Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Teddy Drops Politics to be Out in the Open

Teddy Roosevelt's letter to John Muir, 1902:



Is Proxima b Our Refuge from Climate Change?

So it's been announced (the rumors were right) that scientists have discovered a potentially Earth-like planet around our nearest star, Proxima Centauri, which is only 4.25 light-years away.

Assuming that's where the last group of surviving humans will go after Anthony Watts' denialism leads to an Earth too hot for habitation, what does this planet look like?

First, I hope nobody suggests calling this planet "Vulcan." For now it's just "Proxima b," which needs improvement; hopefully those who discovered it will get to name it. (Please don't use "Earth 2," "Neoearth," or anything of the sort.)

Nobody knows yet what this planet looks like, though telescopes may be able to able to glimpse it in their next generation. (A proposed $175 million space telescope could help -- surely some billionaire can afford that, right. I mean, just write a check.)

Proxima b is only 0.05 AU from its star, Proxima Centauri, and tidally locked -- like our Moon. One side is in permanent starlight and the other side is permanently dark.

Proxima Centauri has a luminosity of only 0.15% of the Sun, 85% of it in the infrared. So humans, take your night vision goggles.

The irradiance onto the planet is 65% of Earth's, or about 890 W/m2. By comparison, Mars's solar constant is 589 W/m2. So not too shabby.

What's the planet's surface temperature? There isn't enough information to say -- we don't know the planet's albedo, its radius, or the eccentricity of its orbit (the paper says it's < 0.35).

The paper says the equilibrium blackbody temperature of the planet is 234 K. That's -39°C, which is -38°F. But without the above information, the average surface temperature can't be calculated, so we don't know if liquid water can exist there.

I tried calculating the effective blackbody temperature, but got 352 K. I think because an eccentricity of 0.35 is fairly high, and I used the semimajor axis, not the average distance from the star. (That difference increases with eccentricity.)

It seems unlikely advanced life exists there -- else, why haven't they come here, or sent small ships, much like Stephen Hawking and crew want to sent out iPhone sized ships in the next few decades? Planets are old -- a few million years -- the time for our transition from apes to small ship launchers -- doesn't matter much. So it's unlikely they'd be at the same point of development we are, and since we haven't heard from them they must be behind us, if at all.

Speaking of which, the upcoming movie Arrival looks excellent. Trailer:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Are Flood Costs Decreasing?

ClimateDepot offers this graph, from Roger Pielke Jr:


And that is indeed what you get if you take the NWS's data on annual flood damage and divide it by inflation-adjusted GDP

But the problem with this simple calculation is that it ignores all the money spent to reduce or prevent flooding -- dams built, rivers dredged and rerouted, streams widened, rip rap installed, house and town relocations, etc. 

This has come up on his blog before, and I also heard it from an NCAR hurricane expert I talked to a few years ago at a summer workshop in Boulder. Until you include this spending, you don't get an accurate picture of the true cost of flooding. I don't suppose the latter amount is easy to calculate though, but it may exist somewhere. 

And how do you factor in better forecasting and better telecommunications, and the cost of establishing that? The years have seen great improvements in weather forecasting, and better communications mean people have gotten more and more accurate warnings over the years. (Lack of good forecasting and communication was a big factor behind so many deaths (682) in the 1938 New England hurricane.) Some amount of the immense spending by the US on installing radar systems and launching and operating satellites has to be counted too, in lieu of flood losses. 

Buildings are constructed better, too. A brick house may survive a flood today whereas a wooden house of 50 years ago wouldn't have survived the same flood. Brick houses cost more.

In short, that's what civilization does -- it provides ever more security via planning, management and technology. But all that isn't free.

These criticisms apply to many such graphs Roger promotes -- hurricanes, for example. But it seems to me especially for flooding. Roger acknowledges some of the complications -- see the next paragraph -- and gives some other one, but this graph in particular is simplistic and misleading. 

Accounting for the costs of disasters is inherently complicated for three reasons. First, disasters have direct costs, such as the destruction of a building, but also indirect costs. For example, a community may see property values decrease in years after a disaster and experience a corresponding loss of property tax revenue. Disasters also have direct and indirect benefits, such as when a community receives an infusion of disaster relief funds that pours money into the local economy (cf. Changnon, 1996; Pielke and Pielke, 1997). Second, a disaster’s losses are a function of the spatial and temporal scale that the analyst chooses as the focus of a particular loss analysis. For example, federal disaster assistance shifts some of the losses from the local economy to the federal government; and, for more than 100 years the sea wall built after the 1900 Galveston hurricane has provided benefits in lives saved and losses avoided in subsequent storms. For the same event, analysts can develop equally rigorous analyses of losses that differ a great deal (cf. Guimaraes et al., 1993). Finally, many losses (and benefits) associated with a disaster are intangible. For example, widespread damage to agricultural land that results in crop losses can affect commodity prices and thus necessitates a counterfactual argument (i.e., what would commodity prices have been without the event) in order to estimate the economic losses associated with the crops that never went to market. Thus, the true costs of disasters include hidden costs and benefits which are difficult to identify and quantify.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Water is for Fighting Over"

That's the title of John Fleck's new book about the Colorado River.

And it's true. Water is an issue in the western US unlike anything the eastern US can understand.

I never understood it until I moved to the west.

River flow here matters. Snow pack matters. Lake Mead storage matters.

Droughts can be devastating -- in the southwest, or California, or Oregon. Farmers suffer terribly in droughts, and fires burn in droughts.

Cities in the West -- Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and more -- are literally built on the water they have arranged to have delivered to them.

Take away their water, and these cities will cease to exist in short order.

What they get is not natural water -- not water that would flow to them anyways -- but water produced only by the machinations of man. And, people are starting to think, it's not water that is always going to be guaranteed.

If you live in the west, or if you want to understand the west -- the Sun Belt and the Pacific Northwest -- you have to first read Marc Reisner's 1986 book Cadillac Desert. It will open your eyes to the aquatic Disneyland that has been create here.

Fleck is an optimist about water in the western US.

I haven't read John's book yet -- just ordered it -- but my impression so far, based on some good reviews his book has gotten, is that it is probably the followup to Reisner's book that people have been waiting for 30 years.

Disclosure: I've known John for several years, first as a blogger covering climate for the Albuquerque Journal, then as he transitioned to water issues in the southwest. I've had dinner with him a few times in Albuquerque, when I was back there for family business. (I was an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico.) I like him a lot, and am looking forward to reading his book, which I know he certainly worked hard on. And its has impressively already gotten him appointed as the Director of the UNM's Water Resources Program.

I'll write more after I read his book.

PS: Fleck blogs here.

Where is La Nina?

From the Australian Bureau of Meteorology:
In the Pacific Ocean, only two of eight international climate models monitored by the Bureau indicate La Niña is likely to develop during the austral spring, with two more indicating a possible late-forming event in summer. The remaining models suggest neutral or near-La Niña conditions. A La Niña WATCH remains in place, but if La Niña does develop it is likely be weak.
IRI's forecast is about identical to last month's:


Friday, August 19, 2016

Conclusion of the Last Event in the Men's Decathlon, Rio Olymptics


"A jetliner is just aluminum wrapped around a theory."

Piers Sellers, an upper-level official at NASA, wrote an interesting essay for the New Yorker this week: "Space, Climate Change, and the Real Meaning of Theory."

He points out that we design bridges based complicated models that apply Newton's laws of motion and the observed properties of materials, and these bridges are build and they (rarely) fall down.

We build airplanes based on the physics of fluid mechanics and the dynamical laws of motion and properties of substances, and they are rolled out of hanger, pointed down the runway, and take off.

And in exactly the same way, we project climate based on elementary laws of physics proven a century or more ago -- the Planck Law, the Stefan Boltzmann law, the measured absorption properties of gases. And many other laws of physics that represent the real world. Just look at all this physics.

Manmade global warming isn't rocket science. I mean, Arrhenius put the pieces together in the late 1800s, though not quite prefectly. Lots of improvements and additions have come since. This is basic, even obvious stuff.

All climate models ever constructed show warming from human emissions of greenhouse gases. Given CO2's role in the greenhouse effect, it is hardly surprising that 45% more CO2 in the atmosphere would cause more warming.

It'd be far more surprising if it didn't.

--

It is perfectly legitimate to make predictions based on observations combined with well established physical laws. That's how geologists discovered tectonic plates. How Neptune was discovered. How the atomic nucleus was inferred. And so on.

There is no experimental proof that smoking is harmful -- it's unethical to do such experiments, and impractical -- yet we know that it is. This conclusion isn't going to be reverse next year, or in 20 years.

 Sellers writes:
Climate models are made out of theory. They are huge assemblies of equations that describe how sunlight warms the Earth, and how that absorbed energy influences the motion of the winds and oceans, the formation and dissipation of clouds, the melting of ice sheets, and many other things besides. These equations are all turned into computer code, linked to one another, and loaded into a supercomputer, where they calculate the time-evolution of the Earth system, typically in time steps of a few minutes. On time scales of a few days, we use these models for weather prediction (which works very well these days), and, on longer time scales, we can explore how the climate of the next few decades will develop depending on how much carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere. There are three items of good news about this modelling enterprise: one, we can check on how well the models perform against the historical record, including the satellite data archive; two, we can calculate the uncertainty into the predictions; and three, there are more than twenty of these models worldwide, so we can use them as checks on one another. The conclusions drawn from a careful study of thousands of model runs are clear: the Earth is rapidly warming, and fossil-fuel burning is the principal driver.

But theories are abstract, after all, so it’s easy for people to get tricked into thinking that because something is based on theory, it could very likely be wrong or is debatable in the same way that a social issue is debatable. This is incorrect. Almost all the accepted theories that we use in the physical and biological sciences are not open to different interpretations depending on someone’s opinion, internal beliefs, gut feelings, or lobbying. In the science world, two and two make four. To change or modify a theory, as Einstein’s theories modified Newton’s, takes tremendous effort and a huge weight of experimental evidence.

And this is where politics and science can find themselves at cross purposes. In many political discussions, climate science gets treated like family planning or tax restructuring. When it comes to these social issues, convictions or personal views count for a lot, and rightly so. But the climate issue, and the business of climate prediction, is different. The changes we’ve seen over the past hundred and thirty years are incontrovertibly documented: they are facts.
I think the prediction of manmade warming, based on our emissions and the known laws of physics, is perfectly legitimate and adequate to prove AGW. Sure, you have to get into some of the weeds to get all the details, but physicists have been doing this for decades and have the radiative transfer down pat.

I'm not sure how many people realize this, but the role of CO2's radiative effects (and the other main GHGs) is the best know part of climate science. Because it's the most amenable to a standard treatment by fundamental physics.

So deniers thinking that someday CO2's role in climate change is going to be negated based on some new observation or some future pause or something else are very wrong and very lost. The uncertainities all lie elsewhere, especially in the details of clouds and in the details of the carbon cycle and how it will change in the future.

So the arguments CO2 looks increasingly naive and foolish. CO2 from fossil fuels will never go back to being an innocent substance. Ever.

On the contrary -- future generations will look back on us as dumb greedy idiots for thinking we could dump massive amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere and expect there would be no result.

We may (and probably won't) zero in on the exact value of climate sensitivity -- too may uncertainties in too many variables. But knowing it's 2°C or more is perfectly sufficient to know we have a big problem.

Piers Sellers didn't have room, or the audience, to point out that this isn't all theory. There are many -- increasingly many -- observations that verify the vital parts of AGW theory -- the enhancing greenhouse effect, the radiative forcing of CO2 (which agrees with the predictions of climate models), the observed ocean warming and energy balance of the planet.

And more. There is so much evidence from so many different angles that, like the health effects of smoking, the result is surrounded by evidence and cannot escape it.

But I'm probably repeating myself.

Monday, August 15, 2016

La Nina Looking a Little Less Likely

From the Australian Bureau of Meteology:
In the Pacific Ocean, only two of eight international climate models monitored by the Bureau indicate La Niña is likely to develop during the austral spring, with two more indicating a possible late-forming event in summer. The remaining models suggest neutral or near-La Niña conditions. A La Niña WATCH remains, but if La Niña does develop it is likely be weak.
Here's the latest for the Nino3.4 Index:

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Stuff That at the Moment Seemed Like it Mattered

Big news: Canada will establish a national price on carbon by the end of the year. (The Hill) "Four provinces representing about 80 percent of Canada’s population currently have some kind of carbon pricing policies, which usually consist of either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system."

Earthquakes in Oklahoma are down since new regulations on oil and gas drilling operations were put in place.

Avik Roy, "Republican intellectual," in Vox: “Goldwater’s nomination in 1964 was a historical disaster for the conservative movement,” because for the ensuing decades, it identified Democrats as the party of civil rights and Republicans as the party opposed to civil rights.”

PS: I would also put quote marks around "Democratic intellectual."

Roy again: “The gravitational center of the Republican party is white nationalism."

US oil and gas tax preferences: $4 B/yr.

SLR: "...the Florida Keys, where even a half-foot more ocean will inundate large chunks of some islands like Big Pine. That’s sobering when a conservative projection from a regional climate change compact predicts at least two feet by 2060.

This says a textbook says land depression under a 3,000 meter ice sheet could be as much as 800 meters. I would never have guessed that much, by a factor of at least 10. (Without thinking much about it.)

A community that cares, about something more than money.

Friday, August 12, 2016

WWPFCCOWOTO: Miami Spending $400 M to Adapt To Sea Level Rise

Dept of WWPFCCOWOTO*: Miami is planning to spend $400-500 M over the next 5 years to deal with rising sea levels. (Miami Herald)



*We Will Pay for Climate Change One Way or the Other.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

YCC: The Netherlands Moving to Ban Diesel and Gas Cars


Yale Climate Connections articles and daily radio podcasts
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Today's postings ...
 
Electric car

The Netherlands Moving to Ban Diesel and Gas Cars
The Netherlands wants to outlaw sales of diesel and gasoline cars by 2025, though hurdles remain.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Schrödinger: "...to think what nobody has yet thought...."



"That just isn’t how science works"

I like this, from William C at Stoat:
That rather forgets the “anomalous” precession of the perihelion of Mercury, as well as some more esoteric effects. But it also blows a hole in the idea that a single conflicting experiment invalidates a theory. That just isn’t how science works. I find I wrote about science before but didn’t cover this point, perhaps because it was too obvious. So, the unexplained precession of Mercury didn’t suddenly cause everyone to lose all faith in Newtonian gravitation. For any number of reasons. It still worked, obvs, in all the places it had worked before. And, well, maybe the observation was wrong? Who knows, whenever this kind of thing happens people will make lots of suggestions as to how to rescue it: perhaps there was a dust belt between Mercury and the sun?
Science simply isn't as straightforward as people like Karl Popper portray it, idea verses experiment. One experiment rarely rules out anything. It's more like how Paul Feyerbend describes it -- kind of a mess, but a good, organic, thought provoking mess.

In A Midsummer's Night Dream, Shakespeare wrote, "The course of true love never did run smooth." I once read something take that further: The course of true anything never did run smooth. And that includes science.

The Stupidest Argument Ever

NoTricksZone has a summary of a talk by Murry Salby, the guy who says the increase in atmospheric CO2 is natural (but never publishes). Or it's not increasing at all. So does Judith Curry.

NTZ cites Salby as saying
40,000 people perished last winter alone in Europe due to hypothermia because they could not afford to heat their homes, he reminds us.
This is truly beyond stupid. We're supposed to warm up the entire world for the next 100,000 years by enough degrees (5C? 10C?) to prevent hypothermia so these relatively few people, who need better furnaces and insulation from their governments, can stay warm?

That's just beyond absurd. It's like cooling down your entire house so you can keep ice cream on the kitchen counter.

It's a lame, desperate argument and I can't believe a so-called scientist -- or any intelligent person -- would ever try to use it.

--

If you think the 120 ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 is natural -- from an increase in temperature -- here's a question for you.

Why has 1°C of modern warming lead to a 120 ppm increase in atmospheric when the 8°C warming after the last glacial period only lead to a 100 ppm increase.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Interesting Graphs on Committed Warming

Here's a really interesting set of graphs from Bart Verheggen, an atmospheric scientist in the Netherlands who also writes a blog.

The first graph are the RCPs -- asumptions about the radiative forcing that drives manmade climate change. The second is the resulting level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (or its equivalent from other greenhouse gases.)

The third graph is the kicker -- the resulting surface temperature. It declines very slowly from its peak -- on a millenial timescale:


This last graph is the most interesting. We really are, right now, changing the climate for millennia. (It's well worth reading a short book by David Archer, who pioneered studies like this: The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate.)

I don't think the public has realized this yet. As Bart writes:
Because intuitively many people might think that as soon as we have substantially decreased our CO2 emissions (which we haven’t), the problem will be solved. It won’t, not by a very long shot. Even if we reduce CO2 emissions to zero over a realistic timeframe, the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere – and thus also the global average temperature- will remain elevated for millennia, as can be seen in the figure below. The total amount of carbon we put in the atmosphere over the course of a few hundred years will affect life on this planet for hundreds of thousands of years.
The next 4.000 generations of humans, or whatever they have become, are not going to look kindly back on our generation (± 1). We'll likely be viewed as reckless environmental Neanderthals.

Verheggen also links to another interesting plot, from two Dutch science journalists, Rolf Schuttenhelm and Stephan Okhuijsen at their blog. It's a little more complicated, and assumes no aerosols, so their value for climate sensitivity isn't right (the radiative forcing from aerosols so far has been about -1/2 that of CO2's). Climate sensitivity's value shouldn't depend much on where exactly CO2 is around its current value (but it could depend some on it). So I'm not going to pick this graph apart -- see their post.


Sunday, August 07, 2016

"Everything we know...we know through models."

"Nor is there any such thing as a pure climate simulation. Yes, we get a lot of knowledge from simulation models. But this book will show you that the models we use to project the future of climate are not pure theories, ungrounded in observation. Instead, they are filled with data — data that bind the models to measurable realities. Does that guarantee that the models are correct? Of course not. There is still a lot wrong with climate models, and many of the problems may never be solved. But the idea that you can avoid those problems by waiting for (model-independent) data and the idea that climate models are fantasies untethered from atmospheric reality are utterly, completely wrong. Everything we know about the world’s climate — past, present, and future — we know through models."

- Paul N. Edwards, A Vast Machine: Computer Models Climate Data, and the Politics of Global Warming

Friday, August 05, 2016

A New Computer and Associated Grievances

I bought a new computer in late June, after knocking a glass of juice into my old laptop.

The thing went schizo for a day or two -- anything I tried gave nothing but repetitive beeping and a flashing screen and similar craziness. So the next day I went out to buy a new one. I can't live without a computer. I was thinking of getting a new laptop anyway, since the one I had was a little over three years old, with the associated crud.

I bought an HP Envy. It looked good and was a price I was considering. 2.7 GHz, 8 Gb RAM, 1 Tb storage. Great graphics, not that I use that much. I didn't need anything big, I just needed something I could rely on.

Unfortunately that wasn't what I got. It came with Windows 10, and I bought a discounted version of Office 365, which includes Word 2013 and Excel 2013. Both are junk. I have a lot of spreadsheets, keeping track of things like ice extents and surface temperatures, and there are several that Excel 2013 simply cannot open -- it crashes. Sometimes it crashes just after opening a file, sometimes you have to drag down a row and try to update a number. Crash. Unrecoverable. No information about why or what's wrong.

Same for Word 2013 for some documents, especially when I try to insert new information, like an image.

I have been using Excel for, I don't know, about two decades. I have spreadsheets that were first constructed in Excel 1998 (I think), then were moved to Excel 2003, and then Excel 2010, all with no problems.

But now Excel 2013 doesn't like them, and I suspect some of that information will ultimately be lost. Some of this information is 25 years old -- I've been weighing myself everyday since mid-1991, with troublesome results to be sure, and tallying my expenses since I became a freelancer, and entering it in a spreadsheet (or a notebook before SSs that I later transferred to digital).

From what I can see, Excel 2013 and Word 2013 are no better than beta versions. It is a crime that Microsoft is trying to pass these off as usable software. At the end of my 12-month subscription I will look to Google Docs or Open Office or something. Maybe I'll go back to spiral notebooks.

This hasn't been the only problem. Half the time anymore, it seems, I don't know what my computer is doing -- I only want to get it to somehow maybe work. There are so many Web sites that call so many other Web sites that it's impossible to keep track of, cookies and security checks and virus complaints, and the updating of it all is a big chore that I'm still not sure is finished, almost a month and a half later.

Shockwave sucks and frequently crashes after 30-40 tabs. My old laptop could often have up to 100 tabs open with no problem. Chrome extensions stop working. For a week or two Chrome would barely work at all.

I've never encountered problems like this before whenever I moved to a new computer -- and I bought my first PC in 1991. Then new ones in, IIRC, 1996, 2000, 2003 or 2004, 2008, 2011 I think, 2013 and now 2016.

Also, I had been using Mozy as a free regular backup, with, I think, 2 Gb of free storage. So I could least count on this for crucial files, mostly spreadsheets.

But after getting a new computer and logging onto Mozy from it, Mozy had deleted all my files from my old computer because, as far as I can tell, I logged in with a new computer. Nothing was recoverable. Piece of shit.

Luckily for me, when I went back to my old, juice-infused laptop after a couple of days to try to recover at least some files, it seemed/seems to work just fine. Explain that. So I got what I needed, even though some now seem incompatible with Excel 2013. They open OK, then either barf immediately or barf after new entry of a single piece of data.

Even some Word files won't let me add to them, like a new image. And these aren't the only problems, just the ones I'm especially pissed off about tonight. Help pages are out-of-date and no longer applicable. In fact, about half the apps I try to use on the Internet have out-of-date information and only work if you're lucky. It's all gotten so mediocre.

TI-58
In short, this has been the worst experience I've ever had updating to a new computer. And you'd think it'd by now be getting easier, right? I expect most of the shit is with Microsoft software, the OS and Office 365. I've never moved to Macs because of the price, but next time I update I will think hard about again trying to use MS.

And I'm kinda just getting tired of it all. I've been using computers since I was a Jr in high school (and a year earlier if you include my beloved Texas Instruments 58 handheld calculator, which only held about 65 lines of code, but frankly was where I really learned, as a kid in my bedroom and sitting in the car when I took my mom to the grocery store, most of what I know about programming a computer), and email since 1983. I first used the Internet in 1987 (IRC), and discovered the Web in 1994. Cool, yeah. But I'm getting a little tired of it, because often it now seems only like a chore.

Computers -- well, at least PCs -- still require too much maintenance under the hood. They're still too much like cars in the '20s or '30s. When I first started driving in high school I had a VW bug, and it was always getting a flat tire or the headlights were out of alignment or something. It was the only car I ever had an accident in, and that wasn't even my fault; some old lady pulled right out in front of me and my brother when I was coming down a hill back from golfing. I don't carry tools in my trunk anymore -- I just call AAA for the very very occasional problem, and whip out my credit card. Acceptable for better or worse. So when are computers going to ever be turn-the-key and drive? There isn't a lot I want to do -- email, Word docs, Excel SSs, a little 25-line Python programming every great once in awhile. Is that really too much to ask?

Thursday, August 04, 2016

The Homeopathic Patient

Did you hear about the homeopathic patient who suffered a fatal overdose?

Apparently he forgot to take his medicine.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Silly Science

This is silly, and a little demeaning to the issue:

"How Lowering Crime Could Contribute to Global Warming," Tatiana Schlossberg, NY Times 8/3/16.


We could stop feeding people, too, and they'd starting emitting a lot less CO2, including the CO2 saved from the farm factories that will stop growing the food these noneating people won't eat.

Sure, energy policies are complex. But solving global warming doesn't mean we have to be stupid.