Friday, January 31, 2014

Richard Lindzen's Paradox for the Ages

This could be a paradox posed by Bertrand Russell: If a climate scientist says that no climate scientists are among the brightest people, can it possibly be true, since the speaker himself clearly cannot be among the brightest minds?

Richard Lindzen reportedly said in England:
"I've asked very frequently at universities: 'Of the brightest people you know, how many people were studying climate [...or meteorology or oceanography...]?' And the answer is usually 'No one.'"
And – warming to his theme:
"You look at the credentials of some of these people [on the IPCC] and you realise that the world doesn't have that many experts, that many 'leading climate scientists'".
Was Lindzen suggesting, asked Tim Yeo at this point, that scientists in the field of climate were academically inferior.
"Oh yeah," said Lindzen. "I don't think there's any question that the brightest minds went into physics, math, chemistry…"
First of all, what kind of jerk says such a thing about his colleagues?

Second of all, what kind of reporters believe it? Answer: hacks like James Delingpole and Mark Steyn -- writers who don't understand any science, and so have nothing to go by than what an ideologically favored scientist tells them to think.

Do We Really Have a Headless Chicken Problem?

Prince Charles 2012.jpgDo we really have a headless chicken problem? Prince Charles seems to think we do:
The Prince of Wales has launched an attack on climate change sceptics, describing them as the "headless chicken brigade" and accusing "powerful groups of deniers" of engaging in intimidation.
Headless chicken? Must be a British thing....

(Aside 1: Can't someone get this guy a throne somewhere? It's got to be very frustrating, 65 years old already, having spent the vast majority of your life waiting for your mother to die.)

(Aside 2: My grandmother once told me about, when growing up in Jeannette, PA, her own grandmother who cut a chicken's head off and hung if over the clothesline to bleed out, only to have to headless chicken take off flying down the street....)

The Prince continues:
"It is baffling, I must say, that in our modern world we have such blind trust in science and technology that we all accept what science tells us about everything - until, that is, it comes to climate science," the prince said in a speech on Thursday evening.
This is even weirder.... Is it just me, or is the Prince saying we should have the same blind trust in climate scientists that have in all other scientists?

Do we have to have blind trust in anyone?

If so, who?

Please, someone get this guy a job.

See All This Brown? It's Bad News....

John Fleck gives this map in the Albuquerque Journal, and reports on two (possibly three) raindrops that fell in the city. Walter White's car wash is going to stay in business, even absent its owner.

Last year Salem, Oregon received only 23.5 inches of precipitation -- 59% of normal.

February drought forecast

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Steyn's Earlier Use of the Word "Fraud"

In a podcast yesterday at Powerline, which I'm sure Mann's legal team has already scrutinized, Mark Steyn gave at least a bit of a reason why he thinks the hockey stick is wrong, at about the 9 minute mark:
"Dr. Michael Mann created this thing called the hockey stick, which purposted to show that late 20th century temperatures are warmer than they've been in a millennium. I don't think that's true -- a lot of people don't think that's true.... To get that result he had to eliminate....

"His big contribution was eliminating this thing called the Medieval Warm Period, when they had vineyards in Greenland, for example. The Medieval Warm Period is something I learned about at school. It was followed by the Little Ice Age where they were skating on the Thames, and this kind of thing, He eliminated all that and showed a flat line from the year 900 to the year 1900, and I think that's a lot of hooey."
from MBH99 (GRL)
Of course, Mann et al (everyone forgets Bradley and Hughes) didn't "eliminate" anything -- their reconstruction of northern hemisphere temperatures simply didn't find it in the data, perhaps in part because the uncertainties were fairly large.

Or perhaps because it's not there. The recent huge (78 scientists over 7 years) PAGES 2k study didn't find it either. (Here is a great popular account by Stefan Rahmstorf.)
At multi-decadal to centennial scales, temperature variability shows distinctly different regional patterns, with more similarity within each hemisphere than between them. There were no globally synchronous multi-decadal warm or cold intervals that define a worldwide Medieval Warm Period or Little Ice Age, but all reconstructions show generally cold conditions between AD 1580 and 1880, punctuated in some regions by warm decades during the eighteenth century.
Sometimes what you learned in school turns out to be wrong in the light of new data and methods.

Steyn also said he wrote an article for The Telegraph in 1999 trashing the hockey stick. (~17:30 - "I always thought it was a lot of nonsense.") I couldn't find that article, but I did find one he wrote in 2006 for The Australian, titled "Climate Change Myth," claimed to be reproduced here. Steyn called the hockey stick "this fraud":
Hence, the famous "hockey stick" graph purporting to show climate over the past 1000 years, as a continuous, flat, millennium-long bungalow with a skyscraper tacked on for the 20th century. This graph was almost laughably fraudulent, not least because it used a formula that would generate a hockey stick shape no matter what data you input, even completely random, trendless, arbitrary computer-generated data. Yet such is the power of the eco-lobby that this fraud became the centrepiece of UN reports on global warming. If it's happening, why is it necessary to lie about it?
Can Steyn 's defense be that since he always thought the hockey stick was a fraud, his statement wasn't made with the knowledge it was false, and hence it's not defamatory?

That seems like a very thin ledge to stand on. How could anyone, not lest a writer for a major publication, use a definitive word like "fraud" without doing a good piece of research, instead of relying on what he learned in grade school? Did he wear blinders between then and now?

But maybe that's how it is in the conservative pundit class, where is seems to matter how fast you can pull the trigger and how pretty your hat is instead of how well you aim.

Update: In a post tonight, Steyn writes "I stand by everything I wrote...."

What Happened to the AntiMenn's Joy of Discovery?

Barry Bickmore wonders where all the joy of discovery has gone:
But Mann did proceed with the case.  Oh sure, Lowry allowed that Mike Mann might do so, but if Mann were too full of hubris and stupidity to understand the ramifications of a discovery process, why would he have have fought so hard against the Cuccinelli and ATI fishing expeditions, if he really had something to hide?  No, he knows exactly what the discovery process entails, and he doesn’t care.  In other words, all that talk about setting a bad precedent by letting the fishing expeditions proceed was not mere posturing.  Mann meant it, and he really is not afraid of them finding anything too damning.

But wait!  The other side was SURE they would find all kinds of damning material during discovery, and Mann was falling into their carefully crafted trap, right?  Wouldn’t they want to head right into discovery, so they could open that big ‘ol can a’ you-know-what?

The defendants immediately began filing motions to dismiss the case as a frivolous attempt to stifle their free speech.  (The acronym is SLAPP–Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.)


...Right now, I understand that most of the defendants are filing an appeal to the judge’s current ruling, in which he refused to throw out the case.  Mark Steyn, acting as his own counsel, has now petitioned the court to remove his name from the appeal, however.

I certainly don’t know all their motivations, but one thing is clear.  All that tough talk about rejoicing at the possibility of sifting through Mann’s documents was just so much public posturing.
The rest is worth reading too, incuding the part where he quotes Steyn thinking the hockey stick is a "climate model."

"When Ice Grows Up" (article)

I have a back-of-the-book, somewhat light-hearted piece about ice spikes in the February issue of Physics World, an outgrowth of my temporary obsession with them several months ago. (I like when that happens.)

Here's a link.

Update: A follower on Twitter posts a picture of an impressive ice spike in a camp cooking pot left out overnight.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Is the Hockey Stick "flaccid?"

Mark Steyn writes:
Mann at least sues to inject a little court-ordered Viagra into his ever more flaccid hockey stick.
I think it would behoove Steyn to learn just a little climate science -- it would help his case.

If nothing else, it would keep him from shooting into his own foot.

Instead, he repeatedly illustrates his ignorance of climate science -- which speaks poorly for his claim that the hockey stick is "fraudulent."

Steyn wants to paint his case as being one of free speech -- even though the judge seems to have more than that in mind -- and doesn't seem able to understand anything more.

Then again, when your career depends on insulting people in an ever more clever fashion, "free speech" is about all you have to hang on to.

But Steyn should know by now that many other studies have replicated the Mann et al results, some using complely independent mathematical techniques.

There's all of these. Wahl and Ammanm. There's Marcott et al 2013. PAGES 2k. Tingley and Huybers.

If I was a judge or on a jury, that would matter to me. A lot.

The more scientists that have replicated Mann et al, the less likely it seems there was any "fraud" involved. It would matter that, for all Steyn's claims of "fraud," many other scientists have reached the same conclusion.

Steyn should also know that the Mann et al analysis doen't extend past about 1980, because of the so-called "divergence problem" -- tree ring density proxies in the far northern hemisphere do not accurately correspond to surface temperatures, for reasons partly unkown -- perhaps air pollution, perhaps even climate chagne itself.

So writing "ever more flaccid," perhaps due to (Steyn thinks) the pause, is quite meaningless. The MBH results don't extend to now.

Steyn is in serious need of not only legal counsel, but scientific counsel as well. He looks weak on all fronts. And the fact that he can't keep his mouth shut -- nor can Rand Simberg -- looks dumb even to people whose only conception of US courts comes from television.

I just don't see Mann needing to defend himself on twitter or blogs, or having to reassure people he's going to win.

Lindzen in 1975 -- His Prediction?

Over at Judith Curry's place, she quotes Richard Lindzen as saying, before a UK panel on global warming:
Lindzen said the following “The hiatus is completely consistent with nothing to worry about.
Here's what I wonder.

In 1975, what would Lindzen have expected for future warming? What did he expect then?

Indeed, what would any "skeptic"/denier then have said they expected for future warming?

Would they have said they expected about 0.6 °C of warming between 1975 and 2013 -- the observed amount?

If so, on what basis? What did they then see happening that would have caused that warming?

Or would they have denied, like now, the possibility of future warming?

If they did expect it, how would they have explained that they foresaw 0.6 °C of warming between 1975 and 2013, but that then it would stop?


Re: Stop Listening to Rich People

I've given Matthew Yglesias crap in the past, so it's only fair to note when he's right, here about Tom Perkins, the foolish billionaire who thinks the 1% is about to be gassed in communal showers:
Concurrently with the publication of the Perkins letter, a fair swathe of the world’s elite was gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for a conference based on the presumption that a Tom Perkins would never write a stupid letter. The presumption of the annual World Economic Forum meeting is that leading policymakers and scholars ought to mingle with very, very, very rich businessmen (and, yes, it’s overwhelmingly men) to talk about the leading issues of the day. The idea, in other words, is that CEOs and major investors have unique and important insights on pressing public policy issues. After all, they’re so rich! How could they not be smart?

Well, ask Tom Perkins. Or ask Michael Jordan how he could be so good at playing basketball and yet so bad at owning and managing the Charlotte Bobcats.

Outside the business world, we tend to take it for granted that just because you’re good at one thing doesn’t automatically make you a mastermind at other things. Nobody expects Taylor Swift to make important contributions to a panel on sustainable growth in Africa or rethinking global food security. But the Davos panels on such topics always include a rich executive from the business world. Because who better to solve the world’s problems than the people who benefit from the status quo?

Global Warming, Ha Ha

Via the National Weather Service in Anchorage, these all time records set across Alaska yesterday:

  Embedded image permalink 

And then there was this. And this. And this. You can play this kind of game all day long. But because it's been quite cold in the world's media capital, global warming can't possibly be true:

You can play this kind of game all day too.

For another point of view, that isn't a game -- one that shows the real human suffering that can accompany warming-enhanced storms -- watch the recent Nova episode "Killer Typhoon," and listen to Filipino parents recount the loss of their children, relatives, homes and towns. Then come back and make jokes about how an outbreak of cold means climate change isn't happening.

The show is freely available on their Web site.

Monday, January 27, 2014

AGW in the Realm of the Social Sciences

"Most people think that global warming is a question for the natural sciences, that it primarily involves heat waves, melting ice sheets, droughts, and storms. True, scientific controversies have been central to public debates about global warming. However, in reality the ulimate source -- and the solutions -- lie in the realm of social sciences."

-- William Nordhaus, The Climate Casino: Risk, Uncertainty, and Economics for a Warming World

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Courtney Love and What's Not Defamation

In a legal case about which you can form your own parallels, singer Courtney Love was just successful in defense of an allegation that her tweet about her ex-lawyer having been "bought off" was defamatory.
"I was f***ing devestated [sic] when Rhonda J. Holmes esq. of san diego was bought off."
Love wrote it 2009. It was decided that the lawyer was a limited-purpose public figure because of her association with a celebrity, so she had to prove that Love acted with malice.

Love defended herself by saying that she thought her tweet was a private, direct message, that she deleted it as soon as she realized it was public, and that she believed the accusation at the time she made it. The Hollywood Reporter writes
Love also testified that she believed her message to be true when she sent it. That might have been the prevailing defense. The jury answered no to the question, "Did Rhonda Holmes prove by clear and convincing evidence that Courtney Love knew it was false or doubted the truth of it?"
There was no mention if Love insulted the judge, the jury, her lawyers, or the American system of jurisprudence (but being Courtney Love, she probably did at some point).

Trenberth on the Two Pauses

Kevin Trenberth does a nifty thing here where (around 7:50) he shifts the "pause" back about 20 years to a nearly identical earlier pause from about 1985 to 1995:

That would be this (click to enlarge):

where the error bars are the 95% confidence limits.

Or, better yet, the SkS escalator graph:

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A DVD About Project Chariot

A while back I mentioned Project Chariot -- Edward Teller's idea to create a harbor on the North Slope of Alaska by setting off a few nuclear bombs there. A commenter just noted that there's a DVD out about the episode, made by the North Slope Borough School Disrict; here's the trailer.

A commenter at the Vimeo page says they're $10 [update 1/30: the response I received says the cost is $25], and can be ordered from the school district. That page gives an email address in one of the comments, and a link to the District's Web page.

Project Chariot Documentary Trailer A from Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson on Vimeo.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Steve McIntyre on "Fraud"

“McIntyre and McKitrick 2005 (GRL, EE) did not make allegations of misconduct and fraud….”

-- Steve McIntyre, Jan 16 2014, comment at Nature magazine
Note: "GRL" = Geophysical Research Letters [PDF], "EE" = Energy and Environment [PDF]

Met Office Predicted 2013's Temperature

A year ago the UK Met Office predicted 2013's average global temperature would be
between between 0.43 °C and 0.71 °C warmer than the long-term (1961-1990) global average of 14.0 °C, with a best estimate of around 0.57 °C.
So how'd they do? Just a little high. The actual 2013 global average was 0.49 °C.

Like all measurements that number has an uncertainty, which comes from the uncertainties of each monthly number. The Met Office conveniently gives those every month, in the last two columns here. They're actually not that small -- typically about 0.15 °C for each monthly anomaly (2-sigma) -- and when I include those the way you're taught in undergraduate lab[*] I get an uncertaintly for the yearly average of ± 0.05 °C.

So the actual temperature[**] was 0.49 ± 0.05 °C compared to a prediction of 0.57 ± 0.14 °C. That's pretty good.

[*] The 95% upper and lower bounds of the uncertainties aren't quite symmetric about the monthly value, which is a pain, so for simplicity I averaged the two bounds to get a monthly uncertainty. The error in doing so, which should be very small, is left (as they say) as an exercise for the reader.

[**] Or rather, this is the actual temperature of the Met Office's model of the world, which is not the temperature of the real world. The model is not reality but an an approximation of reality, and it matters more how it compares to itself (to past temperatures, etc.) than how exactly it simulates reality (as long as the simulation is "good"). Often journalists add the yearly anomaly to 14 °C and write "last year's temperature was 14.49 °C -- and even the Met Office did that in their press release -- but that's not really true and I wish they'd stop it (but understand why it's done). It's the anomaly that matters, and that can be measured, not the "real temperature of the world."

The definition of "good" in the above paragraph is left as another exercise for the reader.

Who Knew? Judges Don't Appreciate Insults From Defendants

Mother Jones reports that Mark Steyn's insults of the first judge in his case weren't appreciated, may be why his lawyers dropped him as a client, and that they might do the same with National Review:
Earlier this month, Steptoe & Johnson, the law firm representing the National Review and its writer, Mark Steyn, withdrew as Steyn’s counsel. According to two sources with inside knowledge, it also plans to drop the National Review as a client.

The lawyers’ withdrawal came shortly after Steyn—a prominent conservative pundit, who regularly fills in as host of Rush Limbaugh's radio show—publicly attacked the former judge in the case, Natalia Combs Greene, accusing her of "stupidity" and "staggering" incompetence. Mann’s attorney, John B. Williams, suspects this is no coincidence. "Any lawyer would be taken aback if their client said such things about the judge," he says. "That may well be why Steptoe withdrew."

Steyn's manager, Melissa Howes, acknowledged that his commentary "did not go over well with the judge." But Steyn maintains it was his decision to part ways with his attorneys.
Steyn says his manager was misquoted., that it was his decision to fire his lawyers, that he's still banking on the notion that claims of fraud are "free speech," and that he isn't very impressed with the American justice system, all in your typical Steynese.

Do you ever get the impression that the biggest fan of Mark Steyn's verbiage is Mark Steyn? Like for a lot of political writers, especially on (but not limited to) the right, his work seems mostly a matter of how many people he can insult, and how clever he can be while doing it. Like this -- which demonstrates not an iota of understanding about climate science, the Climate Research scandal, or the Climategate emails.

At this rate, all Steyn has to do it keep commenting on the case, and it will be over in short-order. It would save everyone money on lawyer's fees....

Thursday, January 23, 2014

HadCRUT4: 2013 Was 8th Warmest Year

HadCRUT4: 4th warmest December, 8th warmest year

Ken Caldeira Sets Lou Dobbs Straight

Watch Lou Dobbs's talking points go down one after the other....

Notice how the words on the screen contradict what Caldeira is saying, while -- running right beneath his head -- conveying the impression he's the one saying them.... Sneaky.

That's the last time Ken Caldeira is going to get invited onto the Lou Dobbs Show!

Is Ocean Heat Content Accelerating?

The NOAA value for ocean heat content for the top half (approximately) of the World Ocean is a large jump from a year ago: 3.93 × 1022 Joules, which represents 2.44 W/m2 over the Earth's entire surface.

That's the largest 12-month jump since the time series began in 2005.

At this point a quadratic fit to the data is actually slightly better than a linear fit, which would represent an acceleration in warming -- visible after only 9 years of data.

Click to Enlarge:

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Judge Denies Steyn Motion to Dismiss

A quote from the court document, which sounds quite reasonable:

Embedded image permalink

And who thinks Steyn or Simberg wasn't acting with malice?

Eli has more.

Who Makes Policy if Not the Policy Maker?

Scientists are to keep out of the policy arena, because that's the job of policy makers, right? They have it covered, right?

Not really. Kofi Annan makes that clear in an op-ed in the Washingto Post.

He's not in charge of anything anymore except a group called "The Elders" (sounds like something from The Hunger Games). But he's had a lot of experience and ought to have some insight into what will work in the real world, right?

So what are his proposals? Nothing new or specific at all:
What is needed to prevent this catastrophe has been established. Global temperature rises must be limited to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This means turning away from fossil fuels and accelerating the deployment of affordable renewable energies, for instance by setting an internationally agreed price for carbon. The way forward must be to meet the timetable for a robust, universal and legally binding agreement on climate change next year, under which every country commits to phasing down greenhouse gas emissions.
His piece is just another appeal for the world to get serious about climate change, to come together to find a solution to the problem, by "raising their sights — and shrugging off the restraints imposed by vested interests and short-term political considerations — they can also inspire hope, rebuild trust and mobilize action across society."

Easy-peasy! -- as my 6-year old niece says.

Maybe Annan has spent too much time in a world where all he has to do is write a memo and things get done, or too much time writing high-level pap that it isn't intended to get anything done and doesn't really care if it doesn't. But does the world really need another article pointing out the need to address climate change, without addressing how that is to come about in the real world?

A Dot Earth commenter named Christopher Yaun has it right:
No politician has the expertise. No scientist, no corporate CEO or lawyer, no banker or investor, no five star general, no religious figure has the expertise to lead us from this challenge.

Popular TV and radio personalities speak into a microphone and their opinions echo from many millions of loudspeakers. Captains of industry voice their opinions through broadcast, lobby organizations and congress, financed by corporate profits and protected from disclosure by public laws that prevent even the NSA from probing their source. Experts on driving public opinion. Experts on building media empires and celebrity. Experts on protecting engines of corporate profit. These are not experts and yet their voices have been loud an effective.

Only the citizen has the expertise to lay foundations that will prepare us for the climate changes and global warming that will task our children.

Zip Codes and Chemical Spills

Eugene Robinson on the West Virginia chemical spill that fouled drinking water for 300,000 people:
I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if this had happened on the Upper East Side of Manhattan or in one of the wealthier Zip codes of Southern California.
Or if it was suspected terrorism.... The entire country would still be in lockdown. Perhaps as long as the terrorists first form an company with an Orwellian name like "Freedom Industries," they can dump whatever they want, declare bankruptcy to evade all responsibility, and have politicians ignore them -- or, did Sen. Joe Manchin, tell CNN that he is “not going to cast guilt on anybody.”

Manchin -- a Democrat -- is into the industry up to his eyeballs: "In his maiden speech on the Senate floor, Mr. Manchin called for the repeal of a Clean Water Act regulation on mountaintop mining. His Senate financial disclosures state that he made nearly $1.5 million a year in 2011 and 2012 from his coal brokerage firm. He is a current co-sponsor of a bill that would block President Obama’s efforts to regulate global-warming gases." (Does Manchin know his brain belongs to the other party?)

It wasn't until yesterday that the company admitted there was another chemical in the same spill, called "PPH," for which there is also no data on long-term health effects.

The governor of West Virginia would give no reassurances:
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on Monday told 300,000 state residents that they should make their own decisions about using water from West Virginia American Water's Elk River plant in the wake of this month's leak of the chemical Crude MCHM.

"It's your decision," the governor told reporters during a news conference at the Capitol. "If you do not feel comfortable drinking or cooking with this water, then use bottled water."

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Freeman Dyson Should Have Been Doing All Along

Phil Plait at Slate has his summary of what he's learned about the meaning of the infinite sum

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + ...  = -1/12

since he first got in trouble for posting it. The same, with much less volume, has happened here, with this and this.

I guess my final position is that I can't honestly say I really understand any of it. By this I mean that
  1. obviously the left-hand side of the equation above is divergent, and I was way too glib about that.
  2. the arguments in the original Numberphile video are easy to follow, but have some obvious hand-waving
  3. analytic continuation has always seemed a bit nebulous (i.e like magic) when you actually do it
  4. physicists do a lot of manipulations with infinities that give the right answers but can't be rigorously justified.
Terence Tao might have had the best explanation of this from the point of view of a real & rigorous mathematician, in a post that for once is mostly understandable.

In the end, and after a couple of good courses in quantum field theory where you learn lots of tricks to deal with calculatons that yield infinite quantities, I think what I understand is that

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + ... = ∞1 - ∞2

where ∞1 and ∞2 are some kinds of infinities that physicists have convinced themselved can be subtracted from one another to give -1/12, because doing so somehow gives results that agree with experiment, as with the Casimir force and basically all of quantum field theory since about 1947.

Over the years physicists have actually gotten even trickier about it, and that's what we learned in graduate school. In a technique called "dimensional regularization," they do all their calculations not in 4 dimensions (3 of space and one of time), but in D dimensions. Outside of string theory, they put D = 4 - ε, where as usual in mathematics ε is some tiny number. Eventually they take the limit ε → 0, and get a finite (noninfinite) result. Then they shut up and publish.

Maybe Freeman Dyson might have done more good for the world if he'd spent his time explaining this kind of "renormalization" of quantum field theory than spouting about problems with climate science about which he is wrong.

Or even making renormalization unnecessary.

Yet Another Large Jump in Ocean Warming

The fourth-quarter result for 0-700 meter ocean heat content is in already, and it shows another large increase from a year earlier.

The 12-month increase is 2.38 × 1022 Joules, the largest jump since 3Q 2006. It works out to 1.48 W/m2 over the Earth's entire surface area.

 A better indicator will be, as usual, the 0-2000 m OHC value, compromising the top half of the World Ocean.

Given this, though, it's difficult to understand Judith Curry's recent statement to the Senate EPW Committee that
The stagnation in greenhouse warming observed over the past 15+ years demonstrates that CO2 is not a control knob on climate variability on decadal time scales.
Sure, climate models could do a better job of simulating short-term surface temperatures -- though long-term projections are far more important than short-term projections -- but how does this kind of strong and continued ocean warming happen without a forcing??

Why Shouldn't Scientists Express Their (Informed) Opinions?

This comment, at Dot Earth about Michael Mann's op-ed in the New York Times is the best thing I've read on it. It's by one Louis Derry of Brooktondale, NY:
This seems a bit of an invented controversy. The notion that science is some kind of simple list of “facts” is not, never has been, and never will be true. Interpretation and judgment about data and theory is a critical part of science. The idea that there is some strict separation between “science” and “policy” is a false dichotomy. What makes someone a “policy expert” anyway? Implicit in any choice of political or economic policy are values and judgments. I have yet to see the policy analyst who’s views aren’t influenced by his/her values. I agree with Ken [Caldiera] that it’s important not to make a big pitch on an issue unless you have done your homework. As he points out, too many people pontificate on subjects about which they have cursory knowledge (I could go on about some physicists and climate). But any scientist willing to put in the work can be a perfectly good advocate for policy. Scientists are generally pretty good with data and numbers, and those skills can indeed translate usefully into the policy realm. So much of what passes for policy debate is sufficiently devoid of any real constraints that a more “scientific” approach can only be an improvement. I quite agree with Michael, more scientists need to step up. There isn’t a thing wrong with proposing or advocating policy as a scientist as long as you have taken some time to inform yourself and have something both reasoned and reality based to say.
(emphasis mine). Why do we expect a policy person to understand the science any better than we expect a science person to understand the policy space?

Who do we want pontificating about climate science? Bill O'Reilly? Joe Palca? Sean Hannity? Noam Chomsky? James Inhofe? Marc Morano? 

The Mark Steyns of the world, in the time they have left over after insults and bon mots??

Inhofe doesn't get anywhere near enough grief for pontificating about the science, and Morano is held up by the likes of CNN as some meaningful participant in the scientific debate, but as soon as someone with some actual knowledge says we need to cut our CO2 emissions the entire opinoionsphere comes down on him for daring to say anything beyond the fact that the molecular weight of CO2 is 44.

That's absurd. The whole reason why our universities and governments are giving out scholarships and research assistantships and NSF grants is so these people can spent their lives studying this stuff and tell us what they've learned

If an astronomer discovered a big asteroid heading right smack for Earth, are we supposed to fault her if she dares to jump up and down telling us we need to take this seriously? Or are we going to put her on the high-powered government task force that has to come up with a solution?

This isn't just about Michael Mann. Other knowledgable people are just as free to jump in to the debate and express their opinions -- and some do so. They're going to get criticized no matter what, but I don't see any reason why they should be accused of compromising their science. Their science informs their opinions -- how could it not? 

And why shouldn't it?  

Friday, January 17, 2014

Manmade Global Heat Stroke (AKA The Australian Open)

They're playing the Australian Open tennis champshionship this week, during one of the worst heat waves Melbourne Australia has ever seen. Temperatures have approached 110°F, and even young, super-fit tennis players are having trouble coping with the heat. The New York Times writes:
For four days, starting Tuesday, the temperature climbed over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). It was the longest heat wave in the Melbourne area in more than 100 years, according to the Herald Sun. The newspaper said 243 people had gone to the hospital for heat exhaustion — and that was before the oppressive temperatures continued Friday.

At the Open in those four days, one player hallucinated and fainted, while another vomited; the soles of one player’s sneakers melted, as did the bottom of another player’s water bottle; cramps were common, as were complaints from stars and journeymen alike. One such complaint came from Ivan Dodig of Croatia, who said he had wondered whether he would die on court.
Tournament officials have responded like it's no big deal:
This was an actual quote from Dr. Tim Wood, the tournament’s chief medical officer, to the BBC: “We’ve evolved on the high plains of Africa chasing antelope for eight hours under these conditions.”

And this was an actual quote from a Canadian player named Frank Dancevic: “I was dizzy from the middle of the first set, and then I saw Snoopy and I thought, ‘Wow, Snoopy, that’s weird."’

Wood, in the BBC interview, said that from a “medical perspective,” man had long adapted to exercise in extreme heat. He finished that thought with, “Whether it is humane or not is a whole other issue.”
Global warming is already threatening outdoor hockey rinks in Canada. Ski slopes in New England. Now it's summer tennis that is risky. How long until we just put a dome over it all and play there (and only there)?

More On the Dastardly Sum of All Positive Integers

Numberphile's recent video showing that, in some nonridiculous sense,

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + ... = -1/12

is free-falling through the Internet, with all the usual obsession, commotion and insults that usually entails. It won't be long now until someone attributes the proof to the Nazis.

A real mathematican gets involved on Quora, taking, as usual, all the fun out of everything. Better is John Baez's lecture on the number 24, which, being 2 × 12, you know is going to get hinky somewhere -- John, whose footprint in the set {mathematics + physics} is probably as big as anyone's, says the sum "can be made rigorous." He includes this little ditty from the mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, another one of those mathematicians who died way too young (26):

The divergent series are
the invention of the devil,
and it is a shame to base on them
any demonstration whatsoever.

(Abel died after, having contracting tuberculosis in Paris, he took a Christmas trip by sled (!) from Paris to Norway to visit his fiance.) He still has a huge number of things named after him, which leads to the only math joke (of two jokes in total) I can remember:

Q: What's purple and commutes?
A: An Abelian grape.

I still maintain that, because the calculation of the Casimir force involves the number ζ(-3), and because you can relate ζ(s) and ζ(1-s) for s=4, and because experiments verify the Casimir force prediction, the sum of all positive integers is, in some important and real sense, equal to -1/12, at least after all the infinities cancel out.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sum of All Positive Integers = - 1/12

This is so amazing it's hard to believe:

 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +.... = -1/12


(via: This simple version of the proof does have a bit a of a fudge, because the sum

1 + x + x2 + x3 + ...

only equals 1/(1-x) for the absolute value of |x| < 1, not (as the video stated, for x < 1). There's a longer version of this proof on the Numberphile Web site, using the Riemann Zeta function and what's called analytic continuation:

The thing is, this analytic continuation makes both mathematical and physical sense -- physics experiments have confirmed it. For example, the well-known Casimir effect, which is the electrical attraction of two parallel, uncharged metal plates due to quantum effects, is calculated to involve the Zeta function ζ(-3), which by similar reasoning equals 1/120, and the predicted Casimir force has been verified by experiments. That is

1 + 23 + 33 + 43 + ... = ζ(-3) = 1/120

is experimentally verified.

Wikipedia has an entry on this sum, including a brief one on its relationship to string theory, and this wonderful excerpt from a letter from the Indian genius Srinivasa Ramanujan's to the mathematician who eventually brought him to Englaand, G. H. Hardy:
"Dear Sir, I am very much gratified on perusing your letter of the 8th February 1913. I was expecting a reply from you similar to the one which a Mathematics Professor at London wrote asking me to study carefully Bromwich's Infinite Series and not fall into the pitfalls of divergent series. … I told him that the sum of an infinite number of terms of the series: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + · · · = −1/12 under my theory. If I tell you this you will at once point out to me the lunatic asylum as my goal. I dilate on this simply to convince you that you will not be able to follow my methods of proof if I indicate the lines on which I proceed in a single letter. …"

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lawyers Bail on Mark Steyn

ClimateScienceWatch reports that Mark Steyn's lawyers have dropped him as a client in the defamation lawsuit being brought by Michael Mann.

Lawyers leaving a sinking ship in the wake of the recent legal reset? Or is it that Steyn can't seem to stop picking at his own wound, keeping up the baiting, name calling, and unconvincing hyperbole:
The only "denialist" here is Dr Michael E Mann. He wants to deny his critics the right to engage in satire, in word-play, and (in the NR/CEI case) metaphor and analogy. Because he is too insecure and dull-witted to defeat his opponents in debate, he insists they must be denied basic freedoms - from freedom of information to freedom of speech, freedom of inquiry to freedom of parody. 
Because apparently comparing someone to a pedophile is now just a part of the "political debate":
All this while spending the fall on the campaign trail and in TV ads as an explicitly political activist. So a political figure is also insisting that he, uniquely, must be beyond the usual rough-and-tumble of political debate.
If this is now what's acceptable, just part of the morning's discussion while the nation has coffee at the local diner, what's past the boundary and into the unacceptable? I don't even want to try and imagine it....

Worse, Steyn is seeking to rewrite history. Simberg's and Steyn's obnoxious comparison of Mann to Jerry Sandusky came long before Mann ever participated in Terry McAuliffe's campaign for Virginia governor., and were instead based on Simberg's fantasy that Mann "molested and tortured data." Their remarks weren't based on Mann's politics, but on his science.

Monday, January 13, 2014

US CO2 Emissions Reverses Trend in 2013

The reduction in energy-related CO2 emissions failed to continue into 2013, as U.S. emissions were up an estimated 2 percent from 2012:

graph of energy-related carbon dioxide emission, as explained in the article text

The LA Times writes:
Carbon dioxide emissions from the nation’s energy sector rose about 2% in 2013 after declining for several years, federal energy officials reported Monday.
The reversal came because power plants last year burned more coal to generate electricity, after years in which natural gas accounted for an increasing share of the nation’s electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the analytical branch of the Department of Energy.
But emissions are still 10 percent below 2005 levels, "putting the nation on its way toward the Obama administration’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 17% of 2005 levels by 2020, the energy administration says."

Here are US per capita emissions since 1973:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Seattle scientist distills 2,200-page report into haiku | Local News | The Seattle Times

WUWT Parody Writes Itself

Someone named "Dr. Ira Gliekstein" wrote at WUWT:
Last week, by a stroke of good fortune, I happened to be scheduled to present “Visualizing the Atmospheric ‘Greenhouse’ Effect – Global warming is real, but how much is due to human activities and how big is the risk?” to the Philosophy Club in the Central Florida retirement community where I live.
That's right -- correcting climate science, one retirement community Philosophy Club at a time!

Next up: the stamp-collecting club. Look for them where your grandparents live.

PS: Hotwhopper has more.

Climate Change: The Next 10,000 Years

Once you transfer CO2 from the ground to the atmosphere, it changes the climate for a long time. David Archer's book The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate (Science Essentials) is definitely recommended reading, as are some of his papers over the last decade.

Andrew MacDougall had a nice little paper in GRL recently: "Reversing climate warming by artificial atmospheric carbon-dioxide removal: Can a Holocene-like climate be restored?"

The answer is no, the Holocene cannot very easily be restored.

MacDougall sets up the problem:
...long-term model simulations also indicate that most of the temperature anomaly created by burning of fossil fuels will persist even 10000 years into the future. The simulations of Eby et al. [2009], for example, suggest that 70–80% of the peak surface temperature anomaly would remain by the year 12000 CE, for a large range of cumulative carbon emissions (160–5120 Pg C). Given these model findings any attempt to return atmospheric concentration of CO2 to a “safe” level (after having greatly exceeded such a threshold) will likely require synthetic removal of carbon from the atmosphere.
10,000 years. That is definitely not something the general public understands. I wonder if even the politicians who take climate change seriously understand this.

To correct this, to something like 350 ppm (dot org), you have to remove more carbon than has been put into the system:
"Due to hysteresis in the permafrost carbon pool, the quantity of carbon that must be removed from the atmosphere is larger than the quantity that was originally emitted (115–180% of original emissions). In all the reversibility simulations with a moderate climate sensitivity, a climate resembling that of the Holocene can be restored by 3000 CE."
The year 3000. And that's if you do a lot of heavy work removing CO2 from the air and burying it somewhere. Today that costs about $50 per metric ton if you capture it at a power plant smokestack; no one really knows what it will cost to extract it from the air (as I wrote about in Physics World last year).

We are messing things up for a very long time.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

A Link For Later (When the Scoffers Complain)

I'm putting this picture here so that, when the January temperature anomalies come in and U.S. scoffers complain that they're not frigidly low, I'll have something to link to, (And, isn't this an incredibly cool tool?)

von Neumann on Models

Quotations by John von NeumannI found this in James Gleick's Chaos:
"The sciences do not try to explain, they hardly even try to interpret, they mainly make models. By a model is meant a mathematical construct which, with the addition of certain verbal interpretations describes observed phenomena. The justification of such a mathematical construct is solely and precisely that it is expected to work."

-- John von Neumann (who had a dog named "Inverse")