Sunday, September 30, 2012

More on Why Arctic Melting Matters

The other day I estimated that the melting of global sea ice contributes to global warming about 10% as much as man-made greenhouse gases. (And that's beside whatever it's doing to the jet stream, atmospheric blocking patterns, and weather extremes.)

A commenter on another site pointed to this Hudson GRL 2011, which attempted to answer this very question with better science by including changes in cloud cover and the seasonal variation of solar radiation.

He concludes that the increase in forcing due to Arctic sea ice over the period 1979-2007 is about 0.1 W/m2. (My estimate was 0.12 W/m2, which was closer than it deserved to be.)

By comparison, manmade CO2 forcing is now about 1.8 W/m2, and the forcing from all manmade GHGs is about 2.8 W/m2.

(Incidentally, that means, if you lump all GHGs into a CO2-only picture, the effective atmospheric CO2 level is about 470 ppm, as of 2010.)

Hudson finds
"...a complete removal of Arctic sea ice results in a forcing of about 0.7 W m−2, while a more realistic ice-free-summer scenario (no ice for one month, decreased ice at all other times of the year) results in a forcing of about 0.3 W m−2, similar to present-day anthropogenic forcing caused by halocarbons. The potential for changes in cloud cover as a result of the changes in sea ice makes the evaluation of the actual forcing that may be realized quite uncertain, since such changes could overwhelm the forcing caused by the sea-ice loss itself, if the cloudiness increases in the summertime.
Marc Morano and Steve Goddard are desperately trying to distract attention by highlighting the gain in Antarctic sea ice. The problem, of course, is that the Arctic is melting much faster than the Antarctic is gaining ice: -54 Kkm2/yr compared to +14 Kkm2/yr, since the beginning of satellite records.

Added: Then there is the fact that Arctic sea ice tends to be thicker than Antarctic sea ice: about 2-3 meters versus 1-2 meters, says the NSIDC. So a loss of a square meter of Arctic sea ice is a larger volume loss than is the volume gain of an Antarctic square meter of sea ice.

Monkey-Poo Model Results for September

At month's end, the Monkey-Poo model suggests the September UAH anomaly for the lower troposphere will be about +0.46°C.

Quite warm, if true -- 2nd only after 2010's +0.48°C.

Homer Simpson Votes Again

Friday, September 28, 2012

Coal's Black Swan

Clark Williams-Derry at Slightline has a revealing chart on US coal consumption for electricity production.

He writes:
"...In all my years of examining economic and environmental trends, I’ve never seen anything like this. Gasoline consumption might shift by a few percentage points per year at most. Coal consumption trends had been very much of that ilk: consumption would shift slowly, but with a long-term trend towards steady growth. "So a drop of this magnitude is a proverbial “black swan“—an unforeseeable event with dramatic, world-changing consequences."
As he notes, it's a major reason for the 20-year low in US CO2 emissions, and why the coal companies want to export through the Pacific Northwest.

Why the Melting Arctic Matters

There are a lot of comments about the gain in Antarctic sea ice versus loss of Arctic sea ice, most of which miss the point, which is the ice-albedo feedback.

Roughly, I find that the net melting of global sea ice is adding about 10% to the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Some numbers. In a comment, S. Davis wrote:
As you know, there is a distinct lack of ice this year, and there is even less than in 2007. However, like 2007, there is an abundance of ice in Antarctica. In fact, we are above the 1979-2000 satellite average by about 1 million square km. And just last week a paper was released that showed that the Antarctic has been gaining ice mass since 2003, and not losing ice since 1992. As you know, the Antarctic contains about 90% of the ice on this planet, while the Arctic contains about .01% of the global total, that is one ten thousandth of the total. The Antarctic contains about 90% of the ice on this planet. Any small gain in the Antarctic dwarfs any loss in the Arctic. For example, a 1% increase in the Antarctic is almost 300,000 cubic km., while the Arctic only contains 24,000 cubic km. in winter!
In fact, Arctic sea ice is melting faster than Antarctic sea ice is increasing, with the Antarctic currently having about 53% of total sea ice. In the last 10 years, Arctic SIE has decreased by 7.3% relative to the 10 years before, while Antarctic SIE has increased by 2.3%.

Total SIE has decreased by 2.5%, and the trend of total SIE extent since the satellite era -38 Kkm2/yr. (It's -47 Kkm2/yr over the last decade.)

This net melting changes the Earth's albedo, and it absorbs more energy. If S is the solar radiation incident on a piece of sea ice of area A, and it melts, the net energy absorbed is

ΔE = (αice - αsea)SA

where α is the albedo. αice ≈ 0.5 and αsea ≈ 0.1.

David Randall's book has a chart (pg 33) showing that the average solar constant at 80°N during the time when the Sun is above the horizon is 250 W/m2, and the Antarctic receives very nearly the same. Let's divide S by 2, since the Sun is up only half the year above [below] the Arctic [Antarctic] circle.

Using these numbers, I find the energy absorbed from this melting ice is an additional 2 trillion watts per year. Averaged over the Earth's entire surface it comes to an additional 0.004 W/m2 of energy each year, over the entire globe

(This additional heat isn't strictly a forcing, since it takes place regionally and not globally, but this gives an idea of its magnitude. Also, note that I have not assumed any melting of Antarctic land ice.)

Global anthropogenic radiative forcing from greenhouse gases is now about 2.8 W/m2, increasing about 0.03 W/m2 each year. (The net forcing is about half this, due to the cooling effect of aerosols.)

So just the melting sea ice is adding roughly 10% to the manmade greenhouse effect -- not an insubstantial amount.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Americans Who Are Now Dying Earlier

Perhaps the most shocking sign of America's deep problems is the decline in life expectancy now taking place in hundreds of its counties, primarily among less educated women.

This has been in the news in the last few days, but as far as I know it first appeared in the literature over a year ago:

“Falling behind: life expectancy in US counties from 2000 to 2007 in an international context”
Sandeep C Kulkarni, Alison Levin-Rector, Majid Ezzati and Christopher JL Murray
Population Health Metrics 2011, 9:16 

As the Los Angeles Times reported then:
"In 737 U.S. counties out of more than 3,000, life expectancies for women declined between 1997 and 2007. For life expectancy to decline in a developed nation is rare. Setbacks on this scale have not been seen in the U.S. since the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, according to demographers.

The backsliding for women began before 1997, but researchers found it had accelerated in the last decade. Only 227 counties saw women's life expectancy decline between 1987 and 1997, according to the study.

The worst-performing counties were clustered primarily in Appalachia, the Deep South and the lower Midwest. In those places, women died as much as a year younger in 2007 than women did a decade earlier. Life expectancy for women slipped 2 1/2 years in Madison County, Miss., which recorded the biggest regression."
To my mind -- as a self-employed, middle-aged American with pre-existing conditions, who has great difficulty getting the health care I need -- this is the most worrisome trend in the country. I wish it would get asked about at the Presidential debates -- but, since the Big Media moderators all have big incomes and great health benefits, I doubt very much that it will. Let's face it -- few people care, and Mitt Romney is the least of them. (Even Barack Obama doesn't dare venture into the poorer parts of the country.)

As Harold Meyerson writes in the Washington Post:
The market is not just redistributing income in the United States, then. It is redistributing life.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Watts Won't Reveal His "Independent Donor"

Watts replies:
The 44K in the stolen Gleick emails is half of the 88k for the five year project from the independent donor arranged by Heatland. He’s the “anonymous donor” listed in the stolen Gleick emails is what I’m told. The other 44k half has not been funded. We are making do and the project will be a public open resource online when completed. Thanks to Gleick and his crime, the project was delayed a few months.
Watts declined to specify who this "independent donor" is, or exactly what "resource" he's providing. Given his recent prominence in the news, this is relevant.

He adds:
Tread lightly, and be very careful what you write. I have a low tolerance level for your smear attempts, and I won’t tolerate any more.
I do not believe that communicating facts, as reported to (and by) me, to be "smear attempts."

Mooney Review: Abuse the Authority of Science

Ari Schulman, senior editor of The New Atlantis, has an interesting and hard-hitting review of Chris Mooney's recent book in the Wall Street Journal.

I've written earlier about the bald nonsense behind Mooney's thesis. I still believe his writing is a perversion of science, for purely political purposes. And -- since science is the most powerful (and successful) philosophy we have for understanding the world -- it is a dangerously deception basis for proclaiming political superiority (and I've never seen any evidence that Mooney understands even the basics of science).

Mooney's writings are as blind, and and dangerous, as anything Mark Steyn has written. It's just that most people who read this blog like what he says, politically. That's not enough for me.

You should read all of Schulman's review, but his conclusion is particularly relevant:
Central to that narrative, and to both of these books, is the practice of claiming that science simply says that one side of a political argument is right. Such claims typically misrepresent partial scientific understanding and invoke the authority of science as a cover for moral, philosophical and political premises that have not been argued or accepted. And this practice gets to the root of our science problem. What makes science special is that its claims don't rest on authority but are available for anyone to rigorously question and verify. Yet there are far too many scientific advances today for anyone to know them all, and most are impractical for nonscientists to replicate. Thus we must place our trust in scientific authority. But when science is invoked as the final word on claims for which it obviously isn't, it subverts this very authority. What results is a general public distrust—irrational but in a sense reasonable—of science, providing grounds for people to resist findings that undermine their beliefs. Books written with the transparent aim of satiating the partisan palate may be as inevitable as politics itself, but the ones that abuse the authority of science to do so make worse the very problem they claim to be fighting.
There are no easy answers. Political writers who latch onto science as a way of forcing their politics forward are as dangerous as writers who utilize any device, and frankly, they should be tossed out onto their ear with just as much disgust and just as much force.

And be sure to spit in their direction as you throw them. Or at least right after.

Who is Paying Anthony Watts?

Who exactly is paying Anthony Watts, and for what?

On 9/17 I wrote him, and asked
"Are you receiving any payments now from the Heartland Institute -- say, in the last 12 months If so, how much, and for what?
He replied, just a few minutes later:
"No, the 44,000 in Jan 2012 published by Gleick in his stolen emails came from an independent donor, the only thing direct from Heartland was a speaking fee of $800 for the Chicago May conference (the same as all speakers to over [sic] their three days away from the office) and reimbursement for travel. 
and he added, a minute later,
BTW that special Climate Reference Network project other half has not been funded. We are making do with what was provided."
Watts didn't say who this "independent donor" was, and actually I didn't know that he had received any money all for for data presentation (?) from the Heartland Institute (?).

Is there data being presented somewhere?

I've asked for more details.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Even Romney's Supporters Don't Know Why They Support Him

In the Sarasota crowd, I spoke with Billy Murphy, a retiree holding a poster board with the hand-lettered message: “NO REDISTRIBUTION TO FREELOADERS.” Murphy, an avowed foe of President Obama, will support Romney — but he does not know why. “He hasn’t really told the people yet what he’s gonna do,” Murphy said. “We need to know.” Noting Murphy’s sign, I suggested that he must, at least, agree with Romney’s criticism of the 47 percent of Americans who pay no federal income taxes and expect government handouts. “I don’t know,” Murphy said, suddenly sheepish. “I’m one of the 47 percent. I’m on Social Security.”

-- Dana Milbank, Washington Post, today

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Obama's Accomplishments, and Why I Won't Vote for Him

Under President Obama:
* 3.76 million private sector jobs since July 09.
* 4.63 million since Feb 2010.

Osama Bin Laden dead.
The Iraq War finished.
(Yet, yes, the Afghan War still in effect. What a stupid waste.)

$7,000,000,000,000 in wealth created in the stock market. (Dick Cheney: "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.")

* The numbers of uninsured dropping for the first time since forever.
* Yet health care delivered via the private market still suffering devastating increases.... Which Romney doesn't have a clue how to solve. (Hint: it won't be via the so-called 'free market.')

* Gas prices below the Bush years: 11% below their peak of national average peak of $4.32/gallon on 7/17/08, when adjusted for inflation via the CPI [author's calculations]. (Not that Presidents' have much influence over the global oil market anyway.)

Smaller government. (21,000 fewer federal government employees since July 2009.)

And the problem is where exactly? Especially with a bumbling fool in the other party, a cossetted liar who understands nothing about the lives of you and me, who has on compassion, no higher goal than being elected President.

...And yet, I won't be voting for Obama.... He is just as dependent on the rotting influence of big-money as is the other guy, and this has (already) ruined our democracy. My vote doesn't count (especially since I do not live in a swing state) -- your's doesn't either. Money counts for far more. The only recourse is a protest vote.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

UAH Temperature Anomaly at mid-month

At the middle of the month, my Monkey-Poo Model of the UAH lower troposphere measurement shows a September anomaly of 0.47 C -- down from my premature estimate of 0.59 C earlier in the month, but still very high.

It would be the 10th-warmest month in their almost-34 years of records, and the 2nd-warmest September after 2010's 0.48 C. But there's another two weeks to go.

According to UAH, the last 15 years have warmed at 0.05 C/decade, with a statistical significance (of being greater than zero) of 93%. Somewhere in all this, though, is undoubtedly a 11 yr 4 month interval, or 9y8m, or something, that will somehow disprove that the 2-dimensional surface on which we live (which, strictly speaking, can't hold any heat anyway, being two-dimensional) isn't warming.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Half Tanker of Iron

“Give me a half tanker of iron, and I will give you an ice age.”

-- John Martin, oceanographer, from a July 1988 lecture at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on  iron fertilization of the ocean.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The CharlesH Problem

I am still not home -- still in Massachusetts after a great week at WHOI, now visiting some good, old friends from my years of living in New England, the best kind of friends. So I'm barely trying to keep up with email, let alone  blogging.

But still arguments are going on in the comments. Some of it is very misguided, simply full of untruths. I think the most depressing part of the climate debate is the vast number of people who know no science at all -- who clearly, obviously know no science -- but who have no hesitation about speaking up and spreading their ignorance all across this blog and many others, just because they think they are entitled to have an opinion.

Frankly, they are not. There was once a time, even within my lifetime, when people who knew nothing knew that they knew nothing, and didn't pretend that they knew something. For some reason I really do not understand, that has changed, at least in the U.S.

I see a lot of comments here in that vein, and elsewhere, from a lot of commenters but especially from one who goes by "CharlesH" who, I believe, lives in Utah.

CharlesH has slick and easy answers to every climate question. I'm not going to link to them all here -- frankly, it's not worth my time to do the linking. His answers are invariably simplistic, which sometimes even he admits.

If you follow climate blogs -- if you still waste your time following climate blogs -- you probably see lots of such commenters. Places like WUWT or Steve Goddard are rife with them -- people who clearly know very little science, but who somehow believe they are saving the world from the despair of socialism, the rebirth of Naziism, the systematic murder of Leninism, the vast intellectually vapid sinkhole of two people somewhere, anywhere, talking together about trying to make the world a slightly better place.

Has cleaning up the world ever been a bad thing?

I really think some people think this, always, of course, from the front lines of their easy chair.

Perhaps we need a decade of true suffering -- I mean REAL hardship -- to break them of their idiocy. I'm just barely old enough to perhaps die in such a decade, but if that's what it really takes....

Anyway, I'm rambling.

CharlesH wrote, on 9/10:
>> Sea levels have risen at a ~3mm/yr rate during the last and previous centuries (about 1ft/century) <<

First of all, his comments come to me with the name field "I am Coyote." Strangely, that is also the name of a weird blogger in Oregon named Ted Piccolo,, from what was (is?) called the NW Republican Blog. Weird.

In any case, this supposed fact is not true. Sea level has not been 3 mm/yr over the last several centuries. Read the papers (Ted/CharlesH provides no supporting evidence, because he's not the type to care about facts), or.... last week at WHOI, a graduate student talked to us about -- showed us -- some stumps from an ancient forest near Falmouth, MA, on the beach, that was uncovered two years ago in a Nor'easter [and, oh, how I miss those].

He drilled into the stumps and has been using the results to reconstruct massive hurricanes that come onshore in Cape Cod over the last millenium. And his answer -- and I asked him this, as did other people there -- was that sea level was rising about 0.5 mm/yr for most of the previous millenium.

So I'd like proof of "CharlesH's" claim that sea level rise was 3 mm/yr for several centuries. Even better, I'd like proof of essentially all his claims, because frankly I think he's full of shit.

He says a lot of stuff, but never proves any of it.

I'm getting tired of that. I mean, this is America -- he's free to be an idiot if he wants to. But I'm tired of trying to disprove nonsense. I'm tired of the idiots, the no-nothings, the stupid Americans (and they are always Americans, aren't they?) who know nothing but broadcast their know-nothingness all across the planet.

Never under their real name, of course. They're not THAT brave.

Idiots never are.

The "CharlesH problem" threatens the world. We now have 0.15-0.2 C/decade surface warming, and the people who really understand this are deeply, deeply concerned. Some of those who understand it the best are worried the most, and now -- behind the scenes that few see -- are contemplating serious geoengineering measures to solve the carbon problem.

They are meeting and experimenting and writing papers, some of which I'll be interviewing on as soon as I get back to Oregon. Stratospheric aerosols, ocean iron fertilization, marine cloud brightening -- they are getting their ducks in a row. And it's not a big secret -- read Eli Kintish's recent book Hack the Planet to learn more.

The scientists who know something -- the non-CharlesH's of the world, in other words -- are very worried. They know we can't keep adding greenhouses gases to the planet, at our current rate, without significant warming. Geologic warming. Warming unlike anything ever seen before.

We are at 395 ppm. Compare that to Ice Age charts.

But CharlesH, this idiot, this -- I'm sorry -- this fucking idiot who sits home and probably watches America's Idol in the evening, who has probably never read a science paper in his life, really, truly, somehow honestly thinks he knows better than all the professional, study-deep-into-the-night, sweat-the-data, devote-their-lives scientists about all this.

What can you possibly say about such a person? This person -- CharlesH -- now threatens civilization.

Think about that -- ignorance from Tea Party types in rural Utah threatens the well-being of the entire human race.

What can you say?

I don't know. I realize I'm just one tiny, barely read blog. I've though of blocking him -- but I can't block the other ten thousand idiots across the blogosphere, the Anthony Watts' and the Steve Goddards' and all their minions.

They are too many, and too stupid. So what to do about them?

I don't know. Donald Brown, the philosopher at Penn State who has been writing about the ethics of climate change for well over a decade -- I interviewed him in the early 2000s -- thinks they are perhaps guilty of crimes against humanity.

Are they? Are Anthony Watts and Marc Morano and Tom Nelson and Steve Goddard smart enough to be guilty of climate crimes?

I think so. You can't simply claim that CO2 isn't a greenhouse gas.

I think their crimes will be obvious in about a decade.

When I profiled Michael Mann for Scientific American, he said he thought it would eventually be illegal to deny climate change. I had doubts about that, but maybe.

It's obvious (barely) they're not smart enough to be so evil, even if clearly they are misguided. Morano gets a quarter-mil a year from his bought-and-sold employer, Watts getting who-knows-what from the Heartland types for presenting data, Goddard happy to just get some hits in his old age, Chris Horner a complete tool, James Inhofe a man who will go down in history as perhaps the biggest fool of all time -- the hoax is from *him*, not from those who he claims, but even he doesn't realize it, that's how big a tool he is.

Can we have an accounting, please?

None of them has much of a science background, if any. I mean, please.

And CharlesH, who clearly knows no science either.

But on the shoulders of these idiots, fools, and incoherent minds our future seems to turn, if only just a bit, if only in the blogosphere. And they are probably proud of this, somehow.

But the vast majority of people -- like 98 percent, you know -- have no idea any of this goes on at all.

They just know it's getting warming, slowly, continually. Drought is here. This year.

Surely, even the conservative, fundamentalist farmers in Kansas, who has lost much of their corn, have to wonder. If only late at night, even if they will never admit it. They, too, must wonder about greenhouse gases. (But don't worry, American taxpayers will be making them whole.)

Anyway, I should stop.

I'm tired.

I've had a long week, and am a little out of the loop.

No oracle, for sure -- but them who is? No one.

I'm sure the Moranos and Watts and CharlesH's think they're just as sure as I think I'm sure.

In their minds, I'm the idiot, not them. Me.

But them, still, I think: CO2 is a greenhouse gas. 5 molecules per 10,000 trap more heat than 4 per 10,000, or even three.

On that small divide, our future lies. One molecule out of 10,000.

Who would have though it? Certainly not CharlesH.

I'll be flying home tomorrow, moving Wednesday, setting up for a couple of days. Making nice to my cats, who have been boarded for over a week. Sophie, especially, will take some effort -- she has deep feelings about my absences.

I just hope I can get my WiFi to work again. It always seems like a crapshoot, and frankly, I don't even know if I remember the password.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Photos from WHOI

I'm in Woods Hole, Massachusetts for the week, hearing lots of good presentations by WHOI scientists, seeing their labs and equipment, and talking with them about their research.

I don't have time to write much now, but here are some pictures from the week:

What is this multi-wire thing on the back of a boat in Falmouth Harbor?

 WHOI has their own CAT scan machine for large marine animal autopsies:

Marine animal field autopsy kit:

The passenger sphere from the ALVIN deep sea submersible (goes down to 4,500 m; once found a hydrogen bomb lost off Spain; discovered black smokers; investigated the sunk Titanic; is being retired);

New ALVIN Titanium sphere (will go down to 6,500 m):

Sign onboard ship for those about to enter ALVIN:

Sea anemones used in genetic research:

Martha's Vineyard:

Something next to someone's driveway in Falmouth:

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Guess: September is Going to Be Very Warm

I know the data only goes through the 7th of the month, but my dumb little model is saying that the UAH LT value for September is going to be very warm: at the moment, it says +0.59°C above the baseline, which would easily be the warmest September in their 30+ year records, and the 3rd warmest month of all.

I've found in other recent months that the final UAH LT value changes only by at most ±0.1°C from this point to the end of the month. (Partly because I rely on a month-long average; and I simply assume that the cooling rate for each future day will be the average daily rate since 2001: -0.015°C/day for September.) That gives 0.59°C.

My guess last month was pretty close: I guessed +0.31°C, and the final value was +0.34°C. My method isn't much more than looking for a linear relationship between the monthly average of the raw temperatures and their published values, with a correction factor added based on how well (or poorly) I did in previous months.

My suspicious is that my method will work OK until it doesn't, which will come when (I suspect) UAH makes a periodic (~12-18 months?) correction for satellite factors like a declining altitude.

And there does seem to be an El Niño forming (regardless of what Roger Tallbloke says); NOAA said last week "El Niño conditions are likely to develop during August or September 2012." (Note: this link will be out of date in a week.)

Take this for what it's worth, but you heard it here first (unless I'm wrong).

PS: Notice I put the "~" above the 2nd n in "El Niño." When I was an undergraduate, my best professor, from whom I learned an enormous amount of good physics, was a big fan of using this symbol for variables, akin to the way some people use a prime symbol, as in "a'". He called it "twiddle." The classroom had a chalkboard on all four walls, and desks that rotated. He would start up in one corner, and work his way around the room, usually having to erase before he was done.

PPS: That reminds me of a story (that I've probably told before) about Robert Oppenheimer, who, during a lecture, referred to the equation "beneath" an equation he was pointing to. Someone says, excuse me Dr. Oppenheimer, but there is no equation underneath the equation you're pointing to. Oppenheimer said, "No, not underneath, beneath -- I've erased and written over it."

"Happy, happy, happy"

Anchorage Daily News:
"Happy, happy, happy," said Pete Slaiby, Shell's vice president for Alaska. He gave a series of interviews Saturday to reporters from around the country following Shell's difficulties and progress.

"This is such a big deal," he said. "It is opening up potentially a new chapter in Alaska's oil and gas story."
The 27 billion barrels of oil in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas will generate about 157 Quads of energy. The US used 97 Quads of energy last year, 35 of these Quads coming from oil, and 80 of them from fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, these barrels of oil will, when burned, emit about 11.6 gigatons of CO2, 2.2 years of US emissions at last year's rate. Reporters never seem to ask Slaiby about that.

I wrote about Slaiby and Shell earlier.

Thursday, September 06, 2012


That M 7.6 earthquake in Costa Rica seems to have done very little damage (unless you're one of the people who suffered the damage).


Posting will be sporadic-to-nonexistent in the next two weeks. I'm packing my apartment right now to move to Salem (Oregon) in two weeks. Saturday I'm flying east for a week at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for a science journalism fellowship, then taking a few days off to visit friends near Boston, then coming back and moving to Salem the very next day.

And I need some time away from the Internet.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Big Earthquake in Costa Rica

USGS just released an alert of a 7.6 earthquake in Costa Rica, which is a big earthquake....

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: 2012-09-05 14:42:10 UPDATED: (Mww 7.6) COSTA RICA 10.1 -85.3 (2b02a)
Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2012 09:06:04 -0600 (MDT)
From: (USGS ENS)
Reply-To: <>

Globe with Earthquake Location

7.6 Mww - COSTA RICA

Preliminary Earthquake Report
Magnitude 7.6 Mww
  • 5 Sep 2012 14:42:10 UTC
  • 5 Sep 2012 08:42:10 near epicenter
  • 5 Sep 2012 06:42:10 standard time in your timezone
Location 10.120N 85.347W
Depth 40 km
  • 60 km (38 miles) SSE (167 degrees) of Liberia, Costa Rica
  • 127 km (79 miles) SSW (209 degrees) of San Carlos, Nicaragua
  • 141 km (88 miles) W (276 degrees) of SAN JOSE, Costa Rica
Location Uncertainty Horizontal: 13.6 km; Vertical 6.2 km
Parameters Nph = 737; Dmin = 136.1 km; Rmss = 1.42 seconds; Gp = 17°
M-type = Mww; Version = F
Event ID us c000cfsd ***This event supersedes event AT00m9vsu9.
For updates, maps, and technical information, see:
Event Page
USGS Earthquake Hazards Program
National Earthquake Information Center
U.S. Geological Survey

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

August Sea Ice Extent Numbers are Out

The NSIDC has put out their numbers for August sea ice extent and area. The Arctic SIE, of course, set a new low for the month, 14% below last August. The Antarctic gained 1.5% compared to a year ago.

Total SIE fell by 2.2% compared to a year earlier.

The Arctic SIE for the last 10 years is 7.3% below the previous 10 years. Antarctic is up 2.3%, and total SIE down 2.5%.

My Space Elevator article in Scientific American

I have an article today for Scientific American, based on the space elevator conference I attended the weekend before last:

and Long Odds," Scientific American, Sept. 4 2012

Monday, September 03, 2012

'No carbon tax effect' on inflation figures

Daily Telegraph:

A PRIVATE measure of inflation has posted its largest monthly increase in almost 18 months but very little is from the carbon tax.

The TD Securities-Melbourne Institute inflation gauge rose 0.6 per cent in August, the biggest month-on-month increase since March 2011.

TD Securities head of Asia-Pacific Securities Annette Beacher said there did not appear to be any notable impact from the July 1 introduction of the carbon tax, given the unchanged state of utility prices in August.
"While fruit and vegetable prices rose strongly, it is difficult to extract if the carbon tax is a contributing factor," she said.
It's early still, though.

"Would you like giving George Bush control of the world's climate?"

Mark Lawrence: "Would you like giving George Bush control of the world's climate?"
Paul Crutzen: "These are desperate times."

-- email conversation among a group of scientists prior to Crutzen's 2006 controversial paper on climate engineering "Albedo Enhancement by Stratospheric Sulfur Injections: A Contribution to Resolving Policy Dilemma?" as reported by Eli Kintish in Hack the Planetp. 57

Sunday, September 02, 2012

An Idea Unique to Climate Change

"Uncertainty regarding global warming appears to be a legitimate basis for postponing action, which is usually identified as 'costly.' But this idea is almost unique to climate change. In other areas of public safety, such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, inflation, or vaccination, an 'insurance' principle seems to prevail: if there is sufficient likelihood of significant damage, we take some measured anticipatory action."

-- Thomas Schelling, Nobel Laureate in Economics
(from Eli Kintisch's Hack the Planet)

Emissions Increases -- Where They're Coming From

In the last 5 years, world emissions of carbon dioxide have increased by 3.5 gigatons. China's increase has been 80% of this; India's 15%.

In just the last 3 years, China's increase has been 98% of the world's increase. India, 15%.

(But, to be clear, the US emits far more, per capita, than either country: 3.2 times China, and 12.6 times more than India [2009].)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

On Claims of Data Manipulation

It's commonplace to hear claims, from people who don't like the results, that temperature data has been manipulated. As Raymond Pierrehumbert wrote in Slate, Paul Ryan claimed that in a 2009 op-ed:
"The CRU e-mail scandal reveals a perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion. The e-mail scandal has not only forced the resignation of a number of discredited scientists, but it also marks a major step back on the need to preserve the integrity of the scientific community. While interests on both sides of the issue will debate the relevance of the manipulated or otherwise omitted data, these revelations undermine confidence in the scientific data driving the climate change debates."
Ryan, who in short order has demonstrated a truth-telling problem with even the small stuff, offers no evidence for such a claim. Fake skeptics like Steve Goddard claim it routinely, again, with no proof or evidence ever offered. It's scurrilous and extremely low.

But there are ways you can test for fraudulent data. One of the simpliest is Benford's Law, which specifies the expected distribution of the digits in any dataset. It's particularly applicable to large datasets that span several orders of magnitude. As Wikipedia explains:
Benford's law, also called the first-digit law, states that in lists of numbers from many (but not all) real-life sources of data, the leading digit is distributed in a specific, non-uniform way. According to this law, the first digit is 1 about 30% of the time, and larger digits occur as the leading digit with lower and lower frequency, to the point where 9 as a first digit occurs less than 5% of the time. This distribution of first digits is the same as the widths of gridlines on the logarithmic scale. Benford's law also gives the expected distribution for digits beyond the first, which approach a uniform distribution as the digit place goes to the right.

This result has been found to apply to a wide variety of data sets, including electricity bills, street addresses, stock prices, population numbers, death rates, lengths of rivers, physical and mathematical constants, and processes described by power laws (which are very common in nature). It tends to be most accurate when values are distributed across multiple orders of magnitude.

...There is a generalization of the law to numbers expressed in other bases (for example, base 16), and also a generalization to second digits and later digits.
Specifically, in a base "b" number system the leading digit "d" should occur with probablility

P(d)=\log_{b}(d+1)-\log_{b}(d)=\log_{b} \left(1+\frac{1}{d}\right).

where to evaluate the base-b logarithm you can use logb(x) = ln(x)/ln(b). 

Awhile back, after I heard about Benford's Law on Radiolab, I applied it to the monthly GISS global anomaly. I multiplied it by 100 to get an integer, and converted it to base 3 so the numbers spanned a few orders of magnitude. (In base 3, an order of magnitude is 3.) I then find the distribution of the digits 1 and 2:

incidence of leading digit being 1 = 62.0% 
incidence of leading digit being 2 = 38.0%

The theoretical values are P3(1)=63.1%, P3(2)=36.9%.

To test a possible manipulation, I took cooked up a simple warming trend: a pure linear trend of +0.01 C per month, so the data read 0.01, 0.02, 0.03, .... That gave

incidence of leading digit being 1 = 69.1% 
incidence of leading digit being 2 = 30.9% 

which are much further from the expected distribution, making them suspicious.

I didn't get more sophisticated than this, because I didn't find an efficient way to convert to an arbitrary base using Excel, and I don't believe data is being manipulated anyway -- it's all too consistent between groups, there's never been the slightest hint of any manipulation, and the people making the accusations have never offered any proof or evidence and are so usually dishonest about everything else I didn't see the point in going further. This is more proof than they've ever given.

So, for whatever it's worth, here it is: a simple test that detects no fraud.