Wednesday, July 11, 2007

AlGorithms

There is a long history of Al Gore being right on many issues and being ridiculed for it. Such things are known as AlGorithms and are recited at night by good little girls and boys in the right households. Bob Somerby has been howling almost daily about this, visit his incomparable archives and read some of his many posts about the quintessential AlGorithm, the INTERNET story.

Previously we had discussed how a falsification in Byrnes review of "An Inconvenient Truth" provided the heavy artillery she used to attack Gore. Rather free form discussion broke out here, at Stoat and Deltoid. Big City Liberal has used the opportunity to post a pin up picture of Richard Tol who is the most serious of Byrnes' defenders.

Here we report on one of Kristen Byrnes' many AlGorithms.

Next, Al gets right to business showing some of the worlds receding glaciers. According to the national Snow and Ice Data Center, most glaciers around the world are receding. But when you look at scientific studies on individual glaciers you begin to understand that temperature is not always the cause and that all of the glaciers that Al mentions have been retreating for over 100 years.


There is then a paragraph about Kilimanjaro and one about the Grinnell Glacier. Kilimanjaro I leave to Ray Pierrehumbert who explains why Ms. Byrnes really should have RTFRs she provides before opining. But in both cases and in the case discussed below, a major part of the refutation is that CO2 mixing ratios and temperatures did not start increasing 100 years ago. The graphs in Eli's previous post show that CO2 concentrations started rising about 150 years ago, accelerating in the past 50 and one can say roughly the same about global surface temperature anomalies (yes we know that aerosols arrested the warming btw ~1940-70). Ms. Byrnes continues
Himalayas - Glaciers have been found to be in a state of general retreat since 1850 (Mayewski & Jeschke 1979). In this section he also claims that 40% of the worlds population gets half of their water from streams and rivers that are fed by glaciers. This is an easily confused claim. Rivers that are fed by the Himalayas get most of their run-off from the spring snowmelt. They also have many dams that ensure that water will be available during dry months.
Gore wrote in "An InconvenientTruth" (The tech squad finds it easier to quote from a book)
The Himalayan Glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau have been among the most affected by global warming. The Himalayas contain 100 times as much ice as the Alps and provide more than half of the drinking water for 40% of the world's population -- through seven Asian river systems that all originate on the same plateau.

Within the next half-century, that 40% of the world's people may well face a very serious drinking water shortage, unless the world acts boldly and quickly to mitigate global warming.
The seven rivers are the Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow. Geographers can argue about where the plateau starts and ends, how many people use the river water, what percentage comes from melt, and other details, but we read in the IPCC WG II Summary for Policymakers says:
Glacier melt in the Himalayas is projected to increase flooding, and rock avalanches from destabilised slopes, and to affect water resources within the next two to three decades. This will be followed by decreased river flows as the glaciers recede. * N [10.2, 10.4]
The full report is not yet available (there is a story there, as the meeting that lead to the SPM for WG II was particularly contentious with the US and China demanding many changes to soften the impact.). From a draft of the Technical Summary we read that scientists are highly confident that global warming will make water shortages a major issue for Asia in the next 100 years especially because of rapid melting of glaciers.

The Himalayan glaciers will melt even more rapidly then they currently are (which is fast enough, see below) because of increasing temperatures. At first there will be increased flooding and avalanches which will interfere with water supplies as the glacial water floods down onto the plains. Once the glaciers are all or mostly gone the river flow will seriously decrease.

McClatchy News Service reports the IPCC has said that
"Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps getting warmer at the current rate," the report said. The total area of glaciers in the Himalayas likely will shrink from 193,051 square miles to 38,600 square miles by that year, the report said.
in Geography News from January of this year
Glaciers of the Himalaya Mountain Range are an enormous reservoir of fresh water and their meltwater is an important resource for much of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Burma. A team of Indian scientists lead by Anil V. Kulkarni of the Indian Space Research Organization, studied surface area coverage for nearly 500 glaciers in the Chenab, Parabati, and Baspa basins using satellite data collected between 1962 and 2001.

They documented that most of these glaciers have retreated significantly. In 1962 a total of 2077 square kilometers was covered by glaciers and in 2001 that area was reduced to 1628 square kilometers. This represents a deglaciation of over twenty percent over a forty year period.
They also learned the the number of glaciers actually increased in this area. The increase in count was caused by fragmentation. Climate change was blamed for the decrease in sustainability for these Himalayan glaciers.
The paper itself concludes:
The observations made in this investigation suggest that small glaciers and ice fields are significantly affected due to global warming from the middle of the last century. In addition, larger glaciers are being fragmented into smaller glaciers. In future, if additional global warming takes place, the processes of glacial fragmentation and retreat will increase, which will have a profound effect on availability of water resources in the Himalayan region.
The threat is so large that India and China, sort of the Michael Mann and Steve McIntyre of countries, have agreed to cooperatively map the glacier melt on the Tibetan Plateau, an area both of them consider to be of the highest strategic importance, often close to outsiders for security reasons, have fought wars over and frequently use to engage in small and larger armed battles.

UPDATE: Finally, you should go over to Open Mind by Tamino and read his post on glacier retreat. Tamino has taken the time to RTFR (the Glacier Balance Bulletin for the World Glacier Monitoring Service) and provides (among many other things and important links) a graphic summary showing that anyone who tells you glaciers are not retreating, is on balance, someone not to buy a bridge connecting Manhattan and Brooklyn from.

*The map at the top is from www.globalwarmingart.com.

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Richard Tol who is the most serious of Byrnes' defenders"

Serious in what regard?

His need of a haircut?

Munin said...

If she had a picky geography teacher, Miss Byrnes might find this scrawled in the margin of her report:

<red ink>
"[Gore] also claims that 40% of the worlds population gets half of their water from streams and rivers that are fed by glaciers. This is an easily confused claim."

Clearly, since what Gore actually said was, "The Himalayas ... provide more than half of the drinking water for 40% of the world's population."

Gore explicitly said "drinking water". Twice. Byrne's claim might also be true, but it isn't supported by her source (not in this quote at least).
<red ink>

Regarding Dr Tol's hair, I originally thought his picture was upside down.

munin said...

How embarrassing; I appear to have omitted a /.

Here it is: /

enjoy.

Adam said...

Sort of OT, but there's some seriously disjointed government in China at the moment:

"The full report is not yet available (there is a story there, as the meeting that lead to the SPM for WG II was particularly contentious with the US and China demanding many changes to soften the impact.)."

"The threat is so large that India and China,...have agreed to cooperatively map the glacier melt on the Tibetan Plateau,"

Hans Erren said...

"Geographers can argue about where the plateau starts and ends, how many people use the river water, what percentage comes from melt, and other details"

Did you check the details, Eli?

The inconvenient details:

http://www.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/80a02e/80A02E05.htm
"The eastern Himalaya, in general, provide moisture surpluses from direct runoff of the abundant summer monsoon rainfall; the snow-melt contribution is comparatively insignificant".

Dano said...

Hans,

is your plop intended to state that the claims above?

Is your plop intended to claim that the given fraction of folks in Asia/India do NOT depend on snowmelt/glacier melt?

Best,

D

EliRabett said...

Yes, China appears to have multiple governments at this time, or at least multiple forces pulling this way or that.

EliRabett said...

Glacier melt and the monsoon do not come at the same time. Both are needed for the water supply of South Asia. Should either fail it would be a huge disaster.

Anonymous said...

Tamino had a great post on this subject and most (if not all) of the issues were discussed either in the post or in the following comments.

I'd really have to say that Kristen is clueless on glaciers and ice sheets (and on most other things related to climate science, based on a reading of her "famous" term paper).

Sure she's a 15 year old, but that's no excuse. She can read posts by Tamino, Eli, Real Climate, and all the others just as easily as anyone else. She chose not to.

She seems to have preferred sites like Climate Audit, where she only gets a small part of the story (and even that may be fantasy).

-- Horatio Algeranon

Anonymous said...

By the way, Eli

I'm glad you called what she did with the graph a "falsification" (and not an "honest" mistake) because this girl (or whoever is producing this crap) certainly seems smart enough to understand the meaning of "abscissa", and also smart enough to understand that adding something new to someone else's graph while keeping their logo on it is a clear no-no.

That would get you an automatic F at most universities -- and probably most high schools, as well.

-- Horatio Algeranon

Anonymous said...

Poor kid.

"Humankind cannot bear very much reality." -- T.S. Eliot

Imagine how hard it must be knowing where she got that erroneous graph and having to face the fact that it's wrong, and wrong under her name.

The biggest lesson in science writing -- to admit your mistakes (promptly, calmly, and with gratitude) -- is the hardest.

Anonymous said...

"Imagine how hard it must be knowing where she got that erroneous graph and having to face the fact that it's wrong, and wrong under her name."


Where she got that graph was from NOAA (as indicated on the footer). But what she did with it afterward is the main issue.

As she says on her website:

"I’ve added the green line, which is CO2."

She then goes on to say "What Al does not show you is that most of the warming started before the CO2 increase."

...and what Kristen does not show you is the actual CO2 increase over the 20th century.

What a bunch of hooey. I taught secondary science for many years and I can say that if one of my students had turned that graph in, they would have failed the paper. No doubt about it.

Standards seem to have slipped (or if one uses the glacier analogy: "calved") over the years what with all the "its the effort that matters, not the outcome" nonsense.

bjc said...

OK, all the smart alecs please send in your science papers from when you were 15 years old and let's compare.
If Ms Byrnes manipulated the graph, she needs to correct it. But for heaven's sake, get some perspective.

Anonymous said...

So it's the "Let her off the hook because she's a 15 year old" excuse right?

Sorry, bjc, but crap is crap.

As I said, I taught secondary science and lots of the papers I have seen over the years written by kids that age (sometimes younger) would put hers to shame.

And what's with the attack on Hansen, for God's sake? I don't recall seeing anything like that from a 15 year old. More than anything else, that really makes me wonder who was doing the actual writing.

And for your information, it's not "If Ms Byrnes manipulated the graph". She says she did.

You might RTFP, for starters.

EliRabett said...

First, I have to admit that I don't have anything from when I was 15. Ma Rabett is an unsentimental soul but Eli assumes he wrote some immature things. What he did not do is publish it for the world to see with the declaration that it won the best carrot award at the bunnyfest and showed that Farmer MacGregor was a fraud. That is a whole other kettle of legumes.

Second, some clarity about the graph. It is fair game to add information to a graph from another source if you clearly explain what you are doing and where the original graph came from, and Ms. Byrnes did that. Where she failed is that what she added was a falsification of the data. Now Eli could understand if she found that addition + graph elsewhere and passed it through with clear attribution, however she specifically says she added it, and then drew conclusion from it together with many implied conclusions in the rest of the paper. What the bunnies cannot say is whether this was an inadvertent or a knowing falsification.

What teachers worry about is whether the student gets to a place where the only way they can see out of a blind alley they have walked into is invention, and so they invent. An understanding F with a long talk about what the actual data is, respect for facts, and that you often have to re-evaluate conclusions based on facts is called for.

Finally, to spot the bad data, you had to know quite a lot about the subject and the particular teacher may not have. Worry again that the student knew this.

Belette said...

Is Tol really defending Byrne in any serious way? All I saw was a rather vague assertion that she had pricked holes in Gore, but he didn't say anything specfic, which was wise of him

Anonymous said...

Is Tol really defending Byrne in any serious way?"

I'd guess that only Tol knows the true significance of what he is says.

I was trained as a scientist (physicist) and I've tried to figure out some of the stuff he has said (here and elsewhere) and I can't make heads or tails of most of it.

But that's what economists seem to be best at -- making other people's heads spin.

You see, if you can make a person's head spin fast enough, they won't notice when things don't turn out the way you predicted they would.

Molnar said...
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Anonymous said...
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BJC said...

12:44
OK, show me the papers. Sans papers, I fear that you sir, with the possible exception that you taught at Philips, Deerfield, an exam school or the equivalent, are blowing smoke.
I am not letting her off the hook, read my post. However, it doesn't take much to pile on to a 15 year old.

EliRabett said...

Sorry guys, I don't think we want to go there.

EliRabett said...

Eli thinks Tol is using Byrne as a stick to beat Gore and Stern. A sort of let you and her fight tactic that Big City Lib has broken through.

Anonymous said...

Sans papers, I fear that you sir, with the possible exception that you taught at Philips, Deerfield, an exam school or the equivalent, are blowing smoke."

Spare me the BS, will you?

I suspect that even you could have learned something in my class.

Marion Delgado said...

bjc:

Sorry, at 15 I took science completely seriously. I would never in a million years have passed on even something i thought made my political POV look better in that form (writing in my own lines of a graph and not bothering with whether it was right).

The real question is, did Ryan the what, 6-year-old in Australia do a better job than Kristen?

But I will add that, while I did lots of science papers for my various AP science classes, none I can recall were in areas of controversy. It was all basic stuff.

Richard Tol said...

Note how Gore changed the meaning and significance by replacing "water" with "drinking water".

Most of the water is actually for irrigation, and a lot of irrigation water is wasted. It may be cheaper and more effective to increase water efficiency than energy efficiency.

Note also the emphasis on the impacts over the next few decades -- and how that is used to justify emission reduction. Unfortunately, the benefits of emission reduction will not be felt over the next few decades but only later. Worse, there is now so much sulphur over Asia, that a rapid switch away from coal would accelerate warming over the next few decades, rather than slow it.

munin said...

Hi Richard, can I just make sure I understand what you're saying: the earth is warming, this warming is caused (at least in part) by human GHG emissions and partially masked by SO2 emissions, and reducing GHG emissions will have benefits in the long-term - have I got that right?

Anonymous said...

Munin: I think what Tol is saying is that we need to burn more coal, not less.

Make the skies a uniform gray worldwide. That'll cool things down right quickly.

Better yet, nuke the Amazon rain forest with a Gazillaton Bomb and repeat the process on a regular basis ("Floss, twice daily") at unannounced forest locations throughout the world.

The possibilities are endless.

PS: Here's a koan for you.

How do you use water more efficiently when there is none of it left to use? (ie, if the glaciers of the Himalayas that feed the Ganges disappear entirely due to warming)

PPS: I sure rest easy at night knowing that we have latter-day Einsteins working to find a solution to this problem.

My guess is if there is a way to screw things up worse than we already have, they'll find it.

Bruce said...

Hmmm... AlGorithm.

I told my discreet mathematics lecturer some years back that an AlGorithm was a method by which votes were counted by Florida election computers in 2000.

I guess you had to be at the lecture...

John Mashey said...

1) Do good science.
2) Do good economics, informed by 1).

We're going to need both. Unsurprisingly, as a group, it is not clear that economists understand the science as well as they need to, or have as much agreement on economic policy as climate scientists do on the science.

re: China, sulfur, etc.
Sadly, I may not visit China again, as I value my lungs. Unlike those in Europe, in California we are already seeing increasing pollution from China.

We all know sulfates temporarily/somewhat locally lower temperatures, but covering the planet with them this way would not be pleasant. When I was a kid, I lived near Pittsburgh, PA, and in the 1950s, many businessmen took an extra white shirt to change into at lunchtime, and one rarely saw the Sun. China will be worse.
No, thanks.

Anonymous said...

"Unsurprisingly, as a group, it is not clear that economists understand the science as well as they need to, or have as much agreement on economic policy as climate scientists do on the science."

It is clear to me that they don't and that they never will.



The old saw about asking 10 economists about the best approach and getting 11 (or is it 12?) different answers is as applicable in this case as in any other.

I find it particularly humorous when economists criticize climate scientists for the "uncertainty" of their estimates (eg, on the CO2 sensitivity).

The only thing certain about economic predictions/projections is that the vast majority of them will be wrong -- and the one (out of millions) that is right will be held up as an indication of how prescient economic predictions are.

The guy/gal who made the prediction will be worshiped as a sage , even though he/she will most likely never again be right (but with some luck, they will make their correct prediction at the beginning of their career and it will be confirmed just when they are being considered for tenure)

Anonymous said...

an AlGorithm was a method by which votes were counted by Florida election computers in 2000.'

But wouldn't Gore have won if they had used an Algorithm to count the votes?

I thought they used African Bushmen Counting. You know, where you put the beans under the cups and move them around or make notches on the bones of deceased Democrats, one notch for each Gore vote and ten (or was it 20?) for each Bush vote.

Richard Tol said...

Munin: Yes, you got that right. Should not surprise you though, as I have said the same thing for 15 years now.

Anonymous said...

Sans papers, I fear that you sir, with the possible exception that you taught at Philips [sic], Deerfield, an exam school or the equivalent, are blowing smoke."

Isn't Phillips (note that there ar two L's -- count them, one two) the school that graduated George Dumbya Bush?

You know, our first (and hopefully last) President with the IQ of a sea urchin.

They must have very high standards at Phillips if they graduate Bush. Yes indeed.

Brian said...

Boyles doesn't have anything substantive to say about Grinnell Glacier, but I helped do repeat photography of the glacier in 2005. The glacier, like most others, is continuing to retreat long after the post-1850 warming. Trying to pin its retreat on a post-1850 natural warming is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I visited Glacier park in 1984 and and again in 2004, both times doing extensive hiking in the back country.

And I noticed profound changes in the glaciers from my first visit to the next.

With many of the glaciers there and elsewhere, it is not the retreat itself that is most significant.

It is the pace of retreat -- and the fact that it is accelerating, in so many cases.

Same with the ice sheet changes that are occurring.

And same with the overall warming. It is not just the magnitude of the warming that is important, but the fact that it is happening so quickly.

Many plants and animals are incapable of adapting quickly enough and will simply go extinct.

Even humans may have trouble adapting (and quickly enough) to some of the changes.

That's not alarmism. That's fact.

Anonymous said...

the latest "hate Al Gore" psychoses from right-wing Repukes in the US is over his daughter's Chilean Sea Bass at her wedding reception dinner. This was headline news for the usual right-wing blogs, Faux News, etc. Of course, the truth/retraction is printed (or not) way in the back, namely, it was sustainably grown Chilean Sea Bass and not from the illicit, open ocean stocks.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/07/19/eagore119.xml

Don't you wish these idiots would hold up Bush & Cheney to at least 10% of the scrutiny & standards they do Al Gore?

-- Carl

Anonymous said...

Ten percent would be asking for way too much.
..and it's not just FOX. It's the whole mainstream media in the US.

If our media would hold Bush and Cheney responsible for even 1% of the stuff they have done over the past 6 years, they would be in jail -- all of them, including the journalists, since they have been complicit in everything that has happened.

I am convinced that all it takes to be a journalist these days is a degree in "communications", political "science" or some other such rubbish and a willingness to suck up to your boss (both literally and figuratively)

Anonymous said...

In other Al Gore is Correct News:

Video book report on THE ASSAULT ON REASON:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=P6nTAR2MVYQ

Please spread it around!

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bi -- Intl. J. Inact. said...

Yours truly would like to propose an algorithm based on AlGorithms.

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