UKERC – Carbon Capture & Storage: Sustainability in the UK energy mix

July 30, 2006

I attended this one day meeting which focused, from the UK perspective, on the possibiltiies of geological storage of carbon di-oxide (CO2). It was sponsored by the UKERC Meeting Place, held at the University of Edinburgh, and broughtt together people from industry, finance, legal, and academic worlds.

The consensus of the meething was overwhelming–that being that is possible, practical, and economic to use geological carbon storage to mitigate the risk of relesing CO2 to the atmosphere. CO2 is a greenhouse gas which could lead to global warming.

While storing CO2 surely *can* be done, what’s not clear to me is if it *should* be done compared to alternatives. It seems a short term prophylactic solution. I also wonder about the unintended consequences and as yet unknown risks.

The presentation by Dr. Carol Turlye, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, was downright scary. She spoke on the observed effects on CO2 increases in the world’s oceans. The oceans’ acid content is measurably changes, and it’s cause is reliably thought to be increased CO2 in the atmosphere. See the paper published at the above link (along with all the other papers).

Update: Just noticed this article on Scientific American’s web site which clearly explains the affect of CO2 on global warming. See Scientific American: If carbon dioxide makes up only a minute portion of the atmosphere, how can global warming be traced to it? And how can such a tiny amount of change produce such large effects?


July 12, 2006

Back in the dark ages of computing, when you had to keypunch your program into cards, stand in line at the input desk to hand over your creation to the bored college student who then fed them into the card reader (and you hoped he/she didn’t drop your cards), and then you waited … and waited … and waited for your output.

In between pouring over the FORTRAN code which computed something technical for some course, a popular past-time for some was creating ASCII art. ASCII art is creative use of the text to create an image, e.g.


| | |
_/ \_

I didn’t have the artistic ability to create it, but I did appreciate the achievement.

I’ve run across a site which presents the entire first episode of Star Wars as a ASCII Art Movie. Impressive creativity. Telnet to and watch.

Rogue Giants at Sea – New York Times

July 11, 2006

Rogue Giants at Sea – New York Times

I’m amused this now being “discovered”. Not only have I personally observed at least “rouge” wave (amongst many very big ones), we also demonstrated the mathematics and probabilities of them in the late 1970’s. Only thing is we didn’t publish for some silly reason.

The wave in question was while aboard the “Shanghai Trader” in the middle of the South China Sea. I was working in the oil industry at the time and I was a young engineer leading a marine and site survey near an island where there was potential for building a marine terminal. We had to sail to a rig in the a few hundred miles away to pick up some equipment. While underway, we passed through a storm. Very uncomfortable. Every so often a “big” wave would appear. Bigger than the rest. That day cured me. To this day I avoid going on ships into the open sea.

The open ocean is composed of a mixture of waves with different fequencies and amplitudes. They add together to form the pattern of waves that one sees. You can do spectrum analysis of the wave forms to find the different components.

When the spectrum is highly “peaked”, e.g. wave energy is focused at a few frequencies with high amplitude, the waves with slightly different frequencies interact to form a very long wave (low frequency) and high amplitude. Actually, it causes a “group” of ways to move this way. We called it “wave grouping”. It’s this wave caused by the interaction which moves along and appears to a stationary observer (e.g. on a boat) to happen less frequently than the “normal” waves. These waves are bigger than normal, and they move in “packs”.

The mathematics of adding waves like this is learned in high school, I think, when one adds together in time two sine waves of slightly different freqency. A more advanced topic would be the Fast Fourier Transforms (FFT) of the wave time series to compute their spectrum, and from the spectrum synthesise a time series. Doing this synthesis for lots of waves of different amplitude frequency can simulate the actual sea surface.

I think I’ll challenge my son to try to work this all out as an excercise. He’s bored this summer and needs a little mental stimulation.