Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How Fast Is the Probability of Extreme Temperatures Increasing?

So awhile back I hypothesized that the probability of extreme temperatures increases exponentially when global temperatures increase linearly.

Recently the NY Times posted some data that I think lends some qualitative support to this contention. It's in a graphical form, not numerical, so I can't really analyze it statistically -- only by eyeball. They're the changing probability distributions of summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere:

I don't know -- is the forward tail increasing outward (leftward) faster than the leftward movement of the the distribution peaks? It kind of looks like it, to me....

Monday, August 28, 2017

How Climate Change is Making the Houston Situation Worse

One way climate change is certainly making the Houston flooding is because because sea level is rising. That increases the height of storm surges and brings more water inland.

NY Times:

"Exacerbating the situation, said Hal Needham, a storm surge expert and founder of the private firm Marine Weather & Climate in Galveston, Tex., was that the storm surge elevated Galveston Bay, blocking drainage of the rain that pummeled coastal and inland areas."

Galveston, which is a barrier island, has seen 0.75 meters of sea level rise since 1900. Much of that is due to the island’s subsidence, but sea level rise is making this worse than where the land isn’t sinking. And, with small-slope beaches and relatively flat land, the inland extension of the water is increasing too.

inland extension ~ sea level rise/sin(coastal slope)

And the storm surge of a hurricane is much more dangerous than the winds.

According to a 2013 article in the Houston Chronicle
A 2007 study underwritten by the city of Galveston that anticipated rising sea levels would cover the coastal highway on the west of the island within 60 years appears to have been overly optimistic.

The $50,000 geological hazard report was prepared for the city by geologists from the University of Texas, Rice University and Texas A&M University but then shelved. The report based its calculation on historic sea level rise and failed to include climate change. Sea levels are rising much faster than previous estimates that accounted for climate change, according to reports released in December by U.S. government scientists and in November by the World Bank.
So right there is an example of how political influence in a climate report (which is why I assume the Texas university's report left out climate change) is dangerous.

A 2016 article from the Houston Chronicle about the land subsistence shows that it is large all over the region.
Parts of Harris County have dropped between 10 and 12 feet since the 1920s, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

State and local officials have made various efforts over the past 40 years to stabilize the ground, but some areas continue to sink - by as much as 2 inches per year.
And why is this happening? Humans. People are drawing too much groundwater out of the aquifers, and the land above is sinking.
There is little mystery to why this is happening: The developing region draws an excessive amount of groundwater to keep itself quenched. Over the last century, aquifers here have lost between 300 and 400 feet, leaving the land to collapse.

The science behind this phenomenon is called subsidence.

Houston sits in one of the nation's largest subsidence bowls, so-called because of the crater effect that happens when the ground caves.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Sun's Changing Obscuration During the Eclipse

Sorry, but there's one more eclipse-related topic I need to get out of my system.

As we were watching last Monday's eclipse, from the moment the Moon's disk was first noticeable over the Sun, we were trying to figure out how fast the Sun's light was diminishing. First it starts at 0 (0%), of course, and at totality it's 1 (100%).

But how fast does it proceed between the beginning and totality? It's a calculation of how much one disk (the Moon) obscures the other (the Sun).

I had actually tried to calculate this before the eclipse, and while it's just geometry it's a bit tricky, especially for someone who rarely calculates anything anymore. My brother-in-law is a laser physicist, and he said he once had to calculate this once regarding two laser spots (or some such), and only found it after a few hours of work.

Eventually I started hunting around the Web, and found this nice derivation from ​Adrian Jannetta, a math instructor in England. He also built this interactive calculator (at the page's top) to calculate the Sun's obscuration for different radii of the Sun and Moon.

Eclipse astronomers classify how far along the eclipse is by the magnitude M, which is how much of the Sun's diameter is covered up, at any given time, by the Moon. Also, the algebra simplifies considerably if you take the Sun and Moon to have the same radii -- remember, this is the radii as seen in the sky, not in actuality, and the very reason a solar eclipse happens is because the angular diameter of the two is very nearly equal.

(Actually for Monday's eclipse I read the Moon, at totality, obscured 103% of the Sun's area, so its angular radii was just a bit bigger than the Sun's, but I'm going to ignore that here.)

So setting the Sun and Moon radii equal in Janetta's equations gives


where again, M is the magnitude, and α is just an intermediate parameter to make the math look simple.

M is going to be proportional to time, assuming the Moon glides uniformly across the Sun's disk. (Probably not exactly true, but close enough for this example. At our location it took 1 hr 11 m 55 s from beginning to totality.)

Then I get the following for the obscuration as a function of magnitude:

The eclipse banana
This is a lot more boring than I was hoping for. The obscuration starts out relatively slowly. At M=0.5 it's only 39%, and then it proceeds almost linearly to totality. The it reverses as the Moon starts past the Sun.

I guess I thought there might have been a quickening, nonlinear obscuration closer to totality -- when the "banana" shows up, then continually shrinks. But we were all too excited to really judge it objectively.

Anyway, I spent some spare hours working on this because I couldn't get it out of my head. Now's it's gone.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Final Thoughts on Today's Eclipse

I've seen three things in my life that didn't look real -- the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, Oregon, and today's total solar eclipse from Salem, Oregon.

Of the three, the eclipse is the least describable. Words don't exist. It was as if the entire world suddenly turned into a giant dream, where all rules were suddenly turned off and you instantly realized you were someplace you'd never been before. I can't exactly remember what I expected to see -- except, in my mental image, I stupidly pictured myself in this park looking to the west. (I know the sun rises in the east, but my pre-image had it backwards, because the eclipse started at the coast and went west-to-east, and perhaps also because the sky from the park I knew we would be in is much larger to the west.)

Still this was nothing like I could have expected. By that I mean, I don't think I'm capable -- or anyone is capable -- of imagining this in any way like it actually happened. It's a relatively simple astronomical event to grasp, but the actuality of it is not.

About 20 minutes before totality we started to notice the day was getting darker. Subtly at first. Not so much the sky as the grass and trees around the park -- they were tinged in a more muted shade of green. The last few minutes before totality were very exciting -- in fact the entire hour and 6 minutes was exciting -- but then suddenly darkness seemed to come out of nowhere.

It didn't get completely dark, but more like a night with a full moon. The rest of the sky turned to dusk on the horizon (see below for a few pictures). For the two minutes of totality here, I wasn't aware of anything else going on in the world, of anything else even existing in the world -- it was a deep immersive experience that took me over at my core. And then, at the end of the quick two minutes, the diamond ring appeared -- and the entire park of maybe 300 people erupted in even louder cheers and whooping. The ring only lasted 2-3 seconds, but it was the most amazing sight of all.

I now understand why you have to be in the path of totality to experience this fully. Even the last 30 seconds of pre-totalilty, when obscuration was 98-99%, was nothing like totality -- the sun is just too bright even at one or two percent. At totality everything suddenly changes. The world collapses. I can understand why the ancients might have thought the world was ending. The sun's corona was very clear, and seemed to extend several solar diameters -- three or four? -- but still it was too much for my unfiltered iPad camera (see below).

Ten minutes after totality we were already Googling to see where the 2024 U.S. eclipse will happen -- it's a swath from Texas up through the Ohio valley to Cleveland and Buffalo. Today's event was so absolutely amazing that I am
definitely going try and travel to the path of totality to see that eclipse.

Today here couldn't have been more perfect. It was a completely clear, blue sky -- not a cloud to be seen. It was at a nice time of the day, a refreshing morning still hanging in the air. It was in August, when the Williamette Valley usually sees very clear skies. And it was Monday, easy to take off, and you still have the week ahead of you. I got lucky.

Below are some pictures I took today. The pictures during totality aren't good -- I was using my unfiltered iPad. Also, as I only realized later, I had it set to Video and not Photo, so every click was a 1/2-second video. (Here I've included screen shots of those clips.) I now wish I had not attempted to take any pictures at all -- especially without a filter -- and instead just looked at the eclipse and felt it even more; as it was I forgot to look for stars coming out, or planets (my sister said she clearly saw Venus), or pay attention to the temperature and the winds. I was barely aware of myself. My sister wept during totality; I got goosebumps. It seemed like a dream, and it still feels like it was a dream. I can't convey what I felt. I can't even convey it to someone who also saw totality, it was that unique.

The best my unfiltered camera could do at totality.

Looking west during totality

Totality, looking east


This was the best I could do with my unfiltered iPad. Totality was almost dreamlike.... The whole park cheered at the diamond ring.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Solar Eclipse As Seen From the Moon

A painting of a solar eclipse as seen from the moon, from space illustrator Pat Rawlings, was published at Rawlings painted this almost 30 years ago; from his tweet:  “I actually thought 28 years in the future tourists might watch the eclipse from the Moon. Sigh.”

A Nonvertical Ice Spike

From the mysterious confines of my refrigerator's freezer:

Friday, August 18, 2017

Getting Ready for the Eclipse

The eclipse is only two and a half days away, and the weather forecast for Salem, Oregon is looking good for Monday.

My biggest stressor is that my sister and her family are coming down Sunday morning -- they're saying traffic is going to be a serious mess -- and they'll tent in my back yard. (I only have one bed. But at least I arranged to turn off the 5:15 am water sprinklers.) It's stressful because, let's just say, her and I have different standards of housekeeping. So I'm trying to clean up things I should have cleaned up months ago. This is actually what worries me the most about this grand celestial spectacle.

We're going to watch the eclipse from a park just across the street. Here, the Moon starts to obscure the Sun at 9:05:25 am PDT, and totality begins at 10:17:21 am PDT. Totality here lasts for 1 minute, 54 seconds.

I haven't detected any increased traffic here yet, despite some claims I've read around the Internet that grocery store checkout lines are out the door. They are not. But people are already arriving out in the sticks of central Oregon. Those poor small towns just aren't prepared for an influx of visitors -- an Oregon tourist administrator told me that they're expecting one million people to travel into the path of totality, a 25% increase in the population of the state. Salem is allowing people to sleep in its parks, no permit required. My sister is hoping to beat traffic by coming down Sunday morning, when hopefully the traffic won't be too bad, and they'll try to get home Monday evening. I hope we don't have an argument about housekeeping.

I wrote a couple of blog posts for Physics World magazine: "America counts down to the big eclipse," and "The American eclipse: wonder, science and festivities." There are a lot of eclipse-related activities going on here and in Corvallis (and elsewhere across the U.S.), but I'm wary of traffic. Truth is, I'll be happy if there are no serious discussions about the housekeeping. (Hey, she has a maid who comes in weekly to clean!)

I'm not planning on taking any pictures. I may shoot a couple with my iPhone at totality, without any filter, but there will be pictures galore. I'm more interesting in how the eclipse will feel, how the temperature will drop, winds pick up, and the general strangeness and grandeur of it all.

I've been looking forward to this since I first learned of it six years ago. I have this picture in my head, surely not realistic, that it's going to be a massive bacchanalia, something like the 5-year end-of-the-world party in Ian Banks' The Hydrogen Sonata.

If only.

Now, back to the cleaning. Yikes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Some Things I Noticed Today

GISS's global temperature anomaly for July was the warmest July in their record, albeit only by 0.01°C, so technically it's a statistical tie. (But global warming is only preceding at about 0.02°C/yr, by itself a statistically insignificant. Short-term comparisons are really just numerology.) Also, they've changed their ocean surface data from ERSST v4 to the newer ERSST v5.

Still, it's rather surprising July was so warm. The El Nino has been over for a year now, and the most recent season, 2016-2017 that just ended with May/June/July, was a weak La Nina, according to the ONI.

JFK, upon Accepting the Liberal Party Nomination for President, New York, New York, September 14, 1960: "What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label, "Liberal"? If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But, if by a "Liberal," they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say that I'm a "Liberal.""

Rich Lowry, Politico: "Trump’s sensibility is highly unusual for a politician—let alone for the leader of the free world—but very familiar from the internet or social media. As his news conference showed, his level of argument is at the level of a good Breitbart blogger, or of a Twitter egg of yore. He would absolutely kill it in the comments section of a right-wing website or trolling a journalist."

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Global Sea Ice Extent Sets a Record Low

Every year, global sea ice extent -- the simple sum of Arctic SIE and Antarctic SIE -- has two maxima.

The first, lower maximum, usually occurs sometime in July. The second, higher maximum, in November.

This year's first maximum is a record low:

and here's the plot of the annual first maximum:

Currently, Arctic SIE is 2nd lowest in the satellite record, and Antarctic SIE is 4th lowest. But they add such that global SIE is lowest, and it has been for most of 2017. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dept of Wrong Predictions -- No Tricks Zone edition

The denier blog No Tricks Zone was sure, almost seven years ago, that global cooling was coming.

They even compiled a list of 31 scientists who said so! Wow. Impressive.
"As winters get harsher and the snow piles up, more and more scientists are now warning of global cooling. Reader Matt Vooro has compiled a list (see below) of 31 prominent scientists and researchers who have words that governments ought to start heeding."
And then they added yet another scientist's voiced to the list! 32. Looked like an attempt to establish a "consensus."


Needless to say, no cooling of any kind has occurred since 2010 -- there's been only warming, with 2014 and 2015 clearly warmer, and 2016 the warmest year on record -- warmer even than the El Nino season of 1997-98.

Do you suppose the blog's keeper Pierre Gosselin, or the blog post's writer, Matt Vooro, admitted they were wrong, and contacted those 32 scientists to ask why their predictions were wrong? ...Don't be silly....

GISTEMP up to June 2017

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Stupidest Part of that Stupid WSJ Op-ed

On July 30th the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by David R. Henderson and John H. Cochrane, whoever they are, two economists at the conservative Hoover Institute, titled "Climate Change Isn’t the End of the World: Even if world temperatures rise, the appropriate policy response is still an open question."

So apparently now deniers are nearing the endgame: climate change is real, but we shouldn't do anything about it.

The article is paywalled, but you can find the first half or so here.

It contains a lot of shallow thinking, but this I found the most incoherent of all:
"But spread over a century, the costs of moving and adapting are not as imposing as they seem. Rotterdam’s dikes are expensive, but not prohibitively so. Most buildings are rebuilt about every 50 years. If we simply stopped building in flood-prone areas and started building on higher ground, even the costs of moving cities would be bearable. Migration is costly. But much of the world’s population moved from farms to cities in the 20th century. Allowing people to move to better climates in the 21st will be equally possible."
This is just dumb, because people aren't going to "moving" to escape climate change in, say, Florida, as it's inundated by sea level rise, they're going to be abandoning Florida.

No one will buy the house anyone abandons due to sea level rise -- home and business owners will simply lose the amount they've paid for their property and buildings, in a reverse game of musical chairs. No insurance companies will bail them out -- insurance companies are already pulling out of Florida.

  • "If sea levels rise as much as climate scientists predict by the year 2100, almost 300 U.S. cities would lose at least half their homes, and 36 U.S. cities would be completely lost.
  • "One in eight Florida homes would be under water, accounting for nearly half of the lost housing value nationwide.
  • "The median value of a home at risk of being underwater is $296,296. The value of the average U.S. home is $187,000." [Source]

If they're made whole at all, it will be by the federal government, which I expect will happen. Too many affluent people will complain to their representatives, saying it's not their fault that sea level rose, and it will be U.S. taxpayers who bail them out, who make them whole. And the same in most OECD countries.

How much will this cost? Trillions of dollars, at least, in the U.S. That will likely be paid by US taxpayers.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Now Haze, Too

It's supposed to be 107°F here again in Salem -- that was yesterday's high, a record -- and on top of that there is noticeable haze in the air, which meteorologists say is due to wildfires in British Columbia and in the mountains east of Salem. Here's a view of the haze here:

It's just a bit eerie.... Here's a satellite view of the Pacific Northwest, showing the big picture:

Meteorologists say the haze is keeping temperatures down a degree or two. There's an air quality alert for most of the state. In Portland it's even worse, with the air called "unhealthy" [news video that I can't get to embed; pictures from Portland].

I didn't mind the heat when I was younger -- I lived for 3 years in New Mexico and a year and half in Tempe, Arizona, and bicycled lots -- but as I've gotten older -- and, okay, larger -- I find it unpleasant. 80°F is about the top for me. The average high peaks at 84°F here, but in recent years there have been 100+ °F heat waves every couple of years. This is the worst I've see since I've been here. I loathe air conditioning, but am using it these last few days -- a fan just isn't enough. Even my cats are content to stay inside.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017