Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Books I Read This Year

I thought I'd list the books I read in 2021. My goal is always to read a book a week, but I never succeed -- this year I read 27, which is lower than last year's 32. I try to read a diverse selection, including nonfiction (N) and fiction (F); over the years 56% of the books I've read have been nonfiction. A few things here I read were to write reviews for Physics World: Seven Pillars of Science, Lightspeed, and (coming) A Quantum Life. After the authors I list the year of publications.

I've highlighted in bright yellow books I absolutely loved, and in light yellow books I thoroughly enjoyed. The Ministry for the Future was unique sci fi and I think would be quite appealing to anyone who closely follows climate issues. Tenth of December is a book of short stories from George Saunders, who has a wild imagination--the stories were a joy to read, and one in particular still quite memorable. And The Overstory by Richard Powers is simply one of the best novels I have ever read. It's a book about trees, and I'm still thinking about some of them, and the people who were involved with them. It's a remarkable book and I highly recommend it to everyone, especially those with an environmentalist bent. I cried more than once while reading it, and I'm actually getting a tear in the corner of my eye right now. I'm not even sure why--that's the beauty and power (and mystery) of this book. At least it was to me.

I'm interested in hearing what books you loved this year and would recommend.  

Just A Nice Chart

Earth's average global surface temperature compared to total radiative energy from the Sun. Diverging.


Friday, December 24, 2021

Didion Quote

“I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.”

-- Joan Didion, On Keeping a Notebook

Didion died on Thursday at age 87.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Omicron Less Severe Than Delta, But More Contagious

So it appears, based on a preliminary study in Scotland, that the omicron variant of COVID is more transmissible but less severe than the delta variant.

Perhaps good news for individuals, but bad news for hospitals.

From the Washington Post, about a study conducted in Scotland with apparently a population with characteristics close to the US:

The study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, found that people infected with the omicron variant were almost 60 percent less likely to enter the hospital than those infected with delta, the globally dominant variant is being eclipsed rapidly.

The Scottish scientists said that recently vaccinated people appear to have some protection against symptomatic infection from omicron but less so than against delta. A third dose or booster of an mRNA vaccine was associated with a 57 percent reduction in the odds of developing symptomatic covid-19. Boosters gave better protection against the delta variant — more than 80 percent.


That group, led by Neil Ferguson, reported that those infected by omicron were 15 to 20 percent less likely to go to an emergency room with severe symptoms and 40 percent less likely to be hospitalized overnight, when compared with those infected by delta.

But they say the numbers are too small to reach definitive conclusions.

Still, those aren't odds I'm interested in playing. The unvaccinated clearly don't care anyway, but will no doubt use this as justification to stay unvaccinated, even though many of them will still die.


Ferguson also urged caution.

“Our analysis shows evidence of a moderate reduction in the risk of hospitalization associated with the omicron variant compared with the delta variant,” he said. “However, this appears to be offset by the reduced efficacy of vaccines against infection with the omicron variant.”

Ferguson stressed that given the high transmissibility of the omicron variant, “there remains the potential for health services to face increasing demand if omicron cases continue to grow at the rate that has been seen in recent weeks.”

To my surprise, new US COVID cases on Tuesday were down from Monday, 189,030 compared to 276,389. But they'll be higher today. We'll see how much higher. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

"Don't Look Up" Trailer

This actually looks like it might be pretty good:

Yesterday Saw Second-Highest Case Count in the Pandemic

Yesterday saw the second-highest number of new recorded COVID cases since the start of the pandemic, lagging only last winter's peak in the (uses fingers to count) third wave. I suspect today will set a record. On NPR this morning Fauci said this will likely peak sometime in January -- I forget if he gave a more precise time -- then decline just as fast. I wonder now if we aren't all going to get COVID by then. The hospitals are going to be a mess, if they aren't already. As in, you won't be able to get into one if you need to. I'm really starting to fear what's coming in the next few weeks -- it could be unprecedented. 

The New York Times says most new infections may soon be breakthroughs, that is, in the vaccinated, especially the unboosted. In the US, 61% are vaccinated (2 shots) but only 28% are boosted (3 shots). 

But with Omicron, being fully vaccinated does not appear to provide the same level of protection, in terms of infection and transmission. While the vaccinated still appear likely to avoid serious illness, there remains a risk they will experience symptoms. They may also pass the virus to someone else.

With the ability to spread widely and quickly, Omicron is poised to become the dominant variant. It’s unclear how severe or mild Omicron is for someone who has not been vaccinated and thus has no coronavirus immunity. In the United States data suggest that around 61 percent of Americans of all ages are fully vaccinated. There are millions of Americans who are not vaccinated.

Hospitals are already overburdened by Delta patients, and the consequences of many infections in a short period will be increasingly deadly. Even cases among the vaccinated can still lead to long Covid.

Fortunately, there’s mounting evidence that a third shot, which the Food and Drug Administration authorized in November for all adults, can increase people’s defenses. But only around 28 percent of Americans have received a booster.

From the Washington Post:

Monday, December 20, 2021

Hope in the U.S. Terminal Decline

The Omicron Surge

Seems like it's time to start worrying seriously about COVID numbers again, doesn't it? And getting serious about precautions. Again. I've gotten lax about washing my hands when I get home. We all still wear masks indoors here in Oregon -- haven't stopped since March 2020, and compliance is near 100% around here, in blue Oregon.

You hear that the omicron variant is more contagious but causes a less serious illness than the delta variant, but I am doubting that. After reading this excellent NPR article, it seems that conclusion was based on a large South African study where most participants had some prior exposure to COVID and thus had built up some natural immunity. That's unlikely to be the case in the US and Europe for the unvaccinated. So there may be some big surprises in store for them. As the graph below shows, already Denmark and the UK are getting slammed, highly vaccinated countries you'd think would have a handle on COVID by now. (Admittedly I cherry picked these two countries for their extreme and growing rates. That's the point.) Omicron is surging in the northeast US, and in Washington DC, and hospitals are getting slammed and in some cases at capacity. Check out this Sunday newspaper ad by Cleveland area hospitals. Being vaccinated and boosted, to me that's the scary part -- hospitals being so overwhelmed they can't take care of non-COVID patients who need emergency care or surgeries they have scheduled. (Of course, I'm fear getting COVID, too.) And for that I directly blame the selfish people who refuse to get vaccinated. It's absurd and I simply can't understand their objections, given the consequences of getting the disease and the risk they pose to society. It really seems like something in the water supply has removed rationality from a third of the people in this country. 

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Save of the Year (Perhaps)

Malcolm Subban of the Buffalo Sabres, Friday night against the Penguins. Even Subban doesn't know what he did, let alone how.
Penguins still won 3-2 so it was OK.

Malcolm is younger brother of NJ Devils excellent defenseman and all-around rapscallion P.K. Subban. There's a still younger brother, Jordan, not yet at the NHL level. All play defense.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Einstein Quote

"I must seek in the stars what was denied to me on earth." 

-- Albert Einstein, in a letter to his secretary and lover, Betty Neumann, in 1924 

via A Quantum Life by Hakeem Oluseyi

Monday, December 13, 2021

NOAA: Fourth-Warmest November

Total global warming according to NOAA is now 1.09°C (via linear regression)

Friday, December 10, 2021

A Unique NHL Goal?

This alley-oop goal may be the most unique goal ever recorded in NHL history. It was scored Friday night by the Anaheim Duck's Sonny Milano, with the assist, the unique part, the alley oop, by Trevor Zegras. Watch afterward, even they can't believe they pulled it off:

The announcers get it wrong, missing that Milano batted the puck in. The goalies and defense looked stunned and confused. Zegras and Milano can't quite believe it.


A "Michigan" goal, also called a "Michigan lacrosse goal," is where a player scoops the puck up and whips it around the goal and in next to the goalie's head:

It's still rare, but becoming more frequently seen in recent years. Some people call it the "Sidney Crosby goal," because Crosby did it in the minor leagues as a 16-year old when he played for Rimouski Oceanic, though apparently he didn't invent it:

He's only tried it rarely in the NHL though, like here last season:

Some pros don't like it, some do, some won't try it. Young kids are the ones going for it -- in the top video, note that Trevor Zegras is only 20 years old, in only his second NHL season.

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Swarm of Moderate Earthquakes Off Oregon Coast

Starting about 1:30 pm Pacific Time yesterday there have been a swarm earthquakes off the Oregon Coast. I get alerts from the USGS Earthquakes Hazard Program and so far there have been 27 of magnitude 4.5 or greater, with the highest M5.8 (twice). 

No tsunamis are expected or have been reported, according to EarthSky. They quote an ex-AP science writer who lives on the Oregon coast:

As of 7:05 a.m. PST [15:05 UTC on December 8], there were 56 quakes in the swarm, 13 of which were 5.0 to 5.8 magnitude.

Probably means nothing... except here we're all waiting for the M9+ that will probably devastate this entire region. Oh boy. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Nice Chess Writing

Maybe you know, but the World Chess Championship is taking place is Dubai right now, the defending champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway against Russian grandmaster challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi. Through eight games, Carlsen was up by 2 points. 

Here is how Oliver Roeder introduced his article about game 9 for, which I think is just beautiful:

Wonderful writing. 

However Nepomniachtchi lost game 9, and it's now clear Carlsen will retain his title. Carlsen just turned 31 on Nov 30. He was ranked #1 in the world at age 19, and became world chess champion in 2013 at age 22. (Only Gary Kasparov was younger, by about 5 months.) 

The current game 6 was the longest world championship game in history, 136 moves. It seems most think it wiped Nepo out psychologically, and perhaps physically as well.

Match is best of 14 games, with Carlsen now up 6-3. So the result seems to be a given at this point. I wish Carlsen, with his good looks and cool Gen Z personality, was bringing some growth to chess in the US, but we're probably too fucked up of country to hope for that now.

* I was chess champion of my high school, way back when we still dressed halfway decently and the world still had hope, except for the fear of global nuclear war and the end of all life on Earth. Also won a round robin tournament in my hometown among about 50 people when I was 16, beating a bunch of old men (viz. those now my age) and a too-smart little 13-year old Asian kid in the last game, for the tournament win, when everyone else was looking in over our shoulders, when he made a tiny mistake (I thought) around move 11 and I thought for 20 minutes, all those people hovering over us, then moved deep into his territory and tore him apart in a couple more moves. Maybe one of the best moments of my life. You know how those are, when you're 16. Wish I still had my written record of the game. My parents picked me up and I had a trophy and they didn't even notice or ask about it, and me, being 16, didn't say a thing.

Chuck Wiese Was Even Dumber Than I Thought

Awhile back I corrected Chuck Wiese for making the claim that the monstrous late June Pacific Northwest heat wave, which here peaked at 117°F (47.2°C), was natural. 

An ex-TV meteorologist, not a scientist, with only a B.S., his analysis included some bad physics based on a misunderstanding of the nature of blackbodies.

Actual scientists, doing real scientific analysis, concluded, not surprisingly, that the worst heat wave in the history of the world included a significant anthropogenic component: "It was almost impossible for the temperatures seen recently in the Pacific North West heatwave to have occurred without global warming."

In his usual fashion, Wiese responded with a fusillade of insults indicative of his uncertainties and insecurities. It wasn't pleasant to dig through his verbal crap -- no doubt its intended purpose -- but now that I have it's clear he only dug his hole deeper. 

Wiese wrote:

I have stated that the 15 micron band which composes the Q-branch of its radiation behaves nearly as a black body over that narrow range of wavelength where the absorption coefficients are very high similar to black body radiation.

Let's recall, yet again: a blackbody is one that absorbs all radiation incident upon it.

So a single band, like the 15-micron band, cannot behave "nearly as a black body." Period. It doesn't absorb all radiation, it only absorbs 15-micron radiation. End of story. So blackbody equations do not apply to it. 

Wiese just doesn't know what he's talking about.

And this is hardly the only reason why his analysis was ridiculous and nuts. 

The worst heat wave ever occurred (well, a 1000-year weather event) because of humans. It killed over 1,000 people. I doubt someone like Wiese cares -- for him they're just fodder in his culture war. But he was wrong. And he has to face that, and will one day or another. 

Why? Because things are not going to be getting any better.

Stunning Image From Mars

An image of the Maria Gordon notch on Mars from the Curiosity rover. The cliff on the right is 12 meters high.... I almost feel like I've hiked through here somewhere in Arizona.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Knowing the Future One Second Ahead

Lots I should be blogging about, but for the moment this will have to do: a goalie who knows where the shoots are going a second before the other team shoots them.

Monday, November 22, 2021


Try to hold down your breakfast.

Friday, November 19, 2021

About Gas Prices

Paul Krugman posted a graph that I wish I had thought of:

Everyone is complaining that gas prices are high, and they are for the last few years, but they really aren't for the last 10 years or so, when adjusted for inflation:

This is weekly data on gas prices from EIA's This Week in Petroleum, adjusted for inflation via the Consumer Price Index. Gas prices were high during the Bush Jr administration -- probably a feature, not a bug -- and then after the financial crisis. 

But it appears, from Krugman's graph, that presidents don't have much, if any, influence on gas prices -- they're set quite deterministically from the price of oil. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

NASA GISS: 4th Warmest October; Warmest on Land

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Frustrations and Highlights

Superstar Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins is having a rough start to the NHL season. He needed wrist surgery right before the preseason started, missing several of the first regular season games, then after one game back got COVID and missed several more games. In his first game back, down 5-1 to the Washington Capitals on Sunday night, he took out his frustration on Capitals defenseman Martin Fehervary:

No penalty called on Crosby, nor did the NHL Department of Player Safety fine or suspend him. In fairness, Crosby gets pummeled on plenty and it only gets noticed when he fights back. The days of goons and enforcers who once protected the likes of Wayne Gretzky are long gone.

I wish my job had some similar outlet for my frustrations.

A couple other highlights from Sunday.

Connor McDavid doing the kind of thing Sidney Crosby used to do:

and an amazing save from Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy:

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Divergence of Lower Troposphere Warming Measurements

This is a graph of the difference in warming of the lower troposphere as measured by the RSS research group compared to UAH (University of Alabama at Huntsville). The divergence continues to widen. 

The quality/resolution of the graph is terrible, unless you click on it. I'm posting this also so I can complain about it on the Blogger Forum. Not that I expect them to change. Why show a low resolution figure when clearly they store the full resolution image? I don't get it. Wish I could easily transition my blog to another platform -- Wordpress I guess -- but by now I have over 15 years of posts.

Sorry for whining. This is dispiriting.

Friday, November 12, 2021

The Business of America

 Calvin Coolidge said  “The business of America is business!” He didn't say its business is people. 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Greta Didn't Invent "Blah Blah Blah"

Greta Thunberg has received a lot of attention for her "blah blah blah" admonition towards those negotiating climate agreements -- not without cause -- and, my favorite, some activists have taken to calling the diplomats "bleaders." Sounds sheep-like, too. Nice.

But it turns out "blah blah blah" isn't original with Thunberg -- it goes all the way back to COP1, the first Conference of the Parties in Berlin in 1995. This is from How to Blow Up a Pipeline by Andreas Malm:

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Tuvalu Addresses COP26

Of course, we're all supposed to accept this a necessary for our lifestyle:

Some Basic Evidence for Manmade Climate Change

I think it's often worth pointing out evidence of basic predictions and expectations for anthropogenic climate change, and here are a couple, both from "Vapor Storms" by Jennifer Francis in the November 2021 issue of Scientific American:

The increase in water vapor, as a result of a warmer atmosphere:

By the way, there's 1.27e16 kg of water vapor in the atmosphere, on average, or an average of 24.9 kg/m2. (That's 0.25% of the atmosphere's mass, or 3,970 ppm by mole. Interestingly, that's only equivalent to 2.5 cm (1 inch) of equivalent sea level rise.) So an increase of about 0.9 kg/m2 (as it looks from the graph, weighting between land an ocean) is 3.6%. Half the predicted 7% per °C of warming predicted by the Clausius-Claperyon equation. Not sure why. 

Increase in extreme rainfall in the US:

Source for both: Jennifer Francis, "Vapor Storms," Scientific American 325, 5, 26-33 (November 2021). http://doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1121-26.

Monday, November 01, 2021

Insult from World Leaders at Trevi Fountain

I'm sorry, but this little gesture is pretty damn stupid and insulting. These leaders of the free world have more power than anyone, at least nominally. Why do they need "luck" to address climate change? They need to use their power to bring forth initiatives, policies, regulations and laws!

Also, whatever media handlers allowed this episode and photograph should be fired. What a dumb message it sends.

Yes I know about the Trevi Foundation tradition (though it's not for luck).

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Florida's Surgeon General LOL

Florida's Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo won't say if he's vaccinated against COVID-19.

That's how far Republicans are going to make political hay out of the pandemic. Because that's all they're doing.

History will record these people as not just fools, but malicious, craven fools. I kind of wish I had the chance to write it.

But at least someone has rightly told him to go to hell:

Ladapo’s pass on his own vaccination status comes after state Sen. Tina Polsky (D-Boca Raton) kicked him out of her office last week for refusing to wear a face mask. Polsky announced in August her battle with stage 1 breast cancer. Florida Politics was the first to report that she told Ladapo and two of his Florida Department of Health aides to leave after they refused to don masks during a meeting inside the Capitol last week.

About That $100 Billion a Year

I got something wrong a few days ago, about developed countries pledging $100 billion in climate aid to developing countries via COP.

It's $100 billion total, for all countries, not per country.

That makes a lot more sense.

From Bloomberg Green:

A blueprint for how developed countries will contribute $100 billion a year to poor nations confronting climate change is set to be unveiled on Monday despite objections from the U.S. and other nations that almost derailed the announcement.

The plan is seen as critical to the success of the United Nations COP26 climate summit scheduled to begin Oct. 31 in Glasgow, Scotland. Rich nations have fallen short of their 2009 pledge to collectively deliver $100 billion annually to help poor countries confront climate change, shift to clean energy and build resilience. And without more money, some developing nations, such as Bangladesh and Indonesia, have said they can’t step up their climate pledges.

Developed countries were roughly $20 billion below the $100 billion target in 2019, the last year for which totals have been released.

The U.S. had objected to a plan to make up for shortfalls in previous donations with higher contributions in future years, according to three people familiar with the matter who asked for anonymity to describe private negotiations. Details of how the matter was settled weren’t immediately available but the people confirmed that an announcement, which had been expected this week, would be made Monday....

President Joe Biden last month committed the U.S. to provide $11.4 billion in climate finance annually by 2024. And Congress is on track to spend between $2.8 billion and $3.1 billion on climate finance in fiscal 2022. Yet that still leaves the U.S. lagging well behind other developed nations in meeting its share of the target.

Whether -- and how -- to account for continued shortfalls this year and last so that finance still reaches a $100 billion annual average between 2020 and 2025 has been a major sticking point in negotiations, said the people. The U.S. was among nations concerned about the ability of the group to collectively increase contributions in future years to compensate, the people said.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

1.5°C Limit Requires Unprecedented Fossil Fuel Declines

To limit warming to 1.5°C fossil fuel use must decline at unprecedented rates. Cell Press:

Limiting climate change to the 1.5°C target set by the Paris Climate Agreement will likely require coal and gas power use to decline at rates that are unprecedented for any large country, an analysis of decadal episodes of fossil fuel decline in 105 countries between 1960 and 2018 shows. Furthermore, the findings, published October 22 in the journal One Earth, suggest that the most rapid historical cases of fossil fuel decline occurred when oil was replaced by coal, gas, or nuclear power in response to energy security threats of the 1970s and the 1980s....

"We also studied recent political pledges to completely phase out coal power, which some 30 countries made as part of the Powering Past Coal Alliance. We found that these pledges do not aim for faster coal decline than what has occurred historically.... In other words, they plan for largely business as usual."

Who believes that's going to happen?

There just haven't been near enough shocking disasters from climate change yet, especially in the developed world, to change the lock corporations have on governments. (1,000 dead in the Pacific Northwest heat wave? Scoff. 3,000 dead in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria? Just throw them paper towels!) 

COP26 is surely going to end with a pledge or plan to limit warming to 1.5°C, and they're going to lose credibility by doing so.

A book I'm reading how, How to Blow Up a Pipeline by Andreas Malm, argues that no great societal transition has come without violence and even political terrorism and that the pacifism of the climate movement isn't working near fast enough and it additionally adopt some new tactics -- property sabotage, violence against property. Malm cites the ways that slavery ended in the US, how women's suffrage was won in the UK, the civil rights movement in the US, and the Poll Tax Riots against Margaret Thatcher's 1990 Community Charge. You could add the eco-terrorism in the Pacific Northwest to save indigenous species, some of which is still going on.

Malm is calling for sabatoge against property, not violence against people (such as in the plot, albeit fiction, of Kim Stanley Robinson's The Ministry of the Future.) 

Malm's book was published in 2018, before Greta Thunberg and the massive youth climate protests that have taken place. Wikipedia says, "However, after the start of Fridays For Future in 2018 and the spread of climate protest camps in Germany and throughout Europe in 2019, Malm described feeling 'elated and encouraged by the wave of activism' but frustrated by the climate movement's "strict commitment to absolute nonviolence." 

It's an interesting and thought provoking book and I'm only 1/3rd of the way through, and looking forward to reading the rest.

COP26 starts in a week, but of course they're already getting their ducks lined up, or trying to.

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Key Goals of COP26: Any Hope?

COP26 (Conference of the Parties) in Glasgow runs from October 31st to November 12th. 

An article in Forbes by Marshall Shepard, a prominent climate scientist, lists four things the average person needs to know about it. I doubt anyone reading here is average, but this section was useful, on COP26's Key Goals:

Click on the image to enlarge it if the resolution is Blogger-crappy. 

I can see countries doing #1 and #2, because it's just words and they did the same for Kyoto and Copenhagen and Paris, missing those targets just as they'll no doubt miss any targets they make at Glasgow. Many have already announced net zero targets by 2050 or 2060. Easy to say, it's like a New Year's Resolution that you're going to lose 20 pounds this year. Not so easy to do, and by Jan 15th you're back to your old slovenly ways.

#3 looks unlikely -- $100 B/year? (And that's the minimum COP is asking.) Americans won't accept that. Democrats won't be able to pass it in the budget, with Manchin and Sinema refusing anything climate-related or that might tax the rich. I don't think the average American would be for this anyway -- they're stingy enough on foreign aid as it is. Get this, published in June:
Do Americans want the U.S. government to spend more or spend less on foreign aid? The correct—if perhaps surprising—answer is more, by a lot. Most Americans say aid should be 10 percent of the entire federal budget, almost 10 times more than the roughly 1 percent of the budget that currently goes to foreign aid. But here’s a paradox: When asked whether the U.S. should increase or decrease aid spending, most Americans also say that the government should spend less on aid, not more.

What explains this consistently inconsistent polling result? The problem, as NPR explains, is that Americans massively overestimate the amount the U.S. government actually spends on aid as a proportion of all spending. So instead of thinking accurately to themselves, “We should be spending 10 percent of the budget on aid, and we only spend 1 percent. This is terrible! Increase aid spending!” Americans think, “Gracious, we must spend at least 20-50 percent on aid. That’s too much. It should be 10 percent. Cut aid spending!”
I don't have any idea if European countries would spend $100 B/yr (currently €86 B/yr), but with economies at least a few times smaller than the US's it seems a big ask. 

#4 is more words.

Limiting warming to 1.5°C? COP26 will surely end by stating that goal and some plan to reach it, but it looks impossible now. September: UN Chief says it's impossible without "immediate, large-scale emissions cuts." Well that's certainly NOT going to happen. OK, the laws of physics allow it, and it's technically and economically feasible. But
The IPCC looked extensively at emission reductions required to pursue the 1.5℃ limit. It found getting on a 1.5℃ track is feasible but would require halving global emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 and reaching net-zero emissions by mid-century.
I can't see the world halving emissions (a little more, actually) by 2030, nine years from now. If my math is right, cutting emissions by 50% in 9 years requires an average cut of 7.4% per year. I can't see the US, China, India doing that. Can you? 

Anyway governments can say all they want. The fossil fuel barons have other plans, and by whatever corrupt means it takes they're going to sell their oil, gas and coal regardless of the price of wind and solar.

So I'm pessimistic. (Maybe I always am.) History of COPs doesn't give much reason to be optimistic. I mean, come on. From Climate Central:

Technosignature Article Now Free

My article on technosignatures in Physics World magazine now has an open and free link:

“Scanning the cosmos for signs of technology,” Physics World, October 2021, pp 32-36.

Friday, October 22, 2021

Can't Spell "Manchin" Without a Dollar Sign

Why is Joe Manchin opposed to President Biden's climate plans? Guess. Just go ahead and gue$$. 
Of course Manchin also makes a lot of money off his own coal interests. From The Intercept last month:
For decades, Manchin has profited from a series of coal companies that he founded during the 1980s. His son, Joe Manchin IV, has since assumed leadership roles in the firms, and the senator says his ownership is held in a blind trust. Yet between the time he joined the Senate and today, Manchin has personally grossed more than $4.5 million from those firms, according to financial disclosures. He also holds stock options in Enersystems Inc., the larger of the two firms, valued between $1 and $5 million.
Yet, as chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Manchin gets to determine Biden's legislation on on climate change. It really is a sick cosmic joke.

PS: This likely interests no one else but me, but I've discovered that Tweets do embed properly if I use the Chrome browser, but not if I use Edge. Google makes Blogger, and Google makes Chrome. Microsoft makes Edge.

They also read properly there too. They don't read properly in Edge. The pictures are much clearer in Chrome as well. I wonder if this is a feature and not a bug.   

I switched to Edge about six months ago because of my Tab Explosion problem -- I usually have about 200 tabs open at any one time, waiting to be read, and because in Chrome each one occupies memory that eventually brings my computer to a near standstill. Edge puts tabs to sleep somehow until you come back to them (I've never noticed a delay when they "wake up"). Of course I could reduce my tab count -- I often don't read most of those 200 tabs anyway, despite my intentions -- but that's a different issue.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

On Climate Terrorism

"It is strange and striking that climate change activists have not committed any acts of terrorism. After all, terrorism is for the individual by far the modern world’s most effective form of political action, and climate change is an issue about which people feel just as strongly as about, say, animal rights. This is especially noticeable when you bear in mind the ease of things like blowing up petrol stations, or vandalising SUVs. In cities, SUVs are loathed by everyone except the people who drive them; and in a city the size of London, a few dozen people could in a short space of time make the ownership of these cars effectively impossible, just by running keys down the side of them, at a cost to the owner of several thousand pounds a time. Say fifty people vandalising four cars each every night for a month: six thousand trashed SUVs in a month and the Chelsea tractors would soon be disappearing from our streets. So why don’t these things happen? Is it because the people who feel strongly about climate change are simply too nice, too educated, to do anything of the sort? (But terrorists are often highly educated.) Or is it that even the people who feel most strongly about climate change on some level can’t quite bring themselves to believe in it?"

John Lanchester, London Review of Books, Vol 29 No 6 March 2007

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

One of the Best Novels I've Ever Read

This is one of the best novels I've ever read in my life. It's about trees. And, yes, people, insofar as they relate to trees. But mostly about trees. And life. Life in the long-term, measured in tree-years, species-years, gene-years. People are in there, for the moment. That's about all I'm going to say about it, because this is really more than a book, it's a gift waiting to be discovered by a reader, like if you didn't know about flowers, or Pythagorean's theorem, or had never seen the rings of Saturn in a telescope, indescribable. It's that kind of thing. At least, it was to me. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Joe Manchin's Excess Deaths

For some reason Tweets are no longer properly embedding in Blogger, so I have to cut and paste them. Blogger sucks more and more all the time.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

My Article on Technosignatures

I also have a feature article in this month's issue of Physics World magazine, on technosignatures:

“Scanning the cosmos for signs of technology,” Physics World, October 2021, pp 32-36.

At the moment it's only available to registered users of the site, but registration is free. In a week or so there'll be a publicly available link and I'll post that then. 

"Technosignatures" are any sign of technology on another planet. Examining the "technosphere" is a burgeoning field that astronomers and astrophysicists are starting to think about, especially as the James Webb Space Telescope is about to launch (December, they say now) and as even better telescopes might come online next decade if recommended by the forthcoming NASA Decadal Survey. 

For the last two decades astronomers and astrobiologists have been thinking about how they might detect life on exoplanets, via "biosignatures." These might be the detection of methane in a planet's light spectrum, large amounts of oxygen, and a host of other possibilities, due to microbes or plant life. If life is ever detected on another planet, it's likely it will be via some type of biosignature -- it could happen in the next couple of decades.

Just in the last couple of years scientists have also begun thinking about "technosignatures," signs of technology akin to how biosignatures are signs of life. If other planets have an advanced technological civilization, akin to ours or more advanced (since ours is rather nascent), there may be signs we can detect astronomically. These might be city lights on their nightside, industrial pollution in their atmosphere, solar panels on their surface or in orbit, or megastructures like a Dyson sphere* or swarm or ring, or who knows what. People are making calculations of what might be detectable by the Webb telescope or TESS, and by telescopes that are hopefully recommended like LUVOIR and HabEx. There will be an enormous amount of data to sift through, looking for anomalies. I tried to cover some of this rapidly expanding field in my artice. 

* As you may know, a Dyson sphere is a hypothetical structure that would completely surround a star, thereby capturing all of its energy output. (Such an structure around our Sun, at Earth's distance, would capture 2 billion times as much solar energy as falls atop Earth's atmosphere.) Except a Dyson sphere isn't mechanically stable -- they would likely break up due to any drift, as Dyson wrote about in 1960 when he first proposed this idea. (A Star Trek: The Next Generation features a Dyson sphere. [Video] Magically it was stable.) If it could exist, a Dyson sphere would heat up and radiate outwards. A Dyson sphere at Earth's orbital distance would radiate at Earth's brightness temperature, 255 K, so with a blackbody spectrum with a peak wavelength of about 10 microns, in the infrared. People have actually done searches for Dyson spheres in the galaxy. 

Instead, a civilization might construct a more stable Dyson configuration like a swarm or ring or bubble -- I've used the figure from my article below. Why? One idea is to capture solar energy on them and beam microwaves to the planet's surface. But who knows what an advanced civilization might do with them -- maybe live on them! These should have a radiative signature too, a technosignature. It's all hypothetical of course, but fun to think about.... It was a fun article to write.

Friday, October 08, 2021

My Wash Post Article

I have an article in today's Washington Post. It's accompanied by a nice piece of artwork, by Amy Ning

"The climate crisis is spawning weird ideas to fix it. They might be all we have."

"The Trick" Trailer by the BBC

Not a fan of the title.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

YouTube Bans Ads on Climate Denial Videos

 This is big; NYT:

Can't wait to hear all the whining.

Google also owns Blogger (blogspot blogs, like this one). Wonder if its climate denying blogs are next. I'd guess not.

Nb: corrected my original headline.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

A Trillion Dollar Coin

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Nobel Prizes for Climate Science

Today's Nobel Prizes in Physics goes to three men who played very important roles in the early development of climate science and the analysis of complex dynamical systems. Quanta magazine has a good summary

At first I was surprised, because it wasn't awarded to anyone in fundamental physics research, as usual. But then I realized it made perfect sense, and sends an important message as well, and just before COP26. 

I'm more familiar with Manabe's work than the other two. In fact, a few years ago I wanted to profile Manabe for Yale Climate Connections, but he wouldn't do an interview. Beforehand I had read some of his early papers with Richard Wetherald -- Manabe did the physics, Wetherald did the computer programming -- such as this famous 1967 paper, and they were remarkably well written and exceptionally clear. 

Here's a 1989 oral interview of Manabe by Spencer Weart of the American Institute of Physics.

And, let's say it: Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann, who also built climate models, were right in their predictions -- they correctly predicted the Earth's response to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Here's a nice evaluation of Manabe and Wetherald's 1967 result: they predicted a CO2 climate sensitivity, when CO2 goes from 300 ppm to 600 ppm, of 2.4°C, which is in today's range of 1.5-4.5°C.  just shy of AR6's range of 2.5 - 4.5°C.

And, as that blog post notes, they made their prediction in 1967, at a time when the Earth's surface temperature was in a slight 20+ year cooling period. But they got a bit lucky -- if that cooling period was caused by atmospheric aerosols -- air pollution from vehicles, mostly -- they couldn't have known it would be cleaned up by the proliferation of clean air laws in the 1970s in the US and Europe. 

I don't know as much about the work of Klaus Hasselmann and Giorgio Parisi, but am looking forward to learning more today.

A very thoughtful Prize.

Monday, October 04, 2021

It Doesn't Matter if You Believe In Climate Change....

WaPo story here.

Polar Sea Ice Extent Updates

 Just thought I'd post the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extents, through September 2021. These are the 12-month moving averages, so lag latest conditions a bit. It will be interesting to see where the Antarctic goes --  back on its old trend?

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Another 1970s Exxon Scientist

They knew.

This is from page 1 of Michael Mann's book The New Climate War.

The original source is Inside Climate News.

Michael Mann's book is excellent, and I heartily recommend it. He dissects the information war that has been going on for decades now, waged by the fossil fuel industry. But he also gives it to those who are all doom-and-gloom, the "Deep Adaptation" people who think all that's left is for us to prepare for the collapse of society. Mann's position is that we can still cut emissions enough by 2030 to prevent serious problems, with enough activism and political will, and that's his message in the book and in the talks he's giving seemingly everywhere.

I wish I were that optimistic but I can't say I am. I just can't see the world getting it together, primarily because of corruption driven by the multi-trillion dollar fossil fuel industry. (Just today I saw a tweet by Senator Elizabeth Warren about an army of Exxon lobbyists on Capitol Hill.) There's far too much money to be made for them to go quietly, or to transition into energy companies that produce renewable energy. They're making token efforts at best: 

But who cares about me--a lot of young people aren't very optimistic either:

which is incredibly sad. And infuriating. OK, I worried a lot about global nuclear war when I was younger, between about 25 to 35, and would occasionally jolt upright in the middle of the night yelling from a dream, scaring the hell out of girlfriends in the process. Maybe my subconscious thought humanity was "doomed," but I outgrew it (but am rather surprised there hasn't been a global nuclear war in my lifetime--I would have bet there would have been. There's still time for one, of course. but I no longer wake up screaming at night.). But climate change seems a different order of disaster, because it looks inevitable. No attempts at a solution have done anything to modify the exponential Keeling curve--not Kyoto, not Copenhagen, not the Paris Agreement--and it's difficult to believe it will happen now at COP26. 

Though there is just a touch of room for hope, as 2019's CO2 emissions were flat compared to 2018's. (2020's were much lower than 2019's, but that was due to the pandemic.) But through June 2021, global carbon emissions were 7% higher than June 2019's.

So why be optimistic? I don't see it yet. Does anyone?

Sea Level Rise Now 4.7 mm/year

The University of Colorado Sea Level Research Group recently released their latest data update, with data up to August 6, 2021. As the figure shows, there is now a clear acceleration, of 0.098 mm/yr2. I fit a quadratic function to their data, and got the same result. And while the average rate of sea level rise over their dataset is 3.3 mm/yr -- that's the linear trend -- the current rate of sea level rise, i.e. the first derivative of the quadratic fit, is 4.7 mm/yr.

Mind you, this is the global average, and local rates are never this due to local and regional particular conditions.

I'm not going to extrapolate this curve out to 2100, because I don't think that's a smart way to calculate future sea level rise, which depends on future ice sheet melt, which may not be linear or quadratic. So you need real models, not curve fitting.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Summer Land Temperatures Set A Record This Year

breaking last year's record.... Just FYI, 1.5°C = 2.7°F.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Blah Blah Blah

Why is it that only an 18-year old kid is saying this out loud??

Sunday, September 26, 2021

A Small Incident About Cars

The other day I was a local place here, Nancy Jo's Burger's and Fries, ordering a chicken salad to go. A guy came up to me and said my car was parked too close to his car's door, which was in the adjacent parking spot, and I would have to move my car. Like a good guy I immediately went out and moved my car so he'd have room to open his door and get into his car. But then I came back in and noticed he was sitting in a booth waiting for his food with his family, planning to eat in the restaurant, while I was getting takeout and would be gone in a couple of minutes. This kind of annoyed me, and as our orders were announced at same time I took the opportunity to say to him that my car had been between the lines, and I got a little aggressive and said next time he'd have to crawl in the passenger side to get into his car. He said something and I said something over him, I don't remember what. I noticed he had a Christian cross hanging from his rear view mirror. He didn't even say thank to me for moving my car. This has stuck with me ever since, even though it's been about five days now and I told myself I was going to forget it. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

5 Trillion Tons of Ice Lost from Greenland

Greenland ice sheet mass balance from Mankoff et al 2021.

Equivalent sea level rise is on the scale to the right; cumulative mass loss is on the scale to the left.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Another Bad Chuck Wiese Error

Earlier I pointed out the multiple errors of thinking in Oregon's Chuck Wiese's claim that the horrendous heat wave we had here in the Pacific NW at the end of June -- an unbelievable 117°F in Salem, Oregon, a maximum reading that was a full 39°F above the normal for that day (normal period = 1981-2010) -- was, he claimed, nothing special at all, just a regular heat wave with the sun in its sunlike position.

I found another huge error.

Needless to say, actual scientists concluded that anthropogenic climate change had a very significant role in such a huge heat wave anomaly. 

Chuck Wiese argued that it was just another heat wave but caused by orbital and solar parameters and a nominal increase in atmospheric CO2, calculated naively -- a claim easily shown to be B.S. by all the factors he chose to ignore.

But shortly after, as I was looking more closely at his claims, I saw a deeper error, which I haven't been able to write about since I was busy on an article. He considers atmospheric CO2 to be a blackbody, when it is anything but.

Recall, a "blackbody" is one that absorbs all radiation incident upon it. The Sun is a perfect example. The surface of the Earth is a pretty good example, in the infrared. But atmospheric CO2 does not meet that definition at all.

Let's get into the technical details of Wiese's error.

In his post on Ed Berry's site -- a place Wiese considers "publication," LOLz -- he presents this little argument:
What about atmospheric CO2? In 1981, the Mauna Loa CO2 level was given as 341 ppmv whereas today it is 416 ppmv. Calculating the change in radiative forcing from CO2 as a stand-alone constituent, the difference from 1981 to now is only 1.07 Wm-2. ( Watts per square meter ).

Next, I took the mean temperature of the daily temperature delta or deviation, which was about 90 deg F and plugged that into the derivative of the Stefan Boltzmann equation, dF/dT which gives 6.45 Wm-2K-1 or 6.45 Watts per square meter per degree Kelvin.

Using this relationship, if CO2 acts alone as permitted in this special case, we get 0.963 Wm-2 with a ground emissivity of 0.9 divided by the rate of change of flux with respect to temperature or the 6.45 Wm-2K-1 number which gives 0.15 deg C or a possible contribution of +0.27 deg F. to the heating total.
This is just comical as physics, and let me show you why -- again, Wiese thinks atmospheric CO2 is a blackbody, which it is certainly is not. Bear with me through a few elementary equations.

CO2's radiative forcing is, from the "Arrhenius equation"

where alpha is a constant = 5.35 W/m2. From this we can indeed verify that the change in forcing going from CO2=341 ppmv to CO2=416 ppmv is, from the above equation, 1.06 W/m2, just a slight rounding difference from CW's result. OK. 

where P is the power radiated by the blackbody per unit area per unit solid angle, epsilon its emissivity, sigma the Stefan-Boltzmann constant and T the blackbody's temperature, and differentiates this to get

He takes "the mean temperature of the daily temperature delta or deviation" [???], which he says was about 90 deg F (305 K), and using this third equation to get ΔP/ΔT = 6.46 W/m2. Let's call this "A."

Then here's where Wiese makes his big mistake. He wants to use this result to determine the change in temperature from atmospheric CO2. But atmospheric CO2 isn't a blackbody. A blackbody is defined as one which absorbs all electromagnetic radiation incident upon it. Again, the Sun is a perfect example. Atmospheric CO2 isn't. 

Here's an absorption chart from NASA. In regions that matter, CO2 strongly absorbs around 4.3 microns, 9.4 microns, 10.4 microns and 15 microns (not shown). It doesn't absorb much anywhere else.

[In truth the spectrum is a lot more complicated, with hundreds of thousands of absorption lines, but still CO2 does not absorb all outgoing radiation, not by a long shot.]

So atmospheric CO2 isn't a blackbody. Everything Wiese does after this point is junk science. He just proceeds blindly along, mashes a couple of different things together and uses this equation:

Oh boy. Besides the CO2-blackbody problem, here there's a ground emissivity when there should be an atmospheric emissivity, a rather mysterious (to me at least, as defined) 90 F entered into the problem per above, a radiative forcing (forcings are defined at the troposphere) used as the radiance of the CO2-blackbody, not to mention all the other problems I originally laid out about the value of CO2 on that particular day, the other GHGs, the urban heat island effect, dimming pollutants, and.... What a mess!

Of course experts did conclude that this monstrous heat wave did have an anthropogenic component to it. I'm not going to go over that again. It killed about a thousand people. That Chuck Wiese and Lars Larson are trying to downplay and confuse the issue is really shameful, but not really surprising given what we've seen of them in the past.