Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dog Lying in Snow

Crying Hipster Interviews Kentucky Coal Miner

Image result for harlan county coal
Harlan coalfield
Today a NY Times audio show had an interview with a coal miner from Kentucky.

The link isn't embeddable, but it's here.

The first part of the show is also worth listening to -- about EPA head Scott Pruitt deciding he can't contest the "endangerment finding" of the Obama administration -- a big deal -- and then the interview with coal miner Mark Gray starts at the 8:45 mark.

The interview is at once impressionable, infuriating, sad, tragic and maddening.

The NYT host, Michael Barbaro, does his apparent best to talk to Mr. Gray about the prospects of coal mining in the US, its impact on the environment, and the impact of its demise on where Gray lives -- which was Kentucky, when he mined, but is now Tennessee as he has given it up.

Mr. Gray has third-stage black lung disease.

Barbaro wants to talk about the pollution and health problems associated with coal, but Gray won't really let him. Gray is totally focused on how coal mining has affected him and the area he grew up in, Harlan County of Kentucky, which by now is a place that is practically iconic in this debate and in American culture. At the very least, see Justified, or, even better close by, the movie Matawan.

Barbaro avoids asking Gray many hard questions, such as coal's contribution to long-term climate change or its well known externalities of acid rain, mercury poisoning, and other damages to humans, other species, and the environment.

Gray talks about how his daddy worked in the mines, as did his daddy's mother and the siblings, and how coal is a way of life there. Which I'm sure it is, or was.

Gray then asks Barbaro if he's ever been to a coal mining operation. Barbaro, who seems like the prototypic Brooklyn hipster, admits he hasn't. Worse, he's never really thought about where his energy comes from, and the lives of those who make that happen.

By this point Barbaro is already crying. Yes, crying, claiming he's so moved about how Gray describes his dying way of life.

But sadly, Gray the miner has no real understanding of the industry he worked in, saying he can't think of any harm coal does. Gray clearly doesn't understand what harm Barbaro thinks is occurring from burning coal, and the best he can come up with is the harm done to miners, such as his own advanced black lung disease. But destroying his body and life was worth it to Gray, he says, because it provided for his family.

Gray thinks Barbaro should come visit a coal plant in the Appalachians, which really chokes Barbaro up, so he can see all the good coal does, "clean coal" he calls it.

I found this both sad and infuriating, because Gray clearly has a very strong work and family ethic, but is unable to see past the PR the coal industry puts out. He blames the Obama administration for all of coal's ills, even though (as Barbaro tepidly tries to point out) Obama's Clean Power Plan has been tied up in the courts and hasn't been implemented yet. Gray doesn't get this and swooshes right on past.

Gray voted for Trump. He thinks Trump is going to reverse all the evils of Obama (which, again, haven't even come out of the courts yet) and put the miners back to work. At least some of them. Gray resented Hillary Clinton, saying her $30 billion jobs and training package was "charity." Gray says they don't want charity, they want good jobs, like his people before had, working hard to provide. Again without an iota of thought of coal's impact.


Barbaro never does ask any hard questions, about coal's pollution or very long-term climate change and sea level rise, and how that will affect future generations. He seems almost afraid of Gray, because Gray is a hard-assed blue collar worker and Barbaro is just a hipster desk jockey in NYC wearing khaki pants.

So the interview never really goes anywhere, or comes to any conclusion. But it's still very memorable, because these two people are so utterly far apart they don't understand the slightest thing about each other's point of view, so all they do is talk past one another, and of course Gray's life is the more genuine (Barbaro clearly agrees, without even questioning it), because how can you disagree with a miner with 3rd-degree black lung disease who knows no other way to provide for his family and who lacks the education to understand, or even see, the larger picture? He's the real man here, right?

I probably won't forget this interview for awhile. But I won't view it as what it could have been, and should have been, if the interviewer had a little more guts and did a little more journalism.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Published: 2016 Annual Numbers on Energy

Yesterday the EIA published December's numbers for US energy consumption and CO2 emissions. That completes the year.

2016's energy consumption came to 103 exajoules, the same as 2015. ("exa" = 1018.) That's 3.8% below 2007's maximum of 107 EJ.

But there was an extra day in 2016, so average power consumption dropped by an insignificant margin, from 3.26 terawatts to 3.25 terawatts. ("tera" = 1012.)

Because there are ever more Americans, the average power consumption per capita was 10,030 Watts per person, down 1.0% from 2015. That number is down 17% from 1979's maximum of 12,020 W/person.

Clearly the US has passed the point where ever more energy consumption is required to maintain economic growth.

Will do CO2 tomorrow.

RSS v4 Warming - More Than The Surface

TTT = Total Tropical Troposphere

Personal Update

My incision - seven days later
To finish off this thread -- I had my parathyroid surgery last Wednesday -- background here. It went well, with no complications.

The adenoma on one of my four parathyroid glands -- a benign tumor -- was relatively large: 32 mm x 15 mm x 10 mm.

The resident surgeon took a picture of it -- it looked like a piece of liver -- but hasn't sent it to me yet. She's busy, and was working a 30-hour shift when she saw me.

Within 15 minutes of the adenoma's (and gland's) removal, my PTH hormone level -- which controls the amount of calcium in one's blood -- dropped from 255 to 23 (in some units no one ever cites; picograms per milliliter, I think). The normal range is 20-60. So they didn't need to check out any of my other three parathyroid glands.

(Aside: no one in medicine ever seems to know the units of measurements. I only asked a time or two. In the evening I needed some oxygen, and the nurse gave me "three liters," but she didn't know if it was per second, per minute, or per hour. (It was per minute, I figured out later, after I realized it was a rate, not an absolute amount.) Like theoretical physicists, they set all units equal to one -- but for every individual measurement! But they all know what they mean and what numbers are normal, so it's all good.)

I had general anesthesia -- I joked to my anesthesiologist I was going to try to resist her drugs. She laughed, and I lasted about 4 seconds. But it was an easy recovery, unlike some I've experienced in the past.

Do I feel better? Perhaps -- it could be too soon to tell, and I'm almost scared to conclude one way or the other. I'm sure I have less of the crummy feeling I wrote about, most of the time, but then it wasn't present all of the time either. It will become clear over a month or three, I think (and one of my doctor's said). But I am optimistic, and if I had to decide right now I would say there's been an improvement.

But, as I wrote, I had to have this surgery for reasons not just because of how I feel day-to-day, but to prevent further bone loss and kidney stones.

The care I received at OHSU in Portland was excellent -- I couldn't have asked for better care. (And thank you too, President Obama, for the ACA.) Everyone who treated me -- the surgeon, the resident, the anesthesiologists, the operation room nurses (except for one), and the post-op nurses -- were all women. Their care was everything I could have asked for, and I am so happy I found my way to them. (My last three primary care doctors have all been women, too, by choice -- I think women make better doctors. So is my dentist. In any case, I find it more easy to open up to them and more comfortable around them.)

So I'm optimistic about my health, for the first time in a few years. Thanks for all your good wishes. I need to get back to earning.

House Science Committee Comes to Agreement on Climate Science

Just kidding!

Today the House "Science" Committee, led by the (bought-and-sold?) Lamar Smith of Texas, had a hearing in DC, titled "Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method."

Here's the video, 2 hours 36 minutes long.

As Republicans are wont to do, the hearing was stacked against the accepted science. Testifying were Judith Curry, John Christy, Michael Mann and Roger Pielke Jr. (How about some fresh voices already?)

So that's 3-1 against the consensus. Maybe 2.5-1.5, on account of enigmatic Roger.

I was tweeting during the hearing; my tweets are here.

I'm not going to do a journalistic summary here -- many news articles have already appeared. Some thoughts:

Michael Mann is the Jake LaMotta of climate science -- he goes in swinging and doesn't ever back down. He directly called out all three other panel members for mistakes, inconsistencies, and their insults, and he zinged committee chair Lamar Smith, too.

Mann cited an article on the recent Heartland Institute conference that appeared in Science magazine, written by Jeffrey Mervis. Mann implied that Smith wasn't interested in the science. (The exchange is reproduced here.)

Hard uppercut to the chin, and Lamar Smith was clearly caught off guard; all he could reply with was
That is not known as an objective writer or magazine.
which is laughably ridiculous, including the fact that Lamar Smith is the least objective person on the planet regarding climate change. This tweet linked to Smith's campaign funding.

This, and Mann using the word "denier," made Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) very, very angry, but the livestream stopped just then, so I would go back and watch the video, if I thought Rohrbacher had anything useful to say about climate change.

But he did say dissenters are "brutalized into silence," apparently without noting the irony that the panel was stacked 3-1 in their favor.

There were punches and counterpunches (RPielkeJr suggested that everyone watch today's video for examples of Mann's attacks).

John Christy clearly tried hard to stay above the fray. Though at one point, early on, he seemed to imply that manmade greenhouse gases weren't needed to explain modern warming. And again he put up his misleading graph.

Judith Curry didn't add much, IMO. She meandered around and didn't seem to have any definite position, except that if the consensus was for it, she was against it. Mostly.

Roger Pielke Jr did say one important thing that I gave his kudos for
If I were writing a story about this hearing, I would have put this right up front.

So props to Roger for this. Props to Mann for streetfighting for the consensus like no one else could. Props to Christy for staying above the fray.

I can't think of anything to give Judith Curry props for, unless it was for being exactly what Lamar Smith was looking for.

And it should be pointed out that Michael Mann cited more science, including very recent science, than the rest of the panel combined.

This was good theatre, but as a hearing on the science it was a waste of time. The Republican representatives struck me as particularly uniformed, looking only to score points. It was made only to be a showcase for Lamar Smith's denialism -- instead, to his surprise I'm sure, he came out of it looking like a fool.

But then, that's what he's paid for.

Credible climate scientists need to boycott biased congressional hearings - The Washington Post

David Titley:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Measuring the Universe by Their Tiny Scale

from Kim Stanley Robinson's book Galileo's Dream*.

* This is a very good book, but I wish he had left out the subplot where 17th century Galileo is transported to the Jupiter system to solve(?) a controversy about the discovery of sentient life on Europa and in Jupiter. Galileo's tale is plot enough, and Robinson tells it well as historical fiction.

FWIW: Galileo was born three days before Michelangelo died. Newton was born later in the year Galileo died.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


GISS global anomaly, linear fit
versus quadratic fit:

Second-Warmest February

It's not getting much cooler: GISS and JMO both find February the 2nd-warmest Feb, after only 2016. The GISS global anomaly, 1.10°C is back above 1°C -- and tied for 4th among all anomalies-- and the land-only anomaly is 1.43°C, third highest of any month. (GISS's baseline is 1951-1980.) Another El Nino could be brutal.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Australians Say Six of Eight Models Suggest El Niño by July

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology says six of eight international models they consider suggest an El Niño by July.

(The Australians care because El Ninos typically bring below average winter-spring rainfall over eastern Australia.)

Needless to say, it'd be very interesting if this happens -- I can almost hear the shouting now.

AGW Predicted Before it Occurred

I like this, from Eric Steig of U Washington:

Saturday, March 11, 2017

UAH v6.0 Finally Publishes Two Years Later

UAH has finally published their paper explaining the version 6 (here's the final submitted version), in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences. This isn't exactly a prominent journal -- Roy Spencer claims, with no evidence offered, that it's all a conspiracy against them:
Our first choice would be an AMS or AGU journal, but they have one or more gatekeepers who inevitably get involved in the review of papers with “Spencer” or “Christy” as authors.

I might remind you of the Climategate email passage “Kevin [Trenberth] and I will keep them out somehow even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!”

Trenberth also managed to get an editor to resign because Remote Sensing published one of my papers (which was never retracted though)…Trenberth apparently had some influence over that editor in the research realm.

Many of these journals are now tightly controlled to prop up the IPCC narrative.
I've asked him for evidence. I'm not holding my breath.

Recall that some people accused Karl et al of publishing in order to influence the 2015 Climate Conference. But their paper has been in peer review for about 1/2 year, and they published their paper at the same time as they introduced their new dataset. UAH did not, publishing their paper almost two years after making some huge changes to their data, far bigger than Karl et al's changes.

Just imagine the outcry if Karl et al has changed some regional monthly anomalies by over 1.4°C, as UAH did.

Winter Arctic Sea Ice Extent at Lowest Peak Yet

The maximum extents of winter sea ice in the Arctic are their lowest values yet, according to two different datasets, JAXA v2 and NOAA. (I think it's fair to call the peak now, several days after.)

JAXA v2 has Arctic SIE peaking on 3/6/17 at 13.878 Mkm2.

NOAA has Arctic SIE peaking on 3/5/17 at 14.447 Mkm2.

Don't ask me how these two datasets can differ by 569.000 km2. That seems like a lot, for a basic measurement (even by satellite). I don't understand it either.

But both are the lowest winter maximums in their records, going back to 1979. That counts for something.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Movie "Geostorm" -- Just What We Don't Need

An apparently ridiculous, irrational look at geoengineering. In theatres October 20th.


Continental US Had Its 2nd-Warmest February

This February was the second-warmest in the continental US records (going back to 1895), after 1954.

That looks strange, 1954, but it was 0.25°F warmer then.

Still, this February's anomaly was 5.85°F above the 1980-2010 baseline, and 7.34°F above the 1901-2000 baseline. (Hey, it's NOAA who uses Fahrenheit; don't blame me.)

The 30-year trend is 0.47°F/decade. That's right, we're warming at almost half-degree every 10 years. It's 0.26°C/decade, or about 50% faster than the globe as a whole is warming. That's a pretty good rule for land warming versus global warming in the middle latitudes, and one I don't think the public is yet aware of.

So while the Paris Agreement tries to limit global warming to 2°C, that's 5.4°F in the continental US. And it's almost too late for the 2°C limit to hold, so USA48 could see at least 6°F of warming.

Except in the Pacific Northwest. Salem, Oregon was slightly below average last month, and we had 13.44 inches of rain in February, a record. That's 341 mm, if you must know.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Med Update

Now I feel a little weird about having shared my medical issue publicly, but I guess there's no turning back at this point.

Image result for parathyroidI had a round of tests last week regarding my hyperparthyroidism, up at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) -- a very impressive place. Everyone I dealth with -- doctors, clinicians, residents, assistants -- was first rate, and extremely organized.

They did find an adenoma -- a benign tumor -- on my right lower parathyroid gland (there are four). It's about 3 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm, hanging off a parathyroid gland that is itself only the size of a grain of rice. My diagnostician said I may have had this disease for 10 years or more. Due to a lack of insurance I didn't have a lot of blood tests over the years, but one I paid for in cash in 2005 showed slightly high calcium in my bloodstream, as did another in 2011. But when you don't have insurance, and are barely able to afford basic doctor visits and some basic medications, doctors tend not to get too deep into your issues -- no one ever mentioned my high calcium before. By now it's 30+% above the upper limit, and my production of parathyroid hormone (PTH) is at least 3 times too high. I never had my PTH level checked before either, again due to lack of health insurance. Blood tests are expensive. Everything about health care is expensive in America.

My bone density has significantly decreased, as the increased PTH has had my body taking calcium from my bones. It was especially alarming in my left forearm -- they only tested my left leg, left hip, and left forearm -- and I'll probably be on calcium supplements for years.

Based simply on this low bone density risk, and an increased risk for kidney stones, the diagnostician recommended I have surgery to have this adenoma taken out, and the surgeon agreed. I had a kidney stone circa 2002 -- the most pain -- urgent pain -- I've ever experienced (they say it's akin to childbirth) -- but none since, somewhat surprisingly.

My diagnostician said he can't guarantee I'll feel any better after the surgery -- in terms of getting rid of this generalized crummy feeling I have, the tiredness and headaches and fatigue and the feeling one has the day before you know you're coming down with the flu -- but he said about 50% of patients do feel better in a few months. I'm optimistic, but I do need the surgery at least for the reasons of bone loss and kidney stone risk. My surgery is scheduled for Wednesday, March 22nd, and I'll be in the hospital overnight.

This disease seems to strike at random, about 1-4 per thousand people, depending on culture. They said I didn't do anything "wrong" to acquire this hyperparathyroidism -- it just sometimes happens. I don't know of anyone in my extended family who ever had it, and it doesn't appear to be genetic anyway. But my health is only so-so -- I've been dealing with chronic pain since my early 20s, when I broke my coccyx playing squash, and I have since acquired two other problems that have never fully healed -- and I need to pay more attention to it. It's frustrating trying to get exercise, because no matter what I do, something hurts for it.

But I'm optimistic about this upcoming surgery. I couldn't possibly feel better about the doctors treating me -- both were extremely impressive in their understanding of this disease, rattling off data and percentages about treatment options. Of course, I appreciate that kind of thing.