Sunday, July 27, 2014

Obama Going to UN Climate Summit in September

President Obama says he's going to attend the UN climate summit in New York City this September 23rd. That's good in its own right
The Secretary-General has asked world leaders to come to the Summit to announce bold actions that they will be taking in their countries, especially in several high-impact areas, such as climate finance; energy efficiency; renewable energy; adaptation; disaster risk reduction and resilience; forests; agriculture; transportation; short-lived climate pollutants; and cities. There will also be announcements from a number of multi-stakeholder initiatives—initiatives that engage coalitions of governments, businesses and civil society organizations–that have high potential to catalyze ambitious action in these same areas.
and also because it might pressure other world leaders to attend and make announcements of mitigation strategies and projects, as Andrew Freedman writes at Mashable:
Obama's announcement may put pressure on other world leaders to participate, especially Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose country is the top greenhouse gas emitter in the world, as well as the leaders of India and Brazil, two other key developing nations whose emissions are increasing.
It's kind of a shame that I feel surprised (and, not least, a bit proud) that the President of the United States finally takes the climate issue seriously enough to participate in a global meeting.

Harassers Who Won't Cease and Desist

I'm being harassed by two Oregon climate deniers.

I get someone who harasses me about once a month, with all the usual myths, misunderstandings and bad science. Usually they go away, often to show up again a months later.

None of them really want a conversation, of course -- they mostly want to insult you, tell you what scum you are, and whine about how liberals are destroying the galaxy. But most aren't as nasty as the two who are harassing me now.

Gordon Fulks -- who wants everyone to know he has a PhD, even announcing it when he asks questions at a seminar (who does that???), won't reveal who, if anyone, pays him to deny climate change and harass people, for which he is notorious. (He deflects the question every time I ask, never outright denying it, and some correspondence I've had with other Oregonians leads me to strongly question who he is working for, as it did for them.)

Fulks was written up in the Seattle Times, who labeled him "uncivil" for disrupting and domineering an attempt by University of Washington scientist Cliff Mass to propose a meeting between scientists and deniers. As the Times wrote last September:
He [Mass] invited some of the 12 skeptics who recently wrote an anti-global-warming brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, and suggested they hash it out with some experts at the UW’s atmospheric sciences department.

That’s when the name-calling started.

“It all went to hell,” Mass said.

Some scientists are wary of these debates because they say they foster a false perception that there is a real “pro or con” debate. But their reluctance prompted one skeptic, in caustic emails, to brand all the University of Washington scientists as “dishonest” or “blind fanatics” who are peddling “political nonsense” in the guise of science.

“Are there any true intellectuals left at UW?” taunted retired astrophysicist Gordon Fulks, in an email to much of the atmospheric sciences faculty. “Or have you ALL morphed into climate automatons?”

There was so much smack-talk, most of it from Fulks, that Mass canceled the seminar.

“It was inimical to everything a scientific discussion is supposed to be about,” Mass said, “and the scientific discussion hadn’t even started yet.”

So a meeting to clear the air of tribal antagonism was called off due to tribal antagonism.
Fulks utilizes the full plate of denier tactics, such as the old truncating-the-data-before-they-reveal-him-wrong trick, and writing inane op-eds in the Oregonian that get him clubbed over the head by real climate scientists and corrected by yours truly.

Oh yeah: Fulks is also an ozone denier. Because, of course. Read the emails in that post -- it shows Fulk's methodology clearly, as he browbeats editors and others, while claiming that he's some kind of expert on climate change. He's not, but rather a self-styled "expert" who never actually does any science, let alone publish any science.

Here he brags: "Michael, Chuck  [Wiese] and I spoiled their politically correct comments with just a little input of our own. It is quite amazing how we can stir up a hornet’s nest with just a few comments." He follows with pure unadulterated bullshit:
If we were to burn all the fossil fuel available to us, we might be able to double the concentration in the atmosphere.  A doubling of CO2 will increase the global temperature by one degree centigrade in the absence of feedbacks.  All indications point to negative feedbacks that decrease this warming below one degree centigrade.  Hence the net result is so minor as to be of no real concern.
Chuck F. Wiese is a former TV weatherman, with just a B.A. in meteorology. Because he can't argue the science, his tactic is straight out of the denier handbook -- personal attacks. He goes around questioning my PhD, saying that I "claim" to have one, trying to suggest that I don't.

Personally I suspect Wiese has PhD envy -- yes, it's a real affliction -- or maybe is simply cowed by them, having been too lazy or too dumb to get one of his own. Anything he writes or says -- emails, comments, seminar questions -- never fails to reveal his deep truculence and anger. At who? I don't know. All PhDs, maybe. The climate. The galaxy.

Wiese routinely gets the science wrong, such as ocean acidification, and he presented this hilarious graph (by Roy Spencer) as proof of global cooling when I debated him some years at the invitaton of a business group in Portland:


Since obviously the tropospheric anomaly is now not at something like the graph's 2014 prediction of -5 to -10°C, I look forward to Wiese's admission that he was full of shit. (The graph was made using Excel to fit a sixth-order polynomial to the data -- in other words, just blind curve-fitting.) Time to man up, Chuckie old boy.

Nor does he understand the difference between a weather model and a climate model, or why climate models don't do forecasts, or the difference between an initial value problem and a boundary value problem.

Wiese gave this hopelessly befuddled presentation at a campaign event of an ultra-conservative Republican candidate for one of Oregon's federal house seats, Lisa Michaels, who was trounced in the primary. (For chuckles, be sure to note when Wiese says the "the atmosphere is warmer than CO2's temperature is," and that the atmosphere gives "half back" of the radiation it absorbs. (It doesn't.)

Here is how the pair of Fulks & Wiese work -- their version of the Serengeti Strategy: one of them sends you something unsolicited and always wrong, like GF's implication that a couple of cool days in Portland, Oregon last week means something about climate, cc'ing the other one, and cc'ing the denier group

The invective comes when you simply respond with a link showing June was very hot globally, on both land and sea. The other one then sends his pile of nastiness, cc'ed to the first and to a Portland conservative talk show host who has Wiese on his show to further befuddle his listeners about climate change.

When you get annoyed at the nasty, unsolicited emails and respond with something appropriate like "Fuck off, asshole," they start whining and accusing you of terrible insults and bcc, for all I know, all their denier friends. Of course, you can't have a rational discussion about the science with them; it gets "thoughtful" replies like this from Wiese:
"A bunch of convoluted hooey! As if the terms "predict" or "project" have any distinguishable difference in this context. Ensembles are tweaked by changing any number of input parameters to test the soundness of the central output. The more of them that diverge away from the full solution, the less reliable the model output. To draw significance to a few of them that happen to predict a flat temperature trend proves nothing, especially when you don't even identify which parameter was changed and to what degree. These few model ensembles would indicate it is reasonable to trust the main output as programmed, not a few outliers. That is how it is done in weather prediction, Appell, not the other way around. And anyone who is foolish enough to believe the models can accurately describe the behavior of the climate system when so many other factors have not even been scripted is sheer idiocy. Not to mention the mathematical constraints which nobody in atmospheric science has been able to get around."
Or this, from GF in April:
Science is not a game of 'Gotcha!'  It is an attempt to extract real meaning from often confusing and contradictory data.  You should understand this, even as a journalist.  Of course, you have given up both journalism and science in pursuit of politics, where you think that the idea is to obscure all meaning, especially where the real meaning does not support your cause.

Are you still unable to come to grips with the dramatic flattening of the GTA since 1998?  Most on your side acknowledge it, especially if they have any scientific training.
It has gotten so bad I sent a "cease and desist all contact" request to both of them, which they have ignored, because, they say, I've been mean to them, and that if I don't want their invective I shouldn't respond to their unsolicited emails. (I'm evaluating my options, have already contacted their Internet providers.)

I have to say, I've come across very few deniers -- and these two seem the model for the original mold -- who weren't, when you scratched their surface, truculent and abusive conservatives who (for the older ones, anyway) are very angry at the world and at even angrier that no one takes them seriously.

I'm tired of the harassment. This pair is (as Mass said) inimical to everything a scientific discussion is supposed to be about. I'm tired of these clowns who think, because you understand and accept the science, they can abuse you in any way they want. I just want to be left alone, and not receive any more of their nastiness. I've told each of them privately. But since they still won't leave me alone, even when asked, I've put up this post to air my grievances. And my response to them is still "Fuck off, assholes."

Sitting On His Couch and Speculating

Berkeley, Understanding and Science

Via Media Matters.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Glad Someone Finally Said It

Via Talking Points Memo. Crist is running (again) for governor of Florida.
On Friday, Crist reportedly attended a 25-minute presentation by Jeff Chanton, a professor at Florida State University who specializes in chemical oceanography and has offered to meet with Scott. Chanton discussed rising sea levels as a consequence of climate change, which scientists say threatens Florida's infrastructure and real estate near the coastline.

Scott's campaign dismissed the move as a publicity stunt, per SaintPetersBlog.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Miami Residents Discover Climate Change Costs Money

Flooding in Miami BeachFrom the Department of You-Will-Pay-For-Climate-Change-One-Way-Or-Another:
Miami Beach is proposing an 84 percent increase in storm water fees — the cost of keeping rising seas at bay — with more rises in the future.
(source: Miami  Herald). Total expected cost: $300 million.
The city hopes to pay for infrastructure projects, which include pumps to suck water out of soggy streets. About $30 million in storm water improvements are already approved. Plans call for 65 new pump stations and improvements to 21 existing wells.

“It’s just essential,” Commissioner Joy Malakoff said at a committee meeting.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Models That Predict the Pause

There's a very interesting paper out today in Nature Climate Change:
"Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase," James S. Risbey, Stephan Lewandowsky, Clothilde Langlais, Didier P. Monselesan, Terence J. O’Kane & Naomi Oreskes, Nature Climate Change (2014).
What they found is that those climate models that, by chance, reproduce ENSOs since 1950, do show a slowdown in surface warming for the 1998-2012 period.

Climate models make projections, not forecasts. They calculate climate over long time periods -- a few decades at least -- due to forcing variations, but aren't good at projecting internal variability like ENSOs and the PDO which take up or release heat (and which average out to zero over many decades). Slowdowns ("pauses") occur in the 15-year trends in the models, but forecasting one from, say, 1998 requires setting up a model with its ocean in that particular ENSO state.

Here, for example, is a histogram of all the model projections for two 15-year periods. Most models overpredicted the last 15 years, but overpredicted the previous 15 years (which I've called the anti-pause):

This group looked at all CMIP5 models, and culled all except for models whose internal variability was, by chance, close to the Nino3.4 surface temperature:

.To select this subset of models for any 15-year period, we calculate the 15-year trend in Niño3.4 index24 in observations and in CMIP5models and select only thosemodels with aNiño3.4 trend within a tolerance window of 0.01K/yr of the observed Niño3.4 trend. This approach ensures that we select only models with a phasing of ENSO regime and ocean heat uptake largely in line with observations. In this case we select the subset of models in phase with observations from a reduced set of 18 CMIP5 models where Niño3.4 data were available25 and for the period since 1950 when Niño3.4 indices are more reliable in observations.

Then here is their result:

So the in-phase models projections are very close to the bottom of the all-model spread. It's not perfect, as they note:
This method of phase aligning to select appropriate model trend estimates will not be perfect as the models contain errors in the forcing histories27 and errors in the simulation of ENSO (refs 25,28) and other processes. Further, ENSO is not the only process generating natural variability on these timescales and so the method used here can be only approximate. Nonetheless, the phaseselection method provides a fairer and more appropriate basis to compare model projection trends over decadal-scale periods than use of the entire multi-model envelope. When the phase of naturalvariability is taken into account, the model 15-year warming trends in CMIP5 projections well estimate the observed trends for all 15-year periods over the past half-century.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fire Tents and Oregon Fires

This video piece about fire tents and how they saved the lives of one crew was a lot more captivating than I expected:

Fires are in the news here a great deal right now.

Besides A River Runs Through It, Norman Maclean wrote an interesting book titled Young Men and Fire, the story and an analysis of the 1949 Mann Gulch fire that killed 13 people (there were only 3 survivors). Realizing they were in trouble, the firefighters raced up a steep (38°) mountainside in front of the fire; four of them made it, but only two were able to crawl though the rock ridge at the top. (Wildfires burn exceptionally fast going up hill, because the heat of the towering flames is closer to the upslope than it would be to flat ground, which pre-heats the upslope so it combusts more quickly.)

Once he realized he and several others couldn't outclimb the fire, the crew's Foreman, Wagner Dodge, famously lit the grass right in front of them and encouraged those near him to lie down in the burnt area. It was no doubt hectic and terrifying, and the others didn't realize what Dodge was doing, and they dismissed him and kept climbing. All those who ran away from Dodge's "escape fire" lost their lives, while Dodge laid in the burnt area and the main fire went around him.

Anyway, the last of the three survivors, Robert Sallee, just died a few weeks ago, which brought the book and the fire back to my mind.

Dodge's escape fire was controversial afterwards. He said he invented the idea on the spot, as it seemed "logical" to him (but maybe he had talked about it some years earlier). A lot was learned from this particular fire that was incorporated in firefighters' training.

I just noticed that Maclean's son, John Norman Maclean, wrote a book, Fire on the Mountain, that told a similar story about the South Canyon Fire on Storm King Mountain on July 1994 in Colorado, where 14 firefighters lost their lives. I find these stories fascinating, perhaps because they are so terrifying.

Fires are in the news here because Oregon has many burning right now, with five that just started yesterday and are large (69,000 acres) and uncontained. It's so bad the governor declared a state of emergency on Wednesday. One fire has already burned 576 square miles and is 20% contained, and another has burned 262 square miles and is 0% contained. Those two alone are 70% of the size of Rhode Island.

"Curiosity" by Rob Pyle

In the mail: Curiosity: The Inside Look at the Mars Rover Mission and the People Who Made It Happen, by science writer Rob Pyle.

Personally, I thought the landing of the Curiosity Rover on Mars in August 2012 was as exciting as anything fror the Apollo missions, including the first landing on the Moon (whose 45th anniversay is tomorrow). (Video is here.)

Maybe more so. Being on the Web instead of a grainy view on a black and white television made it much easier to share in the drama, I wasn't 9-years old and sleepy (Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the Moon at 10:56 pm Eastern Time) after being keyed up all day knowing what was coming, I've been at JPL to interview Steve Squyres about the earlier rovers and had seen where and how they work, and the next morning I got to interview the lead scientist, John Grotzinger, even though he'd been up all night and had to be drained.

Maybe I'm just a kid at heart, but I still get goosebumps when the JPL guy says "We're safe on Mars" and the anxious room explodes into cheers and high-fives.

So I'm sure I'll find Pyle's book interesting. It has behind-the-scenes stories, delves into the scientific reasons for the mission, and technical details on how the rover was built.

It's be a great gift for a high-schooler who is into science, and better yet, space. Are there any such kids anymore, or do they all want to work at Google instead of NASA or SpaceX? My 9-year old nephew doesn't seem aware of space travel at all, even though I've given him a couple of books on it. Are any 9-year olds nowadays?

Don't at least a few of them want to go to Mars? This book would be a good start.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Updated El Nino Review & Forecast

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University is out with their monthly climate review and ENSO forecast:
During June through early-July the observed ENSO conditions remained near the borderline of a weak El Niño condition in the ocean, but the atmosphere so far has shown little involvement. Most of the ENSO prediction models indicate more warming coming in the months ahead, leading to sustained El Niño conditions by the middle or late portion of northern summer.
There is a wide spread in what models are now forecasting, with none higher than a Nino3.4 anomaly of 1.6°C. (The 1997 anomaly reached 2.9°C.)

Here's my update comparing the 1997-98 El Nino to this year's fledgling attempt at an El Nino. This year's Nino3.4 index is fading for now, but it's notable that temperatures this year have, El Nino or not, so far been signficantly ahead of 1997's (by an average of 0.25°C).

By the way, here are the different Nino regions of the Pacific ocean:

Niño Regions


Via Imgur.

Nikola Tesla and the Pigeon

This Tesla item is from the Perimeter Institute, in Canada -- "What Great Scientists Did When they Weren't Doing Great Science." They have several more here.

One they didn't mention, but that I particularly like, was Arthur Eddington's method of tracking lifetime cycling progress -- the largest integer N such that one had cycled at least N miles on N different days.

He got up to at least N=77, which he reached at the age of 60.

Some people call this the "Eddington Number," which is funny because Eddington is known for (among many other things) his interest in the fine structure constant α, which he claimed was exactly equal to 1/136, and for his calculation that the exact number of protons in the universe (with an equal number of electrons) was NEDD = 136 × 2256 ∼ 1079, or, as he said in a 1938 lecture at Cambridge:
"I believe there are 15 747 724 136 275 002 577 605 653 961 181 555 468 044 717 914 527 116 709 366 231 425 076 185 631 031 296 protons in the universe and the same number of electrons."
Later, when α was experimentally found to be closer to 1/137, Eddington changed his "proof" to claim that α had to be exactly 1/137, for which Punch magazine dubbed him "Sir Arthur Adding-One."