Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Arctic sea ice still hanging around

Another autumn, another sea ice minimum to add to the chart I have been posting yearly for awhile now. This year's minimum was about 4.1 million square km, among the lowest measurements on record.

Nevertheless, there still is not enough information for us to distinguish among several competing hypotheses.

1) The variation in sea ice is part of a dynamic natural cycle, which is currently in a lower area of Lyapunov stability, but which will at some point return to the higher area of stability (as it was prior to about 2003). There are alternatives to this hypothesis, such as the sea-ice system may naturally oscillate between two or more states, but this oscillation is being modified by anthropogenic effects.

If we are observing a natural cycle, and its duration is related to the time observed within the higher area of Lyapunov stability, then at some point the system will return to the area of stability occupied prior to 2003. The typical duration of natural climatic cycles is from a few years to decades. Given the length of time that the system occupied the higher Lyapunov-stable area, I would assume we are looking at a fairly long cycle length--meaning even in the best-case scenario (no anthropogenic effects) we would expect to remain in this state of lower sea-ice extent for at least another decade. A breakout, if it occurs will be towards the right first, before curving up toward the higher area of Lyapunov stability.

If anthropogenic effects are modifying the trajectory of the system, then we may still get an upward breakout, but it may be a short-lived one where the state does not reach the higher area of Lyapunov stability before falling back, either to the current Lyapunov-stable area, or possibly to a new, lower one. Even if, during the breakout, the system reaches the higher area of Lyapunov stability, it may remain there only a short time before returning to the present one or perhaps a lower one.

2) The variation in sea ice extent is in secular decline, likely driven by greenhouse gas emissions, but the dynamics of the natural system have temporarily arrested the decline in the current area of Lyapunov stability. In this case, we may expect the system to remain within this area of Lyapunov stability, before breaking out to the left and arcing downward.

Distinguishing between these differing hypotheses needs more time, but unfortunately we run the risk of an irreversible change occurring as we wait. Better would be to extend the record backwards by several decades, which can probably only be done by collecting near-surface sediment cores, and looking at their microfossils.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Green features at Scarborough Campus

I visited a friend of mine who works at the University of Toronto at Scarborough, where I taught episodically from the early 1990s until about ten years ago. A whole lot of new buildings have gone up since I left.

For most of the time I was there, the entire place consisted of an elongated concrete bunker, with a glass front overlooking a playing field and student residences; whereas the back, which overlooked the valley, was a solid mass of concrete punctuated by a few portholes.

Starting about ten years ago, several new buildings went up, including a new sciences building on the north side of Ellesmere Avenue. This building has a number of green features, which is appropriate, as the building is largely used for environmental and earth sciences.

Starting at ground level, the building is surrounded by numerous "earth tubes". They draw in air, and pass it through underground pipes, which act as heat exchangers, warming the air in winter, and cooling it in summer, before circulating it through the building.

A good portion of the roof is covered with white gravel, which reflects away solar energy, helping keep the building cool in summer.

A good portion of the roof is green--covered with plants, which both help keep the building cool, and which also retain rain water, keeping it from being released through runoff too quickly. The plants selected require very little care, as they are native to the area.

I believe there is some kind of drainage system under the gravel that directs some rainwater into cisterns for storage, where it can be used to water the lawns during the drier parts of the year (according to this site).

On a connected roof, we can see lots of solar panels.

A fairly sizable part of the roof is accessible easily to staff and students, and is used as a garden and meeting area. Although when I visited, the meeting area was overgrown by pumpkins.

From this roof we overlook the nearby sports facility built for last year's successful Panem--sorry, Pan-Am Games. It's roof also appears to have green features.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gold x USDX breaks out after Brexit

Last time I looked at the significance of rising gold price and dollar index and their impact on profitability of gold mining companies. One way to study this is to calculate the product of the gold price (in US dollars per ounce) and the US dollar index, divided by 100 to make the numbers easier to use.

As described here, I have been using reconstructed phase space portraits as an aid to describing dynamical behaviour of complex systems. The simplest way of reconstructing these is through the use of time-delay method, in which the value of a parameter is plotted against a lagged copy of itself. These plots show the evolution of the system illustrated by the succession of states through time. Typically, systems will remain locked in relative equilibria for substantial periods of time, punctuated by bursts of rapid evolution to a new area of stability.

Eighteen months ago, for instance, the reconstructed state space for the gold price x USDX over the preceding seven years was easily described by a rising phase, followed by a multi-year cycle that carried it from the middle of the plot to the circled area at the upper right, until in mid-2013 when it broke down and returned to the middle equilibrium.

The system has been locked in the middle equilibrium until what looks to be a breakout, immediately after the Brexit vote.

It has pushed the boundaries of that equilibrium in the last three years, but the action of the past few weeks is looking decisive. I expect to see gold x USD ascend and reach a stability in the 1400 range, which puts the told price near $1450/oz, given the current strength in the US dollar.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Third phase of deflation coming

But it's good news for gold miners--profits will rise.

The long-term plot of USDX index vs. the gold price shows that the US dollar gold price and the dollar index are inversely correlated much, but not all of the time. Empirically, money-making opportunities have arisen when both gold and the US dollar are rising together, as is happening now.

The blue trend line represents deflation--times when the US dollar gold price and the dollar index rose together. This trend enhances the profitability of most gold companies, as they are receiving a higher price for their product at the same time as the value of the dollars receiving is rising. The most important stretch where this was happening was in late 2009 to about mid-2010--a time when there were a lot of big moves in mining companies, especially those with production stories.

When the graph moves to successively higher isoquants the business of gold mining becomes more profitable. This happens during the deflationary segments, but can also happen if the gold price rises faster than the US dollar falls, as it did in early 2011, when the gold price rose quickly to over $1800 per ounce, bringing us to about the 1450 isoquant.

The segment of the blue line between the 1000 isoquant and the 1150 isoquant occurred in late 2014 to early 2015. Our current deflationary action started just after the Brexit vote. If it lasts as long as either of the last two episodes, we should have an excellent window for making good money in the gold stocks in the next six months to a year. If the dollar continues to be strong, a gold price of $1450 may bring us to the 1450 isoquant.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Coastal Alaska

Good weather when flying down the coast of Alaska, on the way to Vancouver from Beijing. My first photographic survey of the coastal glaciers there in about 20 years.

Glacier, trailing to the upper right.

Mount McKinley (Denali to Alaskans) in the distance.

Glacier feeding into a lake, with another at top.

Glaciers cascading into a fjord.


If this is the one I think it is, it has receded quite a lot in the last twenty years. Most of the water in the foreground was under glacial ice the last time I photographed it.

All of these were photographed digitally, and the colours were rebalanced afterwards. The original shots are too blue. The brownish shading on the left is a reflection from the edge of the window.