Rossby Waves and Earth’s Climate

Rossby Waves and Earth's ClimateWe have previously discussed the movement of air around the Earth, and the circulation pattern called the Hadley cells. Another important factor in Earth’s climate is Rossby waves.

Because the equator is hot, heated air rises and moves away from the equator, dropping its moisture as it cools. At about 30 degrees latitude, the now dry air falls back to the Earth, producing deserts. As the air reaches Earth’s surface, it moves north and south, creating the trade winds in the subtropical area and the prevailing mid-latitude winds in latitudes between 30 degrees and the polar regions.

A wide range of things alters this simplified picture. When greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide accumulate, they reflect infrared radiation causing the Earth’s atmosphere to become hotter. This effect isn’t uniform, however. Because of melting sea ice, Earth’s poles are affected by greenhouse gases more than the area of the equator. This causes a thermal imbalance between the poles and the equator affecting circulation around the poles and creating Rossby waves.

As the thermal imbalance has become greater and the air more wobbly in recent years, that affects the jet stream. The wobbles this past year have caused the northern jet stream to go further south than usual, bringing cold into Arizona in late spring. When the jet stream swung north, it brought hot tropical air toward the poles. On its way north, it brought unusual amounts of water into Oklahoma while Anchorage, Alaska, got temperatures over 90 degrees for the first time ever. Rossby waves is the name applied to the meandering high-altitude winds that have a major influence on Earth’s weather.

All of this shows us how fragile Earth’s climate is. Weather patterns depend on a wide range of variables which include the:
*size of the Earth’s atmosphere
*tilt of the Earth
*distribution of land compared to water
*chemical makeup of the atmosphere
*kind of radiation coming from the Sun and how that radiation is absorbed and reflected
*nature of Earth’s surface (whether ice or black dirt)
All of those factors go into making Earth a habitable planet.

We exist on this planet because of the precision design and construction of Earth and its atmosphere. The fact that it has stayed stable long enough for human life to exist for thousands and thousands of years is a testimony to the careful design and construction. Proverbs 8 finds “wisdom” speaking about its role in the creation process. Wisdom says she was there before the creation (verse 22-23) and that wisdom was a part of the preparation of the heavens (verse 26-28).

As we see the results of the small changes that have happened to the atmosphere in the past 100 years and the instability of Rossby waves, we wonder at Earth’s design and the wisdom of God who created it.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Astronomy, December, 2019, page 64.

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?

Does God Cause Natural Disasters?One of the struggles we all have is understanding why God allows disastrous events that cause massive destruction and suffering to humans. Atheists use this question as a club against faith, and it is perhaps their best weapon. The list of events that harm humans is huge – earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, landslides, fires, floods, droughts, etc. At this time of the year, hurricanes are at the front of our awareness. Does God cause natural disasters to punish people?

If you have just seen a natural event take place that destroyed your home and killed a loved one, no rational explanation is going to be of any help. Our hearts go out to those of you who are trying to make sense of what seems to be a senseless disaster that has hurt them in ways that no one else can understand. We don’t want anyone to think that we have all the answers. If somehow we can remove ourselves from our own emotions, here are three things we need to understanding:

1) God does not cause disasters. The notion that God brings catastrophes upon people He doesn’t like, or people who violate His laws or commands is inconsistent with the nature of God. James 1:13 tells us clearly that God doesn’t tempt us in any way. The passage specifically deals with moral temptation, but verse 17 goes on to say that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God brings good things. Jealousy or vindictiveness is not a part of His nature.

2) Human stupidity in the face of natural processes is a significant cause of calamity. Hurricanes are a classic example of this. The Earth has zones of climate that are made functional by natural processes which create climate zones. The Hadley Cell explains these zones, with different zones creating tropical rainforests and deserts. Those zones are balanced by natural processes such as hurricanes that carry water into what would otherwise be a desert. Thirty-degree latitudes north and south would be deserts if it were not for hurricanes that bring massive amounts of water to recharge water supplies. In the United States, northern Florida and southern Georgia would be deserts with no water were it not for hurricanes. Humans ignoring this system and building in areas known to be vulnerable to hurricanes while removing natural barriers such as mangroves causes much of the suffering and death.

3) Human mismanagement of God’s creation due to greed and ignorance is a major cause of human suffering. Genesis 2:15 tells us that God gave humans the assignment to take care of “the garden, to dress it and keep it.” We are the caretakers of what God has created, but selfishness and greed have caused significant suffering and destruction. We all know that polluting the air, rivers, lakes, and now the ocean has led to cancer and now appears to be affecting Earth’s climate. We all understand that exploitative agriculture has led to fires, erosion, dust storms, and insect swarms. Scientific journals are full of studies showing how human mismanagement of what God has given us is leading and has led to disaster.

Does God cause natural disasters? The answer is “NO!” It isn’t God’s will that humans suffer from natural disasters, but God has never promised us that He will protect us from ourselves. What God has done is to build a base by which His servants can help those who are suffering. The Church has a responsibility to show God’s love and compassion for the hurting. Atheists need to pitch in and help clean up the mess, not try to blame God. (Read Matthew 25:31-40.)
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Natural Selection as Creative Agent

Natural Selection as Creative Agent - Polar BearsYesterday we pointed out that both evolutionary naturalists and many creationists believe that, given enough time, anything can happen. They assume that once the first life-form came into being (which cannot be explained by natural selection) that time and natural selection would create all the vastly different forms of life. There are many reasons why natural selection as creative agent will not work no matter how much time you give it. We presented three reasons yesterday. Here are three more:

1-Natural selection tends to produce over-specialization. One of the fundamental laws of biology and evolution is Dollo’s Law. The French biologist Louis Dollo proposed that law in 1890. It says that once evolutionary characteristics have evolved, they cannot revert to the form from which they came. We now know why that is true by our advances in genetics. What it tells us is that as natural selection lets an animal become more and more specialized, it can not revert back to what it was before. Polar bears that have evolved by natural selection to their present state cannot return back to the black bear genetics of their ancestors. That may mean that they will become extinct if global climate change continues. Natural selection as creative agent won’t work because it is pretty much a one-way process.

2-Natural selection deals only with survival. The development of beauty does not always involve survival. Some coloration in birds, for example, does not aid their survival but results in incredible beauty. Jesus talked about the lilies of the field and birds of the air as blessed with beauty and function. While this has significant meaning for us aesthetically, sometimes the beauty of plants and animals may actually threaten their physical survival. We have discussed this point many times in our “Dandy Designs” column and elsewhere.

3-Natural selection stands at odds with the concept of entropy. The second law of thermodynamics tells us that in any closed system, things tend to move from a condition of order to a state of disorder. One can argue that the Earth is not a closed system because the Sun is adding energy. When living things eat, they add energy in the form of the chemicals in the food they consume.

The fact is, however, that in all biological systems, there is a tendency for life to become disordered. We call it aging. My body continues to produce a higher and higher level of entropy (disorder) as the years go by. All biological systems do this. To suggest that biological systems become more and more specialized by natural processes violates the very basic laws of physics and chemistry. The cosmos itself is moving towards disorder. Unless intelligence can add organizing energy and reverse the natural tendency to age, everything is doomed from our bodies to our planet.

God built the cosmos with laws that function to allow life to exist. He created life itself and built into it certain characteristics that caused Paul to write: “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:20). Natural selection is one of the things God has made, and it allows nature to function. Natural selection as creative agent cannot explain the beautiful, complex world around us. It only applies to those changes which improve the chances for life to survive. Time is not a friend to aging or complexity. The older my car gets, the more likely it is to break down. That is true of my body and the natural world around me as well.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Trees, Carbon Dioxide, and Global Warming

Trees, Carbon Dioxide, and Global Warming

The big news in environmental concerns for the past ten years has been the apparent rise in the average temperature of planet Earth. The planet has had more dramatic global warming and cooling in the past, but the magnitude of warming today has to be alarming to any thinking person who takes the time to look at the data. It seems likely that human contributions to global warming could be substantial, but the extent of human influence is still being debated. In any case, it seems wise to work toward minimizing what we do contribute. Research proves a relationship between trees, carbon dioxide, and global warming.

The Creator has given us a cheap, effective, permanent solution to controlling the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
The answer lies in the trees that God gave us from the beginning. Here is some information about how trees can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as presented in Scientific American, April 2019 page 7:

One tree can store an average of 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year.

If agroforestry were practiced, 9.28 gigatons of carbon dioxide would be sequestered by 2050. (Agroforestry is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland.) Trees increase farm productivity and give farmers revenue through fruits, nuts, and timber while storing carbon dioxide.

Landscape restoration would sequester 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide every year.


There is a direct relationship between trees, carbon dioxide, and global warming. The bottom line is that keeping forests intact can go a long way toward saving the planet, and that just means taking care of what God gave us in the beginning.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Sea Level Rise and Global Warming

Sea Level Rise and Global Warming

Many leaders in the United States, as well as other countries of the world, seem to have a view of global warming that contradicts the evidence and good scientific data. More amazing is that many scientists also take positions on global warming that don’t fit the evidence. Science News (March 2, 2019) published an article (page 6) about various theories of how melting ice could affect eustatic sea level rise.

One estimate is that sea levels could rise by 2.1 meters (over six feet) by 2100. Another research report says that sea levels could rise by four meters by 2200. Both of these estimates are based on the melting of ice cliffs in Antarctica. Imagine the result of an eight-foot rise of sea level on Miami or New Orleans or Venice?

The problem with the scientific data, as spelled out in the Science News article, is that the physics of ice cliff collapse is very poorly studied. Another problem is that much of the ice that has been proposed as being likely to melt is floating. If the ice is floating, it has displaced as much water as it weighs or it wouldn’t be floating. This is an old physics law that says “any object that is placed in a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid displaced.” If the iceberg somehow evaporated instead of melting, the sea level would go down. If it just melted, the mass is still there, and there would be no sea level rise.

Scientists are hotly debating the predictions of eustatic sea level rise. The question is not whether we are experiencing climate change with an increase in worldwide average temperatures. We are. The question is what that temperature rise will do. The design of the amazing physics of ice and water may seem simple, but it is highly complex on a global scale. We see evidence of God’s design of Earth to support human civilization. Stay tuned for more data as research continues.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

Human Wildlife Management

Human Wildlife Management of the Red Wolf
Environmentalists claim that animal species are becoming extinct and that we must preserve their DNA. The problem with this claim is that as the environment changes, animals may not be able to survive. An example is animals that have a very specialized diet, such as eating mostly on bamboo. If something wipes out the bamboo, what are these animals to do? We can save samples of their DNA, but moving them away from their natural habitat to a different place where bamboo is growing may not be the answer. It can expose them to predators and diseases that were not present in their original environment. We call this human wildlife management. While in some cases it can correct what humans have done, there are many cases where humans are not the cause. Massive investments may only delay the inevitable extinction of an animal.

The red wolf is a current example of human wildlife management. Red wolves were once common across a large region of Texas and Louisiana. The red wolf was classified as endangered in 1967 and extinct in 1980, although some were living in zoos and wildlife facilities. In the 1970s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bred red wolves and in 1986 introduced them to the wild in North Carolina. By 2006 there were over 100 wolves in North Carolina, but the population was not healthy. Many were killed by farmers and ranchers so that by April of 2018, fewer than 50 remained.

Recently a pack of red wolves was found on Galveston Island in Texas. At first, red wolf advocates were delighted. Then they became dismayed when scientists found that the Galveston wolves had DNA that was different from the original red wolves. The change in the DNA may be in part from coyotes in the area. We would suggest that God created red wolves to occupy a particular environmental niche. When that niche was changed, no matter what changed it, another design feature kicked in. That design feature which God has placed in living things is hybridization.

Hybridization is the interbreeding of two animals who are genetically close but not identical. The offspring produced by this mix of genes is often stronger and more resilient than either of the parents. When the Endangered Species Act was implemented in the 1970s hybridization was considered to be something to avoid. The reality is that God’s design allows animals to continue to prosper through hybridization.

Elizabeth Heppenheimer is a biologist from Princeton who has been studying the wolves on Galveston Island. She says, “Now we know hybridization is relatively common in natural systems and does not always have negative consequences, but the policy (of human wildlife management) hasn’t quite caught up with this notion.”

God’s methods work, and when humans try to replace God’s design with human judgments and controls, the results are frequently not what is best.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from “DNA Discovery” by David Warren, Associated Press January 15, 2019.

Ice Algae – Designed Polar Grass

Ice Algae
Have you ever wondered how animals that live near Earth’s North and South Poles survive? What do they eat, and how can any kind of food chain exist? The answer to this is ice algae.

Unlike most plants, algae do not have flowers, roots, stems, leaves, or vascular tissue. However, ice algae, like most plants, provide the starting point for a food chain. In this case, it is a food chain in very cold places. Tiny krill, penguins, seals, polar bears, and blue whales all depend on ice algae to survive. In 2016 Dr. Thomas Brown of the Scottish Association for Marine Science studied polar bears and found that 86% of the polar bears’ nutrition came from a food chain that originated with ice algae.

Ice algae have chlorophyll so they can use whatever light is available for photosynthesis. There are a variety of types of algae that live in different conditions. Some live on the surface of the ocean, some on the floor of the ocean, and some in or on the ice itself. Ice algae produce fatty acids which supply nutritional value for animals that live in what would otherwise be a nutritional void. Because there is ice algae, animal life is abundant under, in, and around the ice at both poles.

God has provided interesting food chains all over the planet. As we study global warming and its effect on life in places like the polar seas, we see more of His handiwork and learn why we need to take care of it. The admonition of Genesis 2:15 to “take care of the garden to dress it and keep it” applies as much to us today as it did to Adam and Eve.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from National Wildlife, February/March 2019, pages 14-16.

 

Heat Transfer Design

Heat Transfer Design
During this time when record cold temperatures have covered much of the United States, we should consider the design of heat transfer. One of the evidences for the existence of God is the wisdom built into the physical creation that makes it possible to move energy. God created a system of heat transfer design that is far more complex than most of us realize or can imagine.

The primary source of heat for the surface of our planet is the Sun. The question is how heat from the Sun can travel 93 million miles to Earth through what is essentially a vacuum. Realize that there is no substance between the Sun and us, so the heat can’t travel by contact. Atoms are constructed in such a way that they release excess energy by generating small energy packets called photons. Photons from the Sun carry the energy to Earth.

Photon particles are very strange. They have an electric property and a magnetic property, so they are called electromagnetic radiation. Photons have no thickness. They are two dimensional, vibrate with a frequency, and can exist only if they are moving. If you stop a photon, it disappears, and its energy is absorbed by whatever it struck.

Because photons are particles, they can travel across the vacuum of space from the Sun to the Earth. Their vibration frequency determines how we perceive them. We have different names for the frequencies. Xrays, gamma rays, ultraviolet, infrared, radio waves, and visible light are different only in their frequencies. The higher the frequency, the more energy is involved. Gamma rays have a much higher frequency than visible light, so they pack more energy.

Everything radiates some energy, even our bodies, but this is just one way heat is transferred. Besides radiation, heat transfer design also involves conduction and convection. We take for granted the various ways in which heat is transmitted in and around us, but the complexity of heat transfer design is amazing. It is that design which allows us to exist on this planet. We will look at the other two heat transfer methods tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Ice Core Data and Global Warming

Ice Core Data Sampling
Many years ago I did a master’s degree thesis on what we can learn by studying ice core data. To do this, I looked at a core taken from Mt. Rainier and another taken from Alaska.

Those ice cores were taken in a place where it never gets warm enough for the ice and snow to melt. In the winter it snows, and the snow doesn’t melt but gets buried by the next winter snow. In the summer the snow from the previous winter gets dirty on top. Dust, insects, pollen, and the remains of plants and animals that died on the ice accumulate and are buried by the next winter’s snow. This happens year after year, so each summer leaves a line in the snow. Looking at these lines with a stereoscope I could count how many summers had passed and what lived during that summer.

Since my studies when I was a graduate student at Notre Dame, techniques for getting ice core data have improved. We can now get deeper cores in places like Antarctica and Greenland. Also, we now have tools which can measure the composition and abundance of atmospheric gases dissolved in the ice. We now have drill cores that go down over a mile. In 1984, scientists took a core at Vostok in the Antarctic that was 6,560 feet and contained about 420,000 summers. That means we can analyze the gases in Earth’s atmosphere for every year going back over 400,000 years.

Scientists then compared the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere and the average temperature for each location. They could see that when the carbon dioxide content went up, the average temperature also went up. Global warming is not a new thing, but how much human activity has affected the current warming is still unknown. What other factors might be involved is still pretty much conjecture.

Already we see some changes that the warming is producing with the melting of ice sheets and altered weather patterns. Not all of the changes are bad. Some places that have had a drought for a very long time are getting much-needed moisture. Fortunately, these changes are slow so that we can adapt. We can see the design of Earth to allow life to exist more clearly as the ice core data reveals its history.
–John N. Clayton © 2019

Data from Saturday Evening Post, January/February 2019, page 44.

Should Christians Care About Global Warming?

Should Christians Care About Global Warming?
Global warming has been an issue from a scientific perspective for at least 60 years. I remember discussions about it in my college classes at Indiana University many decades ago. In the last decade it has become a political issue and in the last few years a religious issue. There is so much bad information in the media that it is no wonder many people are confused about what is true and what is not true. Should Christians care about global warming?

Let us first point out that global warming and local heat are two different things. The heat wave that you may have experienced in the summer of 2018 in the United States is NOT what global warming is about. It may be hot where you are and very cold somewhere else. Global warming is just that–global. Data shows that the average temperature of the entire planet is rising. This is not the first time it has happened. The history of the planet shows periods of global cold and global heat. The causes of these changes are many and complex. Earth is a large planet with multiple factors involved in how its climatic systems work. Variations in the sun, volcanic eruptions, asteroid and comet collisions, and human activity all can affect climate.

Does climate affect human life? Of course it does. It always has, and with our increased population the effect will be greater. Jesus told his disciples, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars: see and do not be alarmed for all these things will come to pass but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom and there shall be famines and earthquakes in different parts of the world” (Matthew 24:6-7).

Is human life affecting climate and should Christians care about global warming? Genesis 2:15 tells us that God put humans in the garden of Eden “to dress it and keep it.” God expects us to take care of what He created, and we have not done a good job of it. When we mismanage God’s gift to us, there are always consequences. Man-made synthetics cause a large percentage of cancer. We are in an opioid crisis because of materials we take into our bodies that affect us in a variety of ways. Those of us who live in industrialized areas have seen the ecological disasters caused by human greed and selfishness. Several years ago, the Cuyahoga River in Ohio actually caught on fire. I have seen areas like Ducktown, Tennessee, and Sudbury, Ontario, decimated by pollution. Fortunately, people worked to clean up those places. Right now we have a crisis in our oceans because of the foolish disposal of plastics.

The global warming issue involves many factors, and human actions are certainly some of them. To what extent humans are responsible can be debated, but the question of rising temperatures globally cannot be debated. Christians can lead the world in helping relieve the consequences of “famines and earthquakes in different parts of the world.” If your belief system is “survival of the fittest,” you will not get involved, but that is not the worldview of Christians.

Jesus said, “Then shall the King say … Come you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was hungered and you gave me food to eat: I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink: I was a stranger and you took me in: naked and you clothed me: I was sick and you visited me…” (Matthew 25:34-38). Global warming may cause much suffering on our planet, whatever its cause. Should Christians care about global warming? Yes, and the followers of Jesus Christ will be there to relieve the pain.
–John N. Clayton © 2018