Wednesday, 27 January 2010

An incomplete view on climate change

Prof Mike Hulme from University of East Anglia said it better: "Climate scientists get kudos from working on an issue in the public eye but with that kudos comes responsibility". His words resonate well with my overall stand on climate change.

The level of investment and prestige put on the scientific disciplines studying climate change has boosted in the last decade. This was to be expected, because they play a key role in a global and important topic that matters to society, industry and governments. Their achievements (tiny or small they might be) must be communicated, celebrated worldwide and commended with prestige, awards and further grants to continue the good work. Consequently, when errors (tiny or small they might be) are found, their professional responsibility must be required in proportion to the prestige, awards and grants gained.

In the same way, climate experts that have received awards, grants and professional prestige should not be surprised to find themselves under proportionally high pressure to review and justify once again their results.

Summary: "For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required" Luke 12:48

I am not an expert in the topic, but I also have some views on it.

As a scientist doing research at the University of Edinburgh on thermal science, I see climate change as a very complex issue, dealing with an immense system, the Earth. The level of uncertainty attached to any prediction on a system this large has to be proportional to its size, immense. All my professional respect goes to climate scientists who are dealing with a very difficult problem to tackle.

As an engineer by training and an consultant to industry, I feel that most core solutions proposed so far to tackle the problem of climate change tend to lead as well towards improvements in energy efficiency, development of new technologies, alternative ways of engineering thinking and would foster the creation of new paradigms. This would be great news indeed. Even if climate change were not to be that 'fast' at the end, some proposed solutions could be good just by itself.

And as a citizen of the world, I worry that lobbies of many different colours and aims claim to understand well enough the complex scientific concepts behind climate change and dare to produce crystal-clear conclusions that might not be taking into account all the uncertainties.

Not an easy topic indeed, but worth our attention and effort, and also the pains that come from the heated debate.

NOTE: I write this on the train to London. Great views today of the English country side!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Flooding starts in National Park after peat fire

The good news that the National Park of Las Tablas de Daimiel begins to be flooded again was confirmed yesterday by EFE. It is hoped that the ongoing peat fire may come to an end this Spring.

Photographic confirmation of the initial flooding is also provided by Tomás Beldad in his blog Salvemos las Tablas.

The wetlands of the Park have been low of water for several decades and very dry (less than 1% of its surface with water) for at least four years. The water arriving now travels from the Tagus river at Guadalajara (more than 150 km away from the Park) via the 1979 Tagus-Segura transfer and a special pipe built in a rush by the authorities.

The peat fire was detected in the area around the Park in August 2009. I provided a rough estimation of the continuous flow of carbon emissions to the atmosphere to be around 10 to 40 ton per day.

This water comes at a time when heavy rains in the region will help to reduce the water losses in the long pipe and speed up the flooding process.

The cold and wet winter in Ciudad Real this year is already helping to reduce the smouldering fire intensity and spread. However, I must insists, the most effective measure has been the large suppression, prevention and compartmentation programme put into practice by the Park authorities since November. The flooding comes on top of all these and will, hopefully, extinguish the fire at some point. This would also allow to regenerate the flora and fauna of the Park.

NOTE: I read with great happiness the EFE journalist refers to the fire as "incendios latentes". This is the first time the Spanish media uses the correct term, which is equivalent to smouldering fires in English. Authorities and press keep misusing the term "autocombusti├│n" which only refers to self-ignition phenomena, one of the many possible initiation events of the peat fires.

NOTE 2: I read that the Spanish Minister of Environment might have hinted today that the fire is already extinguished. I already commented in this blog on the care that needs to be put in too early assessment of the situation. It is well known that peat fire are very difficult to extinguish and in this case, victory cannot be declared until all the peatlands have been completely flooded. I am afraid, it is too early at this stage to declare the fire extinguished. We have to wait until the summer to know. Hope the water keeps coming.

NOTE: Cited in the New York Times via AP!