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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Denier weirdness: "OMG it's insects" is back at WUWT - this time it's earth's central core nuclear reactor!

Sou | 6:13 AM Go to the first of 23 comments. Add a comment

I'm slipping. I nearly missed a WUWT article by our old friend Ronald D Voisin, of OMG it's insects fame and who has advocated killing off insects and mammals to mitigate global warming. I only noticed it because of a tweet by Chris Colose retweeted by Michael Mann.

Earth's central-core nuclear reactor

This time Ronald has a new theory about what causes global warming and cooling (archived here). It's changes in the core of the earth.

Ronald doesn't use one word where a dozen would suffice. I'll try to distil his theory down to its essence.

  1. There is a "central core nuclear reactor" (in the centre of earth) powered by thorium and uranium.
  2. The centre core of earth has "weather patterns". These patterns cause the material in the centre core to expand and contract, thereby causing ice ages AND continental drift.
  3. When it expands it cools and the "rate of reaction kinetics drops significantly (as would the rate of continental drift and the frequency of earthquake/volcanic activity)".
  4. Most of the time the reactor is in a cooler state, hence glaciations.
  5. For short periods (interglacials), "reaction kinetics" take off because of "gravitational precipitation" 
  6. The icing on the cake is that "the rate of sub-oceanic crust formation (and the rate of continental drift) should correlate well to major climate transitions"!!

Ronald is quite excited about the possibilities this opens up for new research. He writes:
To my knowledge, no attempt has been made to establish this type of correlation (continental drift rate, or crust creation rate, to major climate changes)  but it might likely be possible; and it would provide compelling evidence to the hypothesis of central-core reactor-variability as the primary cause of major climate transitions. Additionally, the size and shape of the temporal shift would provide great insight into all manner of thermal dynamics from the center to the crust.

He also says we're overdue for a major glaciation, which might start very soon, because:
This Earth has spent >11,000 years in this current major thermal upswing (more likely 18-20ky depending how you look at it). On average the Earth spends ~90,000 years glaciated, then 6,000-15,000 years interglacial, before dropping back to ~90,000 more years of glaciation. This cycle has repeated itself for about a million years for sure, and quite possibly very much longer. So it is a stark fact that we are overdue for the next fall to major glaciation.
We have no idea as to exactly when this will occur, as we don’t yet know what even causes these major swings. It could be 500 or 1,000 years in front of us – somewhat unlikely. It could be that the next fall to glaciation is about to start – we just do not yet know.  

Actually we do yet know. I've written about this a few times already. The next ice age isn't due for another 50,000 years or so.

Anthony Watts isn't sure about this - maybe so, maybe not...

Anthony Watts thinks he gave himself an "out" writing:
[Note: This essay discusses a theory that some people might consider as impossible, and it may very well be, even though there is some support for the idea that continental position plays a role in major ice ages. As seen below, Milankovitch cycles resulting in insolation variance is a leading theory that seems much more plausible as a driver than the one proposed by Voisin below. However, exposing such ideas to open discussion is the surest way to sort out the possible from the impossible, and Mr. Voisin expects such challenges. So, beat it up, and let's see what is left.  - Anthony]
So he's not sure whether this article is worthy of his blog.  The answer is, of course, yes it is. It epitomises the crank science churned out at WUWT. What's strange this time around is that so many readers are willing to entertain the notion, or to dismiss it but not on the grounds of the most obvious reasons. I'd have expected an outcry along the lines of "you're making us a laughing stock"! But no, except for one or two rare comments.

From the WUWT comments - in favour or at least willing to entertain the notion

aaron says:
April 25, 2014 at 8:06 am
Could be that this affects the amount of heat the deep ocean takes away from the surface with arrangment of continents also affecting ocean mixing.

dp says:
April 24, 2014 at 8:54 am
If you further assume the various layers of the core are non-spherical geometric shapes and play that against the fact that the rotational speed of the core and the rotational speed of the Earth’s surface are quite different you then have a stirring mechanism. The viscosity of the deep mantle cannot possibly be uniform, so you have widely varying velocities of radioactive hot mud down there. This could be the energy transport mechanism and a cyclic driver fed by a nuclear furnace. I think I’ve included enough weasel words to protect my reputation. 

Steve Keohane says anything goes, as long as it's not CO2:
April 24, 2014 at 8:59 am
Thank you sir, very interesting, need to go over it again. It has always seemed obvious something kicked the earth out of its glacial state, and it wasn’t CO2.
I too am a photo-lithography refugee, worked for a couple of start-ups in the 70s and settled at HP, retiring in 1992. Some exciting times on the frontiers of materials and lenses’ imaging capabilities leading to SEMATECH in the late 80s.

Gordon Ford says:
April 24, 2014 at 9:18 am
Might there also be a chemical signature, an isotope signature or a radioactive element signature? Analysis of Iceland basalts may provide the key parameter. 

Col Mosby says:
April 24, 2014 at 9:22 am
The theory does explain a lot that current CO2 driven climate theory has problems with (probably unresolvable ones at that). The mechanics of a core nuclear reaction seem plausible enough, so
I’d say the ball is now in the other court. Now let’s see if anyone can shred that seeming plausibility.
It would be ironic if we could irrefutably show that not only is CO2 the basis for life (easily done)
but that nuclear power is the basis for our pleasant climate. Cherish carbon and nuclear power : heads should be exploding all over the place.

timspence10 says:
April 24, 2014 at 10:57 am
I liked this a lot, lots of clear thinking and Ronald is ‘warm’ on this. I always believed that electromagnetic fields influence the high and low pressure zones that give us consistent or inconsistent long term weather patterns, that’s all climate is.

gloccamorra says:
April 24, 2014 at 11:03 am
I can’t think of a more interesting theory, or one harder to measure/prove. I don’t worry about volcanoes cooling the earth instead of warming it. Undersea volcanoes and vents can warm the oceans enough to end an ice age. The 100k-110k year timing is close to the sun’s 11 year cycle times 1000, with interglacials equivalent to sunspot peaks, so could there be a synchronicity, putting the sun back into the equation? 

From the WUWT comments - against

Ted Vaughn says:
April 25, 2014 at 8:06 am
One of the most ridiculous explanations for why and how the climate changes that I have ever come across. Not worthy for this web-site.

Curious George says:
April 24, 2014 at 9:07 am
Two numbers: The heat flow from the Earth’s interior is currently estimated at 90 mW / m2. The insolation (the energy flow from the Sun) is measured at 1320-1410 W / m2 – it varies along the Earth’s elliptical orbit. The ration is of order 1:10,000. 

Keith Willshaw says:
April 24, 2014 at 11:03 am
I don’t buy this. The other elements in the earths core simply absorb too many neutrons to make such a reaction feasible. Maintaining a self sustaining reaction with natural uranium requires some very clever engineering. In the past when a greater percentage was fissile there were some natural reactors on the earths surface in the Oklo region of Africa but that was 1.7 billion years ago. 

From the WUWT comments - probably against, but I can't tell for sure

Roy Spencer says (yeah, I don't really believe he entertains the idea, either):
April 24, 2014 at 9:12 am
This is the craziest idea I have seen advanced since continental drift. ;-) Well-written, too, BTW. 

Willis Eschenbach says:
April 24, 2014 at 9:19 am
There’s a discussion of this idea from 2002 here … the theory doesn’t seem to have gained much traction in the interim. The theory originated with a man named Herndon, who first published a piece about it in 1993.
Although it is certainly possible that Herndon is right, the theory has been out there for about twenty years at this point. Usually (but assuredly not always) if a scientific idea hasn’t gained supporters after a couple of decades, it’s because there’s something wrong with it.
Finally, I didn’t see any numbers regarding the amount of geothermal heat that reaches the surface, regardless of its source. Whether the core is nuclear or just plain old hot, the heat needs to make it to the surface to affect the weather. I’ve run the numbers on how much heat that is, and I always get answers in the tenths or hundredths of a watt per square metre. Which makes sense, if there was a lot of heat coming out from the ground, we wouldn’t need to heat our houses, and the snow would melt from the bottom up …
So while it’s an interesting exercise, I fear I don’t see any data to back it up.
Best regards,

From the WUWT comments - irrelevant

Arno Arrak is hopeless at history, among other things, and says:
April 24, 2014 at 10:17 am
You are beating a dead horse when it comes to the role of carbon dioxide. That is because carbon dioxide demonstrably has no role in present day global warming. That entire doctrine started when Hansen claimed in 1988 that greenhouse effect (actually enhanced greenhouse effect but they don’t like to spell that out) has been detected. He was wrong of course because he included the early century warming (1910 to 1940) as part of his proof of the existence of global warming. Carbon dioxide as a cause of this early warming is excluded by the fact that there was no simultaneous increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide in 1910 and because carbon dioxide was not removed from the atmosphere in 1940. Since clearly Hansen did not detect greenhouse warming in 1988, and neither did anyone else since then, the entire global warming establishment has been venerating the emperor’s new clothes since then. It will take a little child to point that out to them. Or someone not blinded by the one billion dollars a day this scam is producing world-wide for THE CAUSE. 

There is a heap of other comments at WUWT. I didn't necessarily pick out the biggest beauties because I couldn't be bothered reading them all.  WUWT is sinking into utter nuttery again.


  1. Ahh, Arno Arrak, I own a copy of his book, whose reviews show the usual bimodal distribution of 5-stars and 1-star. I keep it on the separate shelves where I don't let science books go.

    1. Wouldn't want the science books to die laughing now, would we?

  2. The WUWT wingnuttery seems to be growing. The other trend seems to be for a lead post based around the misinterpretation of a single out-of-context sentence from the abstract of a legitimate paper. Naturally, few if any of the commenters who rush in bother to read the abstracts carefully, let alone read the papers themselves.

    1. I have reason to believe the increase in wingnuttery is deliberate. It's about discrediting the deniers - what better way than to do it from the inside?

  3. Didn't other deniers claimed that it might be a heretofore-unknow, and somehow undetected magnetic field effect, that was bringing megajoules of heat energy into the climate system ?
    That's an explanation that's just as good as blaming climate change on some invisible gas that would exist in tiny concentrations in the air, something called CO2.

  4. I like the comment from Roy Spencer that you pointed out. It really is a crazy theory, but can it be completely refuted with what we currently know? While you poke fun at his theory and the commenters on WUT's blog post, do you have a definitive science based argument that would totally refute this crazy theory? There are some odd people that commented at WUT's, maybe he should moderate more of the comments.

    1. The main objection to his "earth is warmed from inside out - not the sun and atmosphere" is simple. These lecture notes might help in part. This page shows that ocean temperature decreases with depth. The oceans warm from the top down not the bottom up.

      CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Greenhouse gases are what keep earth warm. This brochure gives some information about that.

      There is more "wrong" with it but that should get you started in thinking about it. If you want more hints or some tips on how to DYOR, let us know. One of the research scientists or informed science lovers who read HW will probably be happy to help.

      In regard to the interior of earth, it is very hot (~4000 K in the centre). Here is some recent research on the mantle.

      Earth's interior is still being explored (eg here and here). The people who study it are few and there isn't nearly as much information about it on the internet as there is for climate. Seems to me that the information is scattered throughout and not all that accessible to the general public. Might be a good project for someone.

      The basics are well accepted - structure, general composition etc. However new discoveries are being made all the time - such as water in the mantle; and how the inner core speeds up and slows down out of sync with the crust. And new techniques for mapping the interior of earth seem to pop up from time to time.

    2. Can you refute the theory that there is a giant pixie at the earth's core? The key here is that it is not enough to simply make shit up. Plate tectonics fitted a myriad of observations and filled in a gap in geologist's understanding of the Earth's history. Whereas this is just any old crap that is convenient to the fossil fuel industry.

    3. Millicent I doubt the fossil fuel industry would adopt Ronald's notion. These companies want to maintain some decorum :)

      Ronald D. Voisin is a one-man band AFAIK. It looks as if he has a vivid imagination but isn't capable of merging his imagination with facts in any sensible way. He is also a "very serious person".

      Industrious pixies might be his next idea :)

    4. "Plate tectonics fitted a myriad of observations and filled in a gap in geologist's understanding of the Earth's history."

      And showed the Wegener's proposed mechanism of Continental Drift was wrong (the observed fit of the continents: correct, the mechanism he proposed: physically impossible).

  5. @Anonymous I suggest reading Curious George's harvested comment.

  6. I wonder what observations would be needed to falsify this theory in Voisin's opinion? It may be a theory, but is it science?

  7. Anthony, I did read Curious' comment Sou posted above. However, isn't the average insolation at the earth's surface 250 W/m^2?

    1. Net solar is around 240 W/m^2. But if you compare it to 0.09 W/m^2 from geothermal heat flow, that's rather a big difference.

    2. Reference for geothermal:

      Reference for solar:

  8. Also, I'm surprised Voisin didn't throw in the abiogenic petroleum creationism hypothesis into his postulation. Didn't read Voisin's rant at WUT's, but would assume Sou would point it out in her post if he did.

    1. No, his article was mainly about what goes on beneath the crust. I've come across people like Ronald in real life who like to explore ideas (in astronomy and theoretical physics for example). But the people I know check back with reality, most of the time, eventually :D

    2. Sou, isn't abiogenic petroleum theory based on being below the crust?

    3. Oh, is it? I'd never really looked into it. And yes, I've just checked and you're right.

      I've learnt something new today. Nice :)

      (Note: changed the link)

  9. I'm slipping too - I missed this thread the first time 'round, and was only alerted when I heard about it in the staff tea room earlier today.

    As for the wingnuttery that is the subject of this thread, one can only despair for the future of the human gene pool if it has these numpties with such notions swimming in it...

  10. “I love eating meat, but I love our planet even more. So I will join this campaign and stop eating meat at least one day each week.” —Richard Branson, Support Meat-Free Monday web site
    Cracked or what? The guy runs an airline for chrisake!
    Seems there are no end of lunatics out there

      At least they don't deny what causes climate change and are willing to make a real effort to reduce their impact.

      Note in particular:
      "Travel Profits - Sir Richard Branson has committed all of his profits from the Virgin Group’s transport interests, including Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Trains, over the next 10 years. The funds will be invested in schemes to develop new renewable technologies, through an investment group called Virgin Fuels."

  11. This is like a bad parody of the well-understood process whereby global climate on long time scales really is controlled by the plate tectonic cycle of joinings and splittings of the continents, which determines natural levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. At maximum continental dispersal, basically where we're at now, CO2 is at a minimum. Interestingly the expected first sign of the reversal, the formation of a new subduction zone in the Atlantic, was recently confirmed off Portugal, although overall Atlantic spreading will continue for several million years. After that, as the continents creep toward a new joining, CO2 levels will rise again and eventually put an end to the Neogene ice epoch.


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