences are computationally intensive disciplines. One of the largest supercomputers ever designed is the NEC Earth Simulator, deployed primarily for atmospheric sciences.
  • This is a view of the Earth Simulator from above. Each box you see is a supercomputer. The Earth Simulator is rated at 32 teraflops – or 32 trillion floating point operations per second. That’s a lot of computational power.
  • Almost all of the energy that drives the various systems (climate systems, ecosystems, hydrologic systems, etc.) found on the Earth originates from the Sun. Solar energy is created at the core of the Sun when hydrogen atoms are fused into helium by nuclear fusion. For each second of this nuclear process, 700 million tons of hydrogen are converted into 695 million tons of helium. The remaining 5 million tons are turned into electromagnetic energy that radiates from the Sun's surface out into space. The radiative surface of the Sun, or photosphere, has an average temperature of about 58,00 Kelvins... Apx. (57,726 C or 103,940 F)Most of the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the Sun's surface lies in the visible band centered at 0.5 µm. The total quantity of energy emitted from the Sun's surface is approximately 63,000,000 watts per square meter (W/m2 or Wm-2).The Earth's orbital path varies in the degree to which it is circular. This change in its "eccentricity" varies between 0.00 and 0.06 on a 100,000 year cycle. When the eccentricity equals 0.00 the orbital path is circular and when it is 0.06 the orbital path is slightly elliptical. The current value is 0.0167.
  • The first of the three Milankovitch Cycles is:EccentricityEccentricity changes the shape of the Earth's orbit around the Sun. This constantly fluctuating, orbital shape ranges between more and less elliptical (0 to 5% ellipticity) on a cycle of about 100,000 years. These oscillations alter the distance from the Earth to the Sun, thus changing the distance the Sun's short wave radiation must travel to reach Earth, subsequently reducing or increasing the amount of radiation received at the Earth's surface in different seasons.Current Status: 3% variance estimated between nearest and farthest point and probably increases the solar energy received in Jan by aprox. 6%> than July. The most elliptical orbit would create a 20 to 30% greater range between nearest and furthest point a.k.a. Aphelion = furthest point Perihelion = closest pointAxial TiltToday the Earth's axial tilt is about 23.5 degrees, which largely accounts for our seasons.  Because of the periodic variations of this angle the severity of the Earth's seasons changes. With less axial tilt the Sun's solar radiation is more evenly distributed between winter and summer. However, less tilt also increases the difference in radiation receipts between the equatorial and polar regions. One hypothesis for Earth's reaction to a smaller degree of axial tilt is that it would promote the growth of ice sheets. This response would be due to a warmer winter, in which warmer air would be able to hold more moisture, and subsequently produce a greater amount of snowfall. In addition, summer temperatures would be cooler, resulting in less melting of the winter's accumulation.   At present, axial tilt is in the middle of its range.PrecessionPrecessionis the Earth's slow wobble as it spins on axis. This wobbling of the Earth on its axis can be likened to a top running down, and beginning to wobble back and forth on its axis. The precession of Earth wobbles from pointing at Polaris (North Star) to pointing at the star Vega. When this shift to the axis pointing at Vega occurs, Vega would then be considered the North Star. This top-like wobble, or precession, has a periodicity of 23,000 years.Current SatusTilt is currently not favourable to glaciationEccentricity currently not favourable to glaciationPrecession is in the glacial mode
  • Volcanic dust blasted into the atmosphere causes temporary cooling. The amount of cooling depends on the amount of dust put into the air, and the duration of the cooling depends on the size of the dust particles. Particles the size of sand grains fall out of the air in a matter of a few minutes and stay close to the volcano. These particles have little effect on the climate. Tiny dust-size ash particles thrown into the lower atmosphere will float around for hours or days, causing darkness and cooling directly beneath the ash cloud, but these particles are quickly washed out of the air by the abundant water and rain present in the lower atmosphere. However, dust tossed into the dry upper atmosphere, the stratosphere, can remain for weeks to months before they finally settle. These particles block sunlight and cause some cooling over large areas of the earth.
  • Volcanoes that release large amounts of sulfur compounds like sulfur oxide or sulfur dioxide affect the climate more strongly than those that eject just dust. The sulfur compounds are gases that rise easily into the stratosphere. Once there, they combine with the (limited) water available to form a haze of tiny droplets of sulfuric acid. These tiny droplets are very light in color and reflect a great deal of sunlight for their size. Although the droplets eventually grow large enough to fall to the earth, the stratosphere is so dry that it takes time, months or even years to happen. Consequently, reflective hazes of sulfur droplets can cause significant cooling of the earth for as long as two years after a major sulfur-bearing eruption. Sulfur hazes are believed to have been the primary cause of the global cooling that occurred after the Pinatubo and Tambora eruptions. For many months, a satellite tracked the sulfur cloud produced by Pinatubo. The image shows the cloud about three months after the eruption.Volcanoes also release large amounts of water and carbon dioxide. When these two compounds are in the form of gases in the atmosphere, they absorb heat radiation (infrared) emitted by the ground and hold it in the atmosphere. This causes the air below to get warmer. Therefore, you might think that a major eruption would cause a temporary warming of the atmosphere rather than a cooling. However, there are very large amounts of water and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere already, and even a large eruption doesn't change the global amounts very much. In addition, the water generally condenses out of the atmosphere as rain in a few hours to a few days, and the carbon dioxide quickly dissolves in the ocean or is absorbed by plants. Consequently, the sulfur compounds have a greater short-term effect, and cooling dominates. However, over long periods of time (thousands or millions of years), multiple eruptions of giant volcanoes, such as the flood basaltvolcanoes, can raise the carbon dioxide levels enough to cause significant global warming.
  • Glacier Deterioration : Pederson Glacier and the Muir and Riggs Glaciers.
  • Glacier deterioration in the South Cascade range in Washington, USA.
  • A statement issued 7 June 2005 by the national science academies of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, Brazil, China and India, begins with the following;Climate change is realThere will always be uncertainty in understanding a system as complex as the world’s climate. However, there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. The evidence comes from direct measurements of rising surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures and from phenomena such as increases in average global sea levels, retreating glaciers, and changes to many physical and biological systems. It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities (IPCC 2001). This warming has already led to changes in the Earth's climate.
  • Glacier deterioration is well documented.
  • When the Larsen B Ice Shelf in Antarctica collapsed in 2002, the event appeared to be a sudden response to climate change, and this long, fringing ice shelf in the north west part of the Weddell Sea was assumed to be the latest in a long line of victims of Antarctic summer heat waves linked to Global Warming.Prof. Neil Glasser of Aberystwyth University, working as a Fulbright Scholar in the US, and Dr Ted Scambos of University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre, in the Journal of Glaciology, say that the shelf was already teetering on collapse before the final summer.“Ice shelf collapse is not as simple as we first thought,” said Professor Glasser, lead author of the paper. “Because large amounts of meltwater appeared on the ice shelf just before it collapsed, we had always assumed that air temperature increases were to blame. But our new study shows that ice-shelf break up is not controlled simply by climate. A number of other atmospheric, oceanic and glaciological factors are involved. For example, the location and spacing of fractures on the ice shelf such as crevasses and rifts are very important too because they determine how strong or weak the ice shelf is”.The study is important because ice shelf collapse contributes to global sea level rise, albeit indirectly.  “Ice shelves themselves do not contribute directly to sea level rise because they are floating on the ocean and they already displace the same volume of water. But when the ice shelves collapse the glaciers that feed them speed up and get thinner, so they supply more ice to the oceans,” Prof. Glasser explained.Professor Glasser acknowledges that global warming had a major part to play in the collapse, but emphasises that it is only one in a number of contributory factors, and despite the dramatic nature of the break-up in 2002, both observations by glaciologists and numerical modeling by other scientists at NASA and CPOM (Centre of Polar Observation and Modeling) had pointed to an ice shelf in distress for decades previously. “It’s likely that melting from higher ocean temperatures, or even a gradual decline in the ice mass of the Peninsula over the centuries, was pushing the Larsen to the brink”, said co-author Ted Scambos of University of Colorado’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre.
  • Why the Fluctuation in the Annual Cycle?Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide fluctuate slightly with the change of the seasons, driven primarily by seasonal plant growth in the Northern Hemisphere. Concentrations of carbon dioxide fall during the northern spring and summer as plants consume the gas, and rise during the northern autumn and winter as plants go dormant, die and decay. Carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere and is considered a trace gas. It occurs at an average concentration of about 385 parts per million by volume or 582 parts per million by mass. The mass of the Earth atmosphere is 5.14×1018 kg, so the total mass of atmospheric carbon dioxide is 3.0×1015 kg (3,000 gigatonnes). Its concentration varies seasonally and also varies on a regional basis: in urban areas it is generally higher and indoors it can reach 10 times the background atmospheric concentration. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.In the 1960s, the average annual increase was 37% of the 2000-2007 average.Due to human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels and deforestation, the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased by about 35% since the industrial age. Emissions of CO2 by human activities are currently more than 130 times greater than the quantity emitted by volcanoes, amounting to about 27 billion tonnes per year.The oceansThere is about 50 times as much carbon dissolved in the oceans in the form of CO2 and carbonic acid, bicarbonate and carbonate ions as exists in the atmosphere. The oceans act as an enormous carbon sink, having "absorbed about one-third of all human-generated CO2 emissions to date.” Gas solubility decreases as the temperature of water increases and therefore the rate of uptake from the atmosphere decreases as ocean temperatures rise.Most of the CO2 taken up by the ocean forms carbonic acid in equilibrium with bicarbonate and carbonate ions. Some is consumed in photosynthesis by organisms in the water, and a small proportion of that sinks and leaves the carbon cycle. Increased CO2 in the atmosphere has led to increasing acidity (strictly, decreasing alkalinity) of seawater and there is some concern that this may adversely affect organisms living in the water. In particular, with decreasing alkalinity, the availability of carbonates for forming shells decreases.
  • Ice Core data supports the measurement cycle we see starting in 1958 at Mauna Loa.Analysis of proxy records, such as gas bubbles trapped in glacial ice, at a variety of places throughout the world suggests that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 has varied considerably over geologic time but generally remained in the range 280 +/- 10 ppm for several thousand years prior to the onset of the industrial era. Over the 420,000 years preceding the industrial era the concentration appears not to have exceeded 300 ppm (Barnola et al., 1999)An Italian monitoring site on Lampedusa Island, just south of Sicily, shows an increase from 360.8 ppm in 1993 to 371.3 ppm in 2000 (Chamard et al., 2001)(Figure1), and the CDIAC data files ( contain records from over 50 different sampling sites. It seems clear that the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is increasing and that it is now in a range that has not been experienced for perhaps 20 million years (IPCC, 2001).Source: HE INCREASING CONCENTRATION OF ATMOSPHERIC CO2:HOW MUCH, WHEN, AND WHY?Gregg Marland and Tom BodenEnvironmental Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6335, USA
  • This picture shows the Earth’s carbon “metabolism”—the rate at which plants absorbed carbon out of the atmosphere during the years 2001 and 2002. The map shows the global, annual average of the net productivity of vegetation on land and in the ocean. Yellow and Red indicate the highest and higher carbon absorption rates respectively (ranging from 2 to 3 kilograms of carbon consumed per square kilometre annually)Green areas reflect intermediate rates of carbon absorptionBlue and Purple indicate low and lower carbon absorption, respectively Although tropical rainforests are the chief carbon sinks on Earth, ocean organisms still absorb roughly the same amount makes the ocean roughly as productive as the land. Unfortunately, climate change is reducing ocean life and as such, lessening the impact oceans have on the global carbon cycle.
  • This is OECD data. The United States had the most emissions until 2006. Analyzed on a per capita basis, both Canada and the United States produce carbon dioxide at a rate nearly four times that of China on a per capita basis.This figure reflects 2002 data, but shows CO2 emissions on a per capita basis. It is probably a good reflection of why developing nations look to the per capita calculation when seeking to set carbon emission limits or goals. It is interesting to note Canada in a prominent position both in the OECD data from 2007 and in the United Nations data from 2002 (see figures 3 and 4). This is largely due to a relatively small population size compared to the energy industry output and the creation of CO2 emissions.
  • The US and China drive half the emissions on a global scale. This graph gives a view of how it looks with BRIC and a few countries that have significant emissions.
  • Leveraging carbon dioxide sequestration, the growth in oil-sands carbon emissions can be turned back to the point where the carbon footprint of a barrel of Canadian synthetic crude will be smaller than the carbon footprint of a barrel of Saudi Light.
  • Initial sequestration truck line – currently in ERCB approval process (Spring 09) will begin at the site where the largest carbon dioxide growth will be experienced in Canada and will move the liquid carbon dioxide to points in the Central Alberta basin for geological sequestration and enhanced oil recovery operations.Impact Potential330,000 cars off the road initially2,600,000 cars off the road at capacityCapacity = 40,000 tonnes per day


  • 1. Desk and Derrick
    Region VII
    Evening Keynote Speech
    Gordon M. Groat , PhD (abd) , MSc (hon), BGS, Asc(hon)
  • 2. Global Climate Change
    One of the biggest Supercomputer Farms is NEC’s Earth Simulator
    Orbital Eccentricity
    Axial Tilt
    Volcanic Activity
    32 tera FLOPS – i.e. 32 trillion floating point operations per second
  • 3. Another look at Earth Simulator
  • 4. Solar activity & Orbital Centricity
  • 5. Milankovitch Cyclesand Glaciation
    • Eccentricity
    • 6. Axial Tilt
    • 7. Precession
  • Volcanic Activity
  • 8. NASA image 3 years after eruption
  • 9. Glacial Deterioration
  • 10. Glacial Deterioration
    South Cascade Glacier
  • 11. Glacial Deterioration
    Grinnell Glacier in 1940
    BEFORE: Grinnell Glacier taken from the Grinnell Glacier Overlook off the Highline Trail, Glacier National Park. The view of Grinnell Glacier taken circa 1940 shows the early formation of Upper Grinnell Lake, a pro-glacier lake visible at the terminus of the glacier.
  • 12. Glacial Deterioration
    Grinnel Glacier in 2005
    AFTER: The lake continues to enlarge as the glacier recedes. Icebergs can be seen floating in Upper Grinnell Lake in this photo taken in 2005.
  • 13. Polar Deterioration
  • 14. CO2 is a greenhouse gas
  • 15. CO2 Ice Core Data
  • 16. Image of Global Carbon Sinks
  • 17. Why is this important for Canada and the United States?
    All Earth Emissions
    (after top 10 countries)
  • 18. 2007 Emissions Per Capita
    Gross Tonnageas of 2006
    #1 – China
    #2 - USA
    #3 - Russia
    #4 – India
    #5 - Japan
    Why China, Russia, and India talk “per capita”
    They’re not on the list!
  • 19. GHG Global Emissions
  • 20. Canada and AlbertaLargest Scale CO2 Facility in Canada
    Alberta Investment
    • 431 million over the next 15 years
    • 21. $5 million for front-end engineering and design
    Government of Canada investment
    • $343 million
  • Canada and AlbertaLong Term Plans
    • 1.1 million tonnes of CO2 sequestered at ScotfordUpgrader
    • 22. (865 million investment by Alberta – EOR value add)
    • 23. Alberta will sequester 140 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050
    • 24. Canada will sequester 600 million tonnes of CO2 by 2050
  • CO2 footprint reductionAlberta Synthetic Crude produced with a smaller footprint than a barrel of Saudi Light
  • 25. CO2 Sequestration
    Alberta Carbon Trunk Line
    40,000 tonnes per day of capacity
    330,000 cars off the road up front
    2,600,000 cars off the road at capacity
  • 26. Desk and Derrick
    Region VII