Saturday, October 24, 2009

Let's Review....

Let's review where this whole debate is at:

1) Let's first note that it really doesn't matter whether the hockey stick shows that the late 20th century is warmer than any period in proxied history.

That's because climate today cannot be compared to climate then. Today's climate is subject to new, anthropogenic forcings that did not exist 1000 years ago. It's like comparing apples to oranges, and it has always been like comparing apples to oranges.

What really matters are today's forcings, and not those of a millenia ago.

2) Still, if you want to go there, we have been through years of suggestions (false, but suggestions) that PCA analysis is flawed and is statistically flawed. I have yet to have any real scientist tell me this, and everybody I've ever asked dismisses the M&M critique. In fact, nearly a dozen other independent analyses have found the same result.

The Tingley & Huybers result shows that the even a completely independent analysis shows the same result.

3) Now that skeptics have lost that front, we're supposed to believe that, no, it's the data that is flawed. The Yamal controversy, we know now, was manufactured all along, and in any case a few trees on a far northern peninsula could never have much of an effect on the conclusions.

Science is not about "auditing," and it has never been about auditing. It's about replication. IF skeptics like McIntyre want to be taken seriously, they need to go out and collect their own data, instead of writing endless letters to government officials complaining that someone won't play nice with them.

Of course, they never do that. They don't even try and apply for grants and explain why it's (purportedly) necessary. It's much easier to sit in your warm house in Toronto and send email all over the world than put your boots on and get to work.

And even if they could find no problems with the data, you can be sure that they would find plenty of other reasons to complain about it. After spending 8 years demanding that scientists give them their personal calendars, they would start dismissing any data taken on a Monday or Friday, because, you know, scientists were in a hurry to get back to their tents and make satellite calls home. Tuesday data would be rejected because the scientists ate chili that night, and we all know what that does to the intestinal tract.

On Thursdays, the phase of the moon was wrong.

There is, of course, no end to it, ever. That's important, because it's the first clue that ought to set off your bullshit detector, if you are intellectual honest.

And the reason, of course, is that none of the complaints are about science, or science would recognize them. (There has never been a contrary scientific idea in history -- ever -- that did not prevail -- and sooner rather than later -- because scientists are the ultimate skeptics and the scientific method promotes that.) It is, instead, about applying a Drudge-like approach to creating doubt by every and any means necessary.

Friday, October 23, 2009


You know, if there is a better accent in this world than Irish or Scottish (speaking English), I have yet to encounter it. No matter what anyone has ever said to me in either of these dialects, I have never taken it harshly, or thought the speaker might be twisting me, or anything like that -- even if they were (and, surely, sometimes they were). It always seems out of the Old Worlde, innocent and pure, as if they are still plowing the dales with bright green grass or staring in an Irish Spring soap commercial. (Yes, I know that's ridiculous.) The Irish guys I knew in graduate school (and, if you're an undergraduate reading this, a full half the reason you should go to graduate school is to expose yourself to people from other countries, especially if you're a cloistered American) were all universally loved, even if their personal hygiene was not always up to American standards. They just had the knack. I've always wanted to have that knack, but I've never had it, and I never will. I should forget about it, but such fantasies die hard.

Me, on summer vacation near the end of my graduate education, with my grandparents in Pennsylvania:

Press Release of the Day

Via Eurekalert:
Tsunami evacuation buildings: another way to save lives in the Pacific Northwest

"Unless we do this, we will have lots of people dying in a tsunami," Wang says. "That's not how we want our people to die."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More on this New Result

Let's be clear: this Tingley/Huybers paper is a proof-of-principle of an entirely new method of reconstructing past climate. It is not intended to be a "confirmation" of the MBH hockey stick, which Martin Tingley was very clear to tell me, though the preliminary results obtained so far have many similar features. Nor is it intended to solve every problem in the field of paleoclimatology, let alone purported problems in the data. (From my reporting, I think scientists believe that that data is pretty good, though data in any scientific field can _always_ be improved, and _is_ always being improved). In any case, this new result ought to, I think, damp criticism that the PCA approach was somehow unsound or flawed, as some have implied.

By the way, I asked Wegman for his thoughts on this new method, but he did not respond.

There's Still a Blade

I have an article in the November issue of Scientific American, "Still Hotter Than Ever," that I think is important. It's about a new mathematical method by Martin Tingley and Peter Huybers that reconstructs past temperatures from proxy data, using a Bayesian statistics approach rather than the traditional principal component analysis. Calculating up until the year 2000, it finds... a hockey stick-like result.
Focusing on 600 years of proxy data between 45 and 85 degrees north latitude, Tingley's initial result...finds that the 1990s were the warmest decade of the period and that 1995 was the warmest year.... He also found that the 20th century had the largest rate of warming of any century and that the 1600s had the largest rate of change overall...albeit in the cooling direction due to the Little Ice Age.
It's not a "confirmation" of the hockey stick per se, but a completely different method that points to a very similar result.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


This op-ed says that the fossil fuel industry is spending $300,000/day lobbying Congress.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another Meaningless Dust-up

This week's climate dust-up is apparently about something Joseph Romm said about what Ken Caldiera didn't really say about something the new book SuperFreakonomics wrote and whether that means global warming skeptics rape children in the name of the devil or whether those who support the hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change serve in the name of the Lord and actually channel arrows of goodness into the dark, evil heart of the universe.

Blah, blah, blah. I can't get interested anymore, it is getting so ridiculous -- "I didn't say this about what he said I said, and they said you didn't say that, but she did and since she once said that about him it's clear you think he meant this."

It's worse than a soap-opera, and why are you wasting your time on it?

Look, Romm has stretched the truth before. I can't see why any intelligent person would take him seriously. My instinct is to dismiss him.

Of course, this entire debate will get him lots of hits, and probably an appearance on Fox News or something, and somehow add to his credibility that will sell more of his next book. What a fucked-up society we have become.

He's little different than Glenn Beck doing whatever it takes (including crying like a baby) to draw attention to himself.

PS: Where, still, is McIntyre's apology for the Yamal accusations?

A Very Bad Idea

This is a bad idea (and, as usual, Chris Mooney plays a part):
Hurricane Katrina Victims Have Standing To Sue Over Global Warming

For years, leading plaintiffs’ lawyers have promised a legal assault on industrial America for contributing to global warming.

So far, the trial bar has had limited success. The hurdles to such suits are pretty obvious: How do you apportion fault and link particular plaintiffs’ injuries to the pollution emitted by a particular group of defendants?

Today, though, plaintiffs’ lawyers may be a gloating a bit, after a favorable ruling Friday from the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, which is regarded as one of the more conservative circuit courts in the country.

The suit was brought by landowners in Mississippi, who claim that oil and coal companies emitted greenhouse gasses that contributed to global warming that, in turn, caused a rise in sea levels, adding to Hurricane Katrina’s ferocity.

For a nice overview of the ruling, and its significance in the climate change battle, check out this blog post by J. Russell Jackson, a Skadden Arps partner who specializes in mass tort litigation. The post likens the Katrina plaintiffs’ claims, which set out a chain of causation, to the litigation equivalent of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

The central question before the Fifth Circuit was whether the plaintiffs had standing, or whether they could demonstrate that their injuries were “fairly traceable” to the defendant’s actions. The defendants predictably assert that the link is “too attenuated.”

But the Fifth Circuit held that at this preliminary stage in the litigation, the plaintiffs had sufficiently detailed their claims to earn a day in court.

In so holding, the court notably quoted a recent Supreme Court opinion that “accepted as plausible the link between man-made greenhouse gas emissions and global warming” along with the fact that “rising ocean temperatures may contribute to the ferocity of hurricanes.”
Why is this a bad idea? Let us count the ways:
  1. There is, as of now, no clear link between the global warming that has taken place and hurricanes. Indeed, global ACE numbers (Accumulated Energy) are near 30-yr record lows.
  2. There is, and can never be, any direct proof that Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming, or that any particular storm was.
  3. Hurricane Katrina wasn't even that bad of a storm -- just a very well-aimed one. It was a Cat 5 while out in the Gulf of Mexico, but only a Cat 3 when it hit land.
  4. The dumb civil engineering around New Orleans contributed heavily to the ultimate destruction that occurred.
  5. US gas and oil industries are hardly the ones one in this country -- or the world -- responsible for the global warming that has occurred. You and I and every resident of New Orleans are both partly responsible for our use of fossil fuels in our cars and in heating our homes. As is every car owner around the world, or almost anyone who heats their home, or eats food grown from forest-cleared land.

Equal Rights

This is an amazing clip. This 86-year old man plainly and eloquently says everything that needs to be said about equal rights.

Someday, and sooner than anyone thinks, those who now oppose same-sex marriage will appear no less bigoted that those of the antebellum south or pre-WW2 Germany.

"All men are born equal." How much more plainly can it be said?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Did Hansen "Fudge" Data?

From skeptics you often read that James Hansen "fudged" climate data. What is their evidence? Lately I've been asking them.

For example, someone named John Brignell wrote:
James Hansen, notorious among global warming critics as a ruthless fudger of data. . .
(as of 10/18/09 4:06 pm PDT). I asked him for proof that Hansen actually substituted bad numbers for real numbers, and his rather unconvincing reply was:
No, I did not mean that. It should not be difficult to find links to the critiques on the web via Google, but if you want somewhere to start you can try:"
That is (he claims), Hansen made the horrible heresy of making a prediction that (he thinks) didn't come true, which makes him a "liar." Not just that he might have been wrong -- no, there has to be an evil attached to it, a maliciousness.

And, in fact, Hansen wasn't that far off, really, for a projection (not a prediction) that occurred 21 years ago -- a lifetime or two, in scientific terms.

10/20 CORRECTION: corrected the spelling of Brignell's name.

Routine El Nino causes Unexceptionally High Temps

We are really just entering an El Nino -- in fact, the latest SOI is actually in the opposite direction -- but already we are seeing strong September temperatures and, now, a very strong hurricane in the eastern Pacific, Hurricane Rick, a Cat 5.

In a recent press release, John Christy of the Univ of Alabama at Huntsville says:

A relatively routine El Nino Pacific Ocean warming event shouldn't cause the hottest tropical September in the past 31 years, but it did, according to Dr. John Christy, professor of atmospheric science and director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. On top of a record-setting month in the tropics, September 2009 was also the second warmest September on record both globally and in the Northern Hemisphere.

"Who would have predicted those temperatures in the atmosphere when the sea surface temperature has been bumping along so nonchalantly?" Christy asked.

Normally, warming in the atmosphere during an El Nino is somewhat linked to rising sea surface temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. Atmospheric temperatures in September, however, were significantly warmer than might have been predicted based on sea surface temps.

Sea surface temps for September in a key region of the Pacific were on the order of 0.83 C warmer than average, and the tropical atmosphere was 0.51 C warmer than seasonal norms," Christy said. "We've seen water temps about this warm twice in the past decade (2004-2005 and 2006-2007) without seeing this surge in the atmosphere.

"If you go back to the big El Nino of 1997-1998, sea surface temps (SSTs) in September 1997 in that same part of the Pacific were about 2.29 C warmer than normal, but the tropical atmosphere was only 0.4 C above average.

"Other things drive atmospheric temperatures in addition to SSTs, so it seems this would have been a warm September even without the El Nino."
Rick seems to be weakening a little, but it will probably still have the strongest ACE of any eastern Pacific hurricane this year.

Globally, though, ACE values are at a 30-yr low, a bit of a puzzle.

The Paradoxes of Time Travel

In an article in last week's NY Times which, IMO, doesn't belong in the realm of science journalism, Dennis Overbye writes:
While it is a paradox to go back in time and kill your grandfather, physicists agree there is no paradox if you go back in time and save him from being hit by a bus.
Is this really true? I can't see how.

Suppose your (saved) grandfather goes on to sire a child who grows up to be Hitler (or, to the good, FDR). By intervening you have clearly changed history -- Hitler/FDR would not be born if you hadn't intervened, but will be born if you had. How can there be no paradox, in either case?

UM. . . Okaaay

An open letter to Obama: NASA's bombs are a threat

By Letters to the editor

October 18, 2009, 4:00AM
Dear President Obama,

I am deeply saddened to say that I live in a country that protests -- from ocean to ocean -- when Coca Cola changed the flavor of classic coke, but seems to remain silent when NASA bombs the moon.

I am 58-years-old and have lived through the trails of destruction of many presidents, hoping that one day there will come a president that truly is spiritually aware -- a president that truly cares about the planet and its people forsaking neither for the almighty dollar.

I believe you are that president. However, I am appalled that you did not or could not prevent this horrific action by NASA.

This planet and women, in particular, are connected to the moon in a very spiritual and physical ways. Our bodies run with the moon's phases. The cycles of a woman, our oceans' tides and the food that we grow is affected by the moons' phases.

The effects of the moon on this planet are endless. If the moon is destroyed or altered in any way, then so is every woman and so is every living thing on this planet.

It is amazing to me that in today's world, where so many people are enlightened, that this country still works out of the dark ages. We go nowhere in peace and without destruction.

Why is it so impossible to clean up our mess here on this planet, instead of looking for another planet to destroy? Can we not walk lightly and carry the torch of peace and hope and freedom? Instead, we are thought of as ignorant barbarians where we were once leaders. I implore you, Mr. President, to please stop NASA from further destroying the moon and what would in turn be the destruction of planet Earth.

Northeast Portland


"That’s right, kids, they used to play World Series games in the sunlight, which is why those times are called the Good Old Days."
-- George Vecsey, NY Times.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Was the "Balloon Boy" a Hoax?

I definitely hope so.

If you watch this kid's parents (especially his father) on CNN this morning, when the little kid said "we did this for the show," his father isn't very convincing that it wasn't. But who knows.

If you read comments about the story yesterday, such as on MSNBC, you can read hundreds of people saying out outraged they are, how much this cost the taxpaper, how the parents should be billed and jailed and practically whipped and beaten, and the little kid consigned to a foster home.

Where is our sense of humor? What has our delight in a good story gone?

We all did something like this as a kid, just a million times smaller. We're all lucky we didn't get carted off to jail at least once, and frankly if we had grown up in this crappy, overly strict, humorless, unforgiving society we probably would have.

Frankly, I hope this IS a hoax. Furthermore, I hope that the Colorado authorities were in on it, to draw attention to their region or something in order to attract, who knows, skiers, and I hope high-level executives at the cable stations had been tipped off, and had instructed their confused minions to hawk it no matter what, and that the father turns out to be a consultant for DARPA and the Russian mob is trying to steal him away to get his knowledge about extraterrestials, who he and only he will admit are being kept in a hollow mountain outside Colorado Springs.

If the balloon were made of the previously unknown 243rd element, that'd be even better. If it were discovered by graduate students working in a large cellar beneath the Colorado governor's mansion, great. Perhaps there will even be an H1N1 connection.

We need more good stories in this world, not less.

On Not Watching TV

Ta-Nehisi Coates blogs about not having a TV, and he's right -- you usually come off as a prick when you go there. But he's also right about the benefits of not having one.

I gave up television over two years ago, and it was one of the best things I've ever done. I can't imagine every subscribing to it again.
  • First of all, you save about $600/yr.
  • Second of all, you get a tiny bit of joy out of the knowledge that you are not paying for the salaries of Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly and Christian televangelists.
  • Third of all, you don't watch the machine just because you have one. It's so easy to plop down in front of the damn thing and just sit there rushing through channels. And so much of it is outright crap.
  • Fourth: I do watch a few shows, over the Internet -- just the shows I want to watch, which are namely Breaking Bad and Weeds. Sometimes Curb Your Enthusiasm, though usually weeks later. Yes, there are places to get all these shows for free, although sometimes (not usually) you have to put up with Chinese subtitles.
  • Fifth, I have upped my watching of DVDs, which I watch on my laptop (an unlimited supply from Blockbuster for $16/month), and am catching up on a lot of great movies I missed: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bishop's Wife, Citizen Kane, Christmas in Connecticut, How Green Was My Valley, The House of Yes, Angels in America, Rumpole of the Bailey, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Caprica, Blindness, The Iceman Cometh, and more. There are no commercials. You watch them when you want, not when they are "on." Sometimes you watch the Director commentaries, which are usually even better than the movies themselves and nothing you'd ever see on TV.
  • I read more than I ever have.
  • There are now a great many Webcasts and podcasts and lectures and college courses and conference talks online, more than you can ever watch -- and from real experts, not the kind of "experts" you find in the vapid DC punditry circles.
  • I simply like the peace and quiet. Stop and listen -- really listen -- to a TV from a distance -- it's a horrible thing. I am convinced that our country, our society, and our civilization started to go downhill when TV became widespread. It warps our values, our perceptions, and is, I think, responsible more than anything else about why society is getting coarser as times goes by rather than (as you would expect) more polite and considerate. Television emphasizes the 6-sigma people and the 6-sigma mindset (soon to be 7, or 8, as our population inevitably grows). It makes people think they need to be past the 6-sigma mark to be anyone. Hence you have people like Kate and John Gosselin.
I can't recommend enough that you try it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nobel Prize Dispute

A few days ago I wrote about a controversy that arose when I was assigned to profile Williard Boyle and George Smith, but I was rather circumspect about it.

Since then the story has advanced, via IEEE Spectrum (the original magazine I was working for then). Here, here and here are their blog posts about claims from Boyle and Smith's Bell Labs co-workers (and supervisor) that their idea for the CCD were not entirely theirs and others weren't given proper credit.

I still don't see any solid, documented evidence that they were (or they weren't) unfair to others. And at this point the Nobel Prize isn't going to be unrewarded or re-rewarded. It's hard to say what to make of it all.

By the way, here is the article I ended up writing for IEEE Spectrum back then, after we gave up on the controversy: "Seeing Stars With Digital Eyes," IEEE Spectrum, July 2001, p. 62. It's no longer online as far as I know.

"The long reach of cold hard cash"

I just wanted to link this op-ed piece by Marie Cocco, "The long reach of cold cash."

The corruption of our government is, I think, the most important story of our time, bar none, and one of the most underreported. And no citizens seem to care -- they keep electing the same old corrupt politicians (on both sides) who all take large amounts of money from special interests. And no one ever seems to ask about it. The few groups who do track it don't get much attention. More data than ever is now available via the Internet and no one seems to care.

Supposedly 45K Americans a year die for lack of health insurance. That's 15 times 9/11, and not just one year, but every year. But the country isn't going to get much reform, even though most Americans support it. The only reason is special interests -- any plan has to satisfy the health insurance industry and the hospital industry and the AMA and all kinds of other special interests, and then if anything is left it will be presented to the public.

It's the same on all kinds of other issues -- climate change, energy legislation, even campaign finance reform itself.

It's a vast corruption and those visions of America -- and probably the world -- turning into a corporatocracy have already come true. Have you read any of the recent articles lately about the close, close connections between Goldman Sachs and the financial arm of the federal government?

Mark Morford on. . . Everything

Mark Morford:
The real truth is, we are not immune to those very things we were essentially convinced we were immune from. It's the lesson we try to avoid at all costs: the more you think you can control even a fraction of the system and the more you try to block out at least a few of the potential calamities, the more the system reveals that it's no system at all, and is actually a slapdash madhouse tinderbox of careening laws and makeshift rules and barely controlled chaos no one really understands. Neat!

No matter. We do it anyway. We carefully set up all these mechanisms, all these banking systems and savings plans and financial strategies, all these cartoonish religious beliefs and social contracts and ridiculous tribal allegiances, all to give us the illusion of stability, the false sense of security and place. How cute we are.

And we grip these illusions more and more tightly, absolutely refusing to believe what we already know, deep down: that when you finally open up your hand, there's actually nothing there. Ain't it grand?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Airline toilets

There is a serious misunderstanding out there about climate change.

The misunderstanding is that it can be addressed by installing compact fluorescent light bulbs and driving hybrid cars. I'm sure Paris Hilton (who, let's face it, we would all like to be involved with for about 6 hours, but no longer) meant well when she said, bless her heart:
I changed all the light bulbs to energy safe light bulbs and I'm buying a hybrid car right.
Although Paris Hilton is divine, the climate problem is not going to be solved by changing out light bulbs or driving hydrid cars.

Nor, frankly, is it going to be solved by asking airline passengers to piss before they board an airplane.

Now, ten years or so when I did a lot of long-distance hiking, I would always take a piss at the base of a large mountain -- and sometimes even a shit -- partly to lighten my load, but mostly because it is really fun to piss outdoors wherever you wanted.

I tricked myself into thinking it made a difference. Whatever gets you up the hill. But then I tricked myself into thinking that after I ate a high-calorie Snicker's bar, I shouldn't spit because I'd lose a few calories. (When you're burning 8000 calories a day, you need all the nourishment you can get.)

Anyway.... now some airlines are now suggesting that their passengers should take a piss before they board, to lessen the flight's carbon expenditures. Really.

Does this matter? Obviously not. The Daily Mail says:
Based on an average human bladder capacity of 15oz, if 150 passengers relieved themselves on board an aircraft, this would amount to 63.7kg of waste.

Read more:

hard drives

I haven't paid much attention to the computer market lately, since I bought my last machine in Jan 2008. It has an 80 Gb hard drive, and it's only 65 Gb full. So I was amazed to just recently notice that SeaGate is selling external 640 Gb hard drive for only $90. Even WalMart has a 320 Gb drive for $69.

My first PC, which I bought in 1991, has an 80 Mb hard drive.

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

It's a truism of human nature that honesty, integrity and openness are seen by evil and greedy men as weakness, something to be exploited and used..... The only remedy is to keep shining the light and keep telling the truth...."

-- Peter Sinclair, Climate Denial Crock of the Week


Larry David, on women:
"It's a lot easier to work with their desperation than my own."

Climate Hype vs Climate Reality

The Hype (Drudge Report):

The Reality:

NASA: This decade is the warmest decades in its records (+0.53°C), even warmer than the 1990s (+0.32°C)

Friday, October 09, 2009

"Climate Bombs"

Often it is difficult to know what to make of the NYT's Thomas Friedman. He is married to an exceedingly rich woman and lives in a $10M, 11.4 k ft^2 house, and can travel anywhere he wants to and has access to anyone he desires.

And he's prone to hyperbole. In his latest column, he writes about "climate bombs," as if they're just waiting around the corner and due to go off any minute now.
As we continue to build up carbon in the atmosphere to unprecedented levels, we never know when the next emitted carbon molecule will tip over some ecosystem and trigger a nonlinear climate event — like melting the Siberian tundra and releasing all of its methane, or drying up the Amazon or melting all the sea ice in the North Pole in summer. And when one ecosystem collapses, it can trigger unpredictable changes in others that could alter our whole world.
Yeah, sure. From the scientific papers I've seen, "tipping points" are just a big pile of maybes. Friedman is invoking them because it adds scariness to his sentiments. That's all. That's a lousy reason.

Nor is there any apparent "debt bomb." I've been hearing about the US's large debt since Carter was in office, and we keep adding gobs and gobs to it, and everyone is always appalled and yet it never seems to matter much, if any. Sure, we are paying about $300B/yr in interest service charges, but no one really seems to care or can really tell us why it matters now, and why it didn't matter 10 or 20 years ago. Where is that money going, anyway? Some of it to American bondholders, a good bit to Chinese bondholders. They're reinvesting it in putting up buildings and selling their crap back to us. Sure, we (ie America) is slowly losing ground in this big exchange, but so what? American is losing ground anyway? Americans have clearly chosen cheap crap from China over fiscal responsibility here. That's not going to change this year or next year -- it's essentially a constant. Frankly, the sooner America gets its ass kicked, and I mean seriously kicked, the better off the world will be, and probably us too.

McIntyre's Misleadings....

This is amazing: if Tim Lambert of Deltoid is right, Steve McIntyre had the Yamal data all along:
When a reader asked him why he didn't just get the data from the original sources, McIntyre dropped a bombshell: "In response to your point that I wasn't "diligent enough" in pursuing the matter with the Russians, in fact, I already had a version of the data from the Russians, one that I'd had since 2004."

Lambert: "He had it all along and despite writing thousands and thousands of words about Yamal somehow somehow failed to mention this until now. Truly I am in awe of McIntyre's ability to make mountains out of molehills."

This is amazing -- and I have yet to see McIntyre comment on it. Such "slips" make it increasingly difficult to take him seriously as a "professional," as he seems to wish....

The Maldives

So I was reading about the nation of The Maldives who are planning to hold an underwater cabinet meeting, with scuba gear and everything, to bring attention to global warming.

Don't imagine it will make any difference -- us developing countries are far more selfish than that, and frankly not one of us will consider their plight for more than a few seconds. Then it's off to the mall.

Sea level is only expected to rise about 30 cm in the next hundred years. Big deal, right?

Maybe. But the highest point in the Maldives is only 2.3 m. So clearly there's a decent slope on their beach and a small sea level rise might reach far inward.

How far? Let's model The Maldives (298 km2) as one circular island, whose center is 2.3 m high, so it looks like the top of an umbrella, minus its stem.

How much of the country will be lost with a rise of X cm in sea level? A simple bit of algebra and trigonometry gives:

(Click to enlarge.)

So if sea level rise is simply 20 cm, they will lose about 15% of their land mass. If it's, say, 60 cm, in this idealized model they would lose almost 50% of their land mass.

No wonder they're concerned. Too bad we won't help them.

Inflated Egos

From the Inflated Ego Department:
I was one of the more industrious reviewers for IPCC AR4.
-- Steve McIntyre.
If only the IPCC has listened to him....

PS: Where is that apology to Briffa?

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons?

In his column today, Robert Park writes (he doesn't provide a permanent link):
1. PEACE PRIZE: OBAMA’S POSITION ON NUCLEAR WEAPONS CITED. In announcing that Barack Obama has won the 2009 Peace prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee referred to the president's April speech in Prague, in which he outlined his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. There is, alas, no peace in the world. The first priority of those who seek peace is prevention of nuclear war. The first step must be for the United States Senate to ratify the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The president has also proposed a new treaty to halt production of fissile materials. The biggest obstacle to a nuclear-free world may be the "reliable warhead" legislation favored by defense secretary Gates.
Let's be clear about this: in no way is Obama ever going to get rid of all nuclear weapons. It's an inconceivable fantasy. No matter what he says, the US is always going to retain a healthy stock of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the world. The hard asses in our government and in our country would never allow it, let alone the hard asses in all the other countries. Someday they will use them. It is inevitable. Everyone already forgets that the US is the only country to ever nuke a city full of civilians. If someone else did this to us, we would label them terrorists and track them down until eternity. But when the US murders a hundred thousand people, it's someone OK, in our eyes.

Recording of the Boxing Day Earthquake

I don't know why, but I really like this recording:

It's from a Lamont-Doherty underwater microphone during the Dec 26, 2004 Mw 9.3 earthquake in Sumatra. There's something very cosmic about it.

(Be sure to turn your speakers up.)


I'll be taking part in a debate on climate change with Marc Morano of and Ann McElhinney (filmmaker of the soon-to-be-released documentary Not Evil, Just Wrong) in Washington DC on October 23rd, at a conference sponsored by Accuracy in Media. I'm served up as a bit of a sacrificial lamb, but I'm OK but that, as I don't think of myself as a lamb nor am I prepared to sacrifice anything.

Piece Prize

It turns out that the nomination period for this year's Nobel Prizes closed 11 days after Obama took office.... Was his inaugural suit even back from the cleaners by then?

PS: Here's maybe the best comment: "I'm not sure I understand -- this isn't for peace here, is it?" said [Afghan] bank worker Homaira Reza. "Because we haven't got any."

GISS: Sept 09 was Very Warm

NASA GISS's temperature anomaly for September was +0.65°C -- also the second warmest September of all time (after only 2005's +0.69°C).

UAH's Sept Temperature

UAH's number for the September global temperature anomaly is +0.42°C -- that's the second September highest in their records. The only warmer September was 1998, at +0.43°C. GISS's 10-year moving average is at a record level.

Obama's Nobel Prize

This is a bad choice, bordering on terrible, one that threatens to cheapen the Peace Prize for a good while. What has Obama yet to accomplish? If it's bringing hope, as the Nobel Committee said, then it's the American voter who should get the Prize, for electing him. It's clearly just a political choice, probably intended to insult the Bush administration, and that's never a good reason to give a prize to anyone, especially one that purports to be as serious as this one.

Times of London:
The spectacle of Mr Obama mounting the podium in Oslo to accept a prize that once went to Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Theresa would be all the more absurd if it follows a White House decision to send up to 40,000 more US troops to Afghanistan.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Idiots Who Carry Guns

The US has the highest rate of firearms-related homicide in the industrialised world, but noone in this idiotic country seems to give a fuck anymore, and politicians have no backbone and have all sold out to the NRA, so screw it. But here is at least some small justice:
People who carried guns were 4.5 times as likely to be shot and 4.2 times as likely to get killed compared with unarmed citizens. When the team looked at shootings in which victims had a chance to defend themselves, their odds of getting shot were even higher.

Apple out of US Chamber of Commerce

Apple has also resigned from the US Chamber of Commerce over their climate change attitude.

Faith and Doubt

“Faith means doubt. Faith is not the suppression of doubt. It is the overcoming of doubt, and you overcome doubt by going through it. The man of faith who has never experienced doubt is not a man of faith,”
Thomas Merton

What's wrong with just living with the doubt?

Boyle and Wilson's Nobel Prize

So Willard Boyle and George Smith won half the Nobel Prize in physics yesterday -- another coup for the Bell Labs, whose workers have won a total of 7 Nobel Prizes, all in physics -- for the invention of the CCD. I found this particularly interesting because several years ago I was commissioned to write a profile of them and their work for a magazine I won't name. I talked a few times on the phone to Boyle in Halifax, and flew to New Jersey and met with George Smith in his home on the Jersey shore for several hours while he told me lots of stories and showed me his momentos. They were both great guys.

Then as I was doing further background research with others and the story took a really strange angle that I'd love to share, but I'm not sure it's journalistically ethical insofar as it was a they-said/they-said kind of situation, and ultimately there was no evidence of what some people were claiming in writing or anywhere else. The issue escalated up through the editorial chain and in the end it was decided to just drop the article altogether. I'm still not sure how I feel about it.


Also, I agree with the scientists who recently wrote a letter to the Nobel Foundation advocating for additional prizes in Environmental Science and in Public Health. A while their at it, they ought to finally include one for mathematics as well.

Monday, October 05, 2009

RSS: Sept 09 was very warm

According to RSS's calculations, Sept 09 was the warmest month (relative to it average) since Jan 07, which set a record for the warmest month of all time.

In fact, it was the warmest September since 1998, the year with the super El Nino. Given that the Southern Oscillation Index is essentially flat right now, it makes you wonder -- why is Sept 09 so warm if El Nino is so weak, unless it's from a generally upward trend in decadal temperatures?

Motl's Defamation

Here's another accusation sent around that is utterly irresponsible, and probably defamatory: Lubos Motl wrote:
But I think it is pretty obvious that pretty much all the relevant authors of the article must know that without any fabrication of the data, they don't get any hockey stick from the trees. It means that it can't be an innocent mistake and all of them, and not just Keith Briffa, are fraudsters who know very well what they're doing and why they're doing it.

That is, Motl alleges that Briffa et al are not simply wrong (which they're not), but that they have intentionally made up data. That is, instead of using numbers they (or someone) measured, they sat down and wrote out numbers that were guaranteed to give them the result they "wanted." Of course, Motl has no proof whatsoever, and doesn't even attempt to offer any.

If that's not defamatory I don't know what is. I'm waiting for the day when a scientist sues someone like Motl for a post like this. I don't think it would be an entirely bad idea.

Climate Science in the Age of Hypermedia

Andrew Sullivan posted something from Eric Trager that I think applies to the climate "debate" as well:
The problem, however, is that the Age of Hypermedia has magnified the incentives for crude political behavior substantially. Indeed, desperate politicians – particularly those expecting stiff competition in the next election – know that outrageous statements are more likely to get broadcast/blogged/tweeted/posted/forwarded than well-reasoned ones.

If you want a review of all the ridiculous things people have said about this so-called Yamal controversy, read Deltoid.

I don't think 80% of the stuff posted by the likes of Jennifer Marohasy or Bennie Peiser (who on Friday titled his daily email "A Scientific Scandal Unfolds") are intended to address the scientific debate at all -- they're intended to just throw flak into the air, to confuse the uninformed and make it appear as if there is still much doubt about AGW. What else can you make about a statement like this?
In response to recent suggestions by Canadian statistician Steve McIntyre that the official reconstructions may have been fudged, Keith Briffa, from the Climate Research Unit associated with the UK Met. Office, has responded explaining that there was no cherry picking of data in the development of the reconstructions used by the IPCC and others, rather, the methodology is not yet robust.

That's such an intellectually dishonest twisting of what Briffa actually wrote it's hard to take its measure (as Tommy Lee Jones said in a different context).

Here's what Briffa actually wrote:
My colleagues and I are working to develop methods that are capable of expressing robust evidence of climate changes using tree-ring data. All he's simply saying is that they are working to make their methods as robust as possible.

That is (of course) hardly an admission that their methods are flawed, but rather that they're now the best they've been able to make them and they are working on making them even better. No science is every 100% robust. And on this basis, Marohasy calls for a postponement of the Copenhagen meeting.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

H1N1 in the US

Here's a CDC graph that shows how much worse this flu season is shaping up compared to the previous two years, due to H1N1.

(Click to enlarge.)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Upside of the Recession?

Unexpectedly, it seems that life expectancy increases during economic recessions and decreases during economic expansions.

In the 1920-1940 period, life expectancy rose 6.2 yrs from 1929 to 1932. It declined during good economies such as 1936-37.

The speculated reasons are: people work faster and harder during economic expansions (overtime, etc.), suffer more injuries, and have less time to exercise, socialize, and they drink more and face more stress. But during downturns people have more time to sleep, to socialize, and less money to spend on drinking and smoking.

Of course, these are national averages. Being unemployed can be pretty stressful too.

Polar Bear with Hockey Stick

And he's not happy....

Thursday, October 01, 2009

An Apology for the Yamal Accusation?

I still think Steve McIntyre owes Keith Briffa an apology. Now he is (of course) picking through Briffa's comments, looking for inconsistencies and starting to play the victim. This whole episode has all been very unseemly.

McIntyre complains that
Briffa's comment leads off with the accusation that I had implied that the recent data had in this chronology had been "purposely selected" by Briffa "specifically because they exhibited recent growth increases". I want to dispense with this up front. While I expressed surprise that there were so few cores, not only did I not imply that Briffa did any sub-selecting, but I specifically said the opposite.

But here's what he did write, on Sept 26:
Unfortunately, to date, people in the field have not honored this responsibility and, to an outside observer, seem to have done no more than pick the version (Yamal) that suits their bias.

That certainly confirms Briffa's accusation, it seems to me: "pick the version" = sub-selecting, and "bias" = data that would imply an upturned blade. You can put a bow-tie on a snake, but it's still a snake.


Some stuff I've come across lately:
  • Nike has resigned from the US Chamber of Commerce board in protest of the organization's opposition to climate change legislation. Last week three other companies left the organization altogether: Pacific Gas & Electric, PNM Resources, and Exelon.
  • John Fleck has an update on Albuquerque's GHG situation. Emissions are up 8% despite the mayor's 2005 pledge to cut back.
  • Here are a couple of interesting sites: Sixty Symbols -- videos about physics and astronomy -- and The Periodic Table of Videos, about chemistry.
  • "6.4 percent of Portlanders say biking is their primary mode of transportation to work, up from just 2.1 percent 10 years ago. Of the 30 largest cities in the country, Minneapolis trailed in second place with 4.5 percent and Seattle ranked fourth with 3 percent regular bike commuters." (Portland Mercury News)

With Friends Like This...

(Part two of a series.)
Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara warned on Wednesday the 2016 Olympics could be the last Games, with global warming an immediate threat to mankind.

"It could be that the 2016 Games are the last Olympics in the history of mankind," Ishihara told reporters at a Tokyo 2016 press event ahead of the vote.

"Global warming is getting worse. We have to come up with measures without which Olympic Games could not last long.

Yamal Replies

Both Keith Briffa and RealClimate have replied to the Yamal accusations, and you get the impression they're a little pissed (but too professional to admit it). And you can't blame them, with all the unfounded accusations of malfeasance so quickly and irresponsibly tossed around. You'd get pissed too.

As usual, there's no there in any of the accusations. Here's Briffa:
The basis forThe substantive implication of McIntyre's comment (made explicitly in subsequent postings by others) is that the recent data that make up this chronology (i.e. the ring-width measurements from living trees) were purposely selected by me from among a larger available data set, specifically because they exhibited recent growth increases.
This is not the case. The Yamal tree-ring chronology (see also Briffa and Osborn 2002, Briffa et al. 2008) was based on the application of a tree-ring processing method applied to the same set of composite sub-fossil and living-tree ring-width measurements provided to me by Rashit Hantemirov and Stepan Shiyatov which forms the basis of a chronology they published (Hantemirov and Shiyatov 2002). In their work they traditionally applied a data processing method (corridor standardisation) that does not preserve evidence of long timescale growth changes. My application of the Regional Curve Standardisation method to these same data was intended to better represent the multi-decadal to centennial growth variations necessary to infer the longer-term variability in average summer temperatures in the Yamal region: to provide a direct comparison with the chronology produced by Hantemirov and Shiyatov.

He continues:
McIntyre's selection of which of our (i.e. Hantemirov and Shiyatov's) data to exclude and which to use in replacement is not clear but his version of the chronology shows lower relative growth in recent decades than is displayed in my original chronology. He offers no justification for excluding the original data; and in one version of the chronology where he retains them, he appears to give them inappropriate low weights. I note that McIntyre qualifies the presentation of his version(s) of the chronology by reference to a number of valid points that require further investigation. Subsequent postings appear to pay no heed to these caveats. Whether the McIntyre version is any more robust a representation of regional tree growth in Yamal than my original, remains to be established.

And here's RealClimate getting to what I think is the heart of the matter:
There is nothing wrong with people putting together new chronologies of tree rings or testing the robustness of previous results to updated data or new methodologies. What is objectionable is the conflation of technical criticism with unsupported, unjustified and unverified accusations of scientific misconduct. Steve McIntyre keeps insisting that he should be treated like a professional. But how professional is it to continue to slander scientists with vague insinuations and spin made-up tales of perfidy out of the whole cloth instead of submitting his work for peer-review? He continues to take absolutely no responsibility for the ridiculous fantasies and exaggerations that his supporters broadcast, apparently being happy to bask in their acclaim rather than correct any of the misrepresentations he has engendered. If he wants to make a change, he has a clear choice; to continue to play Don Quixote for the peanut gallery or to produce something constructive that is actually worthy of publication.

Jennifer Mahasoy absurdly called for CRU scientists to resign over this manufactured scandal. Think she or McIntyre will have the integrity to fall on their own swords?

At the very least, McIntyre owes Briffa an apology.