Saturday, August 12, 2023

Ahead Of A Possible Climate Emergency Declaration, Some Interesting Phenomena

The Tonga volcano eruption in January 2022 wasn't just big, it was also explosive. Probably the largest natural explosion in the last hundred years  And because it was underwater, when it blew it injected a huge amount of water, which quickly became water vapor, into the very top of the atmosphere.

Water vapor is the most abundant of all the greenhouse gasses.

First up, Ars Technica with the initial estimate of the size of the injection, September 22, 2022:

Hunga Tonga eruption put over 50B kilograms of water into the stratosphere
New study shows eruption plume circled the globe multiple times in the stratosphere.

That number was stale when it was published, having been superseded a month earlier by a figure triple the earlier estimate.  From NASA, Aug 2, 2022

Tonga Eruption Blasted Unprecedented Amount of Water Into Stratosphere

When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on Jan. 15, it sent a tsunami racing around the world and set off a sonic boom that circled the globe twice. The underwater eruption in the South Pacific Ocean also blasted an enormous plume of water vapor into Earth’s stratosphere – enough to fill more than 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. The sheer amount of water vapor could be enough to temporarily affect Earth’s global average temperature.

“We’ve never seen anything like it,” said Luis Millán, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. He led a new study examining the amount of water vapor that the Tonga volcano injected into the stratosphere, the layer of the atmosphere between about 8 and 33 miles (12 and 53 kilometers) above Earth’s surface.

In the study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, Millán and his colleagues estimate that the Tonga eruption sent around 146 teragrams (1 teragram equals a trillion grams) of water vapor into Earth’s stratosphere – equal to 10% of the water already present in that atmospheric layer. That’s nearly four times the amount of water vapor that scientists estimate the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines lofted into the stratosphere....


Next, from the journal Nature, January 12, 2023: the estimated effect of that injection nineteen months ago:

Tonga eruption increases chance of temporary surface temperature anomaly above 1.5 °C

On 15 January 2022, the Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai (HTHH) eruption injected 146 MtH2O and 0.42 MtSO2 into the stratosphere. This large water vapour perturbation means that HTHH will probably increase the net radiative forcing, unusual for a large volcanic eruption, increasing the chance of the global surface temperature anomaly temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C over the coming decade. Here we estimate the radiative response to the HTHH eruption and derive the increased risk that the global mean surface temperature anomaly shortly exceeds 1.5 °C following the eruption. We show that HTHH has a tangible impact of the chance of imminent 1.5 °C exceedance (increasing the chance of at least one of the next 5 years exceeding 1.5 °C by 7%), but the level of climate policy ambition, particularly the mitigation of short-lived climate pollutants, dominates the 1.5 °C exceedance outlook over decadal timescales.

Finally a warning on the misuse of the facts of the eruption by a NASA climate researcher at Goddard (GISS) and a response from hurricane damage specialist Roger Pielke, Jr.:

Our headline reflects the heightened chatter in the Twittersphere about either President Biden or the United Nations declaring a climate emergency, possibly as soon as next week. 

If it should be the President, the best guide to what powers he might assume was a blueprint issued for President Obama by the University of Colorado Law School. We first linked to it in 2008 ahead of the election. Here's a 2011 post with a repost of the blueprint. That link has rotted but...

Here Come the Presidential Executive Orders
From an email response I sent a friend during the budget ceiling negotiations last August regarding the options available to the Government and the Fed:
I have some arcane knowledge of the workings of the Fed and see no impediments there. As to the trust funds, the enabling legislation either exists or could probably be more easily written than the ceiling legislation.

I keep coming back to the President though.
Executive orders give so much latitude, especially when couched in state of emergency terms, that my reading is the Exec can do pretty much as he pleases,

Back in 2008 some barrister types were making that argument re: climate change policy, potential constitutional crisis be damned.
The link goes to a 213 page PDF under the imprimatur of the University of Colorado Law School titled:

Using Executive Orders to Implement
Federal Climate Change Policy
The "Boundaries" link is no  more but in 2009 we saved it to the Internet Archive.