Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Progress on Malaria

There is excellent news on dealing with malaria in Africa.  A report in Nature from a number of public health statisticians has got a handle on how the fight is progressing.  This is no mean feat as public health records in many of the most affected African countries, are, well, sketchy.

The team, lead by Samir Bhatt (at least in the author list) found a way around this.  Rather than looking at mortality, they looked at the incidence of plasmodium falciparum infection in children between the ages of 2 and 10 across the continent using a set of reliable surveys.  These were then used to infer (think of how global temperature anomalies are inferred from individual stations).

We estimated that there were 187 (132–259) million clinical cases of P. falciparum malaria in Africa in 2015. Case incidence declined by 40% from 321 (253–427) per 1,000 persons per annum in 2000 to 192 (135–265) per 1,000 persons p.a. in 2015, with all but one of the 43 mainland endemic countries meeting the Millenium Development Goal target of reversing incidence trends by 2015, 19 (17–25) achieving a >50% decline, and 7 (6–7) declining by >75%
The figure below shows the percentage of the population infected across the continent in 2000 (red) and in 2015 (blue).

The major reduction in high percentages of infection is especially heartening, because the two reservoirs of plasmodium falciparum infection are mosquitos and people.  The protozoan parasite ping-pongs between the two.  Typically (think Walter Reed and Yellow Fever) diseases like malaria are fought by decreasing the mosquito reservoir, but if fewer people in an area are infected, the human reservoir is shrunk and the probability of the disease spreading following mosquito bites from an infected individual is decreased.

Since 2000, under the UN Millenium Development Goals, three methods of malaria suppression have been deployed, pyrethroid treated bed nets (ITN), artemisinin combination therapy (ACT), and indoor residual spraying with DDT (IRS).  Bhatt, et al find that the bed nets have had the greatest effect to date.

Bhatt, et al point out that the relative effectiveness of each of the three methods is related to when they were deployed and the effort put into their deployment
Changes in prevalence largely followed patterns of increasing ITN coverage, and ITNs were by far the most important intervention across Africa, accounting for an estimated 68 (62–72)% of the declines in PfPR seen by 2015 (Fig. 2a). We estimated ACT and IRS contributed 19 (15–24)% and 13 (11–16)% respectively, although these interventions had larger proportional contributions where their coverage was high (Extended Data Fig. 4). It is important to emphasize that these proportional contributions do not necessarily reflect the comparative effectiveness of different intervention strategies but, rather, are driven primarily by how early and at what scale the different interventions were deployed.
There is concern about each of these tools losing effectiveness.  ACT resistance has emerged in Southeast Asia for example and there is a major effort to limit it and the mosquitos are evolving in ways to decrease the effectiveness of ITNs and IRS.

New tools are being developed, for example vaccines, and using bioengineering aka Genetic Modification to create mosquitos that cannot support plasmodium falciparum.  A major need is development of an inexpensive and accurate diagnosis kit that can be deployed into all areas.  Lack of rapid diagnosis leads to underemployment (people don't get treated and are mosquito targets) or overemployment of ACTs (leads to development of resistance in the plasmodium).

Humans can take pride in meeting the UN Development Goal for malaria
Target 6.C: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases 

  • Between 2000 and 2015, the substantial expansion of malaria interventions led to a 58 per cent decline in malaria mortality rates globally. 
  • Since 2000, over 6.2 million deaths from malaria were averted, primarily in children under five years of age in Sub-Saharan Africa. 
  • Due to increased funding, more children are sleeping under insecticide-treated bed nets in sub-Saharan Africa.
The next time somebunny starts frothing about Agenda 21, the UN and Maurice Strong ask them what they have against successfully fighting malaria.

Things Break

A letter from the good Dutch Richard in the Economist explains things break, and cannot be put back together.  Adaptation from a disaster is not guaranteed (emphasis added)
SIR – “In the balance” (April 5th) presented a false dichotomy between being dispassionate and being alarmist about the impacts of climate change. There is nothing alarmist about the risk of extreme weather events leading to breakdowns in critical services and food systems. Such breakdowns have already accompanied, for example, the 2011 floods in Thailand and the 2010 drought in Russia. And there is nothing dispassionate about economic damage estimates that, in the words of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are “incomplete” and face “recognised limitations”. 
Rather than suggesting that the risks assessed by the IPCC are scare stories and that the overall economic costs of climate change would be manageable, The Economist could explore the assumptions used by economic models and their developers to arrive at such estimates.

One assumption is that the occurrence of impacts will automatically lead to adaptation to those impacts. The IPCC chapter, “Adaptation opportunities, constraints and limits”, shows that such optimism is not justified. Not every farmer facing crop losses has the ability to choose a different crop variety, and not all urban dwellers can move to an area where they are not exposed to floods or landslides.

The world is facing impacts of climate change precisely because it is difficult to take effective action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. To assume that adaptation to these impacts will take place with little extra effort, at low or no cost and with immediate pay-off, is quite silly, and not a reflection of reality.

IPCC author
Stockholm Environment Institute
As J. Willard Rabett incessantly points out, adaptation pushes procrastination penalties to infinity

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Nuff Said


Blogger Profile has his own personal thread.  BP and anybunny else who wants to expose themselves can post here.  If BP or his next version comments elsewhere, they will be deleted

Any gloating will also be terminated.

-The Management

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What to do when Eli retires

ATTP and Eli have been exploring the carbon cycle, with a few simple, but illustrative models. ATTP's attention was drawn to a recent submission to Earth System Dynamics A simple model of the anthropogenically forced CO2 cycle by Weber, Lüdeke and Weiss, which is not even wrong, worse, it is misleading.  Hans Joachim Lüdeke, the S. Fred Singer of the German denialist set seems to be making a retirement project of such things.  If you doubt your friendly bunny and Eli knows none of the readers of Rabett Run would stoop so low, there is this comment from Neven about an earlier attempt at misdirection by Herr Lüdeke-Singer

I do not dismiss them because they belong to a certain political group. I dismiss them because I have seen them lie and distort repeatedly, and never be right about anything, and never retract allegations, and never admit or correct mistakes.
and this analysis of the attempt (published in E&E and Int J. Mod Phys B, who would have guessed, not Eli to be sure), by Richard Tol during one of his rational periods. Tol points out that
Lüdeke concludes that there is no trend in the global temperature record of the past century or so, after he removed the trend by So far so good. Unfortunately, fluctuation analysis does not work on trending variables. Therefore, LLE use DETRENDED fluctuation analysis. That is, they first fit a polynomial of order two to the data, remove this trend, and study the deviations from the trend.
Having removed the trend from their data, LLE cannot answer the question: What caused the warming? They eliminated from their analysis the very thing in which they are interested.
This trick, of course is one of Tamino's top ten on this list of statistical flim flam but there is a lot more.

The abstract of the Weber paper claims that
From basic physical assumptions we derive a simple linear model of the global CO2 cycle without free parameters. It yields excellent agreement with the observations reported by the carbon dioxide information analysis center (CDIAC) as time series of atmospheric CO2 growth, of sinks in the ocean and of absorption by the biosphere. The agreement extends from the year 1850 until present (2013). Based on anthropogenic CO2 ; emission scenarios until 2150, future atmospheric CO2 concentrations are calculated. As the model shows, and depending on the emission scenario, the airborne fraction of CO2 begins to decrease in the year ∼ 2050 and becomes negative at the latest in ∼ 2130. At the same time the concentration of the atmospheric CO2 will reach a maximum between ∼ 500 and ∼ 900 ppm. As a consequence, increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions will make the ocean and the biosphere the main reservoirs of anthropogenic CO2 in the long run. Latest in about 150 years, anthropogenic CO2 emission will no longer increase the CO2 content of atmosphere.
Now some, not Eli to be sure, might fight their war through the mathturbation, including a freshman level reprise of Euler's method for solving a simple differential equation. Eli is a visual bunny and he always looks at the figures first. His attention was drawn to Figure 5b, which purported to show the response of the atmosphere to a pulse of CO2

Weber et al attempt to model the interchange between the biosphere (b), the atmosphere (a) and the ocean (s). The grey line shows what everybunny else finds, the blue what the EIKE crew claims. To first approximation the three upper reservoirs their model treats each hold about the same amount of carbon. Fossil fuel combustion pushes carbon into the atmosphere, and that carbon is moved from the atmosphere into the biosphere and the surface ocean.

The Weber model fails because it does not consider reverse interchanges from the biosphere and the surface ocean into the atmosphere. According to Weber, et al the adjustment time is 100 years and the grey shaded regions are the responses of 15 models considered by Joos et al., 2013. One immediately notices that their atmospheric CO2 concentration declines rapidly to zero. This is possible for sequential reactions, a --> b + s but not for opposing reactions (a = b and a = s) where there are both forward and backwards reactions. A simple, straightforward kinetic model for the flow of carbon between the three reservoirs would be

Where kxy is the rate constant for moving carbon from reservoir x to y and Nx is the amount of carbon in reservoir x. n is the CO2 injected into the atmosphere at time t. If No is the total amount of CO2 in the system, at equilibrium where a steady state approximation can be applied (in other words set each of the derivatives to zero because the concentrations are not changing, the system is in equilibrium)

By inspection Weber et al’s result can only be obtained if the rate constants for transfer between the biosphere, kba, and surface ocean, ksa, to the atmosphere are zero. Nope

And then there is physics and chemistry. Even if one denies the analysis of the carbon cycle as shown above, if, as Weber, et al, claim, all of the excess carbon injected into the atmosphere is totally sequestered into biological materials after a hundred years or so, for it to stay there as required by their analysis would mean that decomposition of biological materials would not be increased by the increased amount of material.  Similarly for excess CO2 sequestered in the surface oceans. If the partial pressure of CO2 in the surface ocean is increased physics requires that the out gassing of the surface ocean would be increased.

Finally, if Weber et al, are going to try and claim that they were talking about a rapid descent of the atmospheric carbon dioxide into the deep oceans, well, there is a lot of information about that interchange, and one of the reviewers, Fortunat Joos, buries that one
Can transport processes within the ocean be approximated with a single time scale? There is the GLODAP data base on CDIAC which includes CFCs and radiocarbon data sampled over the pastdecades (Key et al., 2004). These data show that mixing time scales for the upper thermocline are decadal and mixing time scales for the deep ocean are multi-centennial. The lowest radiocarbon ratios of dissolved inorganic carbon are found in the deep Pacific with values that are about 240 permil or so lower than the atmosphere or about 200 permil lower compared to the surface ocean. This corresponds to a water age of roughly 1800 years.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Shallow is good

Last summer I took the World Bank MOOC course on climate change in Spanish (it will be offered again next year in both English and Spanish). My final presentation was on using shallow aquifers to mitigate and adapt for climate change.

Many communities located near coastal areas or on large floodplains have multiple layers of aquifers separated by clay layers. The shallowest aquifer is usually not used because of contamination risks, but it has a lot of advantages in terms of receiving recharge and requiring less energy to use, as long as you don't drink it. Australia figured this out, and a lot of other places should do the same.

Last week I finally translated and updated the presentation, including a PowerPoint on an urban shallow well/recharge system in Redwood City near Silicon Valley. For anyone interested, the English version is here, and the Spanish version here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The only thing

The agenda of fear and hate driving conservative candidates for president today is the last thing we should do. So what to do, instead. There's Duncan Black on one side saying, do less blowing up. Kind of vague, but not meaningless. Josh Marshall on the other hand says do more blowing up of ISIS (also stop blowing up Assad, but the main thing is blow up ISIS).

I'm somewhere in between but think I'd lean more towards the pretentious one's argument. Many people have reminded Republicans that it was their invasion of Iraq that put us in this fine mess. Less remarked is that ISIS talked a big game in the caliphate's first year, but pretty much concentrated on local genocide, rape, and enslavement - we were blowing them up first before they got to Paris. Maybe people don't make this argument because of the whole genocide thing - the pretentious Duncan sure glosses over that.

I'm no expert but I read history, and in World War II neither side liked getting bombed, making efforts to retaliate more for domestic consumption than out of real strategy. From the Doolittle Raid to the V-2, the motivation basically was to strike back.

Duncan's right that blowing up ISIS creates problems, although not blowing them up in some situations allows them to create genocide. So I'd say do more blowing up when needed to stop genocide despite the risk of retaliation, but getting rid of ISIS where it has some popular support isn't our job. Especially in Iraq, the campaign in Anbar province might be going too well - the Iraqi Shiite government is succeeding in taking over Sunni areas without real Sunni participation. That sounds like a recipe for future problems, and not where the rest of the world needs to tread.

Syria is a bit different, Sunnis are fighting both ISIS and Assad. I once favored a safe zone in the northwest, assuming Turkey's government would be less-than-evil about who got through. I don't know if that could still happen - maybe. Containing ISIS while locals figure out how to handle them seems like a better approach, and it would mean less bombing than we're doing now. Maybe that would work, like Duncan says. Working with Assad would be a huge mistake and again not where the rest of the world needs to tread.

Paris was a tragedy. There are many other tragedies. Let's make things better instead of worse.

Resistors Are Cheaper Than Batteries

Sometimes there are odd thoughts that surge through Eli's brain.  Recently he was reading about a concentrated solar power plant the first phase of which had opened in Morocco.  Noor 1 will generate 160 Megwatt.  When completed, the four phase project will generate almost 500 megawatts, of course, when the sun shines, which it pretty much does all day in Ourazazate.

What is particularly interesting about this plant is that the design can source power for three hours after the sun sets, because the working fluid (an oil mixture) can be used to store thermal energy in a reservoir, and the temperature in the reservoir is high enough to drive steam turbines for up to three hours after sunset.  Moreover, substituting salts which change their phase as they cool can provide even more energy, or the same energy for a longer time.  

The characteristic of solar and wind is that when you have sun and wind you have more power than you need.  When you don't you have nothing.  The general idea is at least for small installations like houses, to bridge with batteries.

A long time ago, on sci.environment Eli, the Weasel, MT and others engaged with John McCarthy of LISP.  McCarthy was a cornucopian, and if you carefully went through his thoughts, they all came down to the price of energy being zero.

The price of solar and wind IS zero once you install the plant.  Eli has an outrageous idea.
Couple super-efficient insulation, the heat storage of phase change salts, resistors to convert waste electricity generated by wind and solar to heat and then use photothermal generators to convert the heat back to electricity when needed.  Of course, you could always use the heat directly to warm the house or cook the carrots.  The best (e.g. lab) thermoelectric materials can have efficiencies of 10-20% and nanopatterning can improve the transfer efficiency.  Just an idea.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Surge, The Surge

It is getting warm out there and the El Nino is showing no signs of slowing down.  The Japan Meteorological Agency has a tool which shows the average monthly temperature in each month from 1890 to today.  Eli has turned this into an animated gif using imgflp.  Starting in November of 2014 until October 2015

The surge, the surge.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Lowering the Boom on Exxon

Eli was perusing the tweets and came across a back and forth that involved ATTP and a churnalist know it all by the name of Peter Hitchens.  Well no matter, you can read about that at ATTP, but amongst the drivel was a useful pointer by Willard, no not that useless scumbag Willard Tony, but Willard

which lead back to a post by Hans Custers in Our Changing Climate back in Febrary 2014.  Quite worth reading, but, the killer is down a bit in the comments we have Eli's friend Victor Venema first quoting from the post
If there are any ‘climate change skeptics’ who want to contribute to real science, they might see this as a challenge. Maybe they can come up with a research proposal, based on one of the options for falsification. Like proper scientists would do.
and then lowering the boom 
If someone at an oil company only had the slightest doubt such a challenge might be possible, he had already funded this research. If every visitor to WUWT would pay one cent, they could hire a good scientist. That they rather fund PR firms and write daily erroneous posts shows that even they know the AGW is solid.