Friday, June 29, 2012

Mitt Romney's Mitt Romney Problem

Timothy Egan in the NY Times:
Congratulations to Mitt Romney! His signature contribution to American life, devising a health plan that became a model for the only major Western democracy without medical care for nearly all of its citizens, has been upheld. If Romney accomplishes nothing else in life, he will go down in history as the man who first proved, in the laboratory of Massachusetts, where he once governed, that an individual mandate could work.

Jeers to Mitt Romney! As the presumptive Republican nominee for president, he stood in front of the Capitol just after the Supreme Court ruling on Thursday and promised to fight in the coming campaign against one big idea — his own.
Look, everyone knows Romney is a raw hypocrite on this issue (and, let's face it, every other one as well), and while he is now saying the Romney-based ACA should be repealed, if elected in November he will say whatever it takes then to make sure he gets reelected to a second term. (If the GOP somehow hasn't noticed, they do not have a principled man running for President.)

As the ACA comes further into being, and as people everywhere now take a good look as what it really means for them, there will be too much pressure from hospitals, medical groups, and the broad middle class who have already benefited from the ACA and who will not want to see these already existing benefits disappear -- like eliminating pre-existing conditions, like insuring their kids up to the of 26, like eliminating the prescription donut hole for Medicare. Millions of people are suddenly realizing they will actually be able to purchase health insurance someday. Who is really going to try and take that cookie from the table?

As Paul Krugman wrote today in his column, "The Real Winners":
But the real winners are ordinary Americans — people like you.

How many people are we talking about? You might say 30 million, the number of additional people the Congressional Budget Office says will have health insurance thanks to Obamacare. But that vastly understates the true number of winners because millions of other Americans — including many who oppose the act — would have been at risk of being one of those 30 million.

So add in every American who currently works for a company that offers good health insurance but is at risk of losing that job (and who isn’t in this world of outsourcing and private equity buyouts?); every American who would have found health insurance unaffordable but will now receive crucial financial help; every American with a pre-existing condition who would have been flatly denied coverage in many states.

In short, unless you belong to that tiny class of wealthy Americans who are insulated and isolated from the realities of most people’s lives, the winners from that Supreme Court decision are your friends, your relatives, the people you work with — and, very likely, you. For almost all of us stand to benefit from making America a kinder and more decent society.
And this is great:
But what about the cost? Put it this way: the budget office’s estimate of the cost over the next decade of Obamacare’s “coverage provisions” — basically, the subsidies needed to make insurance affordable for all — is about only a third of the cost of the tax cuts, overwhelmingly favoring the wealthy, that Mitt Romney is proposing over the same period. True, Mr. Romney says that he would offset that cost, but he has failed to provide any plausible explanation of how he’d do that. The Affordable Care Act, by contrast, is fully paid for, with an explicit combination of tax increases and spending cuts elsewhere.
America continues to lurch forward, always a few decades late, but forward nonetheless, despite the best efforts of conservatives. A black president, gays in the military, courts ruling the EPA has the right to regulate greenhouse gases, same-sex marriage in ever more states, and now a good start forward toward building a health care system that is both affordable and universal. And yet somehow the Earth hasn't opened up and swallowed everyone down the throat of hell.

Makes you wonder what else might be possible, doesn't it?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Continued Decline in Federal Deficit Under Obama

Statistics released today by FRED, the wonderful database of the Federal Reserve of St Lewis, show the continued improvement in the federal deficit since Obama took office. It's now down to 6.4% of GDP, after reaching a high of 9.8% in 3Q09:

Federal Government Current Receipts (FGRECPT)
Federal Government: Current Expenditures (FGEXPND)

Federal expenses have actually been decline recently, in real terms (austerity that might be contributing to the current economic doldrums):

Graph of Federal Government: Current Expenditures

I wish climate science had a site that centralized all climate-related data, and that came with easy and versatile graphing tools like FRED does.

John Roberts Rekindles Some Faith in America

John Roberts may have single-handedly rekindled my faith in America, for awhile at least.

Today's Supreme Court decision hardly solves the health care problem in the U.S., but as someone who is self-employed and can't purchase health insurance because of pre-existing conditions -- having your neck reconstructed twice tends to make insurers see you as unprofitable -- this was extremely good news.

Given the deteriorating health insurance situation in the US -- see charts like these -- I suspect that more and more people are going to appreciate being able to buy health insurance, and now that people realize this is coming they will start to understand how it affects them, and support will grow. (A recent poll showed that those who understand the ACA best support it most, and those who understand it least support it the least.) I still do not think health care is universally deliverable via the so-called free market, as this 1963 paper by Kenneth Arrow pointed out decades ago, and as Paul Krugman summarized here -- but this is a very good start.

Think the country can't afford it? Perhaps we can start by eliminating the $131 billion/yr subsidies to affluent home owners. 3/4th of the home mortgage interest deduction goes to those who make more than $108,000 per year; half goes to those who make more than $151,000/yr, and 31% to those making more than $260,000/yr. These people need help purchasing a house??

(Theses statistics come from “Reforming the Mortgage Interest Deduction” by Eric Toder et al, April 2010, though you have to do this particular calculation yourself.)

Nor does it count the $31B per year subsidy given by the deduction for residential property tax, or $50B/yr for exclusion of housing capital gains.

And everyone ought to get the same subsidies for health insurance that businesses get, which now comes to $177B per year, and will be a trillion dollars over the next five years. That's about $945 per employee per year. 

Despite the warnings, after Romneycare in Massachusetts more employers now offer health insurance their employees: 68% of employees had employer-sponsored insurance in 2010, up from 64.4% in 2006. And out-of-pocket employee expenses dropped: 6.1% paid more than 10% of their family income on health care in 2010, down from 9.8% in 2006. Also, out-of-paycheck expenses for families rose at a significantly lower rate than the nation as a whole. Fred Bauer wrote, "Romneycare Bent the Cost Curve."

And the "now government can make you buy broccoli" argument fails too. It's funny how right-wing types have no problems with towns who pass laws saying all their residents must possess a gun. These same kind of warnings were said when Social Security was debated, and none of those ridiculous claims came true either. Washington Post, earlier this year:
The lawyers who urged the Supreme Court to strike down the Social Security Act of 1935 argued that if Congress could provide a retirement system for everyone 65 and older, it would have the power to set the retirement age at 30 and force the very young to support everyone else.

It was said that if Congress had the authority to create a minimum wage of $5 an hour, it would also be a regulation of commerce to set the minimum at $5,000 an hour. In 1964, critics argued that if Congress could tell restaurant owners not to discriminate on the basis of race, it could tell them what color tablecloths to use. None of these things happened.
Now it has to withstand billionaires who want to buy the next election for a man who will say anything and take any position to get elected, even, no doubt, denying his own mother exists, if that's what it takes. Read this 2009 Romney editorial in USA Today, and compare it to his position today. He wrote then
"This Republican is proud to be the first governor to insure all his state's citizens."
He also noted how low the cost was, which works out to $53 per year per resident:
When our bill passed three years ago, the legislature projected that our program would cost $725 million in 2009. At $723 million, next year's forecast is pretty much on target. When you calculate all the savings, including that from the free hospital care we eliminated, the net cost to the state is approximately $350 million. The watchdog Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation concluded that our program's cost is "relatively modest" and "well within initial projections."

And if subsidies and coverages are reined in, as I've suggested, the Massachusetts program could actually break even.
(Yes, I realize there is a copious amount of money on both sides -- but unfortunately, the same cannot be said for principles.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Kind of Decisions That Really Matter

Here's the link to today's Appeals Court decision upholding EPA greenhouse gas regulations.

Despite the multi-ringed climate circus with all its clowns, scoffers, horse manure and side shows, these are the kinds of decisions that really matter. It's a strong vindication for all the scientists who work so hard to understand climate and take so much crap for it.

Conveniently Ignoring the Reasons for Environmental Change

This is amazingly rich: In an op-ed in the Washington Times last Friday, J.C. Watts wrote:
The Maximum Achievable Control Technology rule, dubbed Utility MACT, which would be among the most expensive agency actions in history, conveniently ignores the environmental gains already made by coal plants over the past several decades. According to the Energy Information Administration, sulfur-dioxide emissions from coal plants declined more than 60 percent over the past 20 years and nitrogen-oxide emissions declined by three-fourths over that time.
He doesn't even mention why emissions fell so sharply: the acid rain cap-and-trade program instituted (by George H.W. Bush) after passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments -- which, of course, the coal industry fought tooth-and-nail.

Watts is a former Congressman from Oklahoma and (naturally) "has represented energy interests in his role as a lobbyist.a lobbyist for energy companies."

An effort to water down the Utility MACT rules did not pass in the Senate last week. And this isn't the first time an anti-environmentalist has touted the SO2 reductions without revealing why that happened.

A 2001 study by the EPA found that, while job losses in the coal industry were (in 1990) predicted to be 13,000 to 16,000, the actual number was 4,100.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Great Graph of Arctic Sea Ice Spiral

Here is a very neat polar coordinate graph of Arctic sea ice extent, by Jim Pettit at Click to view.

Via Open Mind.

Rio+20 Emissions Rate: Greater than 60% of World's Nations

More honest reactions to the Rio+20 conference are starting to come out, such as:
“I think this process is totally broken,” wrote Melinda Kimble, the U.N. Foundation’s senior vice president, who as a State Department negotiator helped forge the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on global warming. “While we are searching for a new paradigm to advance international cooperation, this meeting is definitely not a model.”
“This process has been exceedingly ill-prepared,” said de Boer [Yvo de Boer, who previously oversaw the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change], a special global adviser on climate change and sustainability for the accounting firm KPMG. De Boer praised the “explosion” of new business commitments unveiled in Rio but added, “although I think all the individual initiatives by companies and partnerships are interesting, they don’t deliver the scale that is necessary to address the global challenges we face on sustainability.”
But this is probably the most significant comment of all:
“I don’t know if they’ll ever do this again, and I don’t know if we’ll need it again,” said the Pew Environment Group’s director of international policy, Susan Lieberman. She said she was at least pleased that oceans received more attention this year. “It’s a 12-ring circus here.”
As long as every group in the world who wants to do good looks to attach themselves to such gatherings, the process is going to be diluted into nothingness. Of course they should do good, as should we all, but did the Maldives really need to go to the summit to announce that they would ban damaging fishing practices? They did it, of course, as a quid pro quo for assistance/handouts.
“It helps us broaden the understanding of situation of small island countries like the Maldives.” -- Maldives President Mohamed Waheed
By the way, the 45,000 attendees emitted more CO2 flying to the conference than 14 of the world's nations do in a year -- most notably, Vanuatu.

Details: 45,000 attendees, each flying an average distance of 1/4th of the Earth's circumference, emitting 1 lb of CO2 per airline-mile, is 127,000 metric tons of CO2. That's the annual emissions of 28,000 world citizens (each at 4.5 t CO2/yr), 88,000 Indians (1.4 t/yr), or 7,400 Americans (17.0 t/yr).

Worse, the pace at which conference attendees emitted, for the 3-day conference, was 15 Mt/yr, which would have placed them 88th among national emissions (2008), or more than 60% of the world's nations.

Added 1.5 hours later: OK, I'll admit, using the 3-day rate of emissions is a bit of a cheap shot....

Friday, June 22, 2012

New Map of Missoula Floods Through Oregon

lidar._9.JPGThe Oregonian just had an article on the Missoula Floods, spurred by this recent Lidar map of the Williamette Valley showing the highlands (in white) between which the floodwaters ran. (The black line coming from the right is the Columbia River; the small black line running up from the bottom is the Williamette River. Portland is where the Williamette joins the Columbia.)

I've been reading Cataclysms on the Columbia, which has a good recounting of the 40-year long fight geologist J. Harlen Bretz had against the mainstream geological community when he proposed his flood hypothesis -- it was a mini-version of the battle royal over plate tectonics. Bretz spent many, many months over many years hoofing all over the eastern Washington Scablands (often with his family in tow -- I wonder what they thought of that), observing and gathering data. Part of the difficulty was that the signs of the flood -- ripples in the land, gravel bars, etc. -- were too big, and really only apparent from the air, a vantage Bretz did not have (this was the 1910s and 1920s). He then had to fight to convince the bigwigs in the US geology community, most of whom had never set foot in the region but were opposed to the general idea of a cataclysmic flood and in favor of more gradual, uniform processes.

Bretz won after a USGS geologist named J.T. Pardee proved the existence of Lake Missoula (which covered today's Missoula, Montana to a depth of 950 feet). Here's a satellite view from Google Maps of an area a few miles north of Perma, Montana that shows what I think are ripple ridges identified by Pardee. The book says they're 20-30 feet high and 200-500 feet apart, "formed by floods at least 800 feet deep plunging across the pass at velocities up to 55 miles per hour."

It's the largest known flood in North America -- it's now thought there were over 40 of them, as ice in northwestern Montana repeatedly blocked the Clark Fork River. The dam formed Lake Missoula, which was about 500 cubic miles (1/3rd larger than Lake Ontario). This satellite view of the hills east of today's Missoula show (I think) shorelines of the ancient Lake.

When the dam broke it let loose an estimated 380 cubic miles of water (3.3 times Lake Erie; 95 times the present volume of Lake Mead), which then picked up 50 cubic miles of sediment on its way through. Portland was under 400 feet of water, and the area where my cats are presently asleep about the same. The total flow is estimated to be 9 mi3/hr (10 Sv), or 1,400 times today's Columbia River discharge at the Pacific, with the leading edge about 500 feet high going at about 50 miles an hour.

For the largest flood, the potential energy released is estimated to be 4,500 MT (megatons TNT), which is 1.9 × 1019 Joules; some comparisons (from the book's appendix) are

Hiroshima bomb: 0.02 MT
Tunguska event (Siberia, 1908): 4.3 MT
Mt. St. Helens, first 3.3 seconds: 5.7 MT
Krakatoa (1883): 200 MT
Eruption of Crater Lake, southern Oregon: 550 MT
Eruption of Tamboro (1815): 20,000 MT
Meteorite (66 million years ago): 96,000 MT
All 40 (or so) Bretz floods: 180,000 MT

[In one second the Earth receives 42 MT TNT from the Sun; in one day human civilization produces about 310 MT TNT of energy (that is, ignoring all our walking around, cell metabolism, etc, which, at 2000 kcal of food eaten per person per day, is about 14 MT/day). Sorry. I've been into calculating energies lately.]

It's estimated that rumbling of the a Bretz flood would have started a half-hour before it arrived. Since they occurred between 15,000 and 12,800 years ago it's entirely possible that some Clovis people lived in the area, although since the floods were about 55 years apart it's not clear if the flood plain would have recovered enough between floods to leave the land attractive. Perhaps. That would have been some way to go, if you have to.

Thanks to John Fleck for notifying me of the Oregonian article.

Rio+20 Finally Phones It In

Here's the first sentence of the "final" press release I received this morning from the United Nations Environment Programe:
Rio de Janeiro, 22 June 2012—The Rio+ 20 Summit ended today with a range of outcomes which, if embraced over the coming months and years, offer the opportunity to catalyze pathways towards a more sustainable 21st century.
In other words: they did a lot of things, and if they keep doing them maybe something can get done. Now there's a bold declaration for you.

Did anyone consider a release that simply stated the truth: "Rio de Janeiro, 22 June 2012 -- Nothing got done here, because the big players on the world stage oppose all actions to mitigate climate change and protect the environment. And we think that's a big problem."

The actual UNEP press release continues:
Heads of State and more than 190 nations gave the green light to a Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication.

Nations agreed that such a transition could be ‘an important tool’ when supported by policies that encourage decent employment, social welfare and inclusion and the maintenance of the Earth’s ecosystems from forests to freshwaters.

The decision supports nations wishing to forge ahead with a green economy transition while providing developing economies with the opportunity for access to international support in terms of finance and capacity building.
There's a great phrase: "nations wishing to forge ahead...." Actually moving ahead, though, seems completely optional.

Further down is a sentence braided with so much beautiful bureaucratese that it was clearly intended to be the exact opposite of a simple worded statement of what the conference actually did:
“Several other important agreements were also forged that can assist in enabling that transition ranging from assessing the potential of a new indicator of wealth and human progress beyond the narrowness of GDP to increasing the level of accountability and transparency of companies in respect to reporting their environmental, social and governance footprints.”

-- Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director
At least Steiner added this:
“The outcome of Rio+20 will disappoint and frustrate many given the science, the day to day reality of often simply surviving as individuals and as families, the analysis of where development is currently heading for seven billion people and the inordinate opportunity for a different trajectory. However if nations, companies, cities and communities can move forward on the positive elements of the Summit’s outcome it may assist in one day realizing the Future We Want."
Someday students of international law and diplomacy will study this conference as a lesson in sterility. Textbooks are probably being updated right now.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Prometheus: A (Short) Review

I went to see Prometheus this evening, and in 3D, too. The special effects and technical imagination was superb. If only someone had put as much thought into the plot.

And what scientists on what mission are going to take their helmets off shortly after they begin exploring just because the atmosphere in a cave was made breathable by some unknown force? Dumb. Very, very dumb.

Rio: Why No One Cares

The Rio+20 Summit started yesterday -- did you notice? I just looked around -- I don't see anything on the top screen of the New York Times, or the Washington Post, or the Los Angeles Times. I'm sure they have stories somewhere, but they're not pushing them. President Obama isn't attending, nor is Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel or British Prime Minister David Cameron. But Curtis Brainard writes that "more heads of state have registered for Rio+20 than the original summit."

Conference fatigue? Maybe. You can only be told so many times that “There is precious little time to do something, to act,” as a UN co-chair said in today's NY Times, before you start to wonder how many times you've heard that already, and why nothing ever gets done.

And perhaps people are losing interest in climate change. (No, not you, you're a climate nerd, or you wouldn't be reading this blog). But what's happened since Rio 1992 is hardly worrisome; here are the numbers for warming since the last Rio Conference 20 years ago. I've put them in Fahrenheit to make them as scary as possible:

region 20-yr
change (°F)
Globe 0.7
Globe:land 1.0
NH:land 1.1
SH:land 0.6
Tropics:land 0.6
North Pole 2.5
South Pole 0.8
USA48 1.0

[Note: these numbers are just the 20-yr linear trend for the UAH lower troposphere measurements, times 20 years. The statistical uncertainties (at the 95% confidence level) are roughly 20%.]

So a warming of a degree F or less, a 2.6 inch rise in sea level, perhaps a small upward trend in tropical storms but not in major hurricanes (and while hurricanes can hurt those who live along coasts, they know they're going to get storms anyway, so are a few more that worrisome?).... I can't blame the public for yawning over this. A drought and heat wave here and there...but when haven't there been droughts and heat waves? (And who on the US east coat doesn't enjoy a heat wave in March??) The drought in Texas got lots of attention, but last year it only cost Texas about $7B in lost crops, or 0.6% of its GDP. John Fleck says it looks like Texas communities have made the necessary adjustments. I know for some there has been real suffering, but jeez, when in human history hasn't there been real suffering?

Meanwhile no one acts like this is a real crisis -- UN officials and scientists and book authors and the environmental gang still all fly all over the place. And talk of the climate problem has spread out to cover all kinds of other concerns, about poverty eradication and environmental justice and even (in the leaked IPCC 5th Assessment Report Zero Order Drafts) gender. Some people are using it for their own purposes.

So while the projections all look scary -- and, to be clear for all the Tom Nelsons who will selectively quote from this, I firmly believe that the long-term projections are scary enough, the ones 50 or 100 years out -- what's happening doesn't look scary, so far. (And with the worldwide economic crisis, it's no wonder people's attentions are elsewhere; losing one's job or house is a lot scarier than a couple of degrees of warming.) If we all lived based on scary projections, I wouldn't have had that dish of ice cream last night. But I did.

This is America....

Via Andrew Sullivan:

Remote Area Medical | Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman
from Focus Forward Films on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cubic Miles per Hour

Awhile back I used the unit "cubic miles per hour" in relation to the Missoula Floods, and John Fleck tweeted that it was his new favorite measure.

It turns out that it's nearly identical to the standard scientific unit for large flows of water, the Sverdrup, which equals a million cubic meters per second.

1 mi3/hr = 1.16 Sv

Anyway, those floods (there were more than 40 of them, from 12,800 to 15,000 years ago) covered Portland, Oregon to a depth of about 400 ft. The energy of the floods was about 1.9 × 1019 Joules (compare here).

Map of the Missoula Flood that Formed the Columbia Valley

Correcting Your Essay on the Heartland Documents

To: Steven Hayward, AEI

Mr. Hayward,

There is a particularly misleading statement in your 3/5/12 essay "Why the Climate Skeptics Are Winning."

In it you credit Ross Kaminsky with detecting the odd digital fingerprint of the so-called "strategy memo" in the Peter Gleick/Heartland Institute affair. Presumably you mean his 2/17 blog post

and in earlier paragraphs in your essay you imply that those who accept the consensus view of manmade global warming weren't interested in looking closely at the episode.

But you're wrong. In fact, two days earlier I noted the strange digital information on that document:

and there were others already sensing the same thing. There was almost immediately a large interest from all across the blogosphere. One wonders if Kaminsky learned of it from that -- or, if not, how he missed it.

I don't expect everyone to know every little thing that happens in the blogosphere. But this was a fairly notable event, crucial to your thesis, and you didn't check your facts. It's not so much a matter of who gets credit as that you didn't care to examine your preconceived notion that those who understand and accept the strong scientific case for anthropogenic warming weren't interested in noting or unraveling the facts of this case. They were, and they still are.


David Appell, PhD, independent science writer
m: St. Helens, OR USA

Your Hourly Emissions Will Trap an Atomic Bomb's Worth of Heat

The CO2 emissions you emit in the next hour will trap over an atomic bomb's worth of heat.

Thanks a lot.

As I noted before, the CO2 from just one gallon of gasoline will ultimately trap, over the course of its atmospheric lifetime, 100 billion kilocalories of heat, according to David Archer's book The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate (Science Essentials)

Since a gallon of gasoline emits 8.92 kg (19.6 pounds) of CO2, and the average American emits 16.9 metric tons of CO2 a year (2009), a year's worth of emissions from that person traps an incredible 8 × 1017 joules. The Hiroshima bomb had an energy of 63 terajoules (= 1 "Hiro"), so annual US per-capita emissions will trap 12,500 Hiros of heat.

And they try to say CO2 is a miniscule portion of the atmosphere.

In other terms, that year's worth of one person's emissions will trap as much energy as impinges on the Earth in 5 seconds.

It's as much energy as all of human civilization consumes in 15 hours. (1 "Civ" = 474 exajoules (2008)).

Last year the world's emissions were 31.6 gigatons of CO2, from fossil fuel consumption. That will trap 24 trillion Hiros, or 3.1 million Civs, or 269 year's worth of the sunlight that hits Earth.

Since the Industrial Revolution began, humans have put about 539 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere. That will ultimately trap almost 1,500 trillion Hiros, or as much energy as the Sun puts out in 4 minutes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Better Word Than Denier

More people are upset about word "denier" appearing in a paper in Nature, like Keith Kloor and Judith Curry.... Not me, too much -- I think it's a fitting word for the phenomenon, and it's not a word I automatically associate with those who deny the Holocaust, and I don't think you can remove a perfectly good word from the English language just because in one area it applies to some odious people -- but I recognize it doesn't apply to everyone who disagrees with the "consensus" view on AGW -- though there isn't really one of those either, because all thinking people have things they think are known to certain degrees, and other things they think aren't known as well, all to differing degrees, and the set of all these things differs with each individual, but when writing about climate change you can't exactly refer to groups of people by their integrated probability distributions.

{Aside: But like Judith Curry, I'm not a fan of these efforts to find something wrong with people who think other than the "consensus," especially perverse efforts to blame it on their brain or their genes or because their daddy once gave them a spanking. I mean, come on, there are very few real sciences that end in "ology," and mining them for political support is, well, odious.}

So what's a better word than "denier?" The problem is, of course, that "skeptic" isn't accurate, since all scientists are skeptics, as anyone who's ever attended a hot science seminar knows. In fact, skepticism is the best thing about science, and the reason it's gotten us so far. So maybe


would work, because Merriam-Webster says it means "one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest," which seems to be a better fit to the position that most "skeptics" take. Or


MW: One who withholds assent; one who differs in opinion. Not bad. Sounds clunky, though, and doesn't have any edge to it, that sense that "skeptics" aren't skeptics based solely on the science.


Eh, no. We could make up a word:


as in, 'the climate anthonys oppose all CO2 regulations, period' or even better


as in, 'the motls would have called the first sewage system a Marxist plot,' but it would seem mysterious to the general public, until it caught on.


isn't bad: "to show contempt by derisive acts or language; to treat or address with derision."

Climate scoffers think the role of clouds has been grossly underestimated.

It doesn't quite capture honest skepticism -- that of the few who really do have objections primarily to the science (though are there any "skeptics" who don't coming from an ideologically conservative position? [And, since some commenter will surely ask, vice-versa?] Though to be honest I feel like I have a much better idea of the political ideologies of prominent "skeptics" than I do of prominent "nonskeptics," at least for the big-names.)

I kind of like "scoffers." It seems to suit the times, too, what with the decline in civility and manners coming from the motls. But it has something for the scoffers, too, doesn't it, a certain ring to it, a attitude deep within it that one might remember when the chips are down and the sea ice is almost gone. "You're damn right I'm a climate scoffer! Why the hell aren't you??"

I might try it for awhile.

If CO2 Created a Distinctive Orange Haze....

Here's an interesting comment on a Christian Science Monitor article about Rio+20:
Alec Sevins:
"I bet that if catalytic converters, smokestack scrubbers and other emissions controls had been technically impossible to invent, today's AGW-deniers would have been "smog deniers." Smog has, of course, not been entirely controlled, but you don't see people claiming that cars and industry don't cause smog. It's just too obvious. Photo-chemical smog can start out as clear emissions, but most Republicans don't waste time denying its cause and effect.

"CO2, however, is a clear gas with atmospherically-invisible, slow-moving impacts, so deniers have some elbow room to be devious. It's proven difficult if not impossible to prevent CO2 from drifting skyward, so fossil-fuel addicts and profiteers grab the chance to deny or downplay CO2's heat-trapping properties, and they show no sign of stopping. If CO2 created a distinctive orange haze they'd be far less brazen in their lies."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Drapela On the Radio; Case Closed

Nick Drapela, the OSU Instructor whose contract was not renewed, was on the Lars Larson radio show today. Here's a link to the audio:

Drapela said there seems to be "no other explanation" for the employment decision except that it was related to his views on manmade global warming. But basically he promoted the idea that it was because he wasn't part of the warming cabal, and Larson said outright that he believes that's the reason (though he offered no evidence or new facts).

But Drapela did say this:
"...the scientific data [on global warming], there is none.... People who believe in anthropogenic global warming use global computer models and programs to predict things that will happen, but it's not based on actual temperature data. If you look at actual temperature data, there is no basis for it." 
There's no point mincing words: that's an astonishingly ignorant thing for a so-called scientist to say, let alone one who thinks he knows something about the subject.

The most annoying part was that both he and the host seem to think scientists gets grants to study evidence for or against AGW. Except they don't -- they (like scientists in all fields) get grants to study science by investigating hypotheses.

By the way, there's a Facebook page titled Concerned Beavers for Dr. Nick Drapela.

Background here and here. This story seems done.

The Most Important Climate Article This Month: Model Limits

I have to admit, I too was surprised to see Nature Climate Change use the word "denier" in the title of an article. While I think it's an accurate description of a subset of people (some of whom use that very word themselves to describe their position), I didn't expect to see it in an academic article. Nature seems to be getting more aggressive on AGW action.

Anyway, a much more important article appeared in Nature last week: "Climate models at their limit?" by Mark Maslin and Patrick Austin. If you read only one science article this month, let this be the one (it's only 2 pages), except I haven't found a free PDF anywhere yet (if you know of a link to one, please leave a comment; I agree with all the someones who have said that if Nature thinks AGW is so serious, how about making their articles on it freely available to all, especially if the authors receive public funding?).

Maslin and Austin write:
For the fifth major assessment of climate science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), due to be released next year, climate scientists face a serious public-image problem. The climate models they are now working with, which make use of significant improvements in our understanding of complex climate processes, are likely to produce wider rather than smaller ranges of uncertainty in their predictions. To the public and to policymakers, this will look as though the scientific understanding of climate change is becoming less, rather than more, clear.

Scientists need to decide how to explain this effect. Above all, the public and policymakers need to be made to understand that climate models may have reached their limit. They must stop waiting for further certainty or persuasion, and simply act.
This isn't exactly a new realization. A 2007 paper in Science by Roe and Baker [PDF] has an elegant demonstration of why reducing uncertainties is difficult if feedbacks are large. If G is the "gain" in temperature -- the amount of extra warming beyond the simple (Planck) warming of ~1.2°C from a straight doubling of CO2 -- then its uncertainty is

where f-bar is the average feedback, and σf is the uncertainty in the average feedback.

As they write, a climate sensitivity between 2.0°C and 4.5°C corresponds to G between 1.7 and 3.7, so f is between 0.41 and 0.73. So if the feedback is on the high end -- closer to 1 -- the uncertainty in the amount of "extra" warming blows up.

So maybe it's not surprising that as climate models incorporate more and more physics, chemistry, and even biology, the uncertainty in the climate sensitivity hasn't lowered by much. Maslin and Austin give this chart of climate sensitivities since Svante:

They write:
The climate models, or ‘climate simulators’ as some groups are now referring to them, being used in the IPCC’s fifth assessment make fewer assumptions than those from the last assessment, and can quantify the uncertainty of the complex factors they include more accurately. Many of them contain interactive carbon cycles, better representations of aerosols and atmospheric chemistry and a small improvement in spatial resolution.

Yet embracing more-complex processes means adding in ‘known unknowns’, such as the rate at which ice falls through clouds, or the rate at which different types of land cover and the oceans absorb carbon dioxide. Preliminary analyses show that the new models produce a larger spread for the predicted average rise in global temperature. Additional uncertainty may come to light as these models continue to be put through their paces. Dan Rowlands of the University of Oxford, UK, and his colleagues have run one complex model through thousands of simulations, rather than the handful of runs that can usually be managed with available computing time. Although their average
results matched well with IPCC projections, more extreme results, including warming of up to 4 °C by 2050, seemed just as likely. As computing power becomes more accessible, that ‘hidden’ uncertainty will become even more obvious.
Good luck getting the general public to understand that.

So what to do? Their best idea is probably to project the uncertainty onto the x-axis and give that -- to say that the year Y when it will be X degrees warmer is uncertain, instead of saying that the warming in the year Y is uncertain by such-and-such. (It's basically these kind of charts.) That is, instead of saying it will be (say) 1.5°C to 2.5°C by the year 2050, say we will reach 2°C of warming sometime between (say) the years 2040 and 2100.

Besides this, their solution is basically to say that that stopping warming is the right thing to do:
In the face of scientific uncertainty, various philosophies for decision-making have
arisen. But perhaps the best approach is to ensure that policies include ‘win–win’ strategies. Supporting a huge increase in renewable energy would reduce emissions and
help to provide energy security by reducing reliance on imported oil, coal and gas.
Reduced deforestation and reforestation should draw-down CO2 from the atmosphere and help to retain biodiversity, stabilize soils and provide livelihoods for local people through carbon credits. Measures that lessen car use will increase walking and cycling, which in turn reduces obesity and heart attacks. No one can object to creating a better world, even if we turn out to be extremely lucky and the scale of climate change is at the low end of all projections.
That seems to rely heavily on agreement about the word better in the phrase "creating a better world," and if history has shown anything it's that humans have, for millenia now, demonstrated a remarkable amount of concurrence on what "a better world" means, right? So this should all be a piece of cake.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Wonderful Rant

I came across this delightful rant by Martinus Veltman (1999 Nobel Laureaute in Physics with Gerard 't Hooft), from an interview in 2004:
"We are living in a totally ridiculous world. We have all kinds of things from horoscopes to Zen Buddhism to faith healers to religions to what have you. All kinds of things are going around in the world [...], including what politicians do and the kind of nonsense they let us swallow. The whole world around us is full of nonsense, baloney, big speak and what have you. And that of course is not new. 99% of what people do usually moves in the sphere of something which is irrational, not correct, what have you? So in this whole world of all the baloney that goes on why does it [science] exist? It's because [...] a few hundred years ago Galilei, Copernicus and these people discovered the scientific method. And the scientific method is something that allows you to make progress whereby your statement is this: In the scientific method [...] the only criterion we have is that it can be explored experimentally and if we have a theory we will believe it if it produces something that can be verified experimentally. And in this way without telling us why and how it is there we have separated our science from religion. We have found a basis on which we can access without being put on a stack and set to fire. So for science it's very essential that we take a position that through the scientific method that keeps us away of all the irrationalities that seem to dominate human activities. And I think we should stay there. And the fact that I'm busy in science has little or nothing to do with religion. In fact I protect myself, I don't want to have to do with religion. Because once I start with that I don't know where it will end. But probably I will be burned or shot or something in the end. I don't want anything to do with it. I talk about things I can observe and other things I can predict and for the rest you can have it."
In graduate school Veltman came to my Institute to give a talk. I don't remember now what he talked about, but I do remember a sense of "Veltman's coming!" for a few days before he got there.

You Too Can Be a Global Warming Skeptic

Here's how you do it, people.
GISS May is out. The 2012 average temperature anomaly (so far) is second coldest year of the millenium at 0.48C.
Not only that, but the majority of this year's months have been below last year's annual average, and the year before that, and the year before that. (After that I stopped counting -- why go on?) The average ranking of the first five months of this year is higher than last year at this time, and compared to last century's 1998 the year-to-date average is declining at an astonishing rate of -20°F per millenium. Hopefully Voyageur will find another habitable planet before Earth freezes solid, unless NASA is lying about that, too.

Also, a model made a quarter of century ago isn't entirely accurate, and Isaac Newton once said, "Is it getting chilly in here?"

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Global Warming Skepticism to Be Over by Christmas?

Now that the La Nina is over, the lower atmosphere is heating up noticeably. GISS just reported the second warmest May in their records, with a surface anomaly of +0.65°C, which is equal to 1998's anomaly within measurement error.

The lower troposphere is warming too -- at the moment my estimate of June's anomaly, based on the first half of the daily UAH measurements, is +0.46°C, which would rank 2nd after 1998. (My method, which is only a bit more sophisticated than monkeys throwing poo at a wall, is explained here; so far (viz. this year) it's generally been good to about ±0.05°C, and the average could still swing by several hundreds of a degree by the end of the month. Note UAH's caveat.)

If there is a strong El Nino later this year -- chances are said to be 50-50 -- this AGW skepticism thing could be over by Christmas.

Friday, June 15, 2012

A Taxidermied Cat-being That’s Been Turned Into a Helicopter

Interesting stuff:
  • Via Keith Kloor, a Guardian story on a study finding that GM crops are good for the environment:
    Bt cotton is one type and now makes up 95% of China's vast plantations. Since its introduction in 1997, pesticide use has halved and the study showed this led to a doubling of natural insect predators such as ladybirds, lacewings and spiders. These killed pests not targeted by the Bt cotton, in cotton fields, but also in conventional corn, soybean and peanut fields.
    Keith writes on Twitter: "I'm shocked--shocked!--that @grist has ignored this story."

  • an interview with Bob Reiss, author of The Eskimo and the Oil Man.
  • There is the possibility of seeing the aurora tonight in the northern US and southern Canada. I like this additional note: "The nights are too bright to see the aurora in northern Canada, Alaska, Russia and Scandinavia."

  • This post's title is just an experiment.

Drapela Decision Unrelated to AGW Views, Says University

A news report from southern Oregon interviews Nicholas Drapela, the OSU chemistry instructor whose contract was not renewed. It also quotes the OSU Vice President of University Relations as saying Drapela's views on global warming had nothing whatsoever to do with the decision. He added, "The University really doesn't care about individual's personal views or their personal activities.

[I'll save commenters a lot of trouble by giving their response here: "Of course the university would say that. It's all part of the conspiracy, dude."]

Background here. Thanks to Marco for the heads up.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

HBO's Perfect Summation of the George W. Hoover Years

George W Bush Game Of Thrones
The head we had lying around.
HBO has apologized for using George W. Bush's head in some beheading scenes on Game of Thrones. On a DVD commentary, the creators said:
"It's not a choice. It's not a political statement. It's just we had to use whatever heads we had lying around."
Is that last sentence not the best summary of Bush's eight years in the White House that you've ever read?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Measure of Some Things

Someone wrote and asked me about some of the numbers in my previous post. One of the best things I've done awhile is start up a spreadsheet of the various numbers, constants, factors and quantities I find useful and/or interesting.

I started it, I think, after I got tired of looking up the Earth's surface area for about the tenth time. In college I had all the fundamental constants memorized, but, alas, some of those have gone just from lack of use. (And some have just been set equal to 1.)

In the spreadsheet, numbers in blue are inputs from the listed source, and numbers in black are the result of a conversion or calculation.

What can I say?--I like numbers. And I don't feel like I really understand something until I get a handle on them. (But at the same time, in the era of spreadsheets, one has to guard against applying worksheet functions without thinking about, or understanding, what you're really doing.)

A Neat Result on Sea Level Rise

Here is a nice result: a sudden polar meltwater input of 100,000 m3/sec -- say, from a broken ice dam, or just a huge amount of sustained, extreme melting -- would, in about a week, cause sea level to rise everywhere across the globe, at an average rate of 9 mm/yr.

Here is the computed spread of water across the globe after 5 days (left) and 6 days (right):

and a temporal view:

The authors say this amount of melting is the equivalent of 3,150 Gt/yr of ice melt; recent ice loss from Greenland is about 179 Gt/yr.

The Missoula Floods that created the Washington (state) Scablands were estimated to be 9 cubic miles an hour, which is 10 million m3/sec, or 100 times the rate in this paper.

By way of comparison, the average discharge from the Mississippi River is 17,000 m3/sec;
from the Amazon River, 209,000 m3/sec;
from all rivers worldwide about 1 million m3/sec (= 1 Sverdrup).

It takes about 55 days seconds for 100,000 m3 of water to fall over Niagara Falls (both falls).

The volume of one of the World Trade Center towers was 1.7 million m3;
the volume of the interior of the New Orleans Superdome is 3.5 million m3.

(Lorbacher et al, JGR-Oceans, 2012)

Monday, June 11, 2012

OSU Instructor, Dismissed Justifiably

So a chemistry instructor at Oregon State University, Nicholas Drapela, hasn't had his contract renewed. Since he was a global warming denier, the usual lot are sure he was fired for his views on that subject, even though there's no evidence of that. (This says he wasn't given a reason for being let go.)

I don't know anything about this, but just looking around the Web at some of his (alleged) stuff, I can see why they might not have wanted him around. Science is an enterprise, a global community, a way of being, and even though you may think someone's ideas completely wrong, and battle them intellectually with all that you have, you show basic respect for your peers and they show basic respect for you. This guy obviously lacked that, from what I see.

This 2009 commentary by Drapela is so cloying -- so, well, immature -- that it's difficult to believe that attitude didn't bleed into his department presence and work there. But even if it didn't, the commentary itself is enough.

It starts out:
My dear colleague Professor Hansen, I believe, has finally gone off the deep end.
And this person wanted to be taken seriously at a university?? Come on. You can disagree with a colleague without being cloyingly disagreeable, but just this beginning shows someone who would rather wallow in the muck of the denialsphere than participate in the enterprise of science. (And remember, this is a director at NASA he's writing about.)

He goes on, with bits like these:
The “consensus” card. I feel sorry for this human being....

Errant, capricious statements. 99% certainty on global warming? This sounds truly more like a senile senior citizen that a lucid scientist....

Ultimatums. Act now or you die. Right now. This very instant. Don’t think. You have 5 seconds to decide. I ask you, is this science or high-pressure salesmanship? But I cannot go on....

The fact that the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute apparently has the inability to use reason unsettles me. I’m worried about Professor Hansen....
He's worried about Professor Hansen. Sure.

What an ass.

And while it seems he'd rather be a denialist blogger than a member of a university, I can't see him making it even as one of those, given his writing skills.

Nor is his denialism very original -- see this PowerPoint presentation -- but just the standard cherry-picked, rehashed and stale, long-debunked crusty blobs of thought that ooze around and around that world. I'd fire him -- excuse me, decline to renew his contract -- just for that. But first I'd decline on the basis of his being a cloying smart ass, and not only that, but one who doesn't understand the science well enough to even be able to disagree with it intelligently.

He's a scientist. If the science is wrong, then he should write a paper. Or write a dozen of them. Based on what he thinks he knows, it should be like shooting fish in a oil barrel. He'd be famous, known forever more as the scientist who disproved manmade warming. That's how it's done up there.... In science, the only people who get to be unrepentant assholes are the geniuses. (And even then, most of them aren't.)

But I do have to say this: this is Nicholas Drapela's moment. If he plays his cards right he has a bright future, with the potential of gleaming riches ahead.

But it won't be in academia. Nor should it be.

Finis: The Eskimo and the Oil Man

After finishing Bob Reiss's book The Eskimo and the Oil Man -- which I heartily recommend -- I'm left with a these conclusions:
  • The melting Artic has already changed the lives of the native people who live there, who seem terribly torn about preserving their environment and traditional culture, but who already cannot live without oil revenue.
  • The melting Artic will change the nations who border the Arctic seas -- the U.S., Canada, Russia, Norway, and Greenland -- and of all these the U.S. is least prepared to do for whatever is next (for example, it has yet to ratify the Law of the Sea Treaty). 
  • There will definitely be offshore oil drilling in the Arctic, and probably lots of it.
  • A lot of companies around the world will make a lot of money.
  • There will be oil spills, significant spills, perhaps even Gulf-like spills that will be especially messy because the oil will mix with ice, or be trapped under the ice, or be difficult to clean up because of the cold and darkness and the weather.
  • The U.S. is beset by an especially unruly mix of corporate interests, regulatory interests, native interests, and environmental interests who combine to bring the situation to a near standstill.
  • Norway is sitting very, very pretty -- organized, rich as hell, selling as much oil as they can while taxing it heavily. (Ironically, this includes a carbon tax, whose grand purpose, I thought, was to motivate a transition off fossil fuels.) This revenue goes into a pension fund that holds about 1% of global stock equity and, on a per capita basis, would be the equivalent of over $38 trillion in the U.S. (I'll write about Norway in some upcoming post.) 
The least satisfying aspect of Reiss's book, for me, was that he never confronted the major characters with the deep irony of their situation: it's only the melting from climate change, driven by fossil fuel emissions, that is opening the Arctic up to commerce and drilling, and yet all everyone seems to want to do is drill for more oil and gas.

He never asks them point blank, WHAT ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE REST OF THE PLANET?? It's almost like the question was forbidden, like it might have been a condition of their participation in the book.

It's only in the last chapter that Reiss broaches the issue in any depth, but in what are his thoughts only, not his characters. And while he calls himself "a firm believer in global theory," he's all over the map. Perhaps that simply makes him a realist.
Now Washington ought to follow the example of the Eskimo and the Oil man. Unless ultraconservatives who clamor for offshore drilling at any cost and ultraenvironmentalists opposing it in all forms can reach the same point as Edward Itta and Pete Slaiby--compromise--America will never learn whether trillions of dollars' worth of recoverable oil and gas actually lie under Alaska's continental shelf, enough energy to fuel the nation's economy and bolster domestic supply until viable future alternative forms come into existence.

The 'drill, baby, drill' crowd needs to tone down the rapacious rhetoric and blind demand for universal extraction. The rampant Greens need to stop pretending that they represent broad Alaskan native interests, as they've historically advocated limiting the native relationship with the wild when it comes to whale hunting, bird hunting, polar bear habitat, land use.
A few pages later:
If recoverable oil is located offshore, taxes should be raised on profits to help fuel America's recovery and pay for research on alternative fuels. While it is true that Shell sank $3.5 billion into Alaskan offshore leases without getting to drill between 2007 and 2010, it is equally true that this huge sum represented just half of Shell's fourth-quarter profits in 2010....

Instead of wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on do-over plans, endless uncoordinated public hearings, lawyers and lobbyists and renting equipment that never gets used, wouldn't it be better for these monies to go toward public works, energy research, education and jobs throughout the US?

Oil companies can and should pay more in taxes once oil is found.
(Emphasis his.)

For another review of the book, see here.

For an update on Shell's position in the Arctic this year, read this.

400 ppm: Probably Not Next Year (at Mauna Loa)

(Click pic to make big. Once per customer, please.)
Even thought some people are starting to utilize the fact that atmospheric CO2 levels are already over 400 ppm in some places (like the Arctic), it still isn't at the most famous place of all, Mauna Loa, where David Keeling started the whole business of CO2 monitoring in the first place.

This year MLO's weekly CO2 value peaked at 397.12 ppm, a 2.16 ppm increase from last year.

So it would need to increase by 2.88 ppm next year to reach 400 ppm, which is unlikely -- it will happen only if there is a strong El Nino in the fall and winter. (And there might be.)

But it will definitely(*) happen by 2014.

(*) Except in the case of planetary catastrophe, or Craig Venter's product escapes his lab and goes exponentially rogue.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

On Pretending to Be Stupid

One of the most dispiriting aspects of the climate debate are those who purposely appear stupid.

I can accept that someone might look deeply at the model simplifications and uncertainties and conclude that maybe climate sensitivity is low, or that more work is needed, or who make a reasoned argument that the poor need more energy and maybe we ought to first improve the billions of actual lives spent living in squalor before we go all-out to save future lives (though I think we should do both, and I think everyone reading this is already affluent enough to pay for their pollution).

Then there are the people who have probably never been serious about anything in their whole life, and some who border on pure evil. And I get that many ordinary folks aren't familiar with the intricacies of the scientific evidence and so fall back on their ideology as a guide to their position on AGW.

But then there are the people who are clearly smart enough to understand things, put pretend they aren't.

Case in point: Chip Kappenberger, who just wrote:
A new study provides evidence that air pollution emanating from Asia will warm the U.S. as much or more than warming from U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The implication? Efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (and otherwise) to mitigate anthropogenic climate change is moot.
(Emphasis his.) The study he cites is "Potential impacts of Asian carbon aerosols on future US warming" by Teng et al. in Geophysical Research Letters.

Needless to say, this warming would be in addition to enhanced greenhoues warming, and to US aerosols, as the study's authors write:
"This warming is in addition to the anthropogenically-induced TAS [surface air temperature] warming over the same US domain found in the CCSM4 RCP4.5 experiment [Meehl et al., 2012], which during 2005–2024 is about 0.9 C and 0.7 C in DJF and JJA, respectively. Hence the US warming is amplified by roughly 50% by the remote effects of the enhanced carbon aerosols over Asia in the 6 and 10 experiments."
Yet Kappenberger writes,
In my Master Resource post “Climate Impacts of Waxman-Markey (the IPCC-based arithmetic of no gain)” I calculated that a more than  a more than 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by the year 2050 would result in a reduction of global temperatures (from where they otherwise would be) of about 0.05°C. Since the U.S. is projected to warm slightly more than the global average (land warms faster than the oceans), a 0.05°C of global temperature reduction probably amounts to about 0.075°C of temperature “savings” averaged across the U.S., by the year 2050.

Comparing the amount of warming in the U.S. saved by reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by some 80% to the amount of warming added in the U.S. by increases in Asian black carbon (soot) aerosol emissions (at least according to Teng et al.) and there is no clear winner. Which points out the anemic effect that U.S. greenhouse gas reductions will have on the climate of the U.S. and just how easily the whims of foreign nations, not to mention Mother Nature, can completely offset any climate changes induced by our greenhouse gas emissions reductions....

As I have repeatedly pointed out, nothing we do here (when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions) will make any difference either domestically, or globally, when it comes to influences on the climate. What the powers-that-be behind emissions reduction schemes in the U.S. are hoping for is that 1) it doesn’t hurt us too much, and 2) that China and other large developing nations will follow our lead.
I'm not even going to dissect his argument. Kappenberger is someone who is clearly too intelligent not to understand the tragedy of the commons, and while he might find it useful to pretend he's too stupid understand it, I'm not going to pretend he's too stupid to understand it.

So the real question is, why would he write what he did?

Just to feed his kids? But what happens when they grow up and come to understand what you were doing all those years? Are decent jobs really that hard to find? And how does Kappenberger look himself in the mirror?

I just don't get this, on a personal level. There are so many people who are willfully blind and pretend not to understand things, and who ignore reasoning for the sake of maintaining their ideology, or, worse, for maintaining their funders' ideology.

That kind of thing would make me puke on an hourly basis, so I'm really curious how these people get through the day.

Sorry About This

I'm sorry, but I'm going to turn word verification for comments back on. I know it's a pain, and the CAPTCHA can be hard to read, but I'm getting inundated with comment spam. Maybe in a few weeks the spammers will take me off their lists and I can turn it off again.

In the meantime, be thankful I'm not asking you for a scan of your iris (yet).

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Annual Arctic Sea Ice Volume the Lowest Ever

By the way, as of the end of May, PIOMAS's estimates gives an annualized Arctic sea ice volume of 13.17 Kkm3 -- its lowest value ever.

(That's the 365-day moving average.) That's a 2.2% decline in one year, and a 35% decline in 10 years.

(My earlier estimate is for the entire record, but in recent years the ice is melting at a faster-then-linear rate.)

The Long-Term Loss of Arctic Sea Ice

This is kind of useful, so I'm putting it here.

I was reading Tamino's latest post, and one of the commenters wrote about losses in Arctic sea ice volume, and how some other people had said it could be as high as 75% over the last 30 years. So I thought I'd check that using the latest PIOMAS data.

But when I do calculate something like this, I always wonder/worry about what if the first few years in the data series were high or low relative to the overall trend, or what if the last year was an unusual fluctuation -- that would skew the results and give a number that wasn't really indicative of the long-term trend.

But if you assume the trend is linear, you can, with just a little algebra, get a useful result for the percentage loss (or gain) based on just the linear trend. (I'm sure this isn't original, but I haven't encountered it before.)

Take the PIOMAS data and calculate its slope m via the usual linear regression.

The long-term percentage loss L, in the linear model, is

L = (y2-y1)/y1

where y1 and y2 are the values from the linear fit: y1=mx1+b and y2=mx2+b, where m is the slope of the trend line as determined by linear regression, b is the intercept, and x1 and x2 the endpoints of the line.

With a little algebra you find, defining the data's average value as A [= (y1+y2)/2]

where Δx (= x- x1) is just the length of the data record. [If you need help deriving this, just note that you have two equations with two variables, y1 and y2. Solve as usual.] So you only have to calculate "bulk properties" of the data: m, A and Δx. Pretty neat.

The PIOMAS data (Δx = 33.4 yrs) gives A = 20.64 Kkm3, m = -0.30 Kkm3/yr, so

L = -39.0% 

or -1.2% per year.

(A linear fit probably isn't the "best" fit -- my spreadsheet finds a slightly higher R2 for a power law fit -- but this is just blog-work, not rocket science.)

Like I said, I'm sure this isn't original, but it's a little useful (at least to numbers geeks like me), and it was fun to work out.

(Mostly it was fun to work out.)