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Biology 101 for Meteorologists

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  • pawnfart
    Much of the controversy surrounding climate and human influence suffers from words that lack meaning--for instance, global warming . Even climate change
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 2, 2002
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      Much of the controversy surrounding climate and human influence
      suffers from words that lack meaning--for instance, "global warming".
      Even "climate change" misses it, because climate changes all the time-
      -this is only a truism. The crux of the debate is over human
      activity, and if this activity changes climate in such a way that is
      harmful, or that would prompt action to counter it. Phrases
      like "global warming is real" hurts the debate, IMHO. Therefore, I
      would define what human induced climate change means differently--it
      means that human activity has changed a natural feedback loop in
      climate and caused it to be substantially defective and harmful to
      human existence. It is the so-called "stimulas and response model".

      This is not a novel idea. It is a definition used to define disease
      and used even to define life in biological sciences. Life itself is
      difficult to distinguish from chemicals, so that defining life as
      chemicals that feedback surviving conditions of these chemicals is a
      terse way to describe what life is.

      This feedback loop definition is used to distinguish between "normal"
      variances. For instance, say that I am very tall. Tallness doesn't
      mean I have a disease, but it could. I could be so tall that no one
      thinks I am of normal height, yet I still may not have a disease
      relative to my height. I may be a giant--far out of the range of
      nature, yet free of disease. At the same time, I could have below
      average height and suffer from a growth hormone disorder, and since
      the body stimulus and response system isn't responding with the
      proper growth hormones, IOW, there is a defective feedback loop
      relative to height.

      The same logic applies to climate. The premise of a large block of
      the scientific community is that humans cause a defect in a feedback
      loop in climate and change it for the worse. They claim that high
      levels of human released "green house gases" are causing a defect in
      an important feedback loop of the earth's heat modulating system. The
      extent of the harm and the policy in response are also open to more
      strong debate, and often related to how one sees the first part of
      the question, and whose ox is getting gored. However, looking at
      feedback loops shifts attention from debating whether an event is
      normal or natural to whether there is a defect in the actual causal
      mechanisms, and from there it makes cost benefit decisions more
      logical.

      For instance, whether the large 1998 El Nino was normal, or whether
      96 feet of snow in Washington is out of a natural range of snowfall,
      or whether surface data really shows that 1998 was the warmest year
      in a millenium, and not "normal" or natural. Rather, the above
      definition shifts the debate to what are the feedback loops and what
      role do they play in climate. As the illness is defined, so may be
      the cure.

      My basic premise, within this biological framework, is Gaia theory--
      the earth as a living being capable of maintaining its temperature
      and chemistry. Just what this theory is has been defined by those who
      discovered it, and not all of it makes complete sense, IMHO. For
      instance, I don't really like the black daisy or white daisy analogy,
      because this implies more of the reflection and absorption
      limitations that has led to this issue getting thought about
      incompletely, and many have correctly described the feedbacks
      themselves as chaotic responses, not modulating ones.

      At the heart of Gaia theory is this idea that simple microbes have
      been controlling climate for their survival for at least 3 billion
      years. The sun, for instance, according to Carl Sagan and ignoring
      such cycles as Milankovitch, has increased the total amount of energy
      reaching the earth from a young sun to an older one by 25%. And yet
      the planet has remained with oceans neither boiled like Venus nor
      frozen like Mars. Chemistry has been maintained. For instance, CO2
      has never been over 1% of the total volume of air. Salinity and pH
      have been fairly maintained in the oceans. Temperatures never
      appeared in the geological record as too warm or cold. This has been
      accomplished, according to this theory, biologically.

      Some Gaia theory has been expressed by geologists think that the
      cooling was done initially by the interplay between methane producing
      microbes and methane consuming ones--by the mechanism as methane as a
      green house gas. Methane is, afterall, a green house gas 20 times
      more powerful then CO2 as a green house gas. Planet too cold? Methane
      is produced and it warms the earth. Planet too hot? Methane eating
      microbes consume the methane, and the earth cools. After photo
      bacteria evolved, oxygen was introduced to the earth. Initially,
      there was a lot of dissolved iron in the oceans, and that got rusted
      out, and eventually, the oxygen made it into the air, and soon
      methane would have been oxydized out of the air. So, how could the
      mechanism be maintained?

      Many think that this is the time that the earth went through its
      first ice age, because the black daisy green house gas methane was
      all gone. Part of the problem with this idea is that it looks at
      methane only as a green house gas, looks only at albedo, and does not
      look at the electrical processes that occur on earth--and how these
      EMF (electro magnetic fields) would move cirrus clouds and the albedo
      dynamics of clouds. This mechanism would certainly would do little
      for maintaining salinity and pH because all these modulations are
      global features due to these gases expanding away from their regions,
      whereas chemistry modulation would have to be regional to work.
      Further, the feedbacks themselves behave chaotically. IOW, if you
      track methane in the air in historically, it doesn't match what the
      record shows about the biosphere.

      At the heart of the Gaia feedback mechanisms today are methanogens.
      This MUST be true because they were the only types of microbes with
      an early earth. Methanogens make methane, and methane is used to make
      methane hydrates. They form only under high pressures and cold
      temperatures. Salinity, too, will impact how deep they form--so
      salinity itself is modulated by the biosphere. Ironically, where the
      hydrates form, they are too bouyant to stay there, so without
      something more involved, they will float up and melt. And they have
      to form with a concentration sufficient for the ice crystal to form.
      In lower concentrations or pressures, methane quickly dissolves into
      the waters. Methanogens, the microbe bacteria that makes this
      methane, early faced a sun that had strong UV light harmful to these
      cells, and later faced bioligical compitition from oxydizing microbes
      as to the "food" they were consuming. From early on some of the
      methanogens were forced into areas free of UV light and this
      competition, at the bottom of river beds or ocean bottoms.

      So, how do methanogens regulate climate? It turns out that methane
      hydrates are electricall insulating. When they melt, the methane
      dissolves in the oceans and is eaten by the biosphere and what little
      escapes to the air quickly gets oxydized and becomes part of an
      electically conductive process. Flow of current or no flow. They
      essentially work like myelin sheaths form nerves to enhance
      conductivity of the oceans. When patches of ocean contain methanogens
      with methane hydrates, that ocean is less conductive relative to
      patches of ocean that contain broken down methane--and this alters
      the electrical and magnetic character of the earth. These electrical
      currents go to the ocean surface like a charge plate on a capacitor
      and move cirrus clouds, thereby altering thier rain making and GHG
      ability. The earth's homeostasis is thus defined by methane hydrate's
      unique chemistry and relation to the electrical modulation of cirrus.

      We know a little about the future but if you plant a seed of a tree
      and provide generally conditions of growth you will have a tree on a
      defined timescale. If enough of what is climate is determined
      biologically, then climate itself is "determined" and not "chaotic"
      behaving. I submit, this IS the difference between weather and
      climate. It is why you cannot tell weather it will rain on you in
      the next hour but you can own an almanac that makes very accurate
      predictions about next year's climate in a specific area.

      How do we distinguish between chaotic stimulus and regulated, or
      modulated response? This is a difficult question, in my view. There
      is a like difficult question from the world of health sciences--
      looking at a person for what lung cell, for instance, will be
      cancerous from smoking. No Doctor can tell in advance WHICH cell will
      have 7 or 8 mutations, or what smoke particle will cause the
      individual mutations. Thus, chaos is not out of the picture, but to
      talk about chaos without biology is like talking about math without
      numbers.

      In order to talk intelligently about whether something meaningfully
      changes or effects something in a predictable manner, then, you have
      to understand the biology, and modulation is evolving from what
      chaotic stimulus, and how both modulation and stimulus can change
      over time. Some who talk about Gaia theory consider it a negative
      feedback--often this thinking stems the traditional "daisyland"
      theory. Gaia and methanogens began, I think, as a POSITIVE feedback.
      Now I realize that positive feedbacks are rare, but that is what
      methanogens initially did. By insulating oceans in the places where
      EMF activity was occurring and cirrus behavior was modulated, in the
      region where the insulation occurred, this caused increased
      hydrology, detritus flow, increased UV protection, and increased
      warmth on an earth with a colder sun.

      There are many chaotic inputs that must be modulated by this
      insulation, this alted impedance, if you will, in the oceans.
      Depending on magnetic pole orientation, current directions, and so
      forth, the EMFs vary. This just meant that as poles and currents
      shifted, so did the biosphere.

      Even the ice sheets come to play as the absence of Gaia, because if
      precip from enhancement goes to make ice rather than making rain and
      increasing hydrology, there is less detritus, and the feedback is
      AWAY FROM MAKING MORE ICE. The creation of the glaciers, for
      instance, tend to last a very short period of time compared to long
      dry conditions of glacials! Ice also has EMF properties!

      I herein quote from Second Ed. James Darnell, Harvey Lodish, and
      David Baltimore. Sciam Books Wh Freeman and Co, NY. page 1063-7:

      [b]"A Reconstrutive Analysis of Cell Lineages"[/b]

      <tt>Discussion about precellular chemistry may forever remain
      speculative. But what about using he techniques of paleotologists,
      that is fossil studies, to investigate the first cells? Fossilized
      spherical objects discovered in Austrilia and South Africa in
      sedimentary rock formations that are 3-3.5 billion years old are
      widely interpreted to be remains of cells. Hoever, the basis for
      indentifying thes imprints as those of microorganisms is entirely
      morphologic. The sizes and shapes of of the "micro-fossils" are
      similar to those of present day cyanobacteria. Some of the structures
      are doublets, possibly indicating cell division. The most convincing
      reason for identifying these impressions in ancient rocks as fossils
      of microorganisms is that very similar structures called [i]
      stromatolites[/i] are being laid down today in sedimentary rock
      formations where ocean sediments preciptates around colonies of
      cyanobacteria and other bacteria. The current estimate of the earths
      age is 4.5 billion years years; if the ancient stromatolites were in
      fact living cells 3-3.5 billion years ago, they must have been among
      the earliest cells. </tt>

      This block quote is from an old Microbiology text. I use it as an
      introduction to the biology of weather. Imagine the incredible
      evolutionary leap that the first real cell made. Think of all the
      chemicals that must be required for replicating life. And at the
      same time, think of how chemicals want to spread out, away from each
      other. It would have been a real problem for early life. Then comes
      a cell, and the chemicals required for life could have been stored
      for use. It would have been a highy favored feature--this
      containment.

      Recently, I have been reading books on local geology on the Pacific
      Northwest. The ocean plates subduct along the coast under the land
      and biological material that had accumulated on the ocean bottom is
      scrapped off the subducting plate and builds coastal mountains.
      Consider the entire earth of many kinds of chemicals. Wouldn't life
      benefit if, like the cell, it could contain or some how control what
      had previously been used for life to be used again--that weathering
      occurred in such away as to favor the earth's biology?

      Living earth paleo climate is an area of study to confirm just how
      Gaia works, and I come from a biological perspective to help those in
      meteorology and climatology without a biological background to help
      them get this perspective. It leads to a number of conclusions in
      areas were such thoughts would have been previously thought of as
      speculation and unfounded assumptions.

      I don't want to get into the more controversial aspect of paleo
      biology--abiogenesis. So, we don't confuse things here I will define
      abiogenesis as "the process by which the first replicators that led
      to nucleic acid based self-replicating cell". I am not sure I even
      like the definition, because I think you have to go way back pre-cell
      to get to the defining processes such as what was thus produced
      avoids the problem of random probabilities making a first life not
      realistic. And I agree with the above text book quote that "[d]
      iscusion about precellular chemistry may forever remain
      speculative."

      That said, I think that genetics of creatures Archae provide proof of
      a living earth--what has been coined Gaia earth by Lovelock. This
      living earth evolved AFTER any, if at all, abiogenesis took place, so
      I am avoiding that controversy. While discussing this to the hard
      core physical scientist could be about as productive as using DNA
      evidence on the OJ jury (and damn near impossible to talk about with
      a Fundimentalist who thinks the earth is 7,000 years old), this
      discussion, too, may be controversial, but I am going to try to be
      conservative about what I am writing so that the topic itself is
      supported by supported but related science.

      Part of the controversy that has previously existed with Gaia theory
      is in how Gaia was originally defined and discussed in terms of CO2
      as THE forcing. As it turns out, this is false. If we assume what
      the so-called climate skeptics or CO2 as a green house gas warmers
      say is true, then climate is global and should have random features
      which will not drive genetic differences in a particular manner. In a
      way, it is much like the first life coming together randomly is not
      probabalistic arguement. The debate from either of these opposing
      camps is endless.

      Gaia as I explain it is about EMFs and cirrus and biological
      feedbacks enhancing hydrology to its benefit, and there are, it
      follows, very peculiar things one would predict about the symbiotic
      relationships between the Archae, which is thought to be the closest
      genetically to the first cellular life, the so-called "progenote",
      which can be confirmed by the genetics of these Archae. Before Gaia
      evolved, it would follow that mostly climate will be about life
      surviving extremes and about genetic complexity to do so. That makes
      Archae relevant because they are able to survive extremes--for this
      they evolved features of survival, YET now they lack genetic evolving
      complexity. Which is a good way of saying that they appear to have
      first EVOLVED with complexity in extreme climate BUT THEN didn't have
      to evolve anymore--once they became fundimental to Gaia--their
      genetics indicate an "after the chaotic weather/climate" kind of
      requirement simply for reproductive efficiency rather than
      adaptability.

      All life is now presently classified under the headings of eukaryotes
      or complex creatures to include humans, bacterias, and Archae
      bacteria. Within Archae--there are three main branches. The only
      intron (an intron has no present genetic purpose, but rather it is
      DNA which increases the ability of a creature to evolve
      mathematically with more complexity) found so far was in the
      sulfur "branch" and one scholar for this reason and a few others (we
      are talking paleo biology via genetic analaysis) wants to put these
      sulfur extremophiles in a new group. So, he would say there are four
      headings, Eukaryotes or complex creatures to include humans,
      bacterias, methane making and salt loving extremophiles, and the
      sulfur loving extremophiles. According to G.J. Olsen's work, the salt
      loving extremophiles are more related to the methanogens but also
      distant. Bacteria and complex life are very very distant. The very
      closet example to the "progenote" (progenote=common anscestor to all
      cellular life), with the least amount of mutations of methanococcus I
      found some references to methane making in marshes and eustury and
      oceans! See:

      http://www.offshore-environment.com/naturalgas.html

      Once methanogens evolved the electrical insulation dynamic of
      modulating cirrus they ALSO WOULD CREATE MODULATION GOING THE OTHER
      WAY OF FEEDBACKS OF DRY CONDITIONS!!!!! Therefore, salt loving Archae
      retained a symbiotic relationship with the methanogens and didn't
      have to evolve with as much complexity. OTOH, if the process of
      climate was NOT modulated, again, as suggested often by those in the
      physical sciences who have strong backgrounds in chaos theory, there
      would be no genetic reason for the salt loving Archae to evolve
      complexity in their genetics--to be able to survive the whims of
      unmodulated chemistry. Here is the kicker. Highly saline bodies of
      water are going to have peculiar EMF features. Namely, while they
      won't make good sources of outgoing electrons, with the right
      inducting wind they can be very strong electron acceptors and be a
      source for dry lines of Doran waves. I don't want to get into the
      details of this, because it is complex and controversial, just as the
      Lindzen cirrus work is vexing. But, it is enough to say that EMFs
      offer a plausable modulating feature, and that the genetics of basic
      life reflect this. It's just like we don't have a photo of OJ
      killing his ex wife, but that DNA evidence is pretty strong stuff
      that he was there and BLEEDING.

      Further, sulfur loving extremophiles start to have to evolve some
      complexity, but they too have a more distant symbiotic connection.
      Let's see if I can describe it. This one goes more to tectonics and
      carbon cycling. Just like there is a difference between an age where
      sweet crude (without sulfur) and clean coal are produced, the Gaia
      feedbacks of weathering would cause modulation to be dependant on the
      biological conditions toward CO2 and H2 that the methanogens
      metabolize to make methane. This would cause a volcanic pacing from
      weathering rates (more CO2 means more carbonic acid means more
      weather and so forth), but it could be done, and here is the key,
      somewhat INDEPENDANT of sulfur emissions.

      That said, volcanic activity carries an electrical feature in that
      molten material is more conductive. Hence, weathering processes from
      tectonics can be enhanced by volcanic activity. Sulfur itself
      increases weathering by the acidity, but that impact would not be
      local. It would also have an obvious pH impact on the oceans where
      if flowed to. Therefore, the sulfur extremophiles required to evolve
      with complexity and could not just evolve to efficiency like the salt
      loving and methanogenic extremophiles could--but the electrical
      connection to the volcanoes has been sufficient to find genetic
      closeness.

      Putting this together relative to climate change it is very STRONG
      circumstantial evidence of regional modulation of cirrus by
      electrical fields and variable resistance of the hydrate fields . .

      In the wake of Crick and Watson's work on DNA, it becomes difficult
      to distinguish between life and non-life. The reason feedback loops
      are interesting in this context is that it helps to define the
      symbiotic relationship man should have with the biosphere in order to
      survive himself, as well as the evolutionary context of Gaia and how
      just looking at the relationships we see in genes with life that
      exists now we can tell a great deal about climate over the timescales
      that are meaningful. To me, for instance, a glacier on a mountain is
      LIFE! That is because to me that ice is part of living feedback loops
      and hydrology.

      If feedback loops overlap and are in conflict, or not symbiotic, then
      that genetic aspect will not be expressed as that part of the
      biosphere which lost out. The research by Olsen et al research (tree
      of life mapping by genes) about the archae-the methanogens, salt
      lovers--haliophiles, and sulfur loving archae has shown is genetic
      distance that indicates degree of symbiotic relationships that MUST
      exist given the MASSIVE timescales between life that is genetically
      close.

      There are fields of hydrates and areas in the ocean of biological
      activity. There are prevailing currents and places where up welling
      occurs, where a food chain starts and rots. That these fields have
      mil timescale of substantial variability. And then there is the idea
      of pH and O2 content in the "dead zone". All modulated.

      Genetic complexity has been found it has been with the methanogens
      has been over metabolic processes that guess what--always end with H2
      and CO2 forming CH4. Again, there IS complexity in the methanogens
      and enzyme activity--but related to metabolism. That metabolism is a
      basic unit of life on this planet upon which all other life is
      dependant. There IS NOT complexity to, say, cause photo synthesis.
      Or to sexually reproduce. That is because the methane producing
      activity is at the bottom of the metabolic food chain, it requires
      that there BE a metabolic food chain to exist for ALL life to survive-
      -and that means rapid change will come from other creatures--they
      will be the ones that HAVE to evolve rapidly in order to exist. For
      if basic Gaia life does not feedback the hydrology to the places an
      and other creatures where this chain can exist, with links that
      interconnect, then they themselves perish and those conditions which
      do not favor the food chain are less favored as well.

      There is more bio-chemistry that is fundimental to Gaia as well. For
      instance, ATP is H2 based. That is one example of the tie in to
      metabolism where life as a whole has evolved to match the sum of its
      parts.

      Now, that means that just PRIOR to Gaia evolving these large scale
      feedbacks, the earth had a MUCH greater chaotic or unmodulated
      climate to deal with. Hence, the progenote probably faced climate
      that was often extreme, and not only from a temperature standpoint,
      but also from the standpoint of chemical and EMF stability. A cell
      wall would have not only benefitted the progenote from the standpoint
      of keeping the required elements together, but also to protect it
      from the extremes it surely faced. I also suspect that the extremes
      of climate, chemistry and EMFs quickened the process of selection pre-
      cellular and up to the point where these climate modulating processes
      began.

      As more complex forms of life evolved, special roles where
      undertaken. For instance, both a cow and a dinosaur will eat
      greenery that could become a fire hazard during a dry period, and
      then deposits feces which is more of slow burn yet still becomes part
      of the hydrology. A fire would, OTOH, disburse the CO2 and other
      life sustaining chemicals randomly in the atmosphere--not useful for
      local modulation.

      Compare that cow, and the ability of it to move and look for other
      plants, and the fact that plants have no brains. Indeed, they
      haven't evovled much by way of poisons, really, to PREVENT being
      eaten. Why? Indeed, the only real brains required of a a plant is
      hydrology. Water. In exchange for what plants do, which is to
      remove the chemicals required for life from the soil and air, and put
      them in a place that can be delt with as part of hydrology feedbacks
      of Gaia, Gaia feeds back life to the plants. So, if there were to
      evolve a creature that caused deforestation, in the past the whole
      region suffered from poor Gaia feedbacks, and the entire echo system
      dies--so there could never be much of a rival of plants, nor was
      there ever a reason for them to develope a nervious system!
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