Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Small Incident About Cars

The other day I was a local place here, Nancy Jo's Burger's and Fries, ordering a chicken salad to go. A guy came up to me and said my car was parked too close to his car's door, which was in the adjacent parking spot, and I would have to move my car. Like a good guy I immediately went out and moved my car so he'd have room to open his door and get into his car. But then I came back in and noticed he was sitting in a booth waiting for his food with his family, planning to eat in the restaurant, while I was getting takeout and would be gone in a couple of minutes. This kind of annoyed me, and as our orders were announced at same time I took the opportunity to say to him that my car had been between the lines, and I got a little aggressive and said next time he'd have to crawl in the passenger side to get into his car. He said something and I said something over him, I don't remember what. I noticed he had a Christian cross hanging from his rear view mirror. He didn't even say thank to me for moving my car. This has stuck with me ever since, even though it's been about five days now and I told myself I was going to forget it. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

5 Trillion Tons of Ice Lost from Greenland

Greenland ice sheet mass balance from Mankoff et al 2021.

Equivalent sea level rise is on the scale to the right; cumulative mass loss is on the scale to the left.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Another Bad Chuck Wiese Error

Earlier I pointed out the multiple errors of thinking in Oregon's Chuck Wiese's claim that the horrendous heat wave we had here in the Pacific NW at the end of June -- an unbelievable 117°F in Salem, Oregon, a maximum reading that was a full 39°F above the normal for that day (normal period = 1981-2010) -- was, he claimed, nothing special at all, just a regular heat wave with the sun in its sunlike position.

I found another huge error.

Needless to say, actual scientists concluded that anthropogenic climate change had a very significant role in such a huge heat wave anomaly. 

Chuck Wiese argued that it was just another heat wave but caused by orbital and solar parameters and a nominal increase in atmospheric CO2, calculated naively -- a claim easily shown to be B.S. by all the factors he chose to ignore.

But shortly after, as I was looking more closely at his claims, I saw a deeper error, which I haven't been able to write about since I was busy on an article. He considers atmospheric CO2 to be a blackbody, when it is anything but.

Recall, a "blackbody" is one that absorbs all radiation incident upon it. The Sun is a perfect example. The surface of the Earth is a pretty good example, in the infrared. But atmospheric CO2 does not meet that definition at all.

Let's get into the technical details of Wiese's error.

In his post on Ed Berry's site -- a place Wiese considers "publication," LOLz -- he presents this little argument:
What about atmospheric CO2? In 1981, the Mauna Loa CO2 level was given as 341 ppmv whereas today it is 416 ppmv. Calculating the change in radiative forcing from CO2 as a stand-alone constituent, the difference from 1981 to now is only 1.07 Wm-2. ( Watts per square meter ).

Next, I took the mean temperature of the daily temperature delta or deviation, which was about 90 deg F and plugged that into the derivative of the Stefan Boltzmann equation, dF/dT which gives 6.45 Wm-2K-1 or 6.45 Watts per square meter per degree Kelvin.

Using this relationship, if CO2 acts alone as permitted in this special case, we get 0.963 Wm-2 with a ground emissivity of 0.9 divided by the rate of change of flux with respect to temperature or the 6.45 Wm-2K-1 number which gives 0.15 deg C or a possible contribution of +0.27 deg F. to the heating total.
This is just comical as physics, and let me show you why -- again, Wiese thinks atmospheric CO2 is a blackbody, which it is certainly is not. Bear with me through a few elementary equations.

CO2's radiative forcing is, from the "Arrhenius equation"

where alpha is a constant = 5.35 W/m2. From this we can indeed verify that the change in forcing going from CO2=341 ppmv to CO2=416 ppmv is, from the above equation, 1.06 W/m2, just a slight rounding difference from CW's result. OK. 

where P is the power radiated by the blackbody per unit area per unit solid angle, epsilon its emissivity, sigma the Stefan-Boltzmann constant and T the blackbody's temperature, and differentiates this to get

He takes "the mean temperature of the daily temperature delta or deviation" [???], which he says was about 90 deg F (305 K), and using this third equation to get ΔP/ΔT = 6.46 W/m2. Let's call this "A."

Then here's where Wiese makes his big mistake. He wants to use this result to determine the change in temperature from atmospheric CO2. But atmospheric CO2 isn't a blackbody. A blackbody is defined as one which absorbs all electromagnetic radiation incident upon it. Again, the Sun is a perfect example. Atmospheric CO2 isn't. 

Here's an absorption chart from NASA. In regions that matter, CO2 strongly absorbs around 4.3 microns, 9.4 microns, 10.4 microns and 15 microns (not shown). It doesn't absorb much anywhere else.

[In truth the spectrum is a lot more complicated, with hundreds of thousands of absorption lines, but still CO2 does not absorb all outgoing radiation, not by a long shot.]

So atmospheric CO2 isn't a blackbody. Everything Wiese does after this point is junk science. He just proceeds blindly along, mashes a couple of different things together and uses this equation:

Oh boy. Besides the CO2-blackbody problem, here there's a ground emissivity when there should be an atmospheric emissivity, a rather mysterious (to me at least, as defined) 90 F entered into the problem per above, a radiative forcing (forcings are defined at the troposphere) used as the radiance of the CO2-blackbody, not to mention all the other problems I originally laid out about the value of CO2 on that particular day, the other GHGs, the urban heat island effect, dimming pollutants, and.... What a mess!

Of course experts did conclude that this monstrous heat wave did have an anthropogenic component to it. I'm not going to go over that again. It killed about a thousand people. That Chuck Wiese and Lars Larson are trying to downplay and confuse the issue is really shameful, but not really surprising given what we've seen of them in the past. 

Saturday, September 04, 2021

Wheat and Corn

If food looks expensive in the grocery store, maybe this is part of the reason: the price of wheat is up 82% in the last five years. Up 32% just in the last 12 months. 

Corn is up 46% in the last 12 months. I've read that here in Oregon the wheat crop this year has been ruined by the late June heat wave. I don't know about elsewhere. In May the Wall Street Journal wrote

"Corn has been one of the sharpest risers in the broad rally in raw materials that is prompting companies to boost prices for goods and fueling concern among investors that inflation could hobble the post-pandemic economic recovery." 

But it's paywalled. This May 31st article in a midwestern publication wrote (but also paywalled)

"The good news for farmers: Corn prices are on the rise, up nearly 70 cents in the past three weeks to their highest level in nearly three years. The bad news: That spike is largely because of heavy rain and flooding this spring that have hampered planting across the corn belt and stoked fears about a drop in production."

So it's only good news if you weren't flooded out.... Climate change's extreme weather? Of course, heavy spring rains and flooding have happened before -- it's the risk of farming. But these days you have to wonder.

Here's the chart for wheat:

Market price of wheat

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Boycotting Texas

I wonder how many other scientists, speakers, organizations, etc. will be taking this position:
Kudos for Mann.

When I was younger a woman I was heavily involved with and I decided to have an abortion. We were educated and well off and used birth control. But a doctor failed to tell her a medication she temporarily needed counteracted the pill, and she got pregnant. 

It wasn't easy, but I don't regret what we did. I am outraged at what Texas has done and what other state legislatures will no doubt do, and the lies Supreme Court justices have told in order to pass nomination hearings, and the senators (like Susan Collins) who believed them in spite of evidence that they should not have. Those who favor a woman's right to choose are in the majority in this country and we have to take back this issue and allow women full autonomy over their bodies and their lives -- you know, like the anti-vaxxers insist on. I want young women and future young women to have the same options my girlfriend and I had -- the option to struggle with an ambiguous issue and, with or without a partner, decide for themselves.

It's not just the ban -- it's the draconian, mediaeval way in which Texas has instituted the ban, making everyone a bounty hunter against pregnant women in Texas seeking an abortion. You can be sued and convicted merely for aiding and abetting someone seeking an abortion. This threadroll by a lawyer and legal writer lays it out and is astonishing:

And it's not just abortion in Texas, though effectively banning it is bad enough. It's guns, restrictions on voting, the lack of affordable health care, banning the discussion of certain ideas (like "critical race theory," at least as the legislature defines it), a safety net, and more. Dana Milbank put it pretty well in the Washington Post yesterday: 
Texas shows us what post-democracy America would look like. Thanks to a series of actions by the Texas legislature and governor, we now see exactly what the Trumpified Republican Party wants: to take us to an America where women cannot get abortions, even in cases of rape and incest; an America where almost everybody can openly carry a gun in public, without license, without permit, without safety training and without fingerprinting; and an America where law-abiding Black and Latino citizens are disproportionately denied the right to vote.

This is where Texas and other red states are going, or have already gone. It is where the rest of America will go, unless those targeted by these new laws — women, people of color and all small “d” democrats — rise up.
It still isn't clear that Trump, abetted by Mitch McConnell's theft of Supreme Court seats, won't yet destroy democracy in America, which effectively destroys America. The fascists smell blood. They are moral cowards who want more. They're determined to get it.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Clearing Up Human Extinction

"There is no evidence of climate change scenarios that would render human beings extinct," Michael Mann, a distinguished professor of atmospheric science at Penn State and author of "The New Climate War: The Fight to Take Back Our Planet" (PublicAffairs, 2021), told Live Science in an email.
cc: Extinction Rebellion, Jem Bendell

Heel-to-Heel and Other Crosby News

Hockey season is less than four weeks away... The National Hockey League, that is. The regular season starts on October 12th with my team, the Penguins, at the Stanley Cup winning (again) Tampa Bay Lightning. 

2022 also has hockey in the Winter Olympics, and it looks like Canada has made their choice for captain, as if there was ever going to be any choice: Sidney Crosby. (Of course, he's also captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.) Here's Crosby and his fellow hometowner (close enough) Nate MacKinnon wearing the Canadian sweaters, with Crosby sporting the captain's "C" on his left shoulder:
If you're a hockey fan (or, needless to say, Canadian), Sidney Crosby will forever be a national hero due to scoring one of the most famous goals in hockey history/Canadian history (is there any difference?) at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in Vancouver, defeating the United States to win the gold medal in overtime. Here's a nice look back from the CBC:

Here's the live version of the play. First Crosby takes the puck through most of the U.S. team. Then, he defeats another U.S player to pass the puck. Then -- I didn't learn this until recently -- is that at 0:08 in the video you can hear Crosby yell "Iggy." He's shouting at Jarome Iginla, who he (Crosby) had just tossed the puck to back in the corner, to feed him the puck back on his (Crosby's) way to the goal. Amazing to able to hear that over the sound of the crowd.

Anyway, before I found the tweet on top with Crosby wearing Canada's "C," I was just going to post the video below, about Crosby's edgework on his skates. Crosby does this thing that I don't know if anyone else does, and you can see in the video's screencap and several times in the video -- at times he puts his skates heel-to-heel, so his feet are splayed out at 180 degrees to one another, and he then circles around, usually from behind the goal. Not only does he seem to gather a lot of speed from this maneuver, he keeps his face in front of him the entire time, looking right at the puck, instead of having to look to the side as everyone else has to when they're skating sideways. It's really beautiful to watch when he does it and it seems very effective.

I really regret that I didn't start watching hockey seriously until 2018, after the Penguins won their back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2015-16 and 2016-17, and most of all that I missed watching Sidney Crosby in his glory days from 2005 to about 2017, when he was spectacular. He's still pretty good, especially as a 200-foot player and particularly as a leader, and many people put him as one of the best five players to ever play the game (along with Gretzy, Lemieux, Orr, and Howe). But the Penguins aren't serious contenders anymore -- they've lost in the first round of the playoffs for three years in a row now -- and their superstars -- Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang -- are all in their mid-30s -- and they're slowing down and the team don't have the size needed in today's NHL, it seems. It's unlikely Crosby can lead them to another Stanley Cup. But hey, he has three, which is a lot more than most. And he has the Golden Goal, and about every trophy that it's possible to win. And he's such a nice guy.

Thanks for allowing an indulgent post. I guess this blog has become one of whatever I find interesting.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

"Foundation" Trailer

A television series based on Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy is coming to Apple TV+ on September 24, and the trailer (below) looks pretty good. It has two actors I like a lot, Lee Pace (of Halt and Catch Fire) and Jared Harris (of Chernobyl, Mad Men, and a lot else I don't know about I'm sure). Fortunately, I received a free year of Apple TV+ when I bought a new iPhone 12 this past spring, though I might have subscribed just to watch this. (It's only $4.99/month.) 

Another scifi show this channel has coming is Invasion -- "Earth is visited by an alien species that threatens humanity's existence." Trailer below, from the producer of The Martian, coming October 22. Looks rather cliched, and not as good. How could it be?

I started reading Asimov's Foundation trilogy a long time ago, and only made it about a third of the way though. I wasn't as into scifi then as I am now, so I'm going to go back and give it another go. What I mainly remember is that the nuclear powered spaceships seemed rather out-of-date, scifi-speaking, compared to Star Trek, Star Wars, etc. (But maybe more realistic!) I once saw Asimov speak at a scifi convention when I was a graduate student at Stony Brook. But then I wasn't into scifi at all and I don't remember a thing he said. But I had read several of his nonfiction books when I was in high school and college, books with chapters where he would just riff about various planets and on comets and asteroids and the solar system and whatever came to his mind--and a lot always came to his mind!--which I always found interesting. So I wanted to see him in person.

Friday, August 20, 2021

The Quiet Rage of the Responsible

That was the title of Paul Krugman's NYT column today: The Quiet Rage of the Responsible. Some put it in other ways, as below. I'm starting to feel angry, too, feeling that it's time to hunker down again, stay at home, when I barely started going out. With colder weather coming and now this much more contagious variant I wonder if this fall and winter is going to get worse than last year. I felt lucky to be spared last year and now it's seems we have to run the gauntlet again, largely because of the irresponsible and stupid behavior of a minority (read: MAGA) of America.

One thing I'm very thankful for is that I live in a part of the country where people are smart enough to take this pandemic seriously. The governor here in Oregon reinstituted a mask mandate as of last Friday, and when I was in the grocery store on Monday everyone had a mask on. I didn't see a single exception. COVID is rising in my county, which does contains a lot of rural area, but at least here in the suburbs, people are taking masks seriously.    

A 25-year-old Over a Burrito

Lee Billings of Scientific American has a great, lengthy article on the "Decadal Survey," or Astro2020, the Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey. This report, which comes out every ten years and is a year overdue but is now in final peer review and supposed to be coming out sometime soon, sets priorities for US astronomical projects for the next ten years. It's so important towards determining which megatelescopes get funded that, as someone in the article says, it's sometimes called "the voice of God." As I'm currently writing a long article about astrobiology, I found it very clarifying and insightful.

Anyway, in terms of the Decadal Survey's impact on funding priorities, there's this interesting and revealing quote near the end of the article. "Tremblay" is Grant Tremblay, an astronomer at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution, then there's this wonderful (in its way) quote from a "Beltway insider."

Or rather the New Great Observatories can only happen if astronomers become more savvy at what Gaudi has termed “astropolitics.” “I’m utterly convinced a ‘New Great Observatories’ program with Lynx, Origins, and LUVOIR or HabEx—a ‘LuvEx,’ so to speak—could be done with a single phone call to the right person,” Tremblay says. “Because on Capitol Hill, it’s not about total cost—it’s about annual appropriation. A couple hundred million dollars a year added to NASA’s astrophysics line would suffice.”

Such hopeful speculations are not necessarily just wishful thinking. “We’re talking a 1 or 2 percent increase in real dollars to NASA’s budget to enable another Great Observatories program,” says one Beltway insider. “These are the perturbations concerted advocacy can create. Only about 30 senators are really involved in appropriations, and the annual discretionary budget of the federal government is running at about $2 trillion. So divide $2 trillion by 30 and then factor in the staffers working for each of those senators. You’ll find, perhaps to your horror, that anything much below about half a billion dollars a year is essentially left to staffers and lost in the margins.” Tremblay puts it more bluntly. “NASA does not really work for the Executive Office of the President,” he says. “It works for the 25-year-olds a few years out of college who serve on appropriations committees. A flagship mission—or a whole new series of Great Observatories—could be green-lit over lunch by some low-level staffer while they’re eating a burrito.”

Monday, August 16, 2021

Milky Way Over Mt Hood

A stunning photograph, by Ben Jackman, an amateur photographer from Portland, Oregon, via Facebook. Posted with permission.

The Ice Mountains of Pluto

This is just amazing -- it looks like sci fi, but it's real. Having read books like The Search for Planet X as a boy, its a real delight to see something like this later in life: