Friday, September 06, 2019

India's Moon Landing (Today)

India is about to land a craft on the moon, in an hour or two. (4-5 pm EDT, 1-2 pm PDT). You can watch it here. The New York Times has other options.

Added 1:39 pm - it looks like the landing has failed.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

US Oil Exports Increasing Exponentially

Or, at least, it looks close to exponential.

I wonder if oil companies aren't looking for one last hurrah $10 trillion before carbon is regulated and/or taxed.

Data from EIA's This Week in Petroleum.


I wish I was a messenger and all the news was good
I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro's hood.

Pearl Jam, Wishlist

Monday, September 02, 2019

Brazil's Geography Problem

This video gave me a better understanding of Brazil and its issues with the Amazon rainforest -- most of the big cities in Brazil are near the coast, there's little farmland there, Brazil is a net food importer and they need agricultural land.

I've watched several geography videos from Wendover Productions and they've all been worth it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Follow-up Statement From Mann's Lawyer

But Tim Ball Didn't Need Mann's Files To Accuse Him

This is such a good point, made in the comments of the last post, that I'm making it a post of its own.

Marco wrote:
Perhaps also of relevance to this point: according to one of my lawyer-friends (disclaimer: not knowledgeable on the Canadian system, but he would be surprised if it were that different there), you cannot use the argument that one's defamatory statements were truthful (or fair based on available knowledge at the time) if one needs information from the aggrieved party in order to find out whether they were indeed truthful.
In short: Ball didn't need Mann's files to accuse him of skullduggery. So why does he need them now?

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Statement from Mann's Lawyer

A very different view of what happened in the BC court Friday in Mann v Ball.

Added: I believe Ball was awarded legal costs, but haven't officially confirmed this yet.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A Decision in Mann v Ball

There has apparently been a decision in Michael Mann's court case against Tim Ball.

I've yet to see anything that's even semi-official, but the two sides are posting their own versions of what happened.

Tim Ball, a prominent climate denier, says
“Michael Mann’s Case Against Me Was Dismissed This Morning By The BC Supreme Court And They Awarded Me [Court] Costs.”
Ball was sue by Mann in a Canadian court on March 25, 2011, for Ball’s allegedly libelous statement that Mann “belongs in the state pen, not Penn State.”

I've never seen any papers by Ball that supported his claim, or any evidence from him that the hockey stick is fraudulent or in any way false. (Indeed, it has been verified a few dozen times by how, most recently by PAGES 2K last month.) Ball isn't a scientist or an expert, which was admitted in an earlier court case by The Calgary Herald, who had contracted for his writing. (Their admissions were pretty brutal.)

Mann seems to have a completely different version of events, which he published on Facebook:

George RR Martin's Favorite Scene

From an interview with George RR Martin in The Guardian: "Game of Thrones finishing is freeing, I’m at my own pace" by Sarah Hughes:

Here's that speech, which didn't appear in the TV series:

Friday, August 23, 2019

Are the Brazilian Wildfires Abnormal?

I don't anything more than what I read in the papers (+Twitter, blogs, etc), but this tweet is interesting. It comes from someone who says he's President, Founder, Senior Scientist @EarthInnovate and follows Amazon forest, climate change, low-carbon devt. The Earth Innovate seems to be a one-man show. Not to say he isn't credible. Unfortunately he doesn't give the source for his NASA data. (Added 8/23: source seems legit.) (Added 8/24: see the comments below)

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Another View of Arctic Sea Ice Extent Minimums

Monday, August 19, 2019

And Now Our Watch Has Ended

2019's Arctic sea ice extent was on a roll -- downward -- for longer than usual. But now it's pulling up short and looks very unlikely to fall below 2012's minimum (JAXA data):

2019 is still only a slight deviation, but 2012 was still melting rapidly at this time of the year, and I don't just can't see 2019 making headway against that.

(Added 10 pm Pacific Time: the JAXA number for 8/19/2019 SIE has decreased from -258 km2 below 2012 yesterday, to, now, -309 km2. That's a huge jump in one day. Puts a record even further out of reach. It's not going to happen.)

So when might 2012's record low be broken?

Below I've taken the annual lows since 1979, using NOAA's daily data, and, leaving 2012 out of the equation, calculated the trend in the annual minimum. (I'm switching between JAXA and NOAA data only because of where I have the relevant graphs; they don't differ by much, but the graphs not so easy to replicate):

This trend for the min is -78,000 km2/yr. Given 2018's min of 4.55 Mkm2, the trendline won't fall below 2012's min (3.34 Mkm2) for 16 years after 2018 -- that is, in 2034.

2012's summer was clearly extraordinary. There was a summer cyclone that chewed the ice up, meaning it had more surface area exposed to the air and sea and so melted faster. (Ice chips in your restaurant water melt faster than ice cubes.)

Of course, my calculation assumes no years between now and then will be extraordinary lows due to, say, the same kind of natural variability that was seen in 2012.

2012 was extreme natural variability in action. Similar to the average USA48 temperature that saw 1934 the warmest year for many decades after. (Probably aided some by [anthropogenic] Dust Bowl conditions.) It was only with the 1997-98 El Nino that its annual average was surpassed. But now 1934 ranks only 7th highest of USA48 average temperatures. There same will eventually happen with 2012's record SIE low.

Added 8/22: Here's the situation as of 8/21:

Sunday, August 18, 2019

"The Sillier It Looks"

I've never seen this particular quote before. It still seems true:
"The more success the quantum theory has, the sillier it looks."

- Einstein, 1912
from Pais A. (1982). ’subtle is the Lord...’: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein. Oxford: Clarendon.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

GISS Also Find Hottest Month Ever

NASA GISS also found July 2019 to be the hottest month globally, 1.14°C above the 1880-1909 average.
  • GISS's land-only anomaly for July is 0.90°C relative to 1951-1980.
  • The YTD average land-only anomaly relative to the older baseline is 1.65°C.
  • That's 2.98°F!
  • With a 2nd-order fit, GISS's acceleration for the global average is 0.016°C/decade2.

NOAA: July Hottest Month in Their Records

NOAA says July was the warmest month in their records, which begin in 1880.

Relative to 1880-1909's average temperature, July was 1.18°C higher. (Same number as June.) NOAA hasn't had an anomaly less than 1°C since November 2014, using that baseline. This year's average-to-date is 1.20°C. Their warmest year was 2016 at 1.24°C (2.23°F). 

Warming above the 1°C benchmark is here, now, for good.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Things I've Noticed

The human side of the decline of coal.
In the first of the Big Boys to report, the Japan Meteorological Association finds July 2019 to be tied with July 2016 for the warmest July (and therefore the warmest month of any month), 1.05°C above the 1891-1920 baseline. Six of seven of this year's temperatures are above 1°C, using that baseline, and 3 of the last 4 years. NOAA reports tomorrow.
A very interesting op-ed in the New York Times saying that if we live in a simulated world (and are simulations ourselves), we shouldn't do any experiments to try to discover this.
Greta's influence: Swedes are flying less and taking more trains, even though it's more expensive and takes longer: "Passenger [train] numbers were up 10 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same time last year..... Meanwhile, the number of passengers at Swedish airports fell by 4.4 percent in the first three months of this year, the Swedish Transport Agency said."

Meanwhile, Greta Thunberg will be taking a zero-emissions yacht to the UN Climate Summit in September.

She's also been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. (I saw that coming.)
A machine learning water model correctly predicted the melting point of ice. And more. I find that very impressive.
Hockey stick confirmed again: The latest results from the PAGES 2k Consortium of the last 2000 years' average global temperature, using seven different statistical methods:

No global Medieval Warm Period. About -0.2°C cooling for a global Little Ice Age. They write, "A substantial portion of pre-industrial (1300–1800 ce) variability at multidecadal timescales is attributed to volcanic aerosol forcing."

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Invisibility of Relativistic Length Contraction

I have a feature article in the August issue of Physics World magazine: "The invisibility of length contraction," about how viewing relativistic length contraction is not at all the same as measuring it.

In actuality, a rapidly moving object (one with a speed a sizable fraction of that of light) would appear rotated instead of contracted.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Climate Data All in One Glance

Today AMS pubished their annual report State of the Climate in 2018, and Plate 1.1 page 52 has a nifty collection of graphs of climate data all in one place. I had to break their figure up into 3 pieces to capture it fully; the bottom figure shows the time scale (in years). Feel free to laminate this.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Land vs Ocean Warming

Just posting a nice graph via Robert Rhode of BEST. It's often forgotten than land globally is warming about twice as fast as the ocean surface, because land has a smaller heat capacity. (To put it another way, heat more easily penetrates through the sea surface than through the land surface, and ice.) So we're now seeing a global land average of about 1.7 - 2.0°C relative to the 1850-1900 average. That's 3.0 - 3.6°F. More as you go northward, less in the tropics. Oregon has seen a temperature rise of 2.7°F since 1895. Alaska, which just had its warmest July ever, has warmed by 4.5°F since 1960. (I'm using Fahrenheit because it's more familiar to Americans, including me.) The continental US, which had only its 27th warmest July (of 125 years) has warmed by 1.8°F since 1895.

And so it goes.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Nick Stokes Finds July 2019 Was the Warmest

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

What RCP is the World Actually On?

(Skip to the bottom if you want to know the answer right away.)

As you probably know, the IPCC established four Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) for their 5th Assessment Report. The number after each "RCP" is the assumed amount of radiative forcing, in watts per square meter, from all greenhouse gases in the year 2100.

The pathways cover many variables all across the board, and are the inputs climate modelers use to do their calculations. Here are the actual numerical values of all the parameters that go into each RCP.

So which pathway will the world follow, at least approximately? Which pathway are we on so far?

I'm going to simplify this by looking only at atmospheric CO2 concentrations, because this is a blog, not a journal paper.

The RCPs don't begin to differ until about 2009 (and go all the way to 2500, when RCP 8.5 assumes CO2 would be 1,962 ppm), and then differ slowly, but by 2018 we have this:

I got the CO2 values for the year by taking the annual CO2 radiative forcing (RF) from NOAA's Global Radiative Forcing results and using the equation

RF=(5.35 W/m2)*ln(C/C0)

to calculate C, which here means CO2 and C0=278 ppm. (The latter is the value the RCPs take for their first year, 1765.)

So we're between RCP 6.0 and RCP 8.5. To find an actual value, I linear interpolated between their values for each year to get our actual RCP value:

The values were small in the beginning because there wasn't much variance between RCP 6.0 and RCP 8.5 in the beginning -- the difference is now 4.5 ppm CO2 -- and because our path was below RCP 6.0 in the beginning. But we made up for it and now the value is stabilized, for now at least, at 6.8.

So we're at RCP6.8.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Neil deGrasse Tyson's Stupid Tweet

Distressingly, 266,000 people have liked this tweet so far.

It's hard to understand how Tyson couldn't see his tweet's lack of empathy and its smart aleck-iness. Or his poor reasoning -- all of those problems are amenable to preventative actions except walking down an aisle at Walmart.

Tyson should apologize. Instead of his qualified apology (which are never real apologies).

Friday, August 02, 2019

How Large Is the Urban Heat Island Effect?

Does the urban heat island effects influence global temperature trends?

Roy Spencer claims, without proof, that they do. Berkeley Earth (BEST) found they do not, after having actually examined the global thermometer set six ways from Sunday with a skeptical eye:
"The Urban Heat Island effect is real. Berkeley’s analysis focused on the question of whether this effect biases the global land average. Our UHI paper analyzing this indicates that the urban heat island effect on our global estimate of land temperatures is indistinguishable from zero."

"Influence of Urban Heating on the Global Temperature Land Average using Rural Sites Identified from MODIS Classifications," Wickham et al., Geoinfor Geostat: An Overview 2013, 1:2
And indeed, that's been the determination for some decades; here's a 1990 paper from Nature:
"The results show that the urbanization influence in two of the most widely used hemispheric data sets is, at most, an order of magnitude less than the warming seen on a century timescale."

"Assessment of urbanization effects in time series of surface air temperature over land," P. D. Jones et al, Nature, volume 347, pages 169–172 (1990).
Is there a way to estimate the influence of the UHI? Here's my attempt.

At the Astrobiology conference I was at a couple of weeks ago, a speaker said that on Earth cities occupy 0.2% of the globe's surface area. (It was in the context of the possibility we might see lights on an exoplanet's surface.) I also learned a new word then: "ecumenopolis" -- a planet whose entire surface is covered by one gigantic city.

If there are no UHIs, i.e. no net UHI, then the global mean average temperature (GMAT) is

Now let's say there is a UHI, the same in all cities, and those cities occupy a certain area. Then the GMAT would be something like this weighted average:

(Apologies for the different font sizes.) So the difference in GMAT between a world with a UHI and one with no UHI is

The ratio on the right-hand side is 0.002, and the urban heat island effect is, what, about 5 K (=9°F)? Then

That's your UHI. The trend will change even slower than this, per decade.

Even if the area of all the cities doubles, it will still be only about 0.02 K << global warming of 1 K.

Just a back of the envelope calculation, but it suggests the UHI is indeed small-to-negligible. Because the Earth is vaaaaaaaaaaaaaast.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Western Wildfire Acreage Doubled by Climate Change

Here's a rather stunning chart from the US National Climate Assessment 2018, Chapter 25.

It shows that since 1984, climate change has doubled the total wildfire acreage in the US west.

Note: the acreage is zero in 1984 because that's when they started counting. Results come from an ensemble of climate models.

This additional acreage comes to about 12 million acres, or 19,000 square miles. That's a little more than the area of Vermont and New Hampshire combined.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Frequent Flyers the #6 CO2-Emitting Country

I don't know what "Bitcoin territory" means here -- perhaps the same level of CO2 being produced by Bitcoin mining -- but the stats on flying are telling nonetheless.

125 Year Heat Waves

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Yet Another Hockey Stick

There's another hockey stick in the scientific literature, this one from the PAGES 2k Consortium in Nature Geoscience. It used over 700 proxies from around the world and shows that climate is warming faster now than at any time over the last 2000 years. As Michael Mann wrote on Twitter, it re-re-re-re-re-...-re affirms the hockey stick, and we can add it to the list. Let's go to the figure:

The reconstruction only goes to the year 2000 -- we've now at 1.0 C of warming, and pushing higher.

Here's a different form of the results, presented in a news release:

More from the press release:
The results suggest that volcanic activity was responsible for variations before about 1850. After that, greenhouse gases became the dominant influence on global climate. By removing these influences in their analysis, the researchers also identified the magnitude of the random changes that cannot be traced to a specific cause. The team's data-based reconstructions also agreed with model simulations when evaluating these random changes.
As I've written before, it's easy to show that hockey stick is the expected result in the absence of significant natural forcings:
  1. temperature change = (climate_sensitivty)*(change in forcing)
  2. CO2 forcing = constant*log(CO2/initial_CO2)
  3. Atmospheric CO2 has been increasing exponentially since the beginning of the industrial era.
    • So if CO2 isn't changing, there is no temperature change -- the flat handle of the hockey stick.
    • If CO2 is increasing exponentially, its forcing is changing linearly and hence so is the temperature – which is the blade of the hockey stick.
  4. The initial curve upward from the shaft was when CO2 was increasing superexponentially.
It'd be far more surprising is there wasn't a hockey stick in the last 2,000 years.


Added 1:40 pm - PAGES 2k's calculations of 51-year trends, from the same paper:


Added 5:10 pm - Here's a map and proxy count of PAGES 2k's network, from their Supplementary Information. In all they used "...nearly 700 separate publicly available records from sources that contain indicators of past temperatures, such as long-lived trees, reef-building corals, ice cores, and marine and lake sediments. The data are sourced from all of Earth's continental regions and major ocean basins."

Monday, July 22, 2019

Memorializing a Lost Glacier

I wonder if this will become a thing. Researchers are going to put a plaque in Iceland memorializing the first lost glacier in that country.

It will be at the site of the now-extinct Okjökull glacier — nicknamed the “OK” glacier — in Borgarfjörður, Iceland. The hillside will be known as "Mt OK."

Deglaciation in Iceland occurs at a rate of about 40 square kilometers per year. Glaciers cover about 1/10th of the Earth’s dry land. Wikipedia says "The 13 largest glaciers [in Iceland] have an aggregate area of 11,181 km² (out of about 11,400 km² for all glaciers of Iceland).

Hey, that's 285 years worth of glaciers in Iceland. Nothing to worry about.

People in the distant future will wonder what a glacier was. They'll wonder what it was like to have a stable coastline. They'll wonder how we could have been so stupid. Maybe the Baby Boomer generation will become known as the Baby Doomers.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Warmest June

You've probably heard by now that June 2019's global mean surface temperature (GMST) was the warmest June in the records, according to both Japan's JMA and NASA GISS.

GISS was especially notable, breaking the old record (2015) by a whopping 0.09°C.

According to GISS, the northern hemisphere had its warmest June in the records, at 1.17°C above the 1951-1980 baseline. That was a record by 0.08°C. That's 1.47°C above a baseline of 1880-1909. 2.64°F. Starting to seem warm....

The southern hemisphere saw only the 6th highest June.

Land-only was also a record high, at 1.07°C above the baseline.

These are notable temperatures, given how small the recent El Nino was compared to 2015-16. (The recent El Nino is now over.)

NOAA announces their GMST tomorrow Thursday.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

That Kauppinen and Malmi Paper is Junk

I am seeing lots of citations to the Kauppinen and Malmi preprint that came out two weeks ago:
(Yes, their title is in all caps.) Anthony Watts posted it but couldn't be bothered to read it ("I didn't vet this"). Infowars has an article with no skepticism whatsoever. Someone just sent me an email saying "this journal article by some Finnish scientists would change our entire understanding of global warming."

If you even glance through the article, you see that they assumed a CO2 climate sensitivity value of just 0.24°C (top of page 4). That's an absurdly low value, given that we've already had 1°C of warming and atmospheric CO2 hasn't even increased by 50% yet. Climate models put CO2's climate sensitivity at 2-4°C.

The authors themselves justify this claim by citing three articles of their own work(!) -- one which appeared in Energy and Environment (enough said), The International Review of Physics (clearly amateurish), and another unpublished preprint. They also made the Ed Berry Bullshit Error:
If we pay attention to the fact that only a small part of the increased CO2 concentration is anthropogenic....
In fact, all the CO2 increase in the atmosphere is anthropogenic (and the part that's due to the 1°C temperature rise is also anthropogenic because that warming is anthropogenic.)

They also assume that almost all temperature change is the result of low cloud cover changes:
In Figure 2 we see the observed global temperature anomaly (red) and global low cloud cover changes (blue). These experimental observations indicate that 1 % increase of the low cloud cover fraction decreases the temperature by 0.11°C.
and assume all that cloud cover change is "natural." And so on and so on.

Deniers: Don't believe everything you read. Especially when it supports your preconceived notions. Especially when it supports denialism. Especially when you haven't even read the paper.

(Triple this when it comes from WUWT or Infowars.)

Added 7/14: The scientists at Climate Feedback came to the same conclusion, with more detail. It's worth reading.

Friday, July 12, 2019

River Gauges in New Orleans

It's hard to believe that New Orleans could be inundated again just 14 years after Hurricane Katrina and subsequent fixes. If it's as bad it's going to raise questions of "when do you give up on a city," which might be the first city to face this of what will be many more this century. Surely New Orleans as a city won't be abandoned after this flood, but you have to wonder at what point another exodus occurs and at what point that feedbacks and causes more still people to leave. It's population doesn't seem to have yet fully recovered from Katrina, so clearly there was some feedback already:

This says 2014 population was down 7.7% post-Katrina.

I found two sites which are recording the level of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, from and the US Army Corps of Engineers. These screenshots are of the most recent results:

And here's a nice storm track.

CNN says
Much of the area around New Orleans is now 1½ to 3 meters (4.92 to 9.84 feet) below mean sea level, according to a 2003 study by the US Geological Survey. Scientists found that the ground in the area was sinking at a rate of 1 centimeter a year.

That continual sinkage, combined with rising global sea levels due to the climate crisis, meant New Orleans would probably be between 2½ and 4 meters (8.2 to 13.12 feet) below sea level by 2100.

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

9 ft of SLR by 2100??

Rosanna Xia wrote in the Los Angeles Times:
In the last 100 years, the sea rose less than 9 inches in California. By the end of this century, the surge could be greater than 9 feet.
Oh come on. The 21st century is almost 20% gone. There is no evidence that this scale of sea level rise is in the future.

Yes, sea level rise is accelerating. Yes, this acceleration can increase and probably is increasing. But enough to get 9 ft (2740 mm) of sea level rise in 81 years? I'm very skeptical.

Every year that doesn't see a big jump in SLR takes a bite from this century's remaining SLR budget and makes this more improbable.

Even the scientists who are studying Antarctic sea-flowing glaciers -- which definitely do seem to be a problem -- are barely sure of the order of magnitude of the SLR they'll cause.

I would like to see journalists like Rosanna Xia have some skepticism -- or any at all -- instead of writing down the most extreme upper limit that anyone mentions to them.

Pollution Controls and Economic Growth

Of course, we all know this, but it's good to see the Trump administration admit that cutting pollution is not incompatible with economic growth: 
"From 1970 to 2018, the combined emissions of the most common air pollutants fell 74 percent while the economy grew over 275 percent."

-- White House press release, 7/8/19.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Eva Kor

This is a remarkable video of someone I found completely captivating. It speaks for itself.

Eva Kor just died at the age of 85.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

I Am Now Too Old to Use the Internet

I got my first programmable calculator, a TI-58c, when I was a sophomore in high school. We had to drive all the way to a Pittsburgh suburb to buy it, which in those days was like driving to Manhattan or Paris or the Moon. I think I paid about $120 then, which is like $500 now.

In the year before my mother was given a very basic calculator that she got for hosting a Tupperware party -- ten numbers, and x + - divide, and maybe a square root. I remember that I figured out that if you took a number like WXYZ and squared it (or something), and then subtracted WXYZ and divided by YZ and inverted that and then took the square root, or something, you'd get back the original number, or something like it. I figured that out numerically, by trial and error, but a couple of years later I was proud of myself for being able to prove it with algebra. But I spent a lot of time on my back looking up at the very simple calculator pressing buttons.

I programmed the hell out of my TI-58c. It only had something like 59 programming steps available, so I got very very good at streamlining code and making the most use of subroutines.

And damn, it was actually a very good way to learn programming. I remember I programmed up some kind of golf game where we used a small wad of paper on a sheet with a golf hole drawn on it, and the calculator would tell us, after we entered the "club," how far the "ball" went and at what angle, both chosen randomly within some bounds.

I forget the exact specifications of the program, but it doesn't matter -- I learned more about programming from that little calculator than I ever did in any subsequent programming classes. That still amazes me. That's what's amazing about being 16.

In high school I took, in 11th grade, a class in statistics, like all the other smart kids, where we had access to a class-wide computer, a desktop PC, I guess, to do some homework problems on. I remember the teacher kept it as his special pet, with his special programmer a kid named John who lived up the road from us a bit and got on at the same bus stop. But I never got to know him -- he seemed a little too insular and quiet, a little too weird, and back then as a dumb teenager I didn't respect the value of being different or nonconformist or great at math. (There was a girl in my home room class when we were in grades 10-12 who would not stand for the pledge of allegiance but kept sitting in her chair. Her hair wasn't neat and she wore plain print dresses that no other girls did and they did her no favors, but while I never bothered her about not standing -- none of us did -- I never tried to understand her, either, which now I regret.) John, this math-smart kid, about two classes younger than me, was a master on this high school computer, and a favorite of the teacher teaching us statistics, meaning he could program a given algorithm in fewer steps than anyone else. Just bringing a number up from memory required code like ↑() from all of about eight registers, one at a time, so brevity and cleverness mattered. We computed the future dates of Easter, I remember. Now John is probably a math professor at MIT with a Fields Medal, or driving for Uber.

Anyway, I want to point out that you can learn a lot when you're 15 and have just a simple tool and are ready to suck up knowledge from the forest floor.

Later in college I took a class in Pascal, which was mostly a class in understanding how to type out Hollerith cards then learning exactly how to submit your program to the university's big computer to have your results printed out on big green-and-white stripped paper, whether that meant your program produced something useful or it meant, usually, that your program failed and crashed and produced nothing. The guys back around the computer would gather up your printout 20 minutes later and place it in a coded wooden bin that was yours for the time being. It wasn't exactly quick turn-around computing, and I didn't learn anything in that class that I didn't learn back at home when I was 16.

And then blah blah. In grad school we could log on to a VAX and send emails to one another, but that was about it. Within a couple of years the ITP at Stony Brook got a pretty nice UNIX machine of its own where we theoretical students could really play around, and I got my degree by writing a couple of 2-3 thousand line programs on some QCD phenomenology about questions my advisor thought up.

Then I went to Bell Labs, used UNIX, etc etc, then when I joined a startup in Boulder, CO I got my very first PC in late 1991.

PCs did less in those days, but they seemed easier to use, IIRC. I mostly used mine for email, emailing several people (women mostly) I'd "met" on a fiction writing listserv. I even got involved with one of them, and we did a lot of backpacking together, for three years, living together in AZ and then VT. Then she ended it, but it was for the best.

But that was eons ago, in the nascent days of the Web, which I first encountered in 1994. Then it was called the "WWW." I discovered Yahoo then, but there wasn't a lot else -- though there was an entire treasure chest laid out then, but I didn't know enough to take advantage of any of it. Nor did anyone I know, not that I knew anyone then. I didn't even know how to gobble up domain names for the corporations that would soon pay nicely for them, like

Anyway now it's 20+ years later, and often I feel like I can barely use a computer at all. Nothing seems to work seamlessly. My iPhone, mostly, but my laptop? No. There just seem to be endless problems. Right now I can't get my printer hooked up so that it prints, though it worked fine in my last place and I thought all I'd need to do what plug it in here. And Chrome does not allow me to ALT-TAB away from it, to another program -- I guess this is some bug in Chrome. I read this can be solved by using a Bluetooth mouse instead of a USB mouse, but that doesn't solve the problem for me. I have BiPaP machine that used to read out my nightly statistics to an app on my phone, but that stopped working 4 days ago and I have no idea why. There are a few more big problems that I've forgotten.

And when I try to solve these, by looking at manuals/help on the Web, nothing works. It's all out of date, or wrong to begin with, with no indications of anything current. Help sites say something like go to Settings | Options | My XXX | whatever | and whatever else, but my version of Windows -- just the latest version of Windows 10, I think, on my PC -- doesn't have those options, it has some other path. I think. Maybe some driver isn't updated. It says to click on "Content settings" but there is no Contents setting on the Settings page where they said it would be. The instructions, even those written in, say, late 2018, never work, and the people who wrote those instructions, probably freelancers getting paid $0.015 per word, poor saps with Brooklyn rents, clearly don't care about providing good instructions or updating them when they require changes.

So no instructions work. Endless Googling and trial and error. The software companies don't give a fuck once they get your money. Solving any of the string of problems take 2 or more hours each, and I just wonder why I have to do this anymore and why I am doing it. Is this really all PCs can do in 2019? Why do they need to much babysitting? Why are they getting worse? Why can't we just plug them in, connect wirelessly to a printer, and have it all work?


It happened with cars. In the beginning -- 1910s and 1920s -- you had to take delicate care of them, be sure they had water and the tyres had air and the spark plugs were adjusted to whatever length or firing capacity or explosion potential and you didn't know what else. Enrico Fermi decided that a good way to become an experimentalist was to drive a car across America and fix it as it broke down. (Really.)

Why do I have to be a software engineer to get my printer to work?? Why can't I just connect it via USB or wireless or whatever and have it print? Why do I have to be a computer engineer to understand why this isn't possible? Why, when I connect my phone to my PC, doesn't it delete the iPhone pictures after downloading them, as my settings tell it to? Another fucking bug, that's why. Why has it failed at this for 3+ years? Why can't Microsoft fix this? Why don't they care? Why can't Google fix its bug that prevents me from using ALT-TAB to go to other windows, which is actually a serious usability problem for me. Why don't THEY care??

A month ago I click on an email link and it opened in Gmail. Not it doesn't. What the fuck changed? It wasn't me? Do I have to rejigger this every month? Do you see why I am frustrated? And then in the end someone random happens to describe your exact problem -- but no one else's -- and you just change a "NO" button to "YES" and it all works. For you.

I really wish I could give up on all this crappy technology and just farm organic peas for a living. I would never log on to the Internet or even listen to the radio again.

Trump is Behind Obama in Job Gains

Job gains during Trump's first 28 months: 5.61 M.

During Obama's last 28 months: 6.42 M.


Medium: “‘Climategate’ Email Hacking was Carried out from Russia, in Effort to Undermine Action…”

This is interesting, but it's not really a surprise that shadowy Russians/Eastern Europeans would be the hackers. I hope the journalist, Iggy Ostanin, can eventually publish the name of the climate scientist he says in involved.

Exclusive: "Climategate" Email Hacking was Carried out from Russia, in Effort to Undermine Action… by Iggy Ostanin

Russian hacking, quote-unquote, seems to be more and more of a problem anymore. Is there really nothing that can be done?

Friday, June 28, 2019

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

More #AbiSciCon19

Here's my second article for Physics World on the Astrobiology Science Conference 2019 in Bellevue:

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

AbSciCon 2019

I'm at the 2019 Astrobiology science conference in Bellevue, Washington. I wrote about my first day and a half here for Physics World's blog.

Did you know there are now over 4,000 exoplanets discovered? That there's a portable genome sequencer that weighs 85 grams and fits in the palm of your hand? That 4% of the makeup of Omaha Beach consists of shrapnel?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Wrap-up of Today's Oregon Climate Craziness

End of the day wrap-up on actions surrounding Oregon's cap-and-trade bill, HB 2020.

The Oregon Republican senators are still hiding. The state police seem to be still out looking for them, though I don't know the degree of their vigor. They have been put in a very unfortunate and awkward position.

The Senate R's could not legally accept the GoFundMe money. How about they give it to baby immigrants stuck in a border jail cell? No? Thought not.... But the R's do have a PAC! Because you know there was surely someway to make money out of this somehow.

No shooting yet, but the Oregon Republicans did say they reject the support of right wing militias such as the Three Presenters Militia, who pledged to come to their aid. You'd have to call that a net positive. (Seems that to argue for gun rights, or to be a patriot of the highest order, you have to be against related to climate change.) (I guess I'll never be a 3%er.)

Time, and CO2 emissions, march on.


I'm taking time off. Maybe the whole summer.

Oregon Senator Tries Blaming the World's Poor

Naturally one of Oregon's state senators presented this argument:
After numerous unsuccessful attempts to kill the bill on Monday, House Republican leader Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass) said in a statement, "Climate change is a global problem, not an Oregon problem. Oregon's workers should not be punished for the reckless environmental policies of China and India."
This is a desperate argument, and I think somewhat cowardly, because it seeks to put the blame on the poor of the world, and it arrogantly assumes that Americans have an inherent right to emit more carbon pollution than citizens of another country.

I've probably written about this before, but here are the numbers:

These numbers come from the World Resource Institute's CAIT database, which goes to 2014, and the BP annual reports for 2015-2017. And the data are for energy use only, no changes in land use or other greenhouse gases like methane.)

How can anyone look at those numbers and claim the problem is really China and India??

Of course climate change is a global problem. And the solution is for everyone to solve their share of the problem. Some here in Oregon have expressed concern this will drive industries outside the state to where there are no cap-and-trade limits. (Idaho seems to be the preferred choice.) Has that happened elsewhere? Oregon already has one of the lowest state corporate tax rates of any state (7th lowest). They're going to give that up, just because of CnT? 

Maybe we should divide the troposphere up into N blocks, where N is the world population, and let every person on Earth sell credits to allow CO2 pollution in their block. People could sell their credits to brokers who then trade a large number of blocks. It's reduce emissions and be a poverty relief program as well.

Oregon Fines and a GoFundMe Page

Oregon senators face a $500/day fine for not showing up to do their jobs. Naturally (these days) there is a GoFundMe page to help them out, currently up to $19,375 after one day. 11 senators need to stay away to prevent a quorum, so that's $5,500/day, with the fund already covers at least three days. I'll be surprised if, once the word on the page gets out nationally, there isn't enough to cover the entire time they'd need to be out of state, which goes to the end of the legislative session on June 30th. Though the governor is threatening to call a special session to start July 2.

The Climate Kerfuffle in Oregon

Big troubles in Oregon over the cap-and-trade bill in the Senate. Senate Republicans have fled the state to prevent a senate quorum. There's trouble busin' in from outta state, and the D.A. here can't get no relief. There are rumors of a rumble out on the promenade, and the gamblin' commission's hangin' on by the skin of its teeth.

OK. It's true that enough Senate Republicans have fled the state, mostly to Idaho I read, to prevent a quorum in the Senate so there can be no vote on HB 2020, a cap-and-trade bill. The 2019 legislative sessions ends on June 30th, and they're trying to hide that out.

But Oregon's constitution allows the governor to call on the state police to roost them out and bodily bring them back to the state capital, which she has now done. As if that's not bad enough, one state senator is threatening to shoot them if they show up, saying they should be "single and well-armed."

I see two major issues behind all this. One is the unwillingness of Republicans to do anything about climate change. But the second issue is more in play at the moment: the strange political makeup of Oregon.

Oregon is the 9th largest state in the union, and it really should be broken up into two states, divided roughly by the Cascade mountains. Portland is (generalizing) very liberal and backs liberal causes like cap-and-trade. And the county it's in, Multnomah, has about 20% of the state's population. The Portland metropolitan area has over 65% the state's population, though that includes Vancouver, Washington and other nearby towns across the Columbia River. The Willamette Valley, entirely in Oregon, contains about 70% of the state population.

So Portland is the state behemoth. As a result, Democrats have a 3/5ths supermajority in the state legislature and senate, and the governor is a Democrat. So even though the vast majority of the area of the state is red, the blues have a large upper hand. The figure to the right shows the results of the 2018 gubernatorial race, by county, won by Kate Brown, the Democrat.

The state even divides up geographically, with the Williamette Valley being lush terrain from all the rain, and the east, in the Cascade mountain rain shadow, being brown and scrubby high desert.

East of the Cascades and south of Eugene -- so, anywhere outside the Willamette Valley -- is very conservative. But with the supermajority they feel Democrats are ramming through legislation. Which they are. If the situation were reversed, Republicans would, of course, be doing exactly same thing.

So you can see the need for the state to be divided into two, or there will be perpetual political unhappiness on the right. The Democrats have been in power here for decades, and that doesn't look to be changing anytime soon, and maybe never.

Republicans say the cap-and-trade bill is unfair, in part because rural people drive more, with all the farmers and long distances between towns. The cap-and-trade bill is estimated to increase the price of gasoline by up to $0.23/gallon, which works out to $25 per metric ton of CO2. Not a lot. The carbon cap would periodically be lowered as time goes on.

Well, if you drive more and emit more carbon, you should, in fairnesspay more. But of course a lot of people don't want to hear it's time to start paying for their pollution.

I suspect the cap-and-trade bill here will pass in some form, perhaps by giving tax credits to farms and businesses in the red counties (or even statewide), or other legislative goodies. It's already a long and complex bill -- a simple carbon tax being obviously too simple (and, moreso, transparent).

Hopefully no state troopers will be shot. (They have guns of their own, you know.)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Dead Leaf Butterfly

The Dead Leaf Butterfly
The other day a couple of religious canvassers came to my door. I forget what they said initially, but I gave my standard answer, "thanks, but I'm an atheist."

This usually sends them away, but not always, and this pair was an exception. She asked why I took that position. "No evidence," I said.

She said she recently saw a documentary with a butterfly that looked like a leaf. How could that have happened by itself, without being designed?

"Evolution by natural selection," I said.

What about this house, she said, pointing around her. Who designed it?

An architect, I said. Then I excused myself, said good luck on your efforts, but I was busy and had to go.

I wasn't really that busy, but afterward I thought that the butterfly in the shape of a leaf is about the best example of evolution by natural selection that is out there. I mean, it's perfect.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

No, Greener is Not Better

Just found this article by Carl Zimmer, who is always worth reading, but especially in this case:

"‘Global Greening’ Sounds Good. In the Long Run, It’s Terrible: Rising carbon dioxide levels are making the world greener. But that’s nothing to celebrate."
- Carl Zimmer, NY Times, July 30, 2018

Playing a Chernobyl Game

This article published yesterday in the Daily Beast, by Clive Irving, is in MHO excellent and well-worth reading, especially if you watched the Chernobyl series on HBO, especially the last episode:

Irving is right. The outright denial by liars in the Administration, from the very top (POTUS) down, who lack any capacity to even begin to engage with the scientific argument. Trump himself is so clueless that he thinks this is only about traditional air pollution and traditional water pollution. I don't think he's lying about this -- he just doesn't have the foggiest idea what climate change is about, just like he does not know what trade deficits are about.

It is no longer believable that the next decade won't be 0.2°C (0.3&deg;F) warmer than this decade just ended, which was by that amount warmer than the one before it, and that warmer than one earlier.

Friday, June 14, 2019


I can easily see this photograph representing 9/11 in a history book 100 years from now.

China Has Twice the Environmental Taxes cp the US

This chart is from an interesting research document from the OECD, China's Progress Towards Green Growth: An International Perspective, October 2018. It shows that China has about twice the environmental taxes than does the US:

Personally I am very tired of claims that I see again and again that it's China and India who should be cutting back their use of fossil fuels, since they're the largest emitters.

First of all, the US emitted 2.2 times as much as does India in 2017, according to the 2018 BP report. Cumulatively, since 1850, the US has emitted 7.7 times what India has. So the India part of the assertion is just a dumb argument.

Cumulatively (since 1850), the US has emitted about 1.9 times more CO2 than has China, which I calculated from the World Resource Institute's CAIT database and the 2016-2018 BP reports.

And, I calculate that in 2017 the US emitted about 2.3 times that of China on a per capita basis.

The US has mucked up the atmosphere far more than China has, and continues to do so on an individual basis. It's not like an American newborn has an inherent, god-given right to emit twice as much CO2 as does a Chinese newborn.

The US is still the world's primary energy hog, and the US should be leading the fight to get rid of fossil fuels. Instead the Administration is going in the opposite direction, the future climate be damned.

1988: Climate Change VP Debate Question

In 1988 a question on climate change was presented to Dan Quayle and Lloyd Benson at their vice-presidential debate, by a smart reporter, Jon Margolis:

Lloyd Benson (a Democrat from Texas, no less) shows he has at least some handle on the question, suggesting a transition to natural gas. Dan Quayle (Republican) comes off as clueless, which was his trademark, providing the most generic, meaningless answer possible, all in that dullard countenance he was known for.

Of course, later in that debate Benson put Quayle to the canvas in perhaps the most famous debate response in US history:

Alas, Bush Sr and Quayle won the election. Then introduced the idea of cap-and-trade.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

What the Hell? (Solar Luminosity)

I found the following graph on Wikipedia, when I looked up solar luminosity.

It shows that solar luminosity was significantly lower in the past, which counters the denier argument that "well if CO2 was 6000 ppm back then, why wasn't there immense warming?") But I do not understand this graph. Why is temperature so constant? The Sun is the perfect example of a blackbody -- it absorbs all radiation incident upon it. (And everything else, too.) So why doesn't it follow the Stefan-Boltzmann law, where

luminosity = sigma*T4 ?

I'm confused. Can anyone help me?

River of Melted Permafrost

Not something you see every day -- a river of melted permafrost:

Friday, June 07, 2019

Michael Mann Wins a Court Case

Michael Mann and the The Frontier Centre for Public Policy Inc. have settled their case in the Canadian Supreme Court, with the Frontier Centre issuing a retraction & apology:

Mann sued Tim Ball and the Frontier Centre for libel. From Forbes 2012, where Larry Bell predicted the wrong outcome:
The first law suit was filed against Canadian climate scientist Timothy Ball who humorously commented  in an interview published by the Frontier Center for Public Policy, a Winnipeg think tank, that Penn State researcher Mann should, instead, be in the state pen.
Mann says he has not settled his claims against Tim Ball, who remains a defendant in the lawsuit. We'll see about that "humor."

Tim Ball's scientific reputation has already been shredded in a Canadian court, as it's been admitted in a court of law that he is not a climate science expert.

After the Calgary Herald published an op-ed by Ball on April 19, 2006, whom the newspaper identified as the first climatology PhD in Canada and a climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg for 28 years, they published a letter on April 23, 2006 from Dr. Dan Johnson, a professor at the University of Lethbridge, who pointed out that neither of those descriptions is true; that Dr. Ball's credentials were being seriously overstated. Ball later threatened Johnson and the Herald and ultimately sued for defamation.

In their Statement of Defense filed in Court, the Calgary Herald submitted the following:

1. "...that the Plaintiff (Ball) never held a reputation in the scientific community as a noted climatologist and authority on global warming.

2. "The Plaintiff has never published any research in any peer-reviewed scientific journal which addressed the topic of human contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming

3. "The Plaintiff has published no papers on climatology in academically recognized peer-reviewed scientific journals since his retirement as a Professor in 1996;

4. "The Plaintiff's credentials and credibility as an expert on the issue of global warming have been repeatedly disparaged in the media; and

5. "The Plaintiff is viewed as a paid promoter of the agenda of the oil and gas industry rather than as a practicing scientist."

Ball dropped his lawsuit.....

Source: The Calgary Herald, Statement of Defense – paragraph 50, Dr Tim Ball v The Calgary Herald, In the Court of the Queen’s Bench of Alberta Judicial District of Calgary, Dec 7, 2006 (

More at:

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Wind Power Now Surpassing Coal Power

From Quartz, about a month ago:

In March 2019, renewables generated more electricity than
coal for the first time in US history.

Quartz gives the chart below, but it clearly has problems, because a megawatt/day is not a unit of energy. Perhaps they meant megawatt-days. And renewables only out-generate coal in the projected part of their graph, not in March 2019, when it actually does. And they only show four data points a year, when they're writing about an individual month. Sloppy.

Not only this, but wind turbine technician is now the fastest growing occupation in the US, a job that pays a median of $51,000/yr. Wind generated about 5.5% of electricity in 2016. The wind industry employs over 100,000 people; solar about 260,000. The number of coal miners is now about 53,000.

By the way, the EIA's Electricity Monthly Update front page gives no mention to renewables at all. It's like they don't even exist. Or like they don't want them to exist.

Ladybugs On the Move

Too good not to blog:

Jobs By Energy Source

Here's a little chart I whipped up for the number of US jobs per unit energy for the major types of energy source*:

PJ = petajoule = 1015 joules (J)
EJ = exajoule = 1018 joules (J)
M = mega, B = billion, kWh = kilowatt-hour
pv = photovoltaic, h&c = heating and cooling

*Numbers in blue are data I looked up, numbers in black are calculated.

This isn't just for electricity, but all primary energy production. Of course, for solar and wind and coal it's almost all electricity, except for the occasional coal-powered vehicle. I did that calculation too; it's the last column in the chart.

There's a lot to quibble with here -- this is down and dirty. I'm not a professional analyst getting paid to do this perfectly. Most of concern to me is that I'm not sure "oil and gas extraction" includes any related management jobs, like in corporate headquarters. Same for coal. (And, for that matter, solar and wind.) It doesn't include the jobs in coal powered electricity plants (or solar plants). But the differences in jobs per energy are so large -- by one order of magnitude for wind, and two orders of magnitude for solar -- that one would have to do a whole lot of quibbling to make a difference in the conclusion that there are many more jobs in renewable energies than in fossil fuels, per unit of energy generated. (Why is this?)

And remember, despite the larger number of jobs, solar and wind power are now cheaper than coal in 3/4ths of the country.

Sources, jobs:
Renewable energy and jobs, Annual Review, IRENA
FRED for oil and gas and coal mining jobs

Source, energy:
EIA Energy Overview, Table 1.2