Friday, February 28, 2020

Here It Comes....

Coronavirus Live Updates: New Unexplained Cases Reported in Oregon and California

All politics aside, this is really a terrible time to have a President who can't cope with stress and who everyone knows is an habitual liar.... Trump's Twitter feed reflects his utter inability to deal with any of this..... I am starting to find this a bit scary.... and not because I'm sniffling and sneezing since yesterday (just a little cold, I'm sure).

PS: This must be a very interesting time to be an epidemiologist.

Freeman Dyson

Freeman Dyson died today, related to a fall he took on Tuesday.

It's sad how a fall so quickly leads to death in the elderly. I've seen this happen before -- it really comes out of the blue.

Ironically (in the Alanis Morissette sense), I just emailed Dyson about a month ago with a question for something I'm working on, and he gave me a nice reply, and then another after I followed up on that one.

I think by far his greatest work was showing that the different mathematical formulations of QED (quantum electrodynamics) of Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga were all equivalent. Dyson was in his 20s then (26 in 1949) when he did this, which is extremely impressive. His paper is a real tour de force. From what I remember reading about this, he did this after daily summer classes at a course in Michigan, to where Feynman drove him, in a road trip that almost seems like something out of Hunter Thompson. Dyson would go back to his upstairs dorm room each day to continue working on the QED problem. I learned about this as an undergraduate and still have a very romantic image of this in my mind, of Dyson hunched under the eaves up there, hot and sweaty, dealing with the difficult levels of perturbation theory for each formulation of QED. But this is just my image, the image you create when you read a book, without ever seeing the movie. It surely didn't happen exactly like that, but I cherish my images of it nonetheless.

Plus I remember reading about him, earlier I guess, working as a mathematician for the British war effort, figuring how the right size of hole for pilots and gunners to jump through after their planes had been shot up. From what I remember the hole was too small in the beginning, which cost lives, but making it too big cost lives too, from flak going upward. All while he was a very young man, being forged by the world war all around him.

Interestingly, his NY Times obituary says his famous idea of a Dyson sphere actually came from a science fiction writer.

When I was in graduate school and needed to take a few months off for back surgery, my advisor sent me off with a copy of Dyson's book Disturbing the Universe.

I realize I'm focusing on how Dyson affected me, even though I never met him or had any real interaction. I think people try to find a way to connect to a major event if they can, whatever it is. In my case it certainly wasn't much, but it was this.

We here know Dyson for his skepticism of manmade climate change. I was surprised to read how staunchly he put forth his position in this GWPF document. Sadly, to me it reads like the thoughts of a very old scientist who could only think that CO2 is good for plants! without thinking deeper, while complaining about the young guns had dared to come to a different conclusion than he did. Of course, Dyson himself was once a young gun, and we know that it's the young guns who are right -- they always are -- and it's kind of sad that Dyson didn't have enough wisdom to understand that.

As they say science advances one funeral at a time, and that seems especially true here. Not that Dyson was ever a significant player in climate science. I remember him saying this a decade ago:
 “[m]y objections to the global warming propaganda are not so much over the technical facts, about which I do not know much, but it’s rather against the way those people behave and the kind of intolerance to criticism that a lot of them have.”

- Freeman Dyson, Yale Environment 360, June 4, 2009
I think this pretty much says it all.

Friday Sundries

US stock markets were down $4.0 trillion this week (-11.6%), going by the Wilshire 5000, whose number is approximately equal to the worth of US markets in billions of dollars.

Wow: Bushfires burned a fifth of Australia's forest. []

A "truckload" of plastic enters the ocean every minute.

National Review is whining about Michael Mann again. Just a thought, but maybe their know-nothing writer shouldn't have libeled him in the first place.

The West Coast is turning blue. Onward to Ecotopia.

In the Florida Keys: In a presentation shown to Monroe County Commissioners last week, the Army Corps of Engineers outlined a $3 billion strategy to protect the Keys. The only new construction measure considered is adding additional rocks on either side of U.S. in six key spots. The rest of the plan is a combination of elevating homes, businesses and essential buildings and "retreat" in the form of government-funded buyouts.

A key question, of course, is how long will this solution last for, since sea level is only going to keep rising, faster and faster. I understand why those living in the Florida Keys (or anywhere) don't want to give up their homes, but they need to know (and probably do, in the back of their minds) that it's inevitable. I think it's pretty clear that the US government, viz. taxpayers, will eventually buy out the value of their homes -- which will likely become uninsurable first. After they lose insurance they'll be forced to take what the government is offering, which I don't think will set them back any.

Did you know -- Martin Luther King Jr's mother was also assassinated?

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Coronavirus Outside China

It's increasing exponentially. That's assuming the case count in China is accurate, which is perhaps doubtful either because of their regime's secrecy or because cases get difficult to count when the numbers explode.

Johns Hopkins University

World Health Organization

Your Coronavirus Czar

And this isn't (by far) the worst of it.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Recent Papers

Some papers just out that look interesting:

"New Generation of Climate Models Track Recent Unprecedented Changes in Earth's Radiation Budget Observed by CERES," Norman G. Loeb et al, JGR, 18 February 2020.

This looks important -- it compares observed "top‐of‐atmosphere (TOA) radiative fluxes observed by the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System (CERES)" and validates model results -- but it's only available as a Word document right now (it's not yet been typeset for the journal).


"Long‐term impacts of permafrost thaw on carbon storage in peatlands: deep losses offset by surficial accumulation," Liam Heffernan et al, JGR, 19 February 2020.

This also seems like an important paper. It says the carbon emitted from permafrost thaw is probably offset by carbon uptake by new moss growing on the thawed surface. More specifically, their result for 200 years of thaw spans zero:
"Our approach constrains the net carbon balance to be between uptake of 27.3 g C m‐2 yr‐1 and loss of 106.6 g C m‐2 yr‐1 over 200 years post‐thaw."

"Impact of Changes to the Atmospheric Soluble Iron Deposition Flux on Ocean Biogeochemical Cycles in the Anthropocene," Douglas S. Hamilton et al, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 20 February 2020.

Fertilizing the ocean with iron, often discussed in geoengineering circles, seems to have little effect on the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and hence on global warming.

Here's a press release from MIT:


Last August a volcanic eruption in the Tonga Islands formed a 195 sq km pumice raft (75 sq miles), or (if square) 8-9 miles on a side!


"Rapid warming in summer wet bulb globe temperature in China with human-induced climate change," Chao Li et al, Journal of Climate, 21 February 2020.

"Observation-constrained projections of future summer mean WBGT under the RCP8.5 emissions scenario indicate that, by the 2040s, almost every summer in China will be at least as hot as the hottest summer in the historical record, and by the 2060s, common summers (that occur once every 2 years) will be even 3.0 °C hotter than the historical record, pointing to potentially large increases in the likelihood of human heat stress and to a massive adaption challenge."

...though many people are now saying RCP 8.5 is too high for what the future holds. Still.

Read Jennifer Rubin's latest column

This is a very intelligent column by Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post, on what Democrats should do to avoid committing political suicide (also known as 'nominating Bernie Sanders'). It's worth reading.

(To be clear, I'm not a Democrat -- I've never been a member of any political party. [Here in Oregon that's called "unaffiliated," because there is an actual party called the Independence party. Boo on them.] But I think this coming election really is the most important of our lifetime, that Democrats are completely blowin it, and Trump will annihilate Sanders in the November election. It's really a shame.)

Friday, February 21, 2020

The Democratic Weather

Wow, US Coal Production is in a Dive

Think Trump will address this?

Boston Sea Level Acceleration

Some people were commenting on this post about Boston sea level acceleration. Tamino didn't calculate acceleration, but here's what I get, though without any error bars. (I haven't done this before in Excel, so I don't have a spreadsheet I can just plug data into.) This is the acceleration from any date (x axis) onward to the latest value (here, Dec 2019):

So (cherry picking), since about 1970, the acceleration has been about 0.2 mm/yr2. Also about the same since 1996, though obviously with bigger error bars, whatever they are.


"Truth . . . is much too complicated to allow for anything but approximations."

John van Neumann

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Today's Thoughts

Elizabeth Warren appears to be losing her voice (I'm watching her being interviewed on MSNBC right now (5:01 pm PST)). Not good. I think her voice is one of her weakest attributes, even before today -- it's thready and weak. Sure, it's not the be all and end all of a candidate. Maybe I'm not enough of a feminist. But it's not nothing, either. (I don't think she could beat Trump, anyway. Or Bernie Sanders! My god, old socialist Bernie Sanders. Trump will clean his clock.)

Note added 8:10 pm PDT - I was clearly wrong about Warren's voice. Sorry. But I still think Trump would clean her clock too.

Here we go again: Oregon senate Republicans are preparing to leave the state to avoid a quorum on the second cap-and-trade bill to be entered by senate Democrats, even though this bill has some changes to appease them. They're being secretive about where they're going, but you can be sure it's someplace where there's no human-produced CO2, so they can continue to ignore the fact that a big problem exists. I hope the towns & counties they represent never come asking for aid of any sort due to problems from climate change.

And, Oregon Democrats (including the governor) could make history by putting forth a carbon tax and dividend plan. It's so bleeding obvious. Many of people in Oregon's red districts (basically, those east of the peaks of the Cascade Mountains) would get back more money than they paid out. But politicians just can't keep their hands off the money a carbon tax would bring in.
The IRI's forecast for ENSO is warm-neutral sea surface temperatures for spring, and neutral SSTs for summer (viz, ~0 SST anomalies).
Boston is going to spend $30 million per year to deal with their sea level rise. And, yes, they have serious SLR. Here are the sea level data for Boston. (Main page.) I find the same overall trend as NOAA in the figure below. According to my calculations, the linear trend shows 8.3 inches of sea level rise from 1921 to 2000, and 4.4 inches since 2000. So I believe the numbers in the article. (Even though these two numbers don't prove it -- why should they? -- the acceleration of the overall data since 1921 is exactly zero.)

Monday, February 17, 2020

The World is Getting Better

"Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory."

- Franklin Pierce Adams
This is an interesting talk by Steven Pinker (who reminds me a lot of Rob Lowe, or at least the characters he plays). Lots of metrics are getting better. So why don't we feel better? (Well, maybe you do. I'm not sure about myself.) Here's an interesting idea -- the breakup of the nuclear and extended family. At least in the US.

Addressing climate change is to see that these metrics keep declining and avoid the opposite.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The Denial You See Now, It's Hard to Even Take Its Measure

In the wonderfully written novel and movie No Country for Old Mean, Tommy Lee Jones, playing a weary Texas sheriff on the edge of defeat, says in narration:
"The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure."
You might say the same about climate denial.

(OK, a bit of a corny intro.)

I mean, even though it's warmer than ever, with records being set all the time now, some people utterly ignore them and continue to deny everything.

Like Tony Heller. And like Oregon hyperdenier Chuck Wiese.

I've come across Wiese a time or two. Recently he spoke at a protest rally in Salem organized by Timber Unity, who object (again) to the cap-and-trade program Oregon Democrats are taking a second run at. (This version has some carve-outs for conservative/poor counties, among a few other changes.) At a rally at the statehouse
Mr. Wiese announced to the crowd that “CO2 does not cause the climate to change. It has no ability to do that.”
This is such a huge blatant deceptive lie it is indeed hard to even take its measure. It's denying the basic facts about the light CO2 absorbs. It reminds one of Hitler's view of colossal lies. (I'm not calling anyone a Nazi, just comparing tactics.)

Weise has a B.S. in meteorology (and post Tyndall and post Arrhenius!). About the only way to deepen this shitpile of misunderstanding is to claim that CO2 doesn't exist at all.

From what I have been able to follow of Weise's view, he says there is no proof that CO2 warms "over the entire hydrological system." He's never defined what that means (I've asked), or said how he knows it's not true, or even how he measures it. My guess is that he means the water vapor and clouds shift as CO2 increases to lead to no net forcing. But that's just my guess. To be honest I don't think he knows what he means either.

CO2 is sending more energy downward (Feldman+ 2015). The greenhouse effect is increasing, as measured at the top and bottom of the atmosphere. Atmospheric water vapor is increasing. The cloud feedback is very probably positive.

I once asked Weise what's causing all this warming, and he said he didn't know. He asked me what I will say next decade when it starts cooling.

Weise also seems to think that a (very good) physicist named Walter Elassser proved that (as far as I can tell) water vapor means there is no room left for CO2 warming. From what I've learned Elsasser came up with equations to approximate the spectral line widths of GHG absorption frequencies in order to calculate with them, as in this 1942 textbook. But that was made irrelevant with numerical computer calculations. I once asked a prominent climate scientist (not MM) what he thought of Elsasser's work, and he said he'd never heard of him. But it seems Weise read about Elsasser's work as an undergraduate and now, 40-50 years later, can't imagine that science has moved on since then.

Hopefully Weise will see this post and come here to explain himself. He'll do so full of anger and vitriol, which he's been full of every time I've ever encountered him. As always, he'll say I'm the dishonest one. (Just watch.)

CO2 has no ability to affect climate, and I'm the deluded one.

From the Department of Record-Breaking Temperatures

While UAH measured the lower troposphere to be the warmest January in their records, RSS says it is the second-warmest.

Still, the total warming calculated from RSS LT data since Jan 1979, 0.86°C, is 58% higher than from UAH LT.

The Japan Meteorological Association finds January to be warmest January in their record, which starts in 1891. (This is for the global mean surface temperature.) GISS does as well.

NOAA's anomaly for land-only mean surface temperature for January was +2.12°C relative to the 1901-2000 average. That's 3.82°F.... Its only the fourth monthly anomaly above 2°C -- the record was +2.53°C in 3/2016. If their total land warming doesn't surpass 3°F this year, it will next year -- in just the last 10 years it's up 0.5°C.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

NOAA: Warmest January in the Record

Just out from NOAA (for global average surface temperature):

0.02°C above 2016, which of course had an El Nino going on.

NOAA says:
The four warmest Januaries documented in the climate record have occurred since 2016; the 10 warmest have all occurred since 2002.
Six-months into an ENSO-neutral season, this is easily the warmest neutral year on record (0.27°C above the previous record holder season of 2013-2014.)

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Two Sweet SciFi Movies

I watched two sci-fi movies recently that, if I weren't a man concerned about my masculinity, I'd describe as "sweet."

But I have to say that they were indeed both sweet.

One was Seat 25, about a young woman who wins a contest whose award is the last seat on a one-way trip to live on Mars. Available on Amazon Prime.

The other I watched several weeks ago, but it has still stuck with me, and I'm not even sure why. [OK, one reason is I have always had a thing for blondes with short hair.] But it's more than that -- it's a very sweet, simple, even elegant movie: Everything Beautiful Is Far Away. A little gem.

Both 4 stars or higher, IMHO.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020


"Capitalism forgets that life is social."

-- Martin Luther King Jr. 

Global CO2 Emissions Flat in 2019

This is surprising to me, at least: the IEA says global CO2 emissions were flat in 2019, compared to 2018 -- "about" 33 billion tonnes.

No word on emissions due to land use changes. Those data usually come out much later, and not as systematically. But they never contain large changes.
The IEA said that emissions from coal -- the most polluting fossil fuel -- fell nearly 200 million tonnes, around 1.3 percent from 2018 levels. This was largely offset by increases in emissions from oil and natural gas, however.
This when 2019 global economic growth was +2.9%. (I'm surprised anyone can figure this out so quickly; like the US GDP, it will surely be subject to revisions, though for the US those aren't usually more than a few tenths of a percentage point. So maybe.)

Here are some thoughts from the Chief Economist of the IEA.

That the decrease is from coal is important -- it means less traditional pollutants from burning coal, which is what really kills people. I suspect some paper by Drew Shindell would tell us how many statistical lives have been saved.

US emissions are said to be 2.9% less than 2018. (Now watch Trump take credit for that.)
The International Energy Agency (IEA) found that the U.S. decline was the largest, at 140 million tonnes, of any country. It also noted that since 2000, U.S. emissions have decreased nearly one gigatonne.

"A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019," the report said.
This doesn't seem unbelievable to me. As of October 2019, the 12 month moving average in US CO2 emissions was down 1.9%. Given that, and the weather since, I think it would be fairly easy to model the number for the whole of 2019.

As of October, US CO2 2019 year-to-date was down 2.5% from 2018 YTD. Again, not too difficult to extrapolate that if that's your job.

Thoughts on COVID-19

Standard & Poor's, who rate investment market participants, says the coronavirus "will reduce US GDP growth in the first quarter to just 1 percent, down from a previous forecast of 2.2 percent."

That's huge, considering how much wider the virus could spread. (Hopefully it's enough to damage Trump's reelection chances.) They say "the impact could be more or less severe depending on the longevity and intensity of the outbreak...."

Here are the numbers for coronavirus cases, which is now officially called Covid-19:

Exponential growth is over (if you can believe the numbers). The polynomial fit is a quadratic.

Can we believe the numbers, especially out of China? (China's cases represent 99% of global cases being reported.) But you as well as I have read about Chinese patients roaming around their city sick, turned away at hospital after hospital, only to ultimately be rejected and going home to convalesce there. Only hospital admissions are being counted in China, not any of the rejected.

If that doesn't sound like something right out of The Stand, complete with cold weather in a heavily polluted city, I don't know what does.

Somewhere I can't now find the link to said the mortality rate of this coronavirus is 1%. Maybe that's true if the official statistics are too light. But here's what I find for total deaths as a percentage of total cases -- it's rising:

It is a shame -- and maybe a dangerous shame -- that the world can't count on China to be truthful about what they're up against -- about what is on the verge of becoming a global pandemic.


Besides this, I can't believe the Democrats are so stupid as to nominate Sanders to take on Trump in November. He will get his clock thoroughly cleaned in what really is the most important election of a generation. Same for Buttigieg.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Sunday, February 09, 2020

Patrick Moore, Professional Blockhead

As was pointed out in the comments (thanks), Patrick Moore was disinvited from speaking at the sustainability conference in Regina. He took it like a...child:
For good measure, he then tweeted a "satellite photograph" to question the existence of the Pacific Ocean garbage patch:

except as people quickly pointed out, satellite images don't have a Mercator projection, it's extremely unlikely a satellite image of such a large area would have no clouds whatsoever (compare), and satellite images don't show seamounts. Duh.

A video by Peter Hadfield explains some of the many, many errors of Patrick Moore. (Thanks Steve.)

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Michael Pollan on Coffee

Michael Pollan says,
“Something like 90 percent of humans ingest caffeine regularly, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world and the only one we routinely give to children, commonly in the form of soda. It’s so pervasive that it’s easy to overlook the fact that to be caffeinated is not baseline consciousness but, in fact, is an altered state.” 
in a WaPo interview about his new audiobook.

I rarely drink coffee, and not at all when I was younger. I've never gotten a "buzz" from drinking coffee, as far as I can tell. I guess I lack the right allele of the gene CYP1A2, "which controls an enzyme – also called CYP1A2 – that determines how quickly our bodies break down caffeine." If I do drink a cup, which sometimes I do lately for a little more energy in the afternoon or early evening (so caffeine's effect on me isn't zero), I don't drink more than one or else I don't feel right -- not nauseous, exactly, just unpleasant. Pollan does warn that it's disrupted sleep throughout history, and its cultivation once required a lot of slave labor. And this is interesting:
“I think there is a kind of bias against drugs that interfere with the smooth working of the economic machine,” the author says. “As soon as you get into jobs that involve machines or numbers, alcohol is a challenge. And we did try to ban alcohol, without success. I just think it’s too deeply rooted in everyday life to take it on. But in general, you find that the drugs that increase productivity are the ones that are most supported in our society.”
which would be caffeine, aspirin, NSAIDS, Ritalin et al, sleep medications, No Doze.... Others?

This NY Times article from 2016 has a lot of interesting content about genes and caffeine.

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

Patrick Moore Gets $10,000 to Deny Climate Science

That's what the city of Regina, Canada is paying him to speak at its upcoming sustainability conference. Plus $1,400 in expenses.

Idiots both.

PS: Recall that Patrick Moore
  • did not (co)found Greenpeace,
  • wrote a 2006 op-ed published in the Washington Post that, when he was working in PR for the nuclear industry warned about "catastrophic climate change" from "CO2, the primary greenhouse gas responsible for climate change" 
  • then years later made the fabulastic claim that "the editor put words in my mouth" (to which he apparently never complained), and
  • made a fool of himself by refusing to drink glyphosphate (the weed killer "Roundup" produced by Monsanto) after saying "you can drink a whole quart of it and it won't hurt you."
In other words, Patrick Moore is a corporate whore.

Temperatures Still at a Record Pace

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Funny/Sad Exchange in Australia

Michael Mann is in Australia for a sabbatical -- prescience or luck? -- and was on a talk show there yesterday. Here's an interesting/sad/funny/infuriating exchange between him and an Australian politician, Jim Molan from the Liberal Party, the major center-right party there: