Monday, November 30, 2009

Moving to True/Slant

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

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The word "trick"

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wolves in Oregon

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

The CRU Hack

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

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

New Email Address

I have a new email address:

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


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


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

Monday, November 16, 2009

The World is Heating Up

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

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

October also saw El Nino come on strongly.

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

NY Times on Climate Talks

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

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

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

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

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

More energy. Less CO2.

Comment on debate with Tim Ball

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

How Skeptics Lie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Allie Winegar Duzett?

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Will Twitter Replace Google for Journalism?

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

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

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

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

Media Voyeurism

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

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

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

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

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

This was pure voyeurism. It's disgusting.

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

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

Elk Calf

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

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

Where does that go when we get older?

Today's Deep Thinkers

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

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

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

Monday, November 09, 2009

Kazakhstan's radioactive legacy

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

Hadley: 4th warmest Sept ever

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

Friday, November 06, 2009

UAH Oct temperature anomaly

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


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

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

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Archive of Debate with Tim Ball

My Monday night radio debate with Tim Ball is available on Victoria Taft's site:

Be sure to read this afterward: Is Phil Jones Suppressing Data? (Short answer: No. Slightly longer answer: No, of course not.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Earthquake off the Oregon Coast

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

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

R Pielke Jr's Open Invitation

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

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

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

Good Prevails

AP: La. Justice Quits After Interracial Wed Flap

Boxer and the Absent Republicans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Al Gore Conflicted?

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

Monday, November 02, 2009

Is Phil Jones supressing data?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Radio Debate Tonight with Tim Ball

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Let's Review....

Let's review where this whole debate is at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Thursdays, the phase of the moon was wrong.

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

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

Friday, October 23, 2009


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

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

Press Release of the Day

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

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

More on this New Result

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

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

There's Still a Blade

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


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

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another Meaningless Dust-up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Very Bad Idea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equal Rights

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

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

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Did Hansen "Fudge" Data?

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

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

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

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

Routine El Nino causes Unexceptionally High Temps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Paradoxes of Time Travel

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

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

UM. . . Okaaay

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

By Letters to the editor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northeast Portland


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

Friday, October 16, 2009

Was the "Balloon Boy" a Hoax?

I definitely hope so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Not Watching TV

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

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nobel Prize Dispute

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

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

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

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

"The long reach of cold hard cash"

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Morford on. . . Everything

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

Airline toilets

There is a serious misunderstanding out there about climate change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

hard drives

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

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

Climate Denial Crock of the Week

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

-- Peter Sinclair, Climate Denial Crock of the Week


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

Climate Hype vs Climate Reality

The Hype (Drudge Report):

The Reality:

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

Friday, October 09, 2009

"Climate Bombs"

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

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

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

McIntyre's Misleadings....

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

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

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

The Maldives

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Click to enlarge.)

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

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

Inflated Egos

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

PS: Where is that apology to Briffa?

A World Free of Nuclear Weapons?

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

Recording of the Boxing Day Earthquake

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

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

(Be sure to turn your speakers up.)


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

Piece Prize

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

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

GISS: Sept 09 was Very Warm

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

UAH's Sept Temperature

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

Obama's Nobel Prize

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

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

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Idiots Who Carry Guns

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

Apple out of US Chamber of Commerce

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

Faith and Doubt

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

What's wrong with just living with the doubt?

Boyle and Wilson's Nobel Prize

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

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


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

Monday, October 05, 2009

RSS: Sept 09 was very warm

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

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

Motl's Defamation

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

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

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

Climate Science in the Age of Hypermedia

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

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

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

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

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

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