Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The clathrate gun goes off.

The last few months I have seen a lot of articles about the permafrost craters, the subsea methane hydrate release plumes, and the high methane concentrations in parts of the arctic atmosphere. So, have we reached a tipping point? Is this really the clathrate gun going off? Of course, being hyperactive apes with very short attention spans, it just doesn't register on us as an event, or the threat it is. Geologic events have a pace we just don't see in our three score and ten, and are more apt to be of note to Ents and bristlecone pines.

At this point, climate change is probably baked in, but the rate might still be subject to some ability to affect. Unfortunately, we are pretty much doing everything to affect it in a bad way. Apart from spewing combustion products, clearcutting the tropical rain forests pretty much seals the deal. Deforestation rates in the Amazon, after slowing for several years, have spiked higher, mostly due to shifts in Brazil politics. Everyone is trying to make money NOW. There goes roughly 20% of the worlds oxygen production.

I'm not going to dwell on it or get depressed.  After all, can't do much, but I do plan to do what I can. I have been thinking lately that I will add a biochar retort to my project list, and when clearing prickly ash to transition to oaks and maples, use some of this brush to make biochar. And of course, years down the road, once the nut trees are needing trimming, pollarding, cutting out dead ones, they can run through the retort as well.

It would be great if worldwide biochar production ramped up like Albert Bates and others suggest. I don't see that happening, but I will give it a shot, and get some soil amendment to boot.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Reverse stratification and wood heat

Well, the cold snap right now has slowed down doing any work outside, and not until this spring will we have any livestock that needs daily tending. No cabin fever yet, but we've been doing a lot of reading. 

Our house is actually rather large, with three bedrooms upstairs, and an open plan kitchen, dining, living room space on the first floor. A spiral stair connects the two floors.

I'm really feeding the Russian wood stove ( also called furnace or oven) today, and noting how the house reacts to the cold. This is our first full winter actually living here, so learning a bit. Our Russian furnace captures a lot of the heat from the fire, and slowly releases it for many hours. So far, I've been keeping a fire going for 4-5 hours, then let it burn out in early evening, and shutting the damper. The bricks are still heating the house and nice to lean against the next morning, but this snap has the secondary heat source kicking on some. I fed the fire for six hours today.

We also have a small, high efficiency boiler feeding in floor heating in the concrete slab floor. So no forced air to move heat around. The thermostat on the in floor loops is set at 63F, and the wood heat has kept us just above that till now. Cool, but comfortable. So normally I'd expect the heat to rise and warm the upstairs, but that's not happening. Upstairs is now down to 53F. Now, we like a cool sleeping quarters, with a good comforter and a couple blankets, and we are fine, but that is getting pretty brisk if you aren't tucked in bed.

Air normally stratifies so that warmer air goes up, cool air goes down, and in the absence of fan circulation, stays that way. I'm just surprised that the stairway does not seem to let the two air masses switch places. Actually, this is a good thing, since I'd hate to heat the full upstairs when we spend the great majority of our time down stairs, and like the bedroom cool anyway. 

The other variable affecting wood use and room temperature is the sunroom that extends the full length of the south side of the house. Even if below zero outside, if the sun is out, the sunroom warms up, and sun also extends into the house through the many large windows between the sunroom and the living space. This really helps warm the house. Well, the sun was not out that much today, so it definitely felt chillier than normal. One project on the list is to build thermal blinds for the sunroom windows that we could shut at night, but that item is low priority for now.

I posted a photo of our Russian furnace a long time ago, so here is a link.   the Russian furnace

So, let's hope the firewood holds out till spring.