Monday, April 30, 2012

This Ought to Win An Award

This kind of thinking ought to win an award for...something:
Myron Ebell, director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Center for Energy and Environment, which has opposed any attempt to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, said even if there is global warming, Americans and the world will still need coal, gas, and other fossil fuels to run the technology, including air conditioning, to deal with it.

And he said proposals to reduce use of coal and fossil fuels will make it impossible to survive any warming that occurs.
Ebell goes on to say that scientists, such as Michael Mann, who have gone public with their concerns about climate change are "not trustworthy, "con men," and "bad apples." Whether that's true or whether that's false, it's a big statement, but the reporter (Don Hopey) doesn't question him at all and just dutifully writes it down as if he's a stenographer.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

China's Soaring Demand For Coal

Here's a startling chart, from Sightline in Seattle:


China's jump in coal use of about 2000 Mt/yr in just a decade represents about 6 gigatons of CO2 emissions a year -- one-fifth of current world emissions.

(No, I'm not blaming them -- China's per capita CO2 emissions are still less than 1/3rd that of the US. India -- who seems headed up the same arc as China but about 30 years behind -- emits less than 1/10th that of the US. If China and India were to emit at the same per capita rate as the US, and the rest of the world stayed constant, worldwide emissions would more than double to 63 Gt CO2/yr. If the entire world emitted like the US, emissions would be 114 Gt CO2/yr, almost 4 times the current level.)

By the way, total US coal production is only about 1,000 Mt/yr, and it peaked in 2008. So you can see why they want to send it on trains from Wyoming to eastern Oregon, ship it by barges down the Columbia River, then ship it across the Pacific Ocean to China. There's a big fight starting here in Oregon about this.

An Impressive Fact About Carbon Dioxide

Here's an interesting statistic(*) from the conclusion of David Archer's book The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate:
"If we add up the total amount of energy trapped by CO2 from the gallon of gas over its atmospheric lifetime, we find that our gallon of gasoline ultimately traps one hundred billion (100,000,000,000) kilocalories of useless and unwanted greenhouse heat. The bad energy from burning that gallon ultimately outweighs the good energy by a factor of about 40 million."
(*) Except I think the last number should be 3.5 million, not 40 million. Archer says a gallon of gasoline "yields about 2500 kilocalories of energy," which is 2.8 MJ/L. But all the numbers I've found are about 32 MJ/L, such as here and here and here. That factor of 11.5 knocks down the final ratio to a still impressive 3.5 million.

(If I made a mistake, let me know.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Re: Diviner result

To: Christopher Monckton
Cc: Andrew Watts, Roger Tattersall, Ned Nikolov

On 4/25/2012 8:19 AM, Christopher Monckton wrote:
NASA gives 270.6 K; and the IPCC's value of 255 K for the characteristic-emission temperature is based on similar considerations. In the light of the Diviner results, this value may be too high, in which event so is the Planck parameter. - M of B

Mr Monckton,

*WHERE* does NASA give a value of 270.6 K? More importantly, why do you think it matters? Scientific truth doesn't depend on who wrote it -- it depends on whether theory agrees with experiment.

As I've shown you twice now, a correct application of standard radiative theory gives not only the correct average for the lunar equatorial temperature as measured by Diviner, but it provides all the values (such as the maximum) and shape (~[cos(longitude)]^(1/4)) of the entire sun-side equatorial temperature, at all sun-side longitudes.

[And again, the nightside temperature cannot be determined by radiative transfer alone, but depends on heat conduction through the lunar regolith. See, for example
"Near-Surface Temperatures on Mercury and the Moon and the Stability of Polar Ice Deposits," A. R. Vasavada et al, Icarus 141 (1999) 179-193
http://www.gps.caltech.edu/classes/ge151/references/vasavada_et_al_1999.pdf ]

Thus, standard theory completely -- and easily -- explains the Diviner measurements. Claims that it somehow disproves the canonical calculation of the Earth's greenhouse effect is simply wrong, due an incorrect application of basic science promulgated by Roger Tattersall, Ned Nikolov, and Karl Zeller. They are wrong.

Will you be correcting your WUWT post?

David
 
--
David Appell, PhD, independent science journalist
e: david.appell@gmail.com
w: http://www.davidappell.com
m: St. Helens, OR  USA



 

----- Original Message -----

From: David Appell

Sent: 04/25/12 03:16 PM

To: Christopher Monckton

Subject: Re: Diviner result


On 4/24/2012 3:33 AM, Christopher Monckton wrote:
Now, the method that NASA used in order to derive the 270 K value for the Moon is the same method that is routinely used in climate science to derive the 255 K mean characteristic-emission temperature for the Earth, raising the possibility that 255 K is also too high.

Such a result, whoever did it (I doubt it was NASA), is an incorrect application of the physics of radiation transfer. Unlike on Earth, on the Moon you can't assume equilibrium, so radiative theory must be applied pointwise.

Here's how standard theory gives not just the correct curve, but the correct average too:

On the sunlight side of the moon, the average temperature will be

=B*integral

where, as usual,

B=[S*(1-alpha)/sigma]^1/4 = 382 K

and the integral results from averaging the angular factor (a cosine to the 1/4th power) from -pi/2 to +pi/2, which must be done numerically. So on the sunlight side of the Moon the average temperature is

(2.7/pi)*B

The temperature of the dark side cannot, as you imply, be considered from radiative theory, since it also depends on heat conductance. From the data it is approximately

=95 K.

Averaging these two numbers gives

=212 K

in exact agreement with the data.

David


 

----- Original Message -----

From: David Appell

Sent: 04/24/12 05:55 AM

To: monckton@mail.com

Subject: Diviner result and standard theory


To: Christopher Monckton
Cc: Anthony Watts, Roger Tattersall
Re: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/23/why-there-cannot-be-a-global-warming-consensus/

Mr. Monckton:

Your 4/23 post on WUWT saying that standard theory cannot explain the Diviner measurement of lunar temperature is incorrect.

In fact, as I show here:
http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2012/04/norfolk-constabulary-made-wrong-charges.html

standard theory not only easily gives the exact measured value for the average lunar equatorial temperature, but it explains that temperature for all longitudes.

Sincerely,
David

      --   David Appell, independent science journalist   e: david.appell@gmail.com   w: http://www.davidappell.com   m: St. Helens, OR  USA       

 




The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley 
c/o Brooks's, St. James's Street, London SW1A 1LN 
Cell +44 7814 556423: 
monckton@mail.com  > 


   --   David Appell, independent science journalist   e: david.appell@gmail.com   w: http://www.davidappell.com   m: St. Helens, OR  USA   

 




The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley 
c/o Brooks's, St. James's Street, London SW1A 1LN 
Cell +44 7814 556423: 
monckton@mail.com  


  

Arctic Sea Ice Melting Faster

There's an interesting debate about Arctic sea ice predictions versus observations going around amongst Tamino, Roger Pielke Sr, and Skeptical Science. I don't have anything to add to it, but this graph is mildly interesting and probably not original: it shows the annual difference between the yearly maximum of sea ice extent and the yearly minimum. The difference is increasing as time goes by, which I suppose is just an indication that there is less old ice and more new ice, and new ice, especially first year ice, melts faster.


Here's the annual decline in volume, from PIOMAS:

Oreskes' Succinct Summary of the Situation

This is a wonderfully succinct summary by Naomi Oreskes of the essence of today's situation on climate change and the debate, from last night's Australian TV program "I Can Change Your Mind About...Climate." Somehow, this clip did not make it into the final show.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On Manufacturing Doubt for Levitus 2012

Willis Eschenbach, still trying to kill off Levitus et al 2012, asks:
Regarding the climatology, they say that it is from the World Ocean Atlas 2009 (WOA09), viz: ” … statistics at all standard levels and various climatological averaging periods are available at http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/WOA09F/pr_woa09f.html “

So I went there to see what kind of numbers they have for the monthly climatology at 2000 metres depth … and I got this answer:

"The temperature monthly climatologies deeper than 1500 meters have not been calculated."

Well, that sux. How do the authors deal with that? I don’t have a clue.
In fact, the authors say how they do this in their Supplementary Material, which has not been published yet. (I guess now it's too much to wait until scientists' results are actually published before attempting to destroy them.) But a preprint version is here. The authors write:
"The results describing the variability of ocean heat content shown here are based on 745 gridded (1-degree latitude-longitude grid), interpolated fields at standard depth 746 measurement levels have statistical estimates of reliability associated with them."
(emphasis mine). And while the the monthly climatologies below a certain depth aren't available, the quarterly climatologies are -- at least, for every depth I've checked below 1500 m.

Does it matter if quarterly climatologies are used instead of monthly climatologies? I guess it's a fair question, but it's sufficiently technical that I would be sure to first ask the people who know the nuts-and-bolts of the data and analysis before writing a few little subroutines, making a lot of assumptions, and then labeling their work with names like "goofy." (It's also exactly the kind of things that get picked through on peer review.) But then, that's why I enjoy primarily doing journalism and more in-depth writing than being a blogger, especially a blogger in a realm that is really only looking to manufacture doubt about the science rather than fairly evaluating it (which is always more complicated than a few hours work.)

Miscellaneous Stuff of Varying Interest

Miscellaneous stuff that is interesting, but too short for a post of its own:
  • The University of East Anglia paid £113,000 ($182,000; €138,000) to an outside consultancy group (=PR company) to manage the 2009 Climategate episode. (Incidentally, that firm's managing director was arrested last summer in the News of the World phone hacking scandal (where he was earlier an editor).
  • Researchers suggest violent childhood abuse may affect telomeres -- the end caps of DNA that may influence aging and disease. Another researcher says "there's a lot of doubt in the field." No comments on how this might affect political party affiliation. 
  • Keith Kloor has an interesting post, pointing to an earlier interesting post of his, saying again that the shelf life of green catastrophism has expired.
    "Just because the eco-collapse narrative remains the same doesn’t mean it won’t eventually come true.

    The problem for the green traditionalist is that this redundant message has lost its power. There have been too many red alerts, accompanied by too many vague, screechy calls to action. Today, the green traditionalist is like a parent who incessantly yells at his child to behave–or else. The parent grows angrier and increasingly frustrated when the child inevitably tunes him out."
  • This is a couple of months old, but it's a great Peter Sinclair video of ocean scientist Josh Willis succinctly explaining where the sea level rise went. And he was right, as the recent surge in sea level shows.



Uncertainties in Ocean Heating Results

After some fair questions about measurement uncertainties for the Levitus et al GRL paper-in-press on ocean warming, I've asked some scientists for more information. The paper has Supplementary Material that will be included when it appears in final published form. I have a copy, and needless to say the authors take great care to explain how the uncertainties are calculated.

This WUWT post from Willis Eschenbach misses a crucial point. He converts heat changes back to temperature changes (dT = dQ/mc), and writes:
Here’s the problem I have with this graph. It claims that we know the temperature of the top two kilometres (1.2 miles) of the ocean in 1955-60 with an error of plus or minus one and a half hundredths of a degree C.... So I don’t know where they got their error numbers … but I’m going on record to say that they have greatly underestimated the errors in their calculations.
The basic point is that the statistical uncertainty of an average can be much less than that of any temperature measurement.

If you measure the temperatures T1 and Tof two different objects, each to an uncertainty of ΔT, what is the uncertainty ΔA in their average A? The typical way this is done is explained in most freshman physics labs, such as this. So the average temperature of the two objects will be (T1 + T2)/2, and the uncertainty in the average will be

ΔA = ΔT/sqrt(2)

which is less than ΔT. For N measurements the denominator becomes sqrt(N), so the uncertainty is much less. This might seem counterintuitive at first, but it's akin to the statistics of coin-flipping -- over the long haul, the expected average is 50% heads, with a variance (standard deviation) that goes like 1/sqrt(number of flips).

This is essentially what Levitus et al do, and it's completely legitimate. Experimental scientists take uncertainties religiously, and it is often a major part of the analysis, even more so than simply getting a result.

I don't know yet what the uncertainty of an ARGO buoy sensor is, but (to this point) I suspect it's significantly less than 1°C. That comment asks:
There is an amusing example in which they say if you measure the length of an object to the nearest millimetre often enough, you ought to be able to resolve individual atoms. Since atoms are 10^-8 mm you need about 10^16 measurements. What do you think? Is it possible in principle?
But this confuses two completely different concepts -- an individual measurement, and averaging. A measurement of a length is a completely classical measurement, with no notion of "atoms" or discreteness. So there's nothing wrong with a huge number of measurements resulting in an uncertainty less than an atomic length in a statistical sense. (Casinos, of course, rely on this to make their money.) But that says nothing about any particular measurement, only about the average of the measurements. So you're not "resolving atoms," which would necessarily happen in a particular measurement.

Just because the average height of U.S. men is 5 ft 9 in doesn't mean all U.S. men have a height of all U.S. men is 5 ft 9 in -- only the "average man," which is an abstract thing, not a thing that exists in the same sense that any of the men exist. (Viz. the average is a mathematical object. Men aren't.)

My Article on AGW's Parallel to the Problem of Space Debris

I have an article today on the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media: "The Climate Problem: We've Been Here Before."

It's about how the climate issue is tracking the arc of earlier problem: space debris. That environmental issue was once ignored, even as models from a few far-sighted researchers forecast a problem called the "Kessler Cascade."

That cascade -- an exponential increase in the amount of space debris due to collisions, as each collision creates a quantum jump in the number of pieces of debris, resulting in an increased probability of yet more collisions -- became apparent in 2009 with the collision of an Iridium telecommunications satellite with an old Russian satellite. The Kessler Cascade has the potential to render orbital space unusable, and even to create a belt of debris around the Earth that could someday effectively trap us on the surface. The world space community is now scrambling to find a solution, but some think it's already too expensive to clean up space and we'll simply have to live with the problem.

Read it here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Diviner result and standard theory

To: Christopher Monckton
Cc: Anthony Watts, Roger Tattersall
Re: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/04/23/why-there-cannot-be-a-global-warming-consensus/

Mr. Monckton:

Your 4/23 post on WUWT saying that standard theory cannot explain the Diviner measurement of lunar temperature is incorrect.

In fact, as I show here:
http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2012/04/norfolk-constabulary-made-wrong-charges.html

standard theory not only easily gives the exact measured value for the average lunar equatorial temperature, but it explains that temperature for all longitudes.

Sincerely,
David

--
David Appell, independent science journalist
david.appell@gmail.com
http://www.davidappell.com
m: St. Helens, OR USA

[gse-aa] Auroral Alert

There may be an aurora tonight visible across the northern US and UK....

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [gse-aa] Auroral Alert
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2012 13:40:44 -0800
From: <...>
To: <gse-aa@gi.alaska.edu>

A solar event near the limb took us by surprise. The effects of this event were first felt early on the 23rd GMT, but the ejecta from the sun arrived just now (5:30pm Apr 23 GMT). Tonight there will be aurora over the northern tier of the US, Northern UK, Southern Scandinavia, and Southern Alaska. Observers in Southern New Zealand and Tasmania should watch the sky tonight, if the activity proves to be long-lasting.
_______________________________________________ 
gse-aa mailing list
gse-aa@gi.alaska.edu
http://www2.gi.alaska.edu/mailman/listinfo/gse-aa

Star Trek Ruined Space

"In many ways, the worst enemy of NASA is Star Trek... Captain Picard says ‘engage’ and the ship moves. And people think ‘How hard can this be?’"

-- Scott Pace, Director of the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University and a former NASA associate administrator
via SpaceReview.com

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ocean Warming Put Into Perspective

Here's a nice little calculation from the Levitus 2012 paper I mentioned earlier:
"We have estimated an increase of 24 x 1022 J representing a volume mean warming of 0.09°C of the 0-2000 m layer of the World Ocean. If this heat were instantly transferred to the lower 10 km of the global atmosphere it would result in a volume mean warming of this atmospheric layer by approximately 36°C (65°F)."
(This is because the heat capacity [= mass x specific heat][= dQ/dT, where Q is heat and T is temperature] of the ocean is about 1,000 times that of the atmosphere.) Lest you worry, they add:
"This transfer of course will not happen; earth’s climate system simply does not work like this. But this computation does provide a perspective on the amount of heating that the earth system has undergone since 1955."

(?) Real Science Was Hacked

(Added: A commenter noted this late last night... Sorry, I missed this one.)

Now the Steve Goddard blog says it was hacked and that he is fine:

http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/real-science-was-hacked/

I'm skeptical, because I received an email announcing the death, and I have never received such a mass mailing from that site before.

In any case, I don't know what to think. Maybe it's still being hacked, or perhaps that it's all a hoax to show that people will (ha, ha) believe anything if it appears on the Web. Probably best not to believe anything new that appears there (if you ever did).

Miscellaneous Stuff

Pennsylvania meteorologist Aaron Tyburski says that while the climate in his state seems to be shifting, 100 years worth of data isn't enough to discern why. Let's check back with him in 2112.
--

Four environmental groups endorse President Obama for reelection. The Sierra Club executive director says "this president has made historic progress in breaking our dependence on [fossil fuel] energy."
--
Philip Lloyd, who heads the Energy Institute at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in South Africa [where, this reporter writes, "research covers a wide range of energy issues, including studies around climate change"], says, "We have not seen any evidence that the world has gotten any warmer over the past 150 years." The reporter accepted this at face value.

Yet in 2010, Lloyd wrote, “Whether man is responsible (for global warming) is still an open question. Humanity started burning fossil fuels to excess only after 1950. The warming pre-1950 cannot have been driven by fossil fuels. The best guess is that the warming is natural.” [Emphasis mine.]

Let's check back with him in 2112.
--

Artist Ben Shahn: "It may be a point of great pride to have a Van Gogh on the living room wall, but the prospect of having Van Gogh himself in the living room would put a great many devoted art lovers to rout."
--

The Oregonian has an interesting article on the engineers behind Intel's new processing chip coming out on Monday.
--

Favorable Oregon laws mean Intel pays no property taxes on its equipment (about $3B), and none on nearly all corporate income. Intel, 2011: net income of $12.9 billion on revenue of $54 B.

Here's the best part: Intel 1Q12: "Revenue: $12.8 billion, plus or minus $500 million." They make so much money they don't even know its amount to the nearest one-half billion dollars. Let's check back with them in 2112.
--

In 2010, Oregon ranked 27th in public school revenue per student, 49th in class size in 2009, and ranked in the bottom third in educational achievement.

On this, there's probably no point in checking back in 2112.
--

Here's Oliver sleeping off some catnip:


Ocean Warming Update

A paper in press by Sydney Levitus et al in GRL updates ocean heat content trends through 2010:

http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/pip/2012GL051106.shtml

Strong ocean warming continues. The numbers are in their abstract, so I won't repeat them here. Here's a plot of their results:


The warming rate in the 0-2000 m layer is 140 TW (terawatts) -- that's 2.2 Hiros/second. [A "Hiro" is the yield of the Hiroshima bomb: 63 TJ.] Another way to think about the extra heat being added to the world's oceans represents 0.14% of the sunlight received at the Earth's surface (198 W before reflection). So it's as if every year the Earth's surface is now receiving 7.0 extra hours of sunlight.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blogger Steve Goddard Has Died

I just received an email that blogger Steve Goddard has died.... His blog notes it here. (Peter Sinclair says that name was a pseudonym.)

I had no idea he was 81 -- his writing made it seem much younger.

Sometimes I commented at his blog, which invariably let to the usual standoff. It was fun, mostly, and just 10 days ago he emailed me to ask why I "continue to be sympathetic to a group of criminals posing as scientists?"

He had pluck, that's for sure. My condolences to his family and his friends.

Science Deniers' Tactics Pay Off

The best way to win a battle is, of course, before it even begins, simply through intimidation. And that's apparently how contrarians of science kept the Discovery Channel from mentioning man's influence on climate change in a seven-hour exploration of the crysophere. Here's how the series' producer, Vanessa Berlowitz, explained the omission to the New York Times:
“I feel that we’re trying to educate mass audiences and get children involved, and we didn’t want people saying ‘Don’t watch this show because it has a slant on climate change.’ ”
Sun Tzu might have been proud. A win that lacks nobility is still a win.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mexico passes climate-change law : Nature News

Mexico, the world's 11th largest CO2 emitter, legally committed to emissions reductions yesterday:

http://www.nature.com/news/mexico-passes-climate-change-law-1.10496

The limits are rather severe: a mandate to reduce CO2 emissions by 30% below business-as-usual levels by 2020, and by 50% below 2000 levels by 2050.

It also requires "that 35% of the country's energy should come from renewable sources by 2024, and requires mandatory emissions reporting by the country's largest polluters."

The bill passed Mexico's lower house by 128-10, and passed unanimously in their Senate.

According to the 2011 IEA report CO2 Emissions from Fuel Consumption, here are the comparisons for 2009:

per capita emissions (t CO2/yr):
World: 4.3
USA: 16.9
Mexico: 3.7

emissions per GDP (PPP basis) (t CO2/$1000):
World: 0.45
USA: 0.46
Mexico: 0.36

Total emissions as percent of world total (2009: 28,999.4 Mt CO2):
USA: 18%
Mexico: 1.4%

Energy supplied per capita:
World: 2.4 kW
USA: 9.3 kW
Mexico: 2.2 kW

Note: this only counts emissions from fuel consumption, not land use changes. And only CO2, not the other GHGs.

So Mexico is making a pretty big commitment, given their already-low per capita emissions.... In essence, the skinny people are dieting to reduce the world's obesity.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Problem With Non-climate Scientists Denying Climate Science

This excerpt from Andrew Revkin's blog is a year and a half old, but I just found it and it's so good I have to repost it.

Revkin was posting responses from climate science to physicist Robert Laughlin's essay in The American Scholar, "What the Earth Knows." Laughlin is a Nobel Laureaute in Physics (1998) for his work in condensed matter physics.

You don't have to be a climate scientist to see how irrelevant Laughlin's "geologic time" idea is to today's problem of climate change. But some of the scientists in Revkin's post really nailed exactly the problem with physicists like Laughlin, Freeman Dyson, Will Happer, and others opining about climate science -- they don't really know the science and seem unaware of the immense amount of work that has gone into radiative transfer in the atmosphere and other areas of climate science.

This response from David Keith of the University of Calgary is particularly revealing:
A few comments on physicists as climate skeptics.

I had an interesting experience talking to Dyson and Will Happer at a meeting last year. I was thrilled to talk with Dyson. I have loved his writing since my first mentor in physics handed me Dyson’s Disturbing The Universe along with the Feynman lectures when I started working in a big laser lab during high school. Later I enjoyed his papers when I got to field theory.

Dyson’s comments on climate were disappointingly shallow. I said, “Are you concerned about the exaggeration of climate impacts or do you have serious concerns about the science?”

“Both”, he replied. But when I pressed him on the science the only thing he said was that CO2 radiative forcing was logarithmic and complained that nobody knows this or talks about it. It was disappointing to hear such a shallow commentary from such a great man. Everyone who needs to knows that CO2 forcing is (roughly) logarithmic. This science is more than half a century old; it is in any textbook; the I.P.C.C. even as an “official” log forcing function that is widely used in simple policy analysis models. This science of building good high-resolution radiative transfer codes was nailed by Gilbert Plass and others at the air force geophysics lab in the 1950’s.

If one is going to attack the climate science this is a very odd place to start.

I also talked to Will Happer who testified in Congress, slamming climate science is nonsense. The conversation was much the same. When asked for some specific critique of the science his only answer concerned the saturation of the CO2 spectral lines, yet he seemed to have little or no familiarity with the content of modern (i.e. the last 30+ years) radiative transfer models which treat such line broadening with high accuracy; and, unlike some other components of climate models, this stuff can be well validated from both first principles and experiment (N.B., I built a high accuracy radiometer that flies on the U-2/ER-2 that does this). This critique is closely tied with Dyson’s comment about logarithmic response to CO2. It is likewise trivially without foundation. From Happer, a very smart and creative experimentalist in the same atomic and molecular physics world that I came from, this is embarrassing and disappointing.

My hunch is that Dyson, Happer and others like them are reacting to the apocalyptic overstatements by some in the climate advocacy world such as Gore.

Folks like Dyson who have thought a lot about nuclear weapons have a much higher threshold for things they call “catastrophic.” If a big nuclear war is you benchmark for catastrophe then climate change looks tame. Moreover, Dyson seems unconcerned about wholesale human manipulation of the natural world, and is convinced the economic impacts of climate change will be slight. These are statements about values and economics. I think they are perfectly reasonable views, even though I don’t wholly share them. If Dyson kept his critiques to this ground I would have no trouble with them, indeed they might sharpen the debate since there is lots of facile exaggeration in the enviro camp.

However, I think it is a misuse of their reputations as physicists to have folks like Dyson, Happer and Laughlin and publicly dismiss the underlying science without offering a technically substantive critique.

If their concern is overhype about the risk of climate change they should critique that overhype directly.
Of course, what goes for Laughlin goes 100 times (at least) for nearly all bloggers, 1000 times for blog commenters, and 1,000,000 times for anonymous blog commenters.

Physicists always think they know everything, but they don't. And if physicists don't, nobody does :-)

And You Think *YOU* Have Climate Problems

A new paper in the International Journal of Climatology by Mansour Almazrou et al analyzes climate trends in Saudi Arabia, and puts the "warm" in global warming.

To set the stage, the dryest parts of Saudi Arabia get only 40-80 mm/yr of rainfall. The "wettest" regions are considered those that get more than 150 mm/yr. Average annual temperatures are at least 24°C, and are 27°C in the warmest region.

So, over the last half of the two-decade period 1978-2008, researchers found that rainfall there is decreasing at 47.8 mm/decade.

The maximum, mean, and minimum temperatures are increasing at rates of 0.71, 0.60, and 0.48°C/decade, respectively.

Saudi Arabia may be rich enough for at least some of its citizens to tolerate such changes. But its southernmost region is still at 16°N. (To set the scale, Miami is just as little less than 26°N.) To northerners like most of us, 0.2°C/decade might not sound like much of a problem. But I wonder about those even near the equator.
--

For non-metric readers, here are the English numbers:

The dryest parts of Saudi Arabia get only 1.6-3.1 inches/yr of rainfall. The "wettest" regions are considered those that get more than 5.9 in/yr. Average annual temperatures are at least 75°F, and are 81°F in the warmest region.

Over the last half of the two-decade period 1978-2008, researchers found that rainfall there is decreasing at 1.9 in/decade.

The maximum, mean, and minimum temperatures are increasing at rates of 1.3, 1.1, and 0.9°F/decade, respectively.

Saudi Arabia may be rich enough for at least some of its citizens to tolerate such changes. But its southernmost region is still at 16°N. (To set the scale, Miami is just as little less than 26°N.) To northerners like most of us, 0.4°F/decade might not sound like much of a problem. But I wonder about those even near the equator.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Scott Denning Writes About His Heartland Experience

Scott Denning, Colorado State UniversityScott Denning from Colorado State University -- whose talk at last year's Heartland Conference I mentioned a few weeks ago -- recently wrote an essay on his experience.
"Refusing to engage dismissive voices on climate change may feel like taking the high road, but I suspect it’s the high road to ruin. Ignoring climate contrarians has not made them go away. In fact, their message has resonated with an increasing slice of public opinion for several years. Tony Leiserowitz (Yale University) and colleagues survey public opinion on climate change and find persistent and growing segments of the American public that are doubtful or dismissive about the human role in climate change. It seems to me that strong and persuasive engagement of that audience by more bona fide experts articulating the scientific consensus is essential."
He goes on to suggest how to meaningfully engage contrarians. One good point is this:
At ICCC I proposed that we could all agree that “we need public policy based on facts, rather than facts based on a political agenda,” and received thunderous applause. Rather than start with time-series graphs that all turn up sharply at the end, I started with a question: “Did you ever wonder why it’s warmer during the day than at night? Warmer in summer than winter? Warmer in Miami than Minneapolis?” The answer is that when more heat is added to the Earth’s surface than subtracted, temperatures rise. If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. But if you don’t like the climate, you’ll have to move. Climate changes very slowly and is very predictable. We can predict that the world will warm in the 21st century for precisely the same reason that we can predict that Miami is warmer than Minneapolis, and with the same kind of confidence.
Denning points out that the basic science behind climate change is easily understandable, which is perhaps why there seems to be a new group of contrarians like Roger "Tallbloke" Tattersal who are devoted not to arguing the details of the science, but creating at alternative scientific reality: that there is no greenhouse effect, no real decline in Arctic sea ice, or today, that the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is from natural sources, not manmade. (Nor, of course, is he alone in such crackpottery.)

Denning ends with the conclusion some others are reaching: the only solution to the climate problem is the development of new energy technologies that do not emit carbon:
"I believe what’s needed is a new system of energy and economics that delivers a decent standard of living to billions and billions of people but doesn’t require semi-permanent alteration of the Earth’s climate through fossil fuel combustion. The world will need a way to produce vastly more energy than we do now to support those billions. And with double-digit rates of annual economic growth in the developing world, this new system of post-fossil energy will need to be in place sooner than later....

"Solving this challenge will require everyone’s ingenuity. As Ralph Cicerone, president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, has said, “Scientists are necessary but not sufficient to solve the climate problem.” Scientists have a role to play in understanding and communicating about this problem, but we have no special status to prescribe solutions."
By the way, I've heard that Denning, who studies the carbon cycle, has a book coming out called The Breathing of the Earth. I expect it will be good.

Added: There's also this recounting of an email "conversation" Denning had with a denier.

Cheering the Space Shuttle

Space Shuttle DiscoveryThe cheering and clapping yesterday as the Space Shuttle was flown low over Washington D.C. reminded me how differently the country sees space now compared to when I was a kid.

I was nuts about the space program for a few years as a kid, about grades 2-5, but it's not on my 7-year old nephew's radar at all as far as I can tell. In school the teacher would roll a television into the classroom so we could watch Apollo launches, I still remember watching the first moon landing on a black-and-white television late at night, and I took over a corner of our living room for a place to set my books and models about outer space and the space program.

I was so excited about the first moon landing that I have a clear memory of writing my name and  the date "July 20, 1969" in wet cement when I helped my grandfather put a post up on his farm, thinking it would always record the day of that event.

But my nephew isn't especially interested in space at all -- only to the except that he's interested in everything. He loves Mythbusters, and even went to one of the host's tour shows in Portland, and has a mobile of the planets hanging in his room. But he's more obsessed with soccer and lacrosse and transformer models and chess and getting his hands on his mom's laptop or the video games she limits.

There's nothing wrong with these. I just never would have expected that U.S. forays into space would have peaked with the Apollo moon landings -- at least, the human side of it.

Here's a tweet that seems to sum it all up, via the Guardian:

A More Thoughtful Take on Political Brains

For a more sophisticated viewpoint on some of the differences between liberals and conservatives -- and much less ideological than it's mostly their genes or it's structures in their brains or its both nature and nuture or there is no hardwiring -- the explanation seems to change daily depending on what mess Chris Mooney needs to clean up from the day before -- watch psychologist Jonathan Haidt's talk at TED:






There's also this talk Haidt had with Robert Wright, and a NYT review of Haidt's book The Righteous Mind, where William Saletan writes:
"To the question many people ask about politics — Why doesn’t the other side listen to reason? — Haidt replies: We were never designed to listen to reason....

"The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others....

"Faith, patriotism, valor, chastity, law and order — these Republican themes touch all six moral foundations, whereas Democrats, in Haidt’s analysis, focus almost entirely on care and fighting oppression. This is Haidt’s startling message to the left: When it comes to morality, conservatives are more broad-minded than liberals. They serve a more varied diet."
And, of course, liberals can be just as irrational (in someone's opinion) and anti-science as conservatives, such as the attitude of some on the far left about genetically modified organisms. (Keith Kloor has more on that here.)

I've received more than one email, and several comments, criticizing me for commenting on Mooney's book without having read it. First of all, excerpts like this seem quite clear:
"And I’ll examine what is in some ways the most revolutionary idea at all–the increasingly powerful notion that, while the environment assuredly matters, much of the left-right difference may ultimately be influenced by genetics, and even detectable in structures in the brains."
I agree with Kenneth Silber at FrumForum: you don't name a book The Republican Brain unless you're looking to sell books by getting attention for ticking people off. If he was a science writer and not a political writer he would have named it The Political Brain or some such. Instead the title's tactic is that same as those who title their book Liberal Fascism or Liberalism is a Mental Disorder. Silber notes
"Mooney criticizes Republican congressional leaders, for example, for sending a letter to Ben Bernanke in September 2011 urging no further monetary easing."
as if national economic policy is so cut-and-dried there is an obvious correct answer.

So, no, I'm not going to read the book. There's too much else out there that is worth reading, and I'm at the point where I'm wary of anyone who thinks they know the right answers to big questions (no matter what they think).

Note added: In this regard, Haidt's most relevant thought comes at the 3:05 mark in the video:
"When people all share values, when people all share morals, they become a team, and once you engage the psychology of teams it shuts down open thinking."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Judge Again Rules in Mann's Favor

Michael Mann wins another round in court:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/apr/16/conservative-group-sees-glimmer-of-hope-in-climate/
 

Concerns about Causality

Last night I had this dream, that was typically surreal as dreams are. Somewhere in a hallway of a big building I was with a group of people and a person appeared who had magical powers that both frightened and thrilled us at the same time. She was brazenly letting those of us around her ask questions that challenged her status as an unworldly being, and when it came my turn I asked her, "Can you violate causality?" Almost immediately drops of water splashed onto my glasses, then a second later in a small scene in front of me it started to rain on a dark house.

I don't ordinarily go around concerned about causality, but somewhere deep in my subconscious I must be worried about it for some reason. I don't know what that means. Or why I didn't ask for a beautiful woman or a bar of gold instead.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Population Control and Climate Change

"By adopting a 'one-child' policy since 1979, Chinese demographers estimate that about 300 million births have been avoided, equivalent to the present population of the United States. Even at the relatively low level of Chinese per capita carbon dioxode emissions, the effect of this population policy can be measured as an avoidance of about 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted annually to the global atmosphere. This represents a nominal reduction of about 5 per cent in global carbon emissions, a much greater reduction than has been achieved by all the measures of the Kyoto Protocol."

-- Mike Hulme, Why We Disagree About Climate Change, Chapter 8
(On the other hand, maybe one of those 300 M people would have invented a technique for massive noncarbon energy production.)

Space Elevator Article

I have a short news article in the April issue of Physics World about Obayashi Corportions's announcement of plans to build a space elevator by 2050:

"Japanese construction firm unveils ambitious space-elevator vision," Physics World, April 2012, p. 8.

Their design is no surprise to anyone who knows the subject -- it's the basic "Brad Edwards" plan outlined in his book with Eric Westling (discussed in my earlier feature on space elevators in Physics World) -- and Obayashi's plans are largely aspirational. But they are a big, established company with huge financial resources.

In other space elevator news, Michael Laine was recently on The Space Show talking about his resurrection of Liftport and their feasibility studies of a lunar space elevator. That podcast is here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Agree or Disagree?

"The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless."

-- Robert Samuelson (economist)
Via the Geoenginnering mailing list


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Location of Tsunami Debris

This map released by NASA shows the likely location of the estimated 1.5 million tons of debris from the March 2011 tsunami in Japan -- the deeper the red color, the higher the concentration of debris.

Some of the debris is already off the Pacific coast -- a 150-ft Japanese fishing boat that washed away in the tsunami was recently spotted off the coast of British Columbia. (No one was on board when the tsunami took it away.)

Tracking Debris from the Tohoku Tsunami

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Roy Spencer's Entertaining Polynomial Suggests End-of-Days

Roy Spencer's fit to the UAH data predicts the world will end in December 2170.

Every month when he announces the UAH lower troposphere global temperature anomaly for the previous month, he includes on his graph a 3rd-order polynomial fit



and writes, "The 3rd order polynomial fit to the data (courtesy of Excel) is for entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as having any predictive value whatsoever."

Recently some people (including me) have complained, in part because the caveat doesn't always get replicated with the graph is reproduced, and in fact Spencer himself doesn't always replicate the caveat. That's misleading.

Some people defend it. Someone named "Bill A." even thinks it's on the short list of those approaching a realistic possibility."

Hmm. Let's see.

If you use Excel to do a 3rd-order polynomial fit to the UAH LT data you get

temperature anomaly = aD+ bD+ cD + d

where D is the date (as an integer; in Excel, D=1 is January 1, 1900), and where up through March 2012 the best fit is

a = -1.13719E-12
b = 1.21004E-07
c = -0.004228872
d = 48.51822318

This function peaks in November 2008. Hmm. For January 2020 it "predicts" the temperature anomaly will be -0.13°C, and it only gets worse from there.

By January 2035 it "predicts" an anomaly of -2.1°C
By Jan 2050, it predicts -7.0°C

and by January 2171 the anomaly will be -287.45°C, which, if you take the baseline to be 14°C, is below absolute zero and violates the 3rd law of thermodynamics.

Of course, it's absurd to project a fit that far, no matter what degree polynomial it is. But that's part of the point -- the 3rd order fit seems selected for the one that shows the data peaking and decline in the near future. (Actually, Excel says a 6th-order polynomial is a better fit, with a slightly higher R2 value.)

On the other hand, a linear fit "predicts" the anomaly will be about 0.7°C in 2050.

So, if you had to make a fit, which seems more realistic: 0.7°C, or -7°C?

But besides any of that, I think the data keepers should, above all, not be the ones using it for entertainment, especially in a way that seems to support their inclinations. Not everyone is going to get the joke.

What Evidence is Not

An article in the Corvallis Gazette-Times about a man who owns a life-sized photograph of the Shroud of Turin includes this quote from him:
"Skeptics, there’s no evidence that will make them believe anything. But for Christians to be able to see this image displayed, it’s a very moving experience for them."
Which is kind of hilarious, because he has the situation exactly upside down -- it's precisely evidence that religious skeptics want! He doesn't seem to understand that what he has is a photograph, and not evidence per se.

In other news from the fringe, the town of Philomath (next to Corvallis) voted to reinstate fluoride to their water supply, after city councilors voted two years ago to take it out. A victory, if small. (Back story here.) Still, only 20% of Oregon residents have fluoride in their water supply (Portland does not); the nationwide average is about 67%.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Suicide Note From Greece

The note left by 77-year old Dimitris Christoulas, who took his own life yesterday morning in front of the Greek Parliament building in Athens (via Athens News):
"The Tsolakoglou government has annihilated all traces for my survival, which was based on a very dignified pension that I alone paid for 35 years with no help from the state. And since my advanced age does not allow me a way of dynamically reacting (although if a fellow Greek were to grab a Kalashnikov, I would be right behind him), I see no other solution than this dignified end to my life, so I don’t find myself fishing through garbage cans for my sustenance. I believe that young people with no future, will one day take up arms and hang the traitors of this country at Syntagma square, just like the Italians did to Mussolini in 1945."
[Georgios Tsolakoglou was the first collaborationist prime minister during Germany's occupation of Greece during the Second World War.]

CBS News: "Before the financial crisis first began, Greece had the lowest suicide rate in Europe at 2.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to Eurostat. That has now almost doubled and is rising at an alarming rate. A Greek Ministry of Health study found the suicide rate in the first half of 2011 was 40 percent higher than the year before."

The suicide rate in Greece is now 6 per 100,000 people. Last year's rate in the U.S. was 19 per 100,000. (In 2000 the U.S. rate was 10.4; in 1950, 13.2.)

Kevin Trenberth on NPR

Kevin Trenberth was on NPR's Talk of the Nation today, talking about relationships between global warming and tornadoes (and a few other things). He didn't say anything too surprising. When asked he said he thinks the best way to keep a tab on global warming is by watching sea level, since it incorporates both ocean heat changes and the melting of land ice, and is less subject to short term variations. You can listen to him here (though it hasn't been posted yet as I write this).

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

My UAH LT Prediction Was Quite Close

The UAH lower troposphere anomaly for March is 0.11°C.

My "prediction" was 0.12°C, which is luckier than I expected. Or maybe I'm some kind of genius.

Here are the linear slopes for recent periods. The statistical uncertainties are for the 95% confidence level:

last 10 years: 0.01 ± 0.10 °C/decade
last 15 years: 0.07 ± 0.06 °C/decade
last 20 years: 0.20 ± 0.04 °C/decade
last 30 years: 0.16 ± 0.02 °C/decade

full record: 0.13 ± 0.01 °C/decade

The last 10 years (i.e. 120 months) has been 0.20°C warmer than the previous decade.

John Christy wrote me to say there is a further complication besides satellite drift, overheating, etc: The raw channel values on the Discover website are those of AMSU channel 5, not for the lower troposphere. So they have some influence from the stratosphere which has to be removed. All of these corrections are, of course, in their publications. Figuring all these out is really hard core, nitty gritty science, and I suspect it was a little maddening at times, too.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Smell of the Web

"It's great that a thousand flowers have bloomed on the Web, but perhaps not all of them are as fragrant as they should be."

-- David Carr (NYT), today on NPR's Talk of the Nation

Norfolk Constabulary Made the Wrong Charges

A few months ago the Norfolk UK police raided the home of Roger "Tallbloke" Tattersall. They found no evidence he was involved in the Climategate theft, but they should not have dropped the case, because he's guilty -- of counterfeiting.

Specifically, science counterfeiting. Alas, such an infraction does not appear in the legal code, though perhaps it should. In any case, Tattersall isn't very good at it.

An endless stream of scientific drivel pours out of his blog, all in the name of denying the science of climate change. But Tattersall isn't interested in quibbling about Arctic ice trends or the urban heat island effect. He and his contributors are busy constructing their own scientific reality.

Not surprisingly, their world does not agree with the data scientists actually measure, but that doesn't seem to matter to them -- they always finds ways of bending the theory and/or the data so it seems to, while simultaneously finding a way -- any way -- to claim that canonical science fails.

There are many examples I could point to, but the best is his marketing of the ideas of Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller. N&Z, as they're known, claim that radiative physics has been misapplied to the Earth and that its basic greenhouse effect is not the commonly claimed 30 C or so, but would be several times higher -- or something. And so, they say, there is no greenhouse effect, but that atmospheric pressure accounts for the enhanced Earth's surface temperature. (Even Roy Spencer disagrees.)

Alas, N&Z are confused about the physics, and Tattersall is even more confused in his defense of them. (He doesn't like it when people point this out, and routinely bans people who insist on pointing out his errors. Deniers often resort to this tactic when obfuscation has failed.)

This gets a little technical, and sorting it all out can take some time, but the basics are fairly clear: N&Z adopt an unrealistic picture for a planetary body, and so their calculation gives the wrong answer.

Standard climate science says the Earth's average temperature, to first approximation, is 255 K, calculated according to the Stefan-Boltzmann law:

TE = [S(1-α)/4σ]1/4

where S is the Earth's solar constant (1367 W/m2), α its albedo (0.3), and σ is the Stefan Boltzmann constant. (The factor of 4 comes from a large-scale average.) Since the Earth's annual average temperature is about about 286 K, climate scientists say the greenhouse effect is approximately the difference, about 30 K.

To be sure, there are assumptions made in this calculation, the major ones being that the our Sun's light strikes the Earth as parallel rays, and that the planet's temperature is uniform over its entire surface. The latter is not such a bad approximation: the Earth's global annual mean temperature is 286 K, the equatorial annual mean is 4% above this, the north pole 10% below and the south pole 21% below.

N&Z say this is incorrect, because the radiation laws have been misapplied to a gray body. (A gray body is a blackbody with an emissivity less than one -- it does not radiate like a perfect blackbody.) They claim one must first calculate the temperature at each point on the gray body, and then average the temperature over the sphere. So they write the temperature function of a spherical gray body as



T(θ,φ) = S(1-α)cos(θ)/εσ


where θ is the zenith angle of sunlight (see their Figure 1 here). They then integrate this over the body's sphere:

where μ = cos(θ). Consequently they get a factor of 2/5 where the standard application above gives the fourth root of 1/4. So applying this to a planet's dayside (the nightside gets no solar radiation and so has T=0) they find (page 4 here) an average T of 234 K. They write:
"The take-home lesson from the above example is that calculating the actual
mean temperature of an airless planet requires explicit integration of the SB law
over the planet surface. This implies first taking the 4th root of the absorbed
radiative flux at each point on the surface and then averaging the resulting
temperature field rather than trying to calculate a mean temperature from a spatially averaged flux as done in Eq. (3)."
But think about this: their picture of an airless planetary body is one that has T=0 at certain points on its surface -- the points where the radiation comes in perpendicular to the surface, or on its nightside.

Does that sound like the planetary body you're living on? It doesn't even sound like the moon (where the nightside temperature is about 95 K) or Mercury (about 120 K).

They try to save their result by ad hoc adding radiation from the cosmic microwave background -- that's the cs term in the above equation.

The CMB has a temperature of 2.72 K, so its radiation contributes 3.1 μW/m2. Does that sound like the planet you're living on, for any point on its surface? No, it does not.

It's not even the moon, where heat is conducted through the lunar regolith, which is why its nightside temperature is so high compared to the CMB. (Vasavada et al modeled it in this 1999 paper.)

Tattersall is trying to claim that a measurement of the moon's equatorial temperature "confirms" N&Z's claim that the Stefan Boltzmann law has been misapplied to gray bodies. It does not.

Here is the data. N&Z's result for the average temperature is 39 K too low -- some confirmation!

Meanwhile, standard radiative physics gives exactly the right value for the average, and for the shape of the curve as well. Standard physics says (this is from Pierrehumbert's textbook, Chapter 3, pgs 152-153) that, on a body like the moon, with essentially no atmosphere, there is no large scale equilibrium, so the temperature on the dayside is due to its radiation at that point. Now, along the equator the solar radiation has a factor of a cosine due to its obliquity to the normal, and when calculating the average you have to average its fourth power. Radiative considerations alone can’t fix the nightside temperature — thermal conductance of the regolith must be included, so I'll just take that as a constant Tn. Then

average equatorial T = (2.7/2π)B +Tn/2 = 212 K

where B=[S(1-α)/σ]1/4, S is the Earth’s solar constant, and Tn is the nightside temperature of about 95 K (as measured by Diviner). The number 2.7 comes from the cosine integral.

Not only is this the right average, but this method also predicts that the peak for the lunar equatorial temperature will be B. The moon's albedo is 0.11, so this gives 382 K -- an exact agreement with the data. And it says the temperature along the equator should drop off as the 1/4th power of the longitude -- also in agreement with the measued curve.

But Tattersall's need to deny the greenhouse effect is so large that this isn't good enough, so he's sticking with N&Z, even though they're incorrect.

N&Z's real error (as physicist Joel Shore tried repeatedly to point out to Tattersall, which resulted (of course) in his getting banned) is the assumption that the temperature at each point on the surface is determined only by the balance of incoming radiation and emitted radiation. In effect, they assume (as Shore put it to me) "a body with no thermal inertia or thermal transport. For body with significant inertia and thermal transport (and especially rotation), these assumptions will be poor."

--

Saul Bellow wrote, "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep."

Here is a perfect demonstration of Bellow's sagacity.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Selection Bias Goes Both Ways

For the same reason I am skeptical about people who look at heat waves and find evidence of climate change, I am skeptical about people (especially meteorologists) who look at them and find evidence of just weather. Selection bias goes both ways.

The Washington Post reports on an nonpeer-reviewed NOAA study that found that 'freak chance' was the major reason for last month's US heat wave:
...The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyzed the causes and chances of what it nicknamed “meteorological March madness.” Meteorologist Martin Hoerling said the main cause was a persistent warm wind sending toasty air north from the Gulf of Mexico. The study is not peer-reviewed and some outside scientists say it is short-sighted.

“Climate change was certainly a factor, but it was certainly a minor factor,” Hoerling said.

He said the bigger issue was wind patterns. Low pressure in the Pacific Northwest and high pressure in New England created a perfect funnel, like the gutter lane in a bowling alley, for warm air in the Gulf of Mexico to head north. That air is about 15 to 20 degrees warmer than the air in the Midwest. From time to time that air heads north, but what is unusual is that the wind pattern stayed that way for about two weeks.
Look, in addition to climate there is always still weather. How else would an extreme weather event manifest itself except if it was driven to wherever it took place by meteorological pressure forces?

So meteorologists, who are educated in the tools of meteorology, are (it seems to me) going to look at events and see all their contours and arrows and find an explanation in the language their tools provide them.

It was the same with the Russian heat wave, where some saw "blocking." Blocking isn't really an explanation, it's just a description in a certain language. Surely that wasn't the first time such blocking had ever occurred. So why did the temperature rise so high with this blocking and not previous blockings?

The meteorologist above says, of the US heat wave (as paraphrased by the reporter), 'from time to time that air heads north, but what is unusual is that the wind pattern stayed that way for about two weeks.'

Well, how unusual was it? Had it ever happened before? If so, had the temperature risen that high before? If not, why not? Because there is more energy in the atmosphere, because the Earth has an energy imbalance.

What We Might Soon See (at 400 ppm)

When Should Activists Plan for 400 ppm?

This is the time of year when the preponderance of the plant life on the planet is dead or dormant -- most of it being in the northern hemispheric, because that's where most of the land is -- so the plant community isn't breathing much, so atmospheric CO2 levels are rising. And at Mauna Loa (MLO) they just hit a new high and crossed over 395 ppm for the first time:


The level will continue to rise until late May, though the exact amount varies, from this point in the year, from about 0.5 to 1.5 ppm.

So when will MLO CO2 first top 400 ppm? I suspect climate activist groups are already planning a huge campaign to mark the occasion -- it would be foolish for an activist not to.

The slope of the linear trend in the above graph is 1.88 ppm/yr, so assuming this year tops out at about 396 ppm, 400 ppm should be reached in either 2014 or 2015.

Topping 400 ppm will be possible in 2014, but not a sure thing, especially if this year tops out higher than 396 ppm. But to be safe that's what the 350.org's of the world need to plan for, though they might have to put their media package on hold in June 2014 and save it for the next year, when "400" will definitely happen.

(Yes, surely there will be some CO2 monitors somewhere in the world that will reach 400 ppm earlier, and probably some near strong CO2 sources already have. But Mauna Loa is the most famous monitoring site, so it will be the one that really matters.)

Sunday, April 01, 2012

On (Not) Eliminating the Penny

Not only does the US have no plans to do away with the penny -- unlike Canada -- but it costs us even more to make them: 2.4 cents per penny.

We also lose 6 cents per nickel.

Eliminating or modifying the US penny would apparently upset zinc miners and vending machine manufacturers. Since the US now exists almost entirely to serve corporate interests, we certainly can't do that.