Monday, November 30, 2009

Moving to True/Slant

I'm moving Quark Soup over to True/Slant.

Please join me there, and update your bookmarks and RSS feed.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The word "trick"

People seem to often be focusing first on this word "trick" used in a Phil Jones email:

In one e-mail from 1999, the center's director, Phil Jones, alludes to one of Mann's articles in the journal Nature and writes, "I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline."

Mann said the "trick" Jones referred to was placing a chart of proxy temperature records, which ended in 1980, next to a line showing the temperature record collected by instruments from that time onward. "It's hardly anything you would call a trick," Mann said, adding that both charts were differentiated and clearly marked.

Mann is certainly right: "trick" is a word scientists use all the time to mean a clever way to refocus a problem or transform it somehow to make progress. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a professor say "Now here's a trick you can use," I'd be able to buy a Lexus.

An elementary example of what might be considered a trick is converting from Euclidean (x,y) coordinates to polar (r,θ) coordinates where a calculation simplifies. A more complicated example is dimensional regularization in quantum field theory, where, since some observable factors are calculated to be infinity, you instead do the calculation in 4+d dimensions and then in the end let d go to zero, and the answers are finite. (No, there is no good mathematical basis for this, as a mathematician will tell you, but as a physicist will tell you, it works.)

Skeptics who are focusing on this particular word just do not understand some of the inside language scientists use.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wolves in Oregon

Here's a great video clip of a pack of wolves majestically moving up a mountain in eastern Oregon. Oregonian story here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The CRU Hack

I've been busy and have only been able to spend about 2 hours reading about the CRU hack, and some of the documents themselves.

A few comments:
  1. Can we assume all this is genuine? Some of it certainly seems to be, from what people have said. And there's surely too much to totally invent. But all of it? I don't know. It's easy to imagine the hackers making word changes and sentence additions, etc., before releasing it back out.
  2. Nothing I've seen so far gets me very excited. I don't see any evidence of a worldwide conspiracy to enslave us all into gray, communist conformity, nor any type of scientific collusion. What I see it just the ordinary exchange that takes place among...people, scientists included. They have their own inside language, thoughts, and jokes, and words that some conspiracy theorists are picking at are clearly just inside language that scientists use and that laypeople are not going to understand. They say things imprecisely and informally and off the cuff, like all of us, and don't imagine their emails are going to be splashed across the Web any more than you imagine your own emails will be for endless scrutiny by your enemies. Which of us could not be made to look completely evil if anyone were given access to all the emails we sent and received?
  3. Nor do I have any concerns about inside groups peer-reviewing other's papers. For any subspecialty in science these days, there are only a few people/groups who are going to understand it and who are potential peer-reviewers. When my advisor and I wrote our first paper together when I was in grad school (on using jets to detect quark-gluon plasmas), we got the (anonymous) reviewer's comments and immediately knew who they were -- one of the few groups to be able to properly evaluate the work and put it into context. We had read all their papers and knew all about their work. Graciously they suggested ways in which we might extend our results, but we went ahead and published without doing that and sure enough a few months later this reviewer and his student published the augmentation he had suggested. We weren't surprised at all. Nor did I feel like he did us any favor. In fact, in such small specialities there is often more competition than usual, and you have to work even harder to impress your colleagues (especially when they get the chance to be somewhat anonymous). Scientists love to tear one another down, as anyone who has ever attended a Friday afternoon department seminar knows. Then afterward they go out on the patio and have a beer together.
  4. I saw that my name popped up in a few places in the emails. I don't have much to say about them (which is neither a confirmation or a denial of whatever was claimed) except I do not at all recall ever threatening Sonia Boehmer-Christiansen (editor of Energy & Environment) with "litigation" (mail file 1068239573.txt) I can't imagine doing that as a journalist, and even if I wanted to I don't know what I'd threaten, unless it was to tell her I was going to file a FOIA, which I certainly did not do in this case since (a) I didn't think that that any of her internal journal correspondence was subject to a FOIA, as it was unrelated any government function, and (b) I don't even know if an American can file whatever the equivalent of a FOIA is in Britain. I do, though, plead guilty to having called her multiple times, whether it annoyed her or not. That's my job.
  5. The Arctic is still melting, glaciers are still receding, sea-level is still rising, tree lines are moving north, and both land and sea are getting warmer.
If there are excerpts of the emails you think I've missed, please point them out in the comments.

New Email Address

I have a new email address:

It will be good until either Google or I go out of business.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I'm kinda of busy right now and don't have a lot of time to blog. But if I don't post something no one will visit. So here are some things I found interesting lately:
  • Willie Soon and David Legates compare themselves to Galileo..... OK, sure.
  • We're told that there's no chance for any agreement at the Copenhagen Conference -- and, let's be honest, there certainly isn't much hope in here in the US. But environmentalists won't give in and insist there's still hope. Right. Like any "agreement" at Copenhagen is going to force the US Congress to do whatever they say. We've been there in the past. What was the vote in the Senate over the Kyoto Protocol, something like 97-0?
  • But more than that: who actually believes that any nation that sets a CO2 cutback goal will reach it? We have seen goal after goal for the last 10 years, and still these countries are failing to make their targets (and the state of carbon modeling is such that who believes them anyway?) The only REAL metric is CO2 levels in the atmosphere. They're still rising at historical levels, ie. whatever anyone thinks they're doing is having on effect.
  • Here's a way to defy a court order and get your way with your neighbors: claim your actions will reduce global warming. Even if actual calculations show that your tree will only sequester about 120 lbs of carbon, that is, your grove of 37 trees will absorb about 9.3 tons of CO2 -- while you yourself emit 22 tons CO2/yr.


Sex and race, because they are easy, visible differences, have been the primary ways of organizing human beings into superior and inferior groups and into the cheap labor on which this system still depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We are really talking about humanism.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The World is Heating Up

NASA says October '09 was tied for the 2nd warmest October ever. The three warmest Octobers have all come in the last seven years.

13 of the last 14 months have all been warmer than the year before.

October also saw El Nino come on strongly.

The Arctic is not refreezing as fast as in recent years. Arctic sea ice is now at its lowest value ever for this time of year, about 2% below 2007 levels and 6% below 2008 levels.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NY Times on Climate Talks

Jad Mauowad writes, in the NY Times:
In the absence of a global deal to limit the emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas blamed for climate change, energy consumption will soar over the next decades. This would result in a catastrophic rise in global temperatures, according to the International Energy Agency, an adviser to industrialized nations that is based in Paris.
First of all, can we please get rid of this notion that carbon dioxide emissions and energy consumption are inexorably linked?

We should be consuming more energy in the next decade or two or ten. Energy consumption is directly related to our comfort and well-being and prosperity.

The future's citizens will in no way accept less energy than we're consuming today. They have big plans. I don't care if the world's temperatures rise 4°C, or even 6°C, or Atlanta is underwater (by then it will be too late anyway) -- people aren't going to live like nomads or Indians in tents to solve the global warming problem.

You won't. I won't either. You and I will both just pump up the A/C all that much higher.

We need to generate energy without generating carbon dioxide. A big, difficult problem, but a very different one than many environmental organizations are presenting -- and the NY Times is presenting here.

More energy. Less CO2.

Comment on debate with Tim Ball

Here's a comment left on about my debate with Tim Ball. It's so classic that I just have to include it here. Naturally, the author didn't have the cojones to sign his real name to his opinions:
Author: Daryl M
Comment: Mr. Appell,  I listened to the debate with Dr. Ball and if I were you, I would be embarrassed and humiliated. As a supposed scientific journalist, you have a remarkable lack of understanding of the issues. Your claim that we should listen to journalists who "talk to experts" rather than blogs is the height of arrogance. After listening to you dodge and evade legitimate questions raised by Ms. Taft and Dr. Ball, you have zero credibility as a journalist and given you apparently have written articles for Scientific American, I guess that is one rag that I will skip in the future.  WRT your claim that you have spoken with many scientists about the hockey stick and none of them agree with the M&M analysis, that further emphasizes my point. The hockey stick was thoroughly debunked, not just by M&M, but also by Wegman. It is a proven fact that if red noise is fed into Mann et al's algorithms it will produce a hockey stick. Further to that, Mann et al did their best to withhold their data and algorithms, obviously trying to obfuscate their claims. More recently, with Briffa finally being forced to disclose his Yamal data years after the fact, we can see that he cherry picked tree cores to utilize only the ones that supported his claims. In fact, some of the proxies were inverted to further support the claim that recent temperature changes are "unprecedented". Your claim that no one agrees with M&M's claim leaves me frankly stunned.  Jones is on the record as having refused to release his data and now it is claimed that the data are lost. How convenient.  Hansen at GISS is widely known to take liberties with the data, again we can thank heros like Steve McIntyre who take the time to audit and attempt reproduce their work, usually uncovering gross mistakes in their methodology.  Anthony Watts has also tirelessly reviewed the surface record and proven beyond any question that it is fraught with inconsistencies that contribute to a gross overstatement of the surface temperature. Do you not think it is significant that in the early 1990s, a large percentage of the surface stations (e.g., from Siberia) were taken off-line?  I really laughed at your deflection to Dr. Ball that he should write a paper about the issues he raised. The peer-review process that underlies the IPCC report as well as the hockey stick is clearly a joke. It is widely known that of the supposed 2500 scientists who back the IPCC report, many submitted comments in disagreement that were ignored by the editors. The claim that 2500 scientists back the report is scandalous. The reality is that a small cadre of editors, many of whom are not even scientists edited out comments that did not support the desired conclusion that global warming is caused by man-made CO2. The reality is that the supposed peer-review process of papers like Mann et al is a case of you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours, rather than a broad support.  If you had any balls as a journalist, you would write about the peer review process, or M&M's work or Anthony Watts' work, or the blatant withholding of data by Mann, Briffa and Jones, yet you hide under the protective wing of the supposed consensus. All I can say is that you are in good company. You are no less a fraud than Mann, Briffa, Jones, Hansen and Al Gore, and the rest of the cowards who accepted the Nobel. You should be ashamed.  See all comments on this post here:

How Skeptics Lie

Here's a perfect example of how ideological skeptics twist the truth to promote their side:

In her article "Global Warming Peer Reviewed" on the (so-called) Accuracy in Media web site, someone named Allie Winegar Duzett claims that Christopher Monckton's paper in last year's newsletter Physics & Society by the American Physics Society was "peer-reviewed."

In fact, it was not, as the APS clearly states at the top of the article.

More importantly, I don't know of a single climate scientist who took Monckton's article seriously -- or, for that matter, has ever taken anything Monckton has written seriously. All his comments are op-eds in (usually) friendly places. He is just not in the class of people that real scientists seriously or pay attention to. He doesn't have the chops.

And, as every single one of us knows knows, whether you're a freelance science journalist or an engineer or an AIM pundit, chops matter.

Monckton is a class A 2nd baseman trying to tell Derek Jeter how to play shortstop.

Of course, this doesn't seem to matter to Mrs. Duzett. She thinks (mistakenly) that because Monckton's paper was peer-reviewed (when it was not), it's somehow important.

Of course, real scientists know that peer-review means little about a paper's veracity. Papers that are peer-reviewed and yet incorrect get published all the time. A paper/finding must work its way up through the scientific ladder, through seminars and colloquia and conference talks and plenty of heated blackboard arguments in the offices of every scientists who has read and struggled through the article and its details.

Who is Allie Winegar Duzett?

As it turns out, I wrote to her last week about another article she wrote. I wondered about her credentials. Here's what she told me.
I was also a key researcher involved with the recent discovery of and publications regarding Calligrapha verrucosa, a previously unknown beetle a colleague of mine discovered in Nevada.

Having spent hundreds of hours in various laboratories, entomological and otherwise, I can tell you with certainty that I do indeed understand the type of hard work and dedication scientific discovery requires.
Well, frankly I am not impressed. I gather she's a 22-yr old just out of college. When I was a 22-yr old BS, I didn't know squat. Did you?

Perhaps I still don't know squat, but I certainly didn't then. I could barely look up an integral, let alone understand what it meant.

Here's a big question: Why do we have 22-yr old BS graduates writing punditry?

And why can't they get even the most basic facts right?


Getting caught up on some stuff:
  • NOAA is reporting that, in the US over the last decade, the number of record daily high temperatures is about twice that of the number of record daily record low temperatures. What's more, the ratio is increasing fast. So far, no mention of this here or here, thought strangely they always seem to have plenty to say when a record low temperature is set in Backwater Falls, North Dakota.
  • About 90% of first-year college students at CUNY can't do "basic algebra involving fractions and decimals." (And "fractions and decimals" aren't even algebra, but just arithmetic.) My God, how can you even live if you can't use fractions and decimals?
  • One of the Mars rovers has been stuck in sand since April 23rd. Kinda ironic that, after running for over 5.5 yrs on what was expected to be a 90-day lifetime, this is how it would come to an end.
  • Why is it that some of the oldest civilizations in the world (ie China and Japan) seem to value societial cohesian more strongly than do the middle-aged societies (ie Europe, which is increasing socialist), and it's the youngest societies (ie the US) that [seemingly] most value individualism?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Will Twitter Replace Google for Journalism?

I think Mark Cuban is probably right that, with Twitter, newspapers no longer need to rely on Google to spread their links.... The problem is, who the heck wants breaking news from Rupert Murdoch?

I'm sure I'm not Murdoch's typical customer, and frankly I can't imagine buying any of his papers off a newsstand. I'd only pick up one of his copies if it was on a subway seat and I had 5 minutes to kill towards the next stop.

But I might not be typical and there may be neanderthals out there who want to read about how Paris Hilton spent last night with an itchy tag on her panties. I guess that's why I'm not rich.

Is this really what people want, Twitter announcements about new items? I don't -- I mean, leave me the hell alone so I have time to read, think, and write. I will catch up with the news when I get to it.

Media Voyeurism

I haven't watched local news in...about as long as I can remember. Here's why.

I checked the Web site of a local TV station in Portland today (KOIN), wondering about a shooting near Portland that killed two and left several wounded. What did I find?

A story about someone who fell in front of a subway train.

That's right. Despite a shooting rampage here in Oregon, this news station decided that the lead story was about a subway incident in Boston.

Why? Because they had good pictures about it. No other reason at all. Why would anyone in Portland care about a women who fell in front of a train in Boston? Sure, it's a sad story -- there are thousands of them around the world, ever day.

This was pure voyeurism. It's disgusting.

I mean, today's shooting incident in Oregon was just the Shooting-of-the-Day, right? They happen nearly every day in American now -- 2 killed, 7 wounded; 13 killed, 25 wounded; 4 dead, 8 injured. No one even gives a fuck anymore. Now they aren't ever worth exploiting by the media -- they're rather people fall in front of trains.

This country is becoming more intolerable all the time. Doesn't it anger you?

Elk Calf

Here is a great video of an elk calf...just having fun.

This reminds me of my new cat Sophie (now 3.5 mths old) who, literally, bounces off the walls when she's wound up. She just seems to run around because she likes it.

Where does that go when we get older?

Today's Deep Thinkers

Newt Gingrich: "I believe the most important question in the United States for the next decade is: 'Who are we?' Are we in fact a people who claim that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights?" Or, are we "just randomly gathered protoplasm -- and lucky for us we're not rhinoceroses...

James Inhofe, on health care reform: "I don't have to read it or know what's in it. I'm going to oppose it anyways."

You know, I am beginning to think that actually it's Inhofe himself who is the hoax....

Monday, November 09, 2009

Kazakhstan's radioactive legacy

Here is a very important but very disturbing photo essay in the Boston Globe on the consequences of Soviet nuclear testing in Kazakstan. The Soviet Union exploded 456 nuclear devices there in a 40-yr period. More than one million people are thought to have been impacted....including those in these pictures. You need to see them.

Hadley: 4th warmest Sept ever

The Hadley Centre recorded Sept 2009 at the fourth warmest September in their records (which begin at 1850) -- warmer even than 1998.

Friday, November 06, 2009

UAH Oct temperature anomaly

The global temperature anomaly as measured by UAH is, well, kind of in the middle: +0.284°C. (Can these things really be measured to one part in a thousand?)


"I can almost remember when a suspect being human was a given, not an option."

-- Agent Broyles, Fringe, "Bad Dreams," S1E17

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Earthquake off the Oregon Coast

There was a (relatively strong) Mw 5.3 earthquake early this morning off the coast of Oregon. No reports of any tsunamis. I didn't feel anything, but usually at that time of the morning I'm trying to stay asleep while fending off my cat, who nips at my fingertips to remind me it's almost breakfast time.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

R Pielke Jr's Open Invitation

Roger Pielke Jr is running an open invitation on 10 questions, and I'm going to respond to one of them:
  • 9. In their political enthusiasm, some leading scientists have behaved badly
I have been attending climate conferences for years now -- a couple each year, as many as I can on my tiny freelance earnings, and hardly all of them -- and have attended talks by scientists locally. I've questioned them in person and on the phone and via email. And I have never once seen any canonical scientist "behave badly." On the contrary, everyone I've talked to or communicated with -- including many of the big names -- have all behaved professionally and politely and responsibly, without fail. Without fail.

On the other hand, I estimate that about half the time I contact "skeptics," they come back as brash and truculent and bordering on impolite, sometimes even before you ask them a question. Many seem, frankly, to already have a chip of their shoulder, or ticked off at something I wrote earlier (usually this, or this), or angry for some reason I can't really tell (though I have my suspicions). I too often have to just stop communicating with them out of frustration, and even then some of them hound me with emails for days and weeks until I put my foot down. I have never, ever reached that point with a scientist who, if you want to apply labels, would be labeled as accepting the AGW hypothesis.

I don't see any "scientists" behaving badly.

Good Prevails

AP: La. Justice Quits After Interracial Wed Flap

Boxer and the Absent Republicans

You may have seen this picture of Barbara Boxer at today's markup of the greenhouse gas bill before the Environment and Public Works committee.

Ha, ha. Only one Republican showed up. Doesn't she look like an idiot.

Well, we'll see. Republicans, of course, seem to be thrashing about wildly, like a washed cat who just needs to escape, anywhere.

But I think it's clear that it's these Republicans who will pay the price. Michelle Malkin -- sure, we can dismiss her as an attention-seeking idiot, who, like Limbaugh and Beck and Coulter will say absolutely anything as long as it gets them on the air. But she knows no science whatsoever, as far as I've ever been able to tell. Her opinion on climate change is completely driven by politics, and thus completely worthless.

Even Bjorn Lomborg now admits that the scientific debate over anthropogenic climate change is over.

So what do these absent Republican legislators really think they're accomplishing? Future generations will view them as no less irresponsible than if they had sat out efforts to ameliorate the Great Depression or to respond to the threats of the Cold War.

In a perverse way, it's kind of fun to watch.

Is Al Gore Conflicted?

You know, if you took this NY Times article and replaced the words
  • "Al Gore" with "Fred Singer"
  • "green" with "conventional"
  • "wind" with "coal"
almost anyone would be suspicious, and has been in the past. So I can certainly understand why skeptics and those who aren't convinced would look upon Gore's advocacy with suspicion. He has scientific legitimacy on his side, but it's still a tight rope to walk, it seems to me.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Is Phil Jones supressing data?

On the show tonight Tim Ball and the host Victoria Taft tried to hone in on Phil Jones somehow suppressing or losing data. I wasn't as up on this subject as I could have been, but quickly found this page and this recent statement from Jones. Like much of what Ball claimed, he was wrong and didn't seem to look very hard for the full story:
No one, it seems, cares to read what we put up on the CRU web page. These people just make up motives for what we might or might not have done.

Almost all the data we have in the CRU archive is exactly the same as in the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN) archive used by the NOAA National Climatic Data Center [seehere and here].

The original raw data are not “lost.” I could reconstruct what we had from U.S. Department of Energy reports we published in the mid-1980s. I would start with the GHCN data. I know that the effort would be a complete waste of time, though. I may get around to it some time. The documentation of what we’ve done is all in the literature.

If we have “lost” any data it is the following:

1. Station series for sites that in the 1980s we deemed then to be affected by either urban biases or by numerous site moves, that were either not correctable or not worth doing as there were other series in the region.

2. The original data for sites for which we made appropriate adjustments in the temperature data in the 1980s. We still have our adjusted data, of course, and these along with all other sites that didn’t need adjusting.

3. Since the 1980s as colleagues and National Meteorological Services (NMSs) have produced adjusted series for regions and or countries, then we replaced the data we had with the better series.

In the papers, I’ve always said that homogeneity adjustments are best produced by NMSs. A good example of this is the work by Lucie Vincent in Canada. Here we just replaced what data we had for the 200+ sites she sorted out.

The CRUTEM3 data for land look much like the GHCN and NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies data for the same domains.

Apart from a figure in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) showing this, there is also this paper from Geophysical Research Letters in 2005 by Russ Vose et al. Figure 2 is similar to the AR4 plot.

I think if it hadn’t been this issue, the Competitive Enterprise Institute would have dreamt up something else!

Radio Debate Tonight with Tim Ball

I'll be debating Tim Ball on the Victoria Taft radio show (KPAM 860 AM Portland) tonight at 7:05 pm PST. It's available live online.