Friday, March 18, 2011 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Are earthquakes caused by man-made carbon dioxide?

Clean Technica, a green lobby's astroturf website whose traffic exceeds that of TRF by a factor of five, became the most recent champion of the idea that the earthquakes are caused by the evil American SUVs:

More Mega Earthquakes in a Climate Changed World Say Scientists
In her spectacularly titled text, Susan Kraemer is defending her irresistible idea that climate change is the cause of earthquakes; plate tectonics is nothing else than the heretics' propaganda.

Is this what climate change looks like, she asks?

What are her "arguments"? First, there have been many recent earthquakes - and recently, there has been some global warming, too. It follows, she thinks, that global warming is the cause of the earthquakes. Again, the logic is isomorphic to the logic blaming the Japanese earthquake on Apple that released iPad 2 on the very same day - except that the coincidence behind the iPad 2 explanation is 30,000 times more accurate than the coincidence behind Kraemer's explanation.

Of course, the piece of poultry (ko-ko-dák!) isn't able - or willing - to figure out that there were also many earthquakes in the 1960s - including the greatest modern earthquake ever recorded, in Chile in 1960, even though the 1960s were cooler than the 1950s, 1940s, and 1930s.

But how does she explain the mechanism that transforms global warming to earthquakes? Well, the 2010 earthquake in Haiti was helped by erosion - quite plausible - and of course, erosion is caused by global warming - much like everything else. I will discuss the "global warming causes everything" mode of thinking (or lack of thinking) later.

To "explain" the 2011 Japanese earthquake using global warming, she refers to her "scientific" colleague, Ms Kathy Kattenburg. The latter scientist offers one sentence about her reaction of pure horror and then she refers to another piece of scientific literature, namely Grist.

In the Grist article, Christopher Mims asks whether climate change means more tsunamis. In a later added disclaimer, he apologizes to those who have thought that his article was trying to link climate change and tsunamis. It wasn't his intent, he says, and then he links climate change to tsunamis once again.

This guy is clearly as dumb a jerk as his female colleagues - but at least, a big fraction of his insane text has been scraped after protests from the Grist readers whose IQ was above 60. But let me return to Ms Kraemer, the first nutcase whose text I have linked to. The typical chain of reasoning goes like this:
In the case of regions like Haiti, the deforestation – caused by years of drought, caused by climate change – is rendering the earth’s crust more unstable, posited geologist Shimon Wdowinski at the meeting. Deforestation leads to erosion and mudslides – and Haiti is 98% deforested.
The main format of the argument is "A is caused by B which is caused by C which is caused by D ... which is caused by Z." Except that all these 25 causal relationships are weak or non-existent, some of them have a wrong sign, and by multiplying 25 similarly low correlation coefficients, you get a correlation coefficient that can't possibly be distinguished from zero.

In this case, there is really no global deforestation; the amount of biomass stored in the trees has been growing in recent times - you know, trees like higher CO2 levels (and usually also higher temperatures). Moreover, most of the deforestation and reforestation doesn't influence the geologically relevant forces.

But the defective brains who defend the climate threat don't want to distinguish the statement "A is exactly equal to B" and the proposition "A has at least one elementary particle remotely related to at least one elementary particle in B." The difference between the equivalence and a homeopathic or a remote, speculative relationship between two objects is totally invisible to those - let me describe them extremely politely - mental cripples.

The convoluted explanatory chains of the type "Z causes Y causes X ... causes B causes A" are pretty much equivalent to the following game that Jon McLoone played with Mathematica 8 yesterday:
The Distance between “Zero” and “Hero”: Exploring Synonym Chains with Mathematica
The main idea behind his article is that different pairs of English words are pairs of two synonyma - that are equivalent, at least partially and at least under certain circumstances. You may draw a combinatorial graph and connect each pair of words that may be synonymous. It turns out that a large fraction of the English words become synonymous with each other: the largest group of "synonyma" in his database contains 19,754 words. Yes, with this global-warming-like understanding of a "synonym", each word in the group has 19,753 synonyms.

For example, it turns out that "age" is synonymous with "wisdom". Why? Well, here is Jon McLoone's computer-generated proof:
age = maturate,
maturate = grow,
grow = get,
get = aim,
aim = purpose,
purpose = resolve,
resolve = firmness,
firmness = soundness,
soundness = wisdom.
You couldn't find similarly huge clusters in Czech. I know that lots of U.S. patriots are reading this blog but I can't hide it: it is surprising for me that a language that is as vague and ambiguous as English may be used by brighter animals than chimps. ;-)

At any rate, you get my point. The proofs that "global warming cause something" are as "robust" as the proof above that "age" is the same as "wisdom".

Some geological order-of-magnitude estimates

I believe that everyone understands why climate change can't possibly have a measurable impact on earthquakes but let us go through a couple of relevant numbers.

What are the forces that are pushing rocks in one direction or another? Well, we may express them in terms of pressure - force per unit area (in pascals which are newtons per square meter). The pressure caused by the whole atmosphere above us is just one atmosphere i.e. 100,000 pascals. That's equivalent to the pressure at 10 meters beneath the water level. Or the pressure from a 6 meters high column of soil. Or 4 meters of granite. That's the rock equivalent of the whole atmosphere above us.

Now, imagine that the temperature grows by 0.27 kelvins, which means 0.1% of the absolute temperature of the Earth's surface. You may imagine that the density of the air changes by a similar percentage - by 0.1%. It takes 20 years or so for such a temperature change to take place. After 20 years, you could perhaps change the pressure by 0.1% of 4 meters of granite - by 4 millimeters of granite.

Would it matter?

Well, it surely wouldn't, especially because the pressure would change globally. More importantly, 4 millimeters of granite doesn't make any difference relatively to the 6,378,000,000 millimeters which is the Earth's radius. ;-)

Even more obviously, the tectonic plates are moving by 1-10 centimeters per year. This horizontal motion is faster than the hypothetical change of the overall pressure by two orders of magnitude. It's also faster than the sea level rise by more than one order of magnitude. Even if those changes that are "remotely related" to the climate mattered, they would be negligible relatively to the natural changes caused by geological processes that have been around for billions of years.

Similarly and even more clearly, one may see that the temperature change can't be directly felt in the depth of dozens of kilometers which is where earthquakes typically originate. The temperature changes on the surface don't propagate to this depth at all. To get some intuition why, just realize that your apartment is separated by a 10- or 20-centimeter-thick wall from the cold atmosphere outside your house. Those 10 or 20 centimeters are enough to virtually completely protect you against the cold outside weather - which may be 40 degrees cooler than your home.

Now realize that the depths which are relevant for earthquakes are 2,000,000 centimeters or so - 100,000 times thicker. This is a basically infinite isolating layer and if you solve the heat equation and try to figure out how much heat has propagated to the rocks because of global warming, the result will be indistinguishable from zero. In fact, we haven't measurably changed even the temperature a few meters beneath the surface; the temperature change of rocks that are dozens of kilometers below the surface don't require to be discussed at all. Even Al Gore knows that the Earth's interior is extre-hehe-mely hot. Well, it's not several million degrees, as Al Gore believes, but it's hot, anyway.

The Japanese earthquake started at the depth of 32 kilometers. The pressure at those depths is something like 10 thousand atmospheres. I decided to write the number in terms of words so that it doesn't get misinterpreted (as a decimal point or something like that). It's really huge. The atmosphere (including its composition and temperature) is completely irrelevant for geological processes such as earthquakes.

Instead, the motion of the tectonic plates - by 1-10 centimeters a year - often creates tensions and imbalances. And those tensions are sometimes released by a rearrangement of the planetary mass - which typically occur near the boundaries of the tectonic plates. The idea that we can visibly influence those things by some second-order subleading effects from some trace gas that we add to some atmosphere - and the atmosphere is geologically irrelevant even in its entirety - is beyond ridiculous.

But such ideas can still be sold to the uneducated masses. The proponents of the climate alarm are deliberately building upon the most primitive forms of human ignorance about the most elementary scientific questions. They are happy that billions of people on the Earth think that CO2 is a poison that will probably kill you if its concentration doubles (its concentration has to be multiplied by 100+ to cause health problems to us).

They are happy when people think that temperature changes can cause earthquakes. Of course, they will never do anything to clarify some people's rudimentary myths about science because the more stupid an average citizen is, the easier it is for the global warming alarmists to sell their irrational pseudoscience.

On the other hand, there also exists an important portion of the public that has started to be interested in those basic scientific questions and that can already semi-quantitatively understand why e.g. earthquakes can't be caused by the "global climate change". The confrontations between the people who know at least something about science and those who are complete idiots ready to be brainwashed by anyone - the latter group is officially represented by the global warming alarmists - may continue to boil.

The increasing scientific knowledge of each individual helps the good guys - us - but the overall deteriorating trend of the scientific knowledge (each new generation is dumber than the previous one) - is helping the bad guys, in this case the global warming alarmists. It remains uncertain at this point who will win.

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snail feedback (4) :

reader Harlow said...

Regarding coorelation vs causation, statisticians joke that killing turkeys causes winter.

reader O Eleitorado Morre Mas Não Se Rende said...

well isostatic compensation

if you have a high load of ice

and if the large chunk of ice melts

induced geologic rebound

see micro-sismicity associated at the large dams

for instance the hoover dam

large earthquakes .... dubious

medium earthquakes and volcano's
in places like iceland und mont erebus

but not in the short term

reader Brian G Valentine said...

There really ought to be some recognition of unfathomable depths of stupidity that "climate change science" can somehow, reach.

A few not-so-shameless personalities are to blame for all of this. I won't list them here.

reader tempus fugit à pressa said...

There really ought to be some recognition of unfathomable depths of stupidity that "People " can somehow, reach....

und the reverse is also true

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