You may have noticed on a cold, clear, calm morning that the ice is thicker on the windshield than on the side windows of your car – unless you drive a Jeep Wrangler or a Model A Ford.

The answer is radiant heat transfer. Everything warmer than absolute zero (about -460 degrees Fahrenheit/ -273C) radiates infrared (heat). With radiation, it is the balance between an object and its surroundings that determines where the heat goes. If an object is warmer than its surroundings and the air is calm, it will cool off partially due to radiant cooling. When the wind is blowing, convection dominates.

If it is windy or cloudy, you won’t get much, if any, ice on the windshield, unless it is falling out of the sky as rain or snow. The wind transfers heat by convection, a much more effective means of heat transfer when the temperature differences are small.

In the Summer when temperatures are moderate, the wind is low, and the sky is clear, the ground radiates infrared upwards and cools off. Moisture in the air condenses on the horizontal surfaces, particularly grass that is not touching the ground. Of course we call that dew.

If you take an infrared thermometer and point it at various objects, you can tell what their surface temperature is without touching them. An infrared thermometer basically operates like a flashlight, but in reverse. Instead of sending out a beam of visible and infrared light, an infrared thermometer senses the infrared light incoming from a cone with an angle of typically about 20 degrees.

With a solid, it is the surface that matters. The trees might read 30 degrees F, the bare ground might be 35 F, the leaves of grass might be 25 F, your house might be 40 F, but then when you point the thermometer up at a blue sky, it likely reads something like -10 F – unless you point it at the Sun.

If you point it up at a starry night sky, it will read a little colder. The top surface of leaves are facing the sky, so they might read 15 F, while the bottom surface of the same leaf might read 30 F. If it weren’t for our atmosphere, water vapor, and clouds, the sky would read -459.7 F/-273.15 C (except an infrared thermometer can’t measure temperatures that low).

On a cloudy day, low, cumulus clouds will be something like 10-20 F/6-11 C cooler than the air around you as they are higher than you. Those clouds are glowing in the infrared and scattering infrared back down – keeping you warm!

When you point the infrared thermometer up at a starry sky, it is measuring the infrared output, thus the temperature of all the molecules and particles above it in a column all the way out to space. If the air temperature is perhaps 30 F and the starry sky reads -20 F, that means that the average temperature is about what the air temperature is at 10,000′ above you (50,000/5 on a clear night). There will be a tiny contribution from the stars and a little from the minuscule 400 parts per million of CO2, but it is water vapor and invisible droplets that dominate the reading. On a cloudy night it is those visible droplets in the sky (clouds) at perhaps a few thousand feet that totally dominate the temperature of the sky keeping things warmer.

So it is the ANGLE of the windshield facing UP at the cold, clear sky that causes the windshield to cool faster than the side windows that are facing your house, the trees, etc. The windshield on a Jeep Wrangler is more vertical than most cars, so it stays warmer longer and crystallizes less ice. Convection also is a factor as the tilted windshield deflects the moist air and the moisture has a better opportunity to crystallize.

Here you can see the widely varying temperatures AT THE SAME TIME on a pleasant Fall day. This variation is quite normal but generally goes unobserved.

So if you want to prevent ice on your windshield, a carport or tent over your car will do the trick. Meanwhile, notice that CO2 didn’t enter into the above, because it is the Sun, water vapor, and droplets in the clouds that really matter with respect to our climate – not the “dreaded CO2”.

Fergus S. Smith



A dry sky is dark blue. The blue color is due to Rayleigh scattering by molecules and very small particles, of which there are of course very many. Rayleigh scattering of blue light is greater than for other colors of light, particularly red, since the shorter the wavelength, the more that color light is scattered. In fact it is an inverse 4th power relationship. This means that if the wavelength is 1/2 as great, that light will scatter 2^4 = 16 times as much.

That’s why the Sun looks yellow. The blue light has been scattered out of the direct path to your eye. It scatters out in every direction and eventually scatters back to your eye from every direction, thus we have a blue sky and a yellow Sun. When recombined on objects around us, our eye interprets the light as “white”.

At sunrise and sunset when the Sun is low on the horizon, if the sky is relatively clear, the blue, green, and yellow light have been mostly scattered out by the long path through the atmosphere, giving us just the beautiful red (and infrared) end of the light spectrum. If there is no Rayleigh scattering, the sky is black, like on the Moon. In the 60’s my father visited Egypt. He noted that the air was so dry, “The sky looked almost black.” For a photographer, bright morning and evening light has that special warm glow that is very pleasing to the eye.

As the humidity goes up, the particles grow larger by condensation and crystallization. We can observe this as the color of the sky becomes a WHITER shade, thus lighter blue. That “white color” is the result of a more balanced scattering of light due to Mie scattering. Unlike Rayleigh scattering, Mie scattering does NOT depend upon the wavelength of light. It scatters light equally, regardless of wavelength. As the diameter of a particle grows larger, it scatters light more effectively, sort of like a curved mirror. As the diameter increases, the “mirror” gets “flatter” and reflects light more effectively.

When water droplets are greater than the wavelength of light, they become very noticeable due to that Mie scattering. At about 2 microns we see them as FOG (a micron is one millionth of a meter, a meter is about 39″ long). In a fog, you are in the middle of a cloud where the droplets are large enough to see as a mass.

In a maritime climate, like the British Isles, the fog droplets can get quite large to the point where you can see individual droplets, when the Sun is down and they are illuminated by a directed light, like a headlight. At that point they can be about 20 microns in diameter and noticeably falling slowly and swirling around revealing the air currents.

As droplets get larger, as in storm clouds, the greater diameter of the droplets, hundreds of microns in diameter, eventually means that less of the light gets scattered down to our eye. The light penetrates deeper into the cloud, thus the clouds look darker and we can expect rain. It is that diminished illuminance and the sudden fall of radiant warmth on our skin when the Sun is blocked by dark clouds that our unconscious mind recognizes and warns us that, “It is about to rain.”

The reason clouds remain aloft is that they are supported by rising air currents from warmer, moist air. The smaller the droplets, the higher their surface area is relative to their weight, thus the easier it is for them to float aloft.

Gliders use those rising currents of air to climb and stay aloft. If you are near an airport with glider activity, you will see gliders towed up to a few thousand feet by a powered airplane, then released. The glider pilot heads toward the nearest, small cumulous cloud as he knows there will be a tilted column of air rising up to the cloud. He then circles under the small cloud and goes up with the rising current of air. That rising column of air is called a “thermal” as it is produced by heat from the Sun. Thermals are strongest on relatively clear mornings. By afternoon they are usually not strong enough to keep a glider aloft.

On a clear day, sunlight penetrates the sky, warming us radiantly. At the same time, we radiate heat back into space at a much lower temperature than the Sun. Radiance is proportional to the 4th power of the absolute temperature. Absolute zero (total absence of heat energy) is about -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit (-273.15 C), so at about 50 F we are about 500 degrees F above absolute zero. On the other hand, the Sun is about 10,000 degrees F above absolute zero. This means that due to its high temperature, the radiance of the Sun is roughly 20^4 = 160,000 times as great as the surface of the Earth. Radiance is also proportional to surface area. This is why we should be glad that the Sun is a very small object in the sky. Meanwhile we radiate in all directions into space over a large area, so we do not heat up to the same temperature as the Sun.

As the Sun sets on a clear night, we continue to radiate, convect, and the surface cools. Those tiny particles condense and grow until they scatter light back down to the Earth more effectively and also glow in the infrared, warming us. Eventually we reach equilibrium and stop cooling off. How warm we stay, depends mostly upon how many particles there are and their diameter, thus the humidity. This is why the deserts are hot during the day and cold at night. It is usually dry in the desert, so the temperatures vary more from day to night.

On a cloudy day, clouds scatter sunlight back up into space. That along with snow cover and water in the oceans keeps us cooler. At the same time, clouds reflect back down the infrared that we radiate outwards. That’s why it doesn’t get as hot or cold in cloudy weather. Clouds also glow at night in the infrared keeping us warm. Venus is closer to the Sun than we are and has very thick cloud cover, so it is no wonder that it is constantly very hot at the surface. It is not due to a “runaway greenhouse effect” as so often dimly proclaimed.

Note all of the above is about water in all its forms. Water is what makes our climate so complex. It is essential to life. We have vast oceans of it that store immense amounts of heat and stabilize temperatures. We have clouds and humidity that profoundly stabilize the Earth’s temperature.

The climate of Mars is very easy to understand and the weather is very predictable. You can predict the wind velocity and direction a year ahead. There are no clouds or weather patterns. No vast oceans of water. There is no water to speak of. Man needs to explore and get to Mars, but it would be a terrible place to live.

We are currently in a warm interval of the Quaternary Ice Age. We have been flipping back and forth between glacial and interglacial periods for 2.5 million years. During glaciation, more of the water on Earth is locked up in glaciers than currently. 13,500 years ago, during the Last Glacial Maximum, the oceans were 400′ lower. The continental shelf was above water. You could walk from Florida to the Bahamas.

This made our atmosphere much drier. The glaciers reflected more of the heat of the Sun back into space. When glaciation takes hold, the Earth dwells in glacial periods about 5 times as long as the interglacial periods. The Ice Age was a Hell on Earth – COLD, DRY, and DUSTY. Our ancestors had to be extremely tough and resourceful to survive.

Note that CO2 doesn’t enter into the above. Water absorbs infrared at the same wavelengths as CO2 and is at vastly higher concentration. In 1909 the physicist, Robert W. Wood, performed the definitive Greenhouse Effect experiment showing that “radiation trapping” was simply NOT significant in a greenhouse. He knew this already, as he was an accomplished physicist working in the area of radiation, but he found it necessary to perform the experiment to demonstrate it to those who do not know how to do the simple calculation. He knew that a greenhouse “gets hot” since the glass prevents hot air from rising – Precisely as any sensible person would expect if not misled in grade school. Arrhenius didn’t understand this. That’s why he came up with his unfounded theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming.

Contrary to the clamoring Global Warming Idiocracy, CO2 at 400 parts per million is just not important. We do not need to let them shake us down with taxes to solve a problem that does not exist.

Lord Rayleigh – 1842-1919 was a British physicist.

Gustav Mie – 1868-1957 was a German physicist.

Robert W Wood – 1868-1955 was an American physicist.

Fergus S. Smith



It is because water reaches its maximum density at 39 degrees F (4C).

Most things simply contract as they get colder. Water does too until it reaches 39 F/4 C, then it starts to expand a little. When it freezes, it expands a lot so ice floats.

Since water starts to expand below 39 F/4 C, cold surface water stops falling to the bottom of the lake in cold weather. In other words, it stops convecting. Instead it forms a coating of floating ice that insulates the remaining water. There is also a lot of heat available from the ground below and the heat from below can still convect up, keeping the water at a constant 39 F/4 C.

To freeze water, you also need to remove a great deal of heat, 144 BTUs/pound (80 calories/gm).

This is why the water in lakes and ponds is typically 39 F/4 C throughout the Winter.

If this were not the case, lakes and ponds would freeze solid in the winter and most fish would be frozen in.

Fergus S Smith


NATURE IS NEITHER GOOD NOR BAD. It’s just the way things are.

Personally, I love nature. That’s why I live in the country. But today there is a peculiar cult of people who attribute all manner of good intentions to nature. They choose to believe that nature is all good, all knowing, and wise, that man is ignorant and dangerous. They want to believe that nature is some sort of sentient being. So far as I can tell, this seems to make them feel superior to others, and somehow feel secure.

Well, nature is a wondrous thing, but it is neither sentient nor wise. Nature is just the way things are. It cares not one wit for man, beast, nor plant. If you are lost in the woods, It is up to you to find your way out, or hope that another human being knows and cares enough to come find you. The birds, rabbits, and Bambi are not going to save you. Nature is incredible in its complexity as species compete to survive. New species continually evolve as old species become extinct.

The Nature Cult believes that if something is natural it must be somehow better than the works of Man. They promote expensive products like “organic foods”. Local produce should be encouraged as it can be fresher and taste better, but this does not mean it has to be “organic”. Chemists find the term “organic foods” hysterically funny. After all, what on Earth would “inorganic foods” actually be?

The most dangerous place I know of is a health food store. They sell untested products containing literally thousands of untested natural chemicals, many of which are undoubtedly very dangerous. Just looking at the bottles is horrifying. They do this under a loophole in our food and drug laws. They put strange labels on bottled items that state, “CONTAINS NO CHEMICALS”. For a bottle to not contain “chemicals” there would have to be a complete vacuum inside. After all, even air is composed of oxygen, nitrogen, etc. They are rather important chemicals to man.

I suppose what they really mean to say, is that the product doesn’t contain any dreaded man-made chemicals like pesticides. The noise about man-made chemicals is truly deafening, but one should consider, man-made chemicals are tested – natural chemicals are not tested.

Within 100 yards of my home I can find enough natural toxic chemicals to kill hundreds of innocent people. They seem to be blissfully unaware of how toxic many ordinary plants are. Have the nature worshipers ever heard of toxic mushrooms? They contain an exquisitely toxic compound to protect them from being eaten. It is a clear, odorless, tasteless liquid that looks like water. Just a couple of drops in a drink will kill the victim by a miserable death a few weeks later. At one point it was used for chemical warfare.

There is a natural pesticide that addicts human beings that they say kills 1,000 Americans per day. Of course I’m talking about nicotine. By the way, people are always allowed to smoke around me. Second-hand smoke is not unreasonably dangerous and everyone should have the right to smoke if they choose to. I encourage people to stop smoking, but who am I to tell them they aren’t allowed?

Nature produces natural pesticides like opium, cocaine, THC (in marijuana), caffeine, theophylline, digitallis, terpenes, and countless others. Pine trees and citrus trees contain terpenes to protect them from the never ending onslaught of pests. It’s worth noting that Florida citrus doesn’t need to be sprayed with insecticides. Citrus peel oil is very potent against fire ants and many other insects. Citrus peel oil in frozen orange juice upsets my stomach, so I avoid it.

Viruses, bacteria, mycoplasmas, and parasites are all natural. Does that mean Small Pox is good? Viruses cause most forms of cancer as they can be very effective at modifying our DNA to form cancer cells. People who abuse their skin with natural sunlight can get skin cancer.

Ironically, the man-made chemicals you have to actually watch out for are the one’s prescribed by doctors with good intentions. At least half of all medications taken by the elderly do more harm than good and should be avoided. All medications should be periodically reviewed to determine if they are really necessary. Doctors often prescribe drugs simply to prevent being sued. It’s important to communicate with your doctor.

The most dangerous thing to the health of man are natural healers and the herbal remedies they purvey. Usually they are no better than a placebo. Those big, brightly colored sugar pills work the best. Before going to a natural healer, one should at least go to a real doctor to get a diagnosis. If he can give you a diagnosis, then you can check online to see the treatment options. Often no one can give a good diagnosis, but this is not a reason to go to a natural healer.

In recent years I know of only one herbal remedy that actually seems to have worked. It was for prostate cancer and was called “PC Spes”. It contained 6 Chinese herbs, a flower, and one American herb (saw palmetto). Unfortunately it supposedly contained Warfarin, a rat poison also known as Coumadin, which is also used to prevent blood clotting and strokes in human beings.

When California discovered the presence of warfarin, PC Spes was banned from the market. It was a shame. That “flower” in PC Spes was a Marigold. Marigolds are know to contain Coumarins. Coumadin is a Coumarin. Did the screening test used by the State of California erroneously interpret the Marigold petals as containing Coumadin? I would not be surprised.

Chinese herbal remedies often contain mercury, lead, arsenic, and many other things that natural remedy enthusiasts would probably be horrified to learn of.

So what does all this mean? Nature is neither good nor bad, It’s just the way things are. Man may not be all knowing, but he’s way ahead of dolphins and whales.

Fergus S. Smith



It may seem hard to believe, but crude oil actually is a renewable resource, and it is being renewed right now quite naturally.

First we need to dispense with the misbegotten notion my 4th grade teacher proclaimed, “crude oil comes from dinosaurs”. At 9 years old I knew she was out to lunch. Just how would billions of dinosaurs come together and become buried before they had a chance to rot, leaving behind just the oil? The chemistry of that notion is totally wrong.

The real source of crude oil was probably established through an experiment performed by a company in Houston in 2004. They decided to test a Russian theory dating from the 1960’s that states that crude oil comes from plankton in the sea.

Here is the theory:

Phytoplankton in the sea perform photosynthesis and absorb CO2 from the air. The phytoplankton are eaten by zooplankton that produce tiny shells. When the zooplankton die, they fall to the bottom of the sea. Their organic matter rots, but their shells leave behind Calcium Carbonate, CaCO3, a durable carbon containing compound. Over millions of years the calcium carbonate becomes bonded together into solid marble or limestone.

Sometimes that marble is thrust up out of the sea by seismic forces as it is in places like Vermont. In other areas, it can be thrust downward into the earth (subducted). When it reaches a depth of about 60 miles, the extreme pressure and heat causes Calcium Carbonate to react with water and iron oxide to produce natural gas (methane, CH4). When it reaches a depth of about 100 miles, it is converted to crude oil.

Note that when we burn crude oil, CO2 is released to feed the plankton, to produce more calcium carbonate, to produce more oil… thus crude oil is a renewable resource.

So how does the Russian theory stack up? The Houston experiment found that crude oil was produced in exactly the composition and proportions we find in the ground today. It makes perfect sense from a chemistry standpoint. It also agrees with everything we see in the distribution of crude oil and where we find it in the Earth.

The crude oil we find is percolating UP from far below, where we discover it trapped in the Earth. The crude we see is like the coffee in the small glass bubble on the top of a percolator – most of it is down below.

There’s a very interesting oil well on an island off the coast of Louisiana. a few years ago it appeared to be reaching the end of its productive life, its production was declining.

Suddenly its oil production went up and the oil changed from a medium crude to a light crude! This means a younger source of oil was coming up from below.

It’s also worth noting that in the 70’s Saudi Arabian crude was predicted to have run out by now, yet their reserves have risen. In all probability, younger crude is coming up from below.

So what was the problem with crude oil prices? A few years ago the surge in demand from China and India upset the balance and new oil production could not be ramped up fast enough to maintain a healthy margin of supply over demand. We also had a problem with hedge funds speculating billions and driving the cost of crude to unrealistic levels.

Fundamentally there was a gigantic obstacle to free market stability in oil, it was the simple fact that Arabian gulf states can produce oil for $2/barrel at levels as high as they wish, if they install adequate infrastructure.

On the other hand, producing the oil we need in the US costs more than $30/barrel. that might look good when oil is $70/barrel, but who would want to risk the investment if the Saudis could cut them off at the knees at any time?

As the population of the Arab oil states became dependent upon high oil revenue and Russia expanded production, they lost control of the price of oil. We had huge amounts of oil in the ground, the problem was the cost of getting it out.

Fortunately there was a technical solution – horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing. The Saudis and Russians tried to derail it by claiming that fracking was dangerous and used toxic chemicals. There is no reason to use toxic chemicals in fracking. It is simply an ingenious solution to the problem. It has reopened the Permian Basin in West Texas where there are thousands of old, capped wells and the geology is fully understood and mapped. There is no exploration risk, and extraction is cheap and practical. There is plentiful, cheap oil that will last for generations. On a $7 million investment, they are getting 1,500 barrels of crude oil a day with a 93% internal rate of return.

Of course we could all subject ourselves to battery powered cars, but note, no one has come up with a practical battery. A lithium battery typically loses 20% of its capacity per year. How many people would really want a car that had a range of 250 miles when new, that dropped to 200/150/100/50/0 miles as the years passed? After 3 years they would likely want a new battery, but it would probably cost them $10,000 or more. Tesla deals with the problem by downrating the battery. This minimizes the damage caused each time you discharge it. The reason lithium batteries are so expensive is because they contain a lot of cobalt along with the lithium. Cobalt is expensive. It comes from Russia and Africa.

I love the idea of an electric car, but not with any batteries that exist today. Imagine on a cold day having to choose between heating the car with the battery and having a range of 50 miles, or wearing a snowmobile suit so you can drive 150 miles. Air conditioning? Forget it. Leave the windows open. It would still be fun to drive on nice days – if you can afford it. If money is no object and you are retired living in Florida, you can drive an electric car to the grocery store and plug it in when you get home – as long as all your neighbors can’t afford an electric car and pull down the power grid.

To me, a practical car would have to fully recharge in 5 minutes, the amount of time it takes to refuel a gasoline or diesel car. To build just one recharge station to do that with just 8 chargers would require a very large transformer substation. It would require power comparable to the largest snowmaking systems in America today. Moreover, no one knows how to build a plug and cable to safely deliver that amount of current to the battery or keep the battery from overheating, catching fire, and exploding. That seems to be lost on the people advocating conversion to electric automobiles.

So it all comes down to cost and practicality. We need cheap energy and oil is nearly perfect for transportation purposes. It packs a tremendous mount of energy per gallon, is conveniently pumped, and produces a nice CO2 feedstock for plankton.

We take it for granted that we can pump enough energy into a gasoline car in 5 minutes to hurtle it down the road for 400 miles, and repeat that indefinitely. From a technology standpoint, it is actually breath taking and people should appreciate it.

China is moving to convert their cheap coal to oil. It’s not a practical process as you lose half the energy in the coal during conversion and the equipment is expensive, but China’s costs are so low, they may make it work. Importing oil is very expensive to China at current exchange rates.

There’s probably oil in the South China Sea. That’s why China is trying to gain control of it and is in conflict with Vietnam, Japan, and the Philippines.

So why is it very few people have heard about the Houston experiment? It has the distinct ring of truth, and it is probably the most important scientific experiment performed so far this century. It may be that journalists just don’t understand the significance, or they may still believe that crude oil comes from dinosaurs.

It’s good to know that crude oil is being renewed.

Fergus S. Smith



With a little common sense and a few numbers, we can clearly see the truth about our climate. We must ask the question, is there a basis in science for the dire predictions? The short answer is that there is not. If we are to predict the future of our climate, we need to have precise data over a very long period – thousands of years. that data simply does not exist. People look at tree rings and glacial ice, but the reality is, they are far, far from doing useful science. They do, however, want to get supported to dabble in their chosen field. Scaring people is an easy way to get funding.

Over millions of years the Earth’s temperature has apparently been both much hotter and much colder than today – and no one really knows why. Modest changes in CO2 almost certainly have nothing to do with today’s climate. From what data that does exist, there is no leading correlation between the concentration of CO2 and global temperatures over the past millennia, only a following correlation. The truly remarkable thing to me, as a scientist, is that plants and algae can actually eke out an existence at the current CO2 level of only about 400 parts per million.

We must consider, what is the “normal” state of our climate? For 2 1/2 million years, the Earth has been oscillating back and forth between long glacial and brief interglacial periods. We are currently in one of those geologically brief, warm interglacial periods. Glaciation has actually been the norm for our climate for the last 2 1/2 million years. So, in a sense, we are thankfully in an abnormally warm period – but what does that mean?

The Ice Age we are currently in is called the Quaternary Ice Age. You have to go back 450 million years to find an ice age equally as cold as the Quaternary Ice Age of today. The Last Glacial Maximum was about 13,500 years ago. Since then there has been a typical, gradual warming trend that continues today. During the Last Glacial Maximum, the Earth was a dry, dusty, dreary planet. There was a sheet of ice a mile thick extending from Labrador, Canada to New York City. Survival on Earth was very difficult everywhere. There was no Amazon Rain Forest and agriculture as we know it would not have been feasible.

If you look at the bedrock in Central Park, NY you can see grooves pointing NNE towards Labrador that were cut by rocks pushed by the glacier. The glacier deposited sand where Long Island is located and it dug the Great Lakes.

Sea level was 400′ lower than today and the Continental Shelf was above water. You could walk from Florida to the Bahamas. The Gulf of Mexico was mostly dry land.

Since the Earth radiates and reflects almost precisely as much energy back into Space as the Sun shines upon it, the issue of “global warming” is really about how much energy reaches the surface of the Earth and how it’s distributed vertically. If the upper atmosphere reradiates more heat via CO2 in the upper atmosphere, the surface will get a little cooler. We actually have little to worry about except the natural variation of the Sun and our climate – and the likely return of glaciation.

In 1999 a professor at the University of Virginia, Michael Mann, published a paper claiming to be the definitive evidence of “global warming”. It became known as the “hockey stick”, as it showed a sudden upswing in temperatures during the 20th century. The graph literally looked like a hockey stick held horizontally. It was touted as the ultimate truth of “global warming”.

The problem was, he was using what’s called “Principal Component Analysis” to combine 80 different, flawed historical temperature records into one. Not only was the use of Principal Component Analysis an attempt to produce meaningful results from multiple bad data sets, the computer program written by his team to do the calculations was defective. Two Canadians, Ross McKitrick and Steven McIntyre actually tested the computer program and found that even completely random data fed into the program produced the dreaded “hockey stick”!!!

When climatologists try to calculate temperatures on a global scale, they inevitably fail. Global temperatures are very poorly recorded for a number of reasons. There are no useful, long term records with which to compare current temperatures with the past. There aren’t even good records of recent weather. My grandfather was born 25 years before the National Weather Service began to record weather records in 1890. In addition, each year the NWS drops off the last year and adds on a new year. This produces new “Record Temperatures” regularly to thrill the public. Those records are interesting, but of no practical use to analyze climate.

The best global records come from satellites. Even they are very flawed and poorly suited to study the climate of the earth. By the time climatologists compensate for differences in the instruments from one satellite to another, the orbital differences, and data from balloons, they can come up with practically any result they wish. None of them agree. The balloon data is said to be flawed as a result of a change in design that affected the temperature readings.

Ocean and air temperatures have been recorded by ships for centuries, but as ships grew taller, the air temperatures were recorded at greater heights above the water, skewing the data in the warmer direction. The variation in accuracy of all those thermometers was of course considerable.

It isn’t really that easy to accurately measure the temperature of a gas like air. As a gas, air doesn’t transfer heat very well to a thermometer so the response is slow when the wind isn’t blowing. They are also influenced by heat directly from the Sun and reradiated heat from their surroundings. Most people who have more than one thermometer find the thermometers rarely agree. One will be in the Sun while another is in the shade. Meteorological enclosures don’t really shade thermometers very well from the Sun.

Temperatures have been recorded for well over a century in Central Park, NY. When temperatures were first recorded, Central Park was in the countryside. There were trees to give shade and cooling by transpiration (evaporation of water from leaves). Today Central Park is surrounded by asphalt and black tarred roofs that warm in the Sun and heat the air. This is called the “heat island” effect. Naturally the temperatures recorded are higher today in Central Park than in the past.

Granted New York City is warmer than in the time of the Manhattan Indians, but in the greater scheme of things, just how important are the temperatures of cities? I have a friend in New York who has the idea that New York is the whole world. A very rough calculation of scale can help clarify that question.

First we need to estimate very roughly how much New York is warmer today than when the white man arrived. Since we don’t really know how much warmer New York City is today, we need to make an educated guess. When you average day and night for the year, the temperature increase is likely to lie between 1 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4 and 5 1/2 degrees Celsius). For our purposes, the exact number doesn’t matter much. It’s probably closest to 1 degree F., but let’s be generous and say it has increased 5 degrees F. Manhattan consists of about 20 square miles and 2 million people. We will ignore the number of office buildings into which millions of people stream from outside NY. That means that there are roughly 100,000 people per square mile living in Manhattan. It also means that if there were 20,000 people per square mile, you might expect a temperature increase of 1 degree Fahrenheit. This is likely to be very high, but let’s use it.

On the other hand, I live in rural, Londonderry, Vermont. It seems very crowded around here, we have a population a bit over 1,200 and a land area of 36 square miles, that makes our density roughly 33 people per square mile. Using 20,000 people per square mile to be equal to an increase in temperature of roughly 1 degree F, this means we should expect that man’s presence in Londonderry might cause an increase in temperature of roughly 33/20,000 of a degree Fahrenheit or about 1/600th of a degree F. Personally I don’t find that number terribly worrisome, but some might say that Londonderry is not representative of the Earth as a whole.

So… let’s roughly calculate the population density of the Earth’s surface. the population of the Earth is about 6 1/2 billion. The square area of the Earth is roughly 200,000,000 square miles. this means the population density of the earth’s surface is roughly 33 people per square mile – about the same as rural Londonderry, VT!!! Naturally this means that the direct results of man’s habitation of Earth are likely to be an increase of about 1/600th of a degree F. – except for one thing – farming.

The effects of farming are far and away the most significant and least predictable of man’s impacts on our climate, but still not worth worrying about. In the Spring, farmers expose millions of square miles of dark Earth to the Sun, warming the air. When you fly over a freshly plowed field in a light aircraft, the rising air can give you a hard jolt. The rising air is called a thermal. Note that “thermal” is transferring heat upward very effectively. If one is truly worried about our climate, the only choice is to stop eating or increase the use of herbicides to minimize the tilling of land. I will continue to eat real food as long as the “global warming” proponents are kept at bay.

During the months of June, July, and August 1930, Washington, DC had over 21 days above 100 degrees F. (38 C.). This record has never been approached since. It was caused by drought. In dry weather the Earth warms up more than in wet weather as there is less evaporative cooling and fewer cumulus clouds. It was the beginning of the “Dust Bowl” period.

“Global Warming” – The “Greenhouse Effect”

The idea that man has modified the Earth’s environment by increasing the level of CO2 to only 400 parts per million is so misguided, it’s hard to know where to begin. If anything, we can expect a very, very slight cooling effect from CO2 – not warming! It is the Sun, water vapor, and droplets that dominate our climate.

This is clear simply by looking at the climate of Mars. You can easily predict the weather on Mars a year ahead. The wind velocity, direction, etc. are totally predictable for one simple reason. There is no water on Mars. On the other hand, the weather and climate on Earth is very unpredictable because we have prodigious amounts of water in oceans, lakes, and in the air. Water is continually evaporating, condensing, freezing, and melting. We have clouds that radiate heat back down to the Earth and block incoming radiation. It is a system that is classified as “chaotic”, thus fundamentally intractable mathematically.

It’s important to point out what the real “greenhouse effect” actually is. In grade school, teachers like to draw pictures of a greenhouse. They show arrows for sunlight coming into the greenhouse and arrows for heat (infrared light) emitted by warm objects inside, bouncing off the inside of the greenhouse glass. This trapped heat is supposed to be the “Greenhouse Effect”. This idea is almost completely wrong.

In 1909 the physicist R. W. Wood performed a simple experiment to demonstrate that the idea of “radiation trapping” was not why a greenhouse “gets hot”. He compared the temperature rise under a pane of ordinary glass with that of a pane of Sodium Chloride. Sodium Chloride is ordinary table salt, but it can be crystallized and polished into a large pane like glass. It has the characteristic that it is almost completely transparent to visible and infrared light all the way from IR emitted by the Sun down to the IR emitted at typical temperatures outdoors. The temperature under both panes was virtually identical as Wood certainly would have expected. The real reason a greenhouse gets hot is exactly what most anyone would expect. A greenhouse simply prevents hot air from rising. The temperature inside a greenhouse is what the air temperature would be outdoors if there were no convective cooling.

This simple concept seems to be lost on global warming enthusiasts. Note that there is no factor for convection in the equation below. As a chemist, I enjoy surfing the web to examine the assumptions underlying such ideas. Whenever I do, I am amazed at the poorly considered ideas that are presented to support their conclusions.

For example, on a University of Iowa web site I found a truly misbegotten tome with the following bizarre misconceptions:

The site claims that the CO2 “forcing effect” is:

(delta)F = 6.3 ln (C/Co) in watts/m2

Note: if you don’t like math, don’t worry about it. Math is like a foreign language. If you learn the new words, it isn’t really that complicated. You can just ignore it and still understand the conclusions.

The above formula is utterly wrong. A first year physics student should erupt into gales of laughter at the very sight of it.

(delta)F is described as the “forcing effect” of CO2 (a really nutty concept)

Ln is the natural log (a simple function common in science)

Co is the initial concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere

C is the concentration of CO2 at some later time

The value that results is measured in watts per square meter (a square meter is about 10 square feet)

For example, this means that if the CO2 in the atmosphere were to increase by 10%, the fraction C/Co would equal 1.10. This means the equation becomes:

(delta)F = 6.3 ln(1.1) = 6.3 x 0.095 = 0.6 watts per square meter

Compare this to incoming energy from the Sun of 1366 watts per square meter or over 2000 times greater. even if you accept the above equation, that’s not a lot to worry about.

Note that the spectrum below for H2O is inaccurate as it was done with Potassium Bromide windows in the sample cell since Sodium Chloride is water soluble.

The following spectrum is a little better, but note that the scale is reversed from the one above. Keep in mind that the concentration of H20 in our atmosphere averages over 10x higher than CO2, so the red peak for CO2 is almost meaningless in comparison to the green peak for H2O – EXCEPT for the red peak at a little greater than 4 microns, but then 4 microns is INCOMING infrared from the Sun. In other words, on balance, CO2 is SHADING the surface of the Earth, not warming it.

In the 8-12 micron (terrestrial) infrared band (heat radiating up from Earth) the spectra shown should indicate an overlap between the absorptions of H2O and CO2. This means that the far higher concentration of H2O would dominate the CO2 absorption at terrestrial infrared wavelengths. A more accurate equation might be expected to look more like:

(delta)F = A * ln (C (H2O + CO2) / Co (H2O + CO2)

This of course greatly diminishes the influence of CO2 on terrestrial infrared. If you plug in 0.5% (5000 parts per million) for water vapor, for an increase of 10% in CO2, you get a * ln(5418/5380) and the far more likely answer, some small constant “A” times 0.007 watts per square meter, and we are still assuming the misbegotten “no convection” model. At this level, the idea of CO2 affecting our climate is beyond the absurd.

As everyone is aware, cloudy nights reduce radiational cooling. This is due to both water vapor condensing in the clouds and droplets scattering infrared heat back to Earth. This effect is so dominant that CO2 never has a chance to have a tangible effect.

Interestingly at 4 microns (incoming solar infrared radiation) there is an absorption that is not overlapped by the H2O spectrum. This of course means one would expect that this would cause a shading effect, retarding incoming infrared, thus cooling the lower atmosphere. Together the effects would be to cause a very, very slight “global cooling” – not warming.

It is also worth noting that the above page showing greenhouse gas spectra includes a “total atmosphere spectrum” that is obviously just all the other spectra superimposed. Given the different concentrations of the different gases, such a spectrum makes no scientific sense and is incredibly irrelevant. The person who created it obviously had no clue what he was doing.

Another amazing page is one by Charles Keeling, the fellow who measured CO2 on the top of Mauna Loa Volcano for 50 years. His “long term” record of CO2 is what all the fuss is based upon. After looking at the history of how he measured CO2, I can have no confidence in his results. Presumably other people more competent at analytical methods have verified his results. If not, his data should not be taken seriously.

Aside from the natural concern for the idea of measuring CO2 on an active volcano that is emitting CO2, as one reads the article it becomes apparent he was ill equipped to perform the task of measuring such low concentrations of CO2. Measuring such low concentrations is not an easy task.

When originally discussing his plans with an engineer at the company that built the infrared instrument to measure CO2, the engineer said he couldn’t say that their equipment was capable of performing the task at such low levels of CO2. This is important, as it means Keeling would be without technical guidance.

I don’t know what Keeling’s background was, perhaps if Keeling were an analytical chemist or a physicist he might reasonably be expected to overcome the limitations of the device, but he sounds more like a biologist. Does he understand that all electronic instruments exhibit drift over time, etc.? Does he really know how to calibrate the instrument? Can we really compare his early results with his later results?

Given the lack of real data or theory, global warming proponents claim that the Earth’s climate is exquisitely unstable, about to fall over the edge of a precipice. Nothing could be further from the truth. The climate of the Earth is clearly what’s called a buffered system. It opposes change due to the vast amount of water in our atmosphere and oceans. There is only one thing that can significantly influence our climate – it is the Sun.

The forces that really drive our climate are utterly dominated by the Sun. In recent years, the Sun has been more active than at any other time in the last 300 years. Now the Sun is remarkably quiet. Global warming advocates choose to believe that variations in the Sun’s output are smaller than the effects of Man – this is phenomenally misguided. We know that the Earth’s climate is significantly modified by Sun spot activity on an 11 and 22 year cycle. There is a Danish theory that the gigantic plasma emissions during Sun spot activity cause changes in our cloud cover, modifying the Earth’s temperature. The theory makes very good sense. The Physics is precisely on point.

It was announced that researchers cannot determine the albedo of the Earth within 100% on the upside. The albedo of the Earth is the amount of light reflected back into space. The Earth’s albedo is fundamentally far easier to measure than the temperature of our atmosphere. The albedo is measured by observing the earthshine reflected by the Moon. If you don’t know the albedo of the Earth accurately, you cannot begin to predict our climate.

Since much of the reflectance of the earth’s atmosphere is due to clouds and other aerosol particles, an understanding of clouds is essential to any modeling of our climate. Clouds are so complex that climatologists cannot agree on how to model them. As Professor George E. P. Box of U. Wisconsin-Madison once said, “…all models are wrong, some are useful.” Without clouds in a climate model, any results are meaningless – which is exactly where we stand today.

Although there is no useful data on solar output, it is likely that the Sun’s output varies significantly over thousands of years. Consider that it takes 5,000 years for heat generated at the center of the Sun to reach the surface of the Sun. We can expect that this gives rise to a solar output variation measured in thousands of years. This may be the primary driving force behind the glacial cycle, but those of us alive today will probably never know.

As the tilt of the Earth towards the Sun wobbles slightly like a top, very slowly over thousands of years, this also will have a periodic affect on climate, but not likely enough to cause glaciation. Some people fret over melting of glaciers, but choose to ignore the glaciers that are growing. Glaciers are continually melting and moving. If there isn’t enough snow to sustain them, they recede and disappear. Some people worry about the circulation of the Gulf Stream, but the circulation of the Gulf Stream is influenced by the Sun, not Man.

We are currently nearing the likely end of the warm period between glacial periods (the interglacial period). Sometime in the next 5,000 years the Earth is likely to slip back into the grips of glaciation. We will be in it for 80-100,000 years, and man will likely be utterly incapable of doing anything about it. New York City will be pushed into the ocean by an advancing glacier from Labrador, Canada, but the skiing will be great!

Enjoy life TODAY!

Fergus S. Smith



PCBs are a wonderful class of compounds. I started using them when I was 11 years old. Being chlorinated, they are very inert, like PVC. Almost nothing attacks them. They can stand rather high temperatures without decomposing. They are almost as environmentally stable as stone, but they are liquid and useful as an oil that needs to be stable. They’re particularly well suited as a heat exchange fluid in electrical transformers as they last almost forever.

In other words – THEY ARE PERFECT!

Unfortunately the “forever” aspect really bothers environmentalists. After all, what if it’s toxic and somehow bad for the environment? It might be around forever!!!!

PCBs do have one undesirable characteristic. They cause a nasty case of dermatitis called Chloracne if you get enough of it on your skin. It does this because it literally clogs your pores and your skin can’t breath. So a sensible person doesn’t use it for hand lotion.

General Electric used to discharge waste PCBs into the Hudson River in New York. Today there’s such a fuss about the PCBs in the mud on the bottom of the Hudson, that they are actually planning on dredging the river.

There is at least one natural organism that does “eat” PCBs. If they left the river alone, the PCBs would eventually disappear. If they dredge the river, where are they going to put all the muck if they’re really going to save the planet?

Speaking of all those stones that are environmentally stable, what are we going to do about them? If someone hits you in the head with one you could die!

Fergus S. Smith


THE DREADED PLUTONIUM – “The most toxic substance known to man!” Except it isn’t.

In one sense, Plutonium is cause for concern in that it can be used to build atomic bombs, but for some years it has been intoned that Plutonium is “the most toxic substance known to man”. Even the otherwise superb ‘Merck Index’ was compromised by the nonsense. It states, “The lethal dose may be as low as 1 nanogram” (about 2 trillionths of a pound). Toxicity at that level would make it more dangerous as a toxin than as a bomb.

It never really made any sense that Plutonium could be so toxic. If it were so toxic, scores of people would have died during the Manhattan Project. Since Plutonium has such a long half life, it emits relatively little radiation. As a heavy metal, one might expect it to have toxicity comparable to something like lead – which isn’t really very toxic to begin with.

Eventually, in 1997, two studies were actually undertaken to determine the toxicity. It turns out PLUTONIUM IS LESS TOXIC THAN CAFFEINE. In one study they injected Plutonium Citrate directly into the blood stream. In the other study they swallowed Plutonium. In no event did anyone get sick. The disinformation campaign that intones about the toxic dangers of Plutonium got away with it, because no one had ever actually tested the toxicity of Plutonium – and it made good press. The truth is, we don’t have The Evening News in the US. We have Entertainment News. It’s all about ratings.

One fun thing about Plutonium, when you hold a lump of it in your hand it feels oddly warm. This is because it is emitting alpha particles (just helium nuclei). The alpha particles don’t have enough energy to penetrate the layer of dead skin on the surface of your hand, so they are harmless.

If you swallow Plutonium it passes quickly through your digestive tract. The radiation level is so low, it does no harm. The type of radiation emitted by Plutonium cannot penetrate past the superficial cells lining your digestive tract and those cells are rapidly slufed off anyways. Just don’t breathe the dust if you can avoid it.

As usual, the news media has never reported the toxicity studies. We all know why. I only noticed the studies in a letter to the editor of a chemical journal I receive. The author of one of the studies was responding to the usual disinformation about Plutonium in a previous issue of the journal.

If you want to look it up, one of the study’s authors has the memorable name, T. D. Lucky.

So it turns out that the old civil defense movies were right. If you need to, you can eat food contaminated with fallout after two weeks. Just wash it as best you can before you eat it. Any radioactive fallout you ingest will pass through your digestive tract and you will survive.

We really need some sanity regarding the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Repository in Nevada. The idea of burying “high level” radioactive waste in a mountainside is like burying gold back in a mountain – it’s totally insane! They should store it there, but not seal it in. Our grandchildren are going to want that material. It will be incredibly valuable. Why should they have to dig it out after the mountain is detonated? The power of ignorance is a wonder to behold.

In the early 20th century the spas of Europe used to boast about how radioactive their waters were. They were actually quite right to do so. At that time, there were elixirs sold in the us that contained elements like radium. They were the Viagra of their day. Radium and some other radioactive elements stimulate your pituitary gland and increase your vitality. Unfortunately they overdid it and some people developed osteoporosis. The scandal that ensued led to the establishment of the FDA.

We are all continually bathed in significant levels of radiation. It is called background radiation and it is totally natural. Small doses of radiation and toxins are apparently quite good for us as they stimulate our immune system. This is the basis for the theory of Hormesis.

Without background radiation, evolution would be slower and Man would not exist.

The only really dangerous aspect of Plutonium is that it can be made into an atomic bomb. Fortunately Plutonium atomic bombs are more difficult to make than the terrorists probably realize. Hopefully they won’t be up to the task. The “dirty bomb” use of Plutonium is not really much cause for concern. It would simply be a mess to clean up. There would be far more people injured in the panic than by the actual bomb.

To make a truly “dirty bomb” you have to use radioactive cobalt – a gamma ray emitter. They really are nasty and much more difficult to clean up after. Fortunately it is very hard for terrorists to get their hands on much radioactive cobalt and it is difficult to make in any kind of volume. If you ever read the silly doomsday book, On the Beach by Nevil Shute, you might live in fear that we would all die from cobalt bombs. Relax. It’s not going to happen.

Fergus S. Smith



Technically speaking there is no such thing as ‘Dioxin”! It is reasonable to say this, as the term “Dioxin” was invented by a journalist. The psychotic tale of the dreaded “Dioxin” started with an industrial accident in Seveso, Italy in 1976. There was an explosion that released a moderately toxic cloud that drifted into a populated area. People in the small town became sick and developed some skin lesions and a form of dermatitis called Chloracne. To date there has been no elevated risk of cancer, etc.

At first, no one seemed to know what was in the toxic cloud as the company responsible pled ignorance. Of course they didn’t want to get sued. This unfortunately created a news vacuum. Into the breach stepped our intrepid journalist from the Associated Press. When you can’t find any real information – just make it up!

I vividly recollect the headlines, “Scientists reveal that the Seveso accident released the deadliest compound known to man – Dioxin!”

As a chemist, I had never heard of “Dioxin” and immediately sensed a lie. After all, if there were such a deadly compound, and it had such a short, non-technical name, it would be commonly known, and I should have heard of it. Just to be sure I hadn’t become senile, I took a look in the literature. Sure enough, there was no such compound by that name. There was a commercial trademark for a common solvent by that name, but it had nothing to do with a deadly toxin.

Naturally I wasn’t the only chemist to question the origin of “Dioxin”. The journalist was quizzed as to who had told him of this “new” compound. Naturally he refused to name his “source”. He should have gone to jail for the trouble he caused.

The Italian government started monitoring hundreds of thousands of people and spent hundreds of millions of dollars to “clean up” the “world’s deadliest toxin”.

Then something even more psychotic happened. An American professor showed up to “determine what dioxin was”. Think about it, that’s crazy. It was psychotic nonsense at its worst. He started testing leaf samples and at first found nothing of significance. By the time he had gotten there the moderately toxic cloud was long gone and there was very little of anything left. Of course this didn’t deter him. He eventually found some chlorinated hydrocarbons at extremely low levels, at about one billionth of an ounce per square inch.

He immediately declared that he had “discovered” what “Dioxin” was. He had no real idea how toxic “Dioxin” might be, but he decided that since the compound was present at such low concentrations and was a chlorinated hydrocarbon, it must be what he was looking for, as nothing else known could explain the “extreme toxicity of Dioxin”. He apparently actually said that!

Then another professor showed up and found another, slightly different chlorinated hydrocarbon at comparably low concentrations. He too claimed to have discovered “dioxin”. At this point, the sniping became severe as they both tried to claim the honors of discovering the “real Dioxin”. There was never any basis to agree on what “Dioxin” was.

Then people started finding the “dreaded Dioxin” just about everywhere. It turned out that minute amounts of these chlorinated hydrocarbons are the result of ordinary combustion and can be found anywhere from your fireplace to an industrial boiler – if your instrumentation is sensitive enough. They were found in “agent orange” and many other compounds in such low levels that no one had ever noticed them before. Those chlorinated hydrocarbons have been around since the beginning of time.

Of course this didn’t stop the environmental movement from using the “dreaded Dioxin” to scare the daylights out of people, and shake us down for cash. The disinformation continues to this day. In spite of the fact that “Dioxin” doesn’t really exist.

Fergus S. Smith