Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Mutterings from elsewhere

Models used in teaching are not so much wrong as they are incomplete because they are designed to illuminate issues or ideas. Experiments in lab courses are simplified so that those ideas can be actualized. The wave/particle duality issue is a excellent example of this, we can model/observe behavior that illustrates either, but the reality, which is what the maturing student begins to appreciate, is that the issue is not wave OR particle but wave AND particle and that he or she needs to understand when one type of behavior dominates or when both manifest simultaneously. Calling this Orwellian doublespeak is evidence of scientific immaturity.

The price of adding complexity to models of actual situations is a loss of casual understanding at the price of increasing accuracy as one attempts to trace the influence of various factors. Climate models are good examples of this. The broad outlines of the situation can be had by fairly simple models. Adding additional complexity (better models of oceans and clouds for example) makes things, well, more complex, perhaps more precise but not necessarily more accurate and certainly more difficult to understand.

Testing very complex models requires pushing inputs one by one to extremes to discover where the model fails. Fortunately for the climate modelers, many people appear to favor doing so.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Journalists, ask whether a President Romney will resign if Iran gets a nuclear weapon on his watch

In case the video goes away, Romney warns “If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will get a nuclear weapon,” he said. “If we elect Mitt Romney, Iran will not.” We need some way to rein in the blatantly untrue claims like this one, and demanding promises for consequences may be one way to do that.

After having run for office myself, I still can't get over how much worse the quality of rhetoric and campaigning is at the state and national level.  On my campaign website I described what I supported but said "I will be just one of seven Board members, so making [my issues] happen will need some help, but public support and public involvement can help push through changes...."  I believe it would've cost me politically if I made promises I couldn't guarantee, like Romney's doing.  Journalists ought to hold him accountable, or at least get a flustered response out of him.
Just to imitate the journalistic practice of false balance, here's a nice thing to say about a former Republican candidate, Rick Perry:  he was right about instituting Supreme Court term limits (via New Yorker with some helpful elaboration).  I've supported this before, I think a lot of my fellow lawyers would do the same, and I see no reason for Democrats not to do the same.

Above all, do not quote me!

Scam-o-Rama has birthed a new cottage industy, the make believe conference where you send your registration fee to a mailbox somewhere in Soho. Climate change is a favorite topic, and here at least the denialists are correct, these conferences are a fraud, so Eli was wondering who was doing what with which to whom when someone muttered into his mailbox wouldn't he like to show up at the next EGU where Vincent Courtillot would receive the Arthur Holmes medal.

The Arthur Holmes medal for excellence in Solid Earth Geosciences, is one of the most, if not the most prestigious award of the EGU, honoring, wouldn't you know it, Arthur Holmes, a British geologist who was among the first to use radio dating to figure out the age of the Earth, figure out the mechanism for continental drift and much else. It is an honor

Vincent Courtillot, well not so much. Not that Dr. Courtillot did not make significant contributions to Solid Earth Geosciences. Like some, Courtillot, an expert in paleomagnetism, is a contrarian who favors vulcanism as a cause of mass extinctions and rejects the idea that humans are changing the climate. But, he had a bit of another problem, well, let Eli simply say that many people have a lot of issues with honoring the fellow.

Scientists at the Institute of Geophysics in Paris (IPGP) have been accused of acting as editors for dozens of papers by IPGP colleagues published from 1992 to 2008 in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters while they were members of the editorial board. The allegations follow a joint investigation by science journalists at the French newspapers Le Monde and Libération.

Among the authors of the articles involved is Claude Allègre, a former research and education minister in the French government and former IPGP head, whom French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been rumoured to be wooing to take up a ministerial position; and Vincent Courtillot, the institute's current head and a member of the journal's editorial board from 2003 to 2005.

Courtillot has dismissed the allegations, pointing out in Le Monde that all editors of papers submitted to the journal by the IPGP were openly identified. Allègre has described the allegations as "ridiculous". But Friso Veenstra, publisher of the Elsevier journal, maintains that reviewing papers from one's own institution runs against the journal's ethics policy.
The original accusation broke in 2008 in Le Monde (Google translation with some edits see below for original)
For several months a sulphurous document has been circulating in the Earth Science community. And while many are willing to comment in harsh terms, they almost always end by saying: "Above all, do not quote me! » "

The case is poisonous. And the mysterious ravens that triggered it remain in the shadows, hoping that the scandal will break. It accuses some of the greatest French geologists, Claude Allegre and his protectors, as it is rumored that the geochemist is again a candidate for a ministerial post.

What is it? One hundred pages. For the simple guy, this is a compilation of research articles published between 1992 and 2008 in one of the most prestigious journals in earth sciences, Earth and Planetary Science Letters (EPSL), published by the giant Anglo-Dutch scientific publisher Elsevier.

The problem? The selected papers, have in common that they have been written by researchers from one of the jewels of French research, the Institute of Earth Physics of Paris (IPGP). All have been accepted for publication by scientists who were both members of the same IPGP and the editorial board of EPSL. Judges and partly so.

To understand, you should know that EPSL works around a self perpetuating committee of seven prominent researchers, all with the rank of chief editor. Each volunteer spends part of his time to receive and evaluate manuscripts and decides whether or not to publish without having to consult the others.

However, in case of potential conflict of interest (same institution, recent collaboration, etc.). with authors who submit their work for evaluation, the editor must withdraw in favor of another member of the editorial board of the journal . These precautions are cardinal rules because research units and researchers are evaluated by their peers and supervisors by the number of articles published and prestige of the journals that accept them.

Despite these, the three researchers at IPGP who have successively served on the editorial board of EPSL - Paul Tapponnier (1992-1996), Vincent Courtillot (2003-2005) and Claude Jaupart (2006-2008) - have all accepted, approved and agreed to publish work from their institute.

His forays into climate issues stirred the pot, with over 400 climate scientists having written to the French Minister of Research calling on her to disown Courtillot and his pal Claude Allegre's attacks on them.

Eli hears that Courtillot had been repeatedly nominated for the Holmes Medal starting in 2008, but opposition to him based on the scandal revealed by Le Monde (the response was no harm, but Elsevier had done a bit of citation research showing that there was some harm as well as the obvious ethical issues, follow the links). However, Vincent Courtillot has champions on the various EGU medal committees, and they kept his name in play.

This year, again Eli hears, they played hide the cheese, the Holmes Medal Award committee not providing the required notice to the before sending their report to the EGU council and the council not remembering or googling the problem. As a matter of fact, when the issue was raised, the good Sgt. Schultz showed up

Chinaware is crashing, teeth are being bared, with high ranking EGU members resigning and threatening a lively plenary meeting where the current members of the council ask approval of their stewardship of the organization.

Oh yes, Eli also hears that there is cognitive dissonance** in the list of all of the 2012 EGU awardees, but that would be telling.

Award Committee has a sense of humor: The 2008 winner was Anthony Watts. Nonono, not our Tony

Collection of links to original material and commentary from David Smythe

Original from Le Monde
Depuis plusieurs mois, un document sulfureux circule dans la communauté des sciences de la Terre. Et si beaucoup acceptent de le commenter en termes acerbes, c'est presque toujours pour finir par préciser : « Surtout, vous ne me citez pas ! »

L'affaire est empoisonnée. Le ou les mystérieux corbeaux qui l'ont déclenchée restent dans l'ombre, espérant que le scandale éclate. Il vise certains des plus grands géologues français. Dont Claude Allègre et sa garde rapprochée, au moment où il se murmure que le géochimiste est à nouveau candidat à un poste ministériel.

De quoi s'agit-il ? D'un document d'une centaine de pages. Pour le béotien, ce n'est qu'une compilation d'articles de recherche, publiés entre 1992 et 2008 dans l'une des plus prestigieuses revues de sciences de la Terre, Earth and Planetary Science Letters (EPSL), éditée par le géant anglo-néerlandais de l'édition scientifique Elsevier.

Les articles sélectionnés ont pour point commun d'avoir été rédigés par des chercheurs de l'un des fleurons de la recherche française, l'Institut de physique du globe de Paris (IPGP). Le malaise ? Tous ont été acceptés pour publication par des scientifiques qui étaient à la fois membres du même IPGP et du comité éditorial d' EPSL. Juges et partie, donc.

Pour comprendre, il faut savoir que EPSL fonctionne autour d'un comité de sept chercheurs éminents, choisis par cooptation et ayant tous rang d'éditeur en chef. Chacun consacre bénévolement une partie de son temps à recevoir et évaluer des travaux qu'il décide, ou non, de publier. Et ce, sans avoir de comptes à rendre aux autres.

Toutefois, en cas de conflit d'intérêts potentiel (même institution, récente collaboration, etc.) avec les auteurs qui lui soumettent leur travail pour évaluation, l'éditeur doit se désister au profit d'un autre membre du comité éditorial de la revue. Ces précautions sont cardinales : unités de recherche et chercheurs sont évalués par leurs tutelles en fonction du nombre d'articles publiés et du prestige des revues qui les acceptent.

En dépit de ces usages, les trois chercheurs de l'IPGP ayant successivement siégé au comité éditorial d' EPSL - Paul Tapponnier (1992-1996), Vincent Courtillot (2003-2005) et Claude Jaupart (2006-2008) - ont tous pris en charge et accepté de publier des travaux émanant de leur institut. Institut dirigé à plusieurs reprises par deux des trois intéressés.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


The lads from lagos have raised scamming to new levels, perhaps not reached since 1998 when Fred (Seitz) or someones associated with him spent a packet (Eli figures about 200K$ with about 52K$ extra to Sallie Baliunas and a bit less to Willie Soon) flacking for something called the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine Petition .

New York Times did a story on that

The National Academy of Sciences has taken the extraordinary step of disassociating itself from a statement and petition circulated by one of its former presidents that attack the scientific conclusions underlying international efforts to control emissions of industrial waste gases believed to cause global warming.

Many atmospheric scientists and ecologists who believe global warming to be a serious threat had expressed anger and alarm over the article because it was printed in a format and type face similar to that of the academy's own journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [emphasis mine] In his letter, Dr. Seitz, a longtime skeptic on the question of global warming, also identified himself as a past academy president.
Simon Donner reports a bad second act. Somebunny had mailed him an
. . . envelope full of photocopied articles, from the Wall St. Journal and other sources, and various scribblings all attacking the scientific evidence that humans are primarily responsible for recent climate change.

. . . .I'll guess that [we] were not the only people studying climate change to receive copies of this particular material (let me know in the comments).

This package was unique, however, in one important way. The return address - no name was given - was "One Physics Ellipse" in College Park, Maryland.

A retirement community for physicists, you ask? Well, sort of.

One Physics Ellipse is the Corporate Headquarters for the American Institute of Physics. The AIP, like most scientific bodies on the planet, has as policy endorsed the scientific evidence that humans are contributing to climate change.

While it is true that not all of its members agree on that statement, scientists and certainly physicists are not exactly pros at speaking in one voice, I do find it odd to receive a package of "skeptic" material, much of which was downright silly (CO2 emissions don't "rise"), from the actual headquarters.
Eli has acquired (us Rabetts have our ways) a copy of the envelope. It appears to come from a Post Office Substation in zipcode 20690, which is Tall Timbers, MD in Saint Mary's county. Any of Eli's friends live there? Perhaps AIP might be interested or even the Postal Inspectors?

Tis often not better to receive.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Occupy Elsevier

UPDATE: Some more stuff at the Guardian w. interesting comments

Henry Farrell @ Crooked Timber brings word of a new front in the library wars. Wars you ask, well anyone who has been on a library committee knows the constant need to truncate subscriptions because of shrinking budgets, but much more because of the rising costs of key journals. Many of the most expensive are published by Elsevier, a Dutch publishing house which has assiduously bought up title after title.

Tim Gowers, a mathematician doesn't want his friends to publish in Elsevier journals.

It might seem inexplicable that this situation has been allowed to continue. After all, mathematicians (and other scientists) have been complaining about it for a long time. Why can’t we just tell Elsevier that we no longer wish to publish with them?

Well, part of the answer is that we can. A famous (and not unique) example where we did so was the resignation of the entire editorial board of Topology and the founding of The Journal of Topology — the story is told briefly here. But as the list above shows, such examples are very much the exception rather than the rule, so the basic question remains: why do we allow ourselves to be messed about to this extraordinary extent, when one would have thought that nothing would be easier than to do without them?

In short, this is needed because

  1. They charge exorbitantly high prices for their journals.
  1. They sell journals in huge "bundles," so libraries must buy a large set with many unwanted journals, or none at all. Elsevier thus makes huge profits by exploiting their essential titles, at the expense of other journals.
  1. They support measures such as SOPA, PIPA and the Research Works Act, that aim to restrict the free exchange of information.
Academic bunnies and their avatars can sign up here.

This is easier for some than others. For example, Tetrahedron Letters is a bedrock for synthetic chemists while the two important journals in Eli's area, Chemical Physics, and Chemical Physics Letters are optional (and declining in quality IEHO). Tet Let ($16,364) and Tetrahedron ($20,269) cost a large fortune for a library subscription.

"Israel Firster" versus "climate denialists" versus Lindzen

An interesting article by Spencer Ackerman sounds off against the term "Israel Firster" as used by the American progressives as a label for Americans that support every Israeli policy and interest, especially the most aggressive and anti-Muslim policies.

My most left-wing views concern Israel, its shameful treatment of Palestinians, and the accurate description by Israeli politicians of that policy as "apartheid".  Still, I think I agree with Ackerman, not entirely but enough to say that the Israel Firster term should be dropped.  The key to me is that the term originates in anti-Semitism (this is my first and probably last positive reference to anything written by David Bernstein).  While the African-American community has shown how to reappropriate words with disgusting historical origins, that's not something to be done lightly.  Let this term go.

Juan Cole does a better job with the term Likud-supporter, describing the American politicians who reject as anti-Israel the positions favored by a significant strand of progressive Israeli politics.  I'm not sure that captures the thought of politicians who can't see any divergence between American and Israeli interests, but it's good enough for now.

By contrast, I've never bought the claim that "climate denialism" must not be uttered because of its similarity to "Holocaust denial".  I used climate denialism years long before it was claimed by opponents to be derived from Holocaust denial terminology.  Even if it was for some, the connection isn't nearly as seamless as the term "Israeli Firster" is with anti-Semitism.  These people truly are climate denialists and it has a connection to being anti-science, not to anti-Semitism.

And since we're on a related subject, there's the issue of Richard Lindzen claiming to be offended by the term climate denier because he claims to be a Holocaust survivor.  His claim is based on the fact that his Jewish parents emigrated from Germany in 1938, and he was born in 1940.  Even the broadest-accepted definition of Holocaust survivor would only include his parents, not him (and many would not include his parents, although they undoubtedly faced severe persecution).  Actual Holocaust survivors would have good reason to be offended by Lindzen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Another denialist victory - 2008 isn't the warmest La Nina year on record

I think that's the way they'll spin it.  At the end of 2008 I wrote that year would be the warmest La Nina year in the historical record, but new data forces me to retract that erroneous statement.

PS. That's what I get for sitting on a blog post that I've been meaning to write - those jerks at Capitol Weather Gang beat me to it.  I await the denialist explanation on how we can have years this warm when a natural cycle is temporarily cooling a significant percentage of the earth's surface.

Thoreau's Lemma

Remember how calculators came and took the bite out of slide rulers. In a world far, far away, e.g. Eli's bunnyhood, engineering students took classes in how to use the things and adding machines were treasures. In small groceries people used brown paper bags, in large ones, very clunky cash registers.

At that point, still lamented in teachers and faculty lounges world over (and, as Brian would point out, in the US Republican Party), actually knowing how to do arithmetic became less of a necessity and more of a party trick, what was needed was the ability to set up the problem and punch the numbers into the $1 calculator, $10 if you have to do logs or trig functions.

Thoreau, who Eli spars with in a friendly manner, brings news of the next frontier. Students everywhere rejoice, calculus class is no longer needed.

I usually use Mathematica as my calculator, especially when explaining homework in office hours. I can refer back to variables and quickly make graphs or manipulate symbols. So while going over homework with students in my biophysics class, I pull up Mathematica and one of them says “Is that just like Matlab?” My eyes bugged out. A biology major who knows Matlab? This is the subject of my interdisciplinary hopes and dreams. So I asked what she uses Matlab for. “My boyfriend is a mechanical engineer and I have to do his homework for him.” My reply was “Your boyfriend should do his own homework, and if you’re a biology major with Matlab skills you should be working in my research group.” . . . . . . . . (Yes Chip, Eli left out a paragraph, go to the link and see if it changed the meaning of the piece)

Contrast this with my discovery yesterday in biophysics: I gave them an activity in which one step required that they calculate the derivative of a*x^2-b*x. I know that calculus isn’t a prerequisite for the course, but they’re all juniors and seniors and the biology department requires them to take a quarter of calculus. Alas, most of them could not remember it.
Sort of like most students can't remember long division, why should they, all they need is to be taught MatLab (the affordable version) or Maple or Mathematica (the high cost ones) and to find a function. The same thing happened with statistics, all you need is R or SAS or Statistica. To the joy of mathematicians and statisticians they now only have to teach the lemmas.

Symbolic algebra/calculus programs are the calculus versions of calculators. A light has dawned. Death to ten blackboard long proofs.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Danish gravy train stops

Bjorn is getting kicked off the gravy train

Denmark's general election last year ushered in a new administration less keen to support his views. Earlier this month, the Danish government confirmed that it had cut more than £1 million in funding for Lomborg's centre. As a result, he only has funding in place until the end of June.
Of course, wingnut welfare will ride to the rescue, but it will not be quite the same, and Lomborg will not have access to the government. Perhaps he will get a nice pen from Santa Klaus and take a room in Lumo's house of crazy colors.

Coming soon to a DVD player near you

Sunday, January 22, 2012

South Carolina sez Rick Santorum is too moderate

Dave Weigel (no liberal) at Slate:

Rick Santorum is the lone "compassionate conservative" in the race, the only one who talks about protectionist trade, rebuilding manufacturing, and income inequality. (Yes, yes -- , his as Yglesias points out, his tax plan is still regressive. But we're grading on a curve.) He utterly failed to convince conservatives that he -- a happily married father of seven with a serious record of wins in Congress -- was the right anti-Romney. It's not a fair fight, and I'm sure Santorum could win over most Gingrich voters in a lab experiment, but you have to consider why Santorum's specific brand of populism falters as Gingrich's big-picture, Glenn Beck-ian anger thrives. Gingrich and Ron Paul are the most apocalyptic candidates, insistent that America is run by socialists who risk destroying everything. Santorum won't go that far. At a Chamber of Commerce event I wrote about this week, Santorum was the only one of three candidates (Gingrich and Perry were the others) who argued that the National Labor Relations Board might be fixed, not defunded and destroyed. Not good enough!
This is the context in which we're fighting for climate realism within the Republican Party.

Wetting the stratosphere, boiling the oceans

The Capitalist Imperial Pig discusses whether the Earth could go into meltdown, pointing to an article at the MIT Technology Review based on a submission by Colin Goldblatt and Andrew Watson available at arXiv. The manuscript itself is quite clear and differentiates different kinds of runaway warming, the second , and the one Eli will think a bit about comes from determining the vapor pressure of the stratosphere by temperature of the tropopause. In other words, the flux of water vapor into the stratosphere is determined by how much can get through the cold trap at the tropopause.

In radiative equilibrium, the upward longwave flux must equal the downward shortwave flux throughout. Two consequences of this are that the temperature increases with optical depth (this increase is rapid once optical depth > 0.1) and that a higher absorbed shortwave flux will mean that the stratosphere is warmer throughout.
They show this in their Figure 2.
A limit on outgoing radiation from the stratosphere arises because the radiative equilibrium temperature profile needs to match the optical depth of the stratosphere, which is set by the saturation vapour pressure at the tropopause. Intuitively, one might think first of the tropopause temperature then of the associated outgoing flux, but the radiation limit is easier to demonstrate by starting with the outward flux. For some given flux, we follow the radiative equilibrium temperature–optical depth profile until it intersects the temperature–optical depth curve derived from the saturation vapour pressure (figure 2). The intersection gives the tropopause . If the outgoing longwave flux is large, no solution can be found—the radiation limit is then the highest flux for which a solution can be found, around 385Wm−2 here.
Put this together with Susan Solomon's demonstration a couple of years ago that humans are wetting the stratosphere by increased methane releases, followed by oxidation to water vapor and the bunnies realize that there is another mechanism for what Goldblatt and Watson call "Radiation Limit 2: moist stratosphere upper limit (Komabayashi–Ingersoll limit)", blowing a bunch of methane into the stratosphere.

And where have we seen that discussed? and here too.

Eli, being a lazy bunny, thinks this would require an ungodly methane release, but a massive push of methane into the stratosphere with the associated increase in stratospheric water vapor would bring the Earth into an entirely unique and dangerous situation.

Notice is hereby given

or pin the tail

Notice is hereby given that ORI has taken final action in the following case: Based on an inquiry conducted and written admission obtained by Kansas University and additional analysis conducted by ORI in its oversight review, ORI found that Dr. Gerald Lushington, PhD, Director of the K-INBRE Bioinformatics Core Facility and Director of the Molecular Graphics and Modeling Lab, engaged in research misconduct in research supported by P20RR016475. Specifically, ORI found that Respondent engaged in research misconduct by approving publication of 3 articles and 1 abstract he knew contained significant amounts of plagiarized text without attribution or citation from other writers’ published papers. . . .

Friday, January 20, 2012

W/O Comment

Chip Knappenberger

Since when does “adapted” mean “redrawn or drawn from the data”? If I had the data that went into the graph, then I would have plotted up a new graph—but what’s the difference if I plot a new graph the way I want or alter some other graph so it plots what I want to show?

I go over to the CRU site and get the latest temperature data and plot it up—If I want to plot it up for 1901-2000 I can, if I want to plot it up for 1851-2010 I can. I am not bound to use only the plots contained in Brohan et al., but I could use those plots if wanted to. Had Brohan, for space reasons or other reasons, plotted the NH, the SH, and global combination as a single figure, and I’d have no compunction against erasing the NH and SH if I wanted to concentrate on the global results. If Brohan had plotted the HadCRUT2 and HadCRUT3 on a single figure (sorta like their Fig. 13), and I only wanted to show the HadCRUT3 data (after all, that is what the paper was about), I’d have no problem erasing the HadCRUT2 data from their chart. Had Gillett et al. plotted their “improved” 1851-2010 results and the presumably non-improved 1901-2000 results on the same chart and I only wanted to show the improved results (after all, that was the paper was about), I would erase the 1901-2000 results—oh yeah, I did do that! Had I asked Nathan Gillett for the data that went into that chart, I seriously doubt that he would have provided it with restrictions as to how I had to plot it. If Gillett et al. had only used 1901-2000 data, the paper probably would have never been produced or accepted—one of the major novelties of the research was using the full temperature record. Gillett et al. considered the results using 1851-2010 an improvement over previous work using 1900-1999 temperatures. So why oh why oh why is everyone so fired up over us focusing on the new improved results—those that were clearly preferred by the authors themselves?

If you all want to dredge up the Congressional testimony from 1998—then there seems to be a bit more room to argue as to which Scenario the original author preferred for the 1988-1997 period (of course, this has already been argued to death)—but in the case of Gillett et al. it is pretty darn clear the preferences of the authors.

Honestly, I am at a loss to understand the outrage over our handling of Gillett et al. (or Schmittner et al. for that matter—another case where we presented concentrated on the main results of the paper).
Paul Krugman

Let me instead go meta; this is an example of why policy debate is so frustrating, and why I’m not polite. The key thing about how the conservative movement handles debate is that it never gives up an argument, no matter how often and how thoroughly it has been refuted. Oh, there will be more sophisticated arguments made too; but the zombie lies will be rolled out again and again, with little or no pushback from the “respectable” wing of the movement.

In comments and elsewhere I fairly often encounter the pearl-clutchers, who want to know why I can’t politely disagree, since we’re all arguing in good faith, right? Wrong.


For what it's worth the esteemed Blogger Team recommends using a pop up window for comments to avoid some of the problems folk have been having until they get it fixed (real soon now for those of you who remember), Eli is not very fond of this but let's try it. And, oh yeah, we are back to the teeny tiny comment box. WTF

There also appear to be problems viewing Rabett Run with some browsers (friends don't let friends use IE, but IE8 may work).

The RR Team may be forced to switch to the new new blogger interface so watch for funnies

That has been all.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chip Clips

Skeptical Science has a nice article on how Pat Michaels and his Sancho Panza, Chip Knappenberger like to copy and paste figures and statements of others, adding, shall Eli say, a bit of the taste of their own garlic to the sauce. An early example of this saga, in which Eli had a bit of a role, was the good Dr. Michaels editing Hansen's 1988 predictions of global temperature anomaly changes based on three emission scenarios. In order to convince others that Hansen was not close, Patty managed to erase the lower two scenarios and insist that the highest one was the one that Hansen claimed most likely, before Congress no less.

Dana181 over at SkS discusses this and several other inconvenient eraser jobs emanating from the desks of Michaels and Knappenberger (good Chip bad Pat not being a game the bunnies play) and this brought Dr. Knappenberger out of the woodwork to discuss how they "adapted" a figure from Gillett et al. to erase some inconvenient data (somewhat smile making considering how Steve M and friends go on about how Phil Jones, Mike Mann and others are hiding the data). Chip wrote

The caption associated with our graphic showing the results of Gillett et al. included the following:

"(figure adapted from Gillet et al., 2012: note the original figure included additional data not relevant to this discussion)."
So let Eli take a look at the original graph
Dana181 pointed out that this was not what Pat Michaels had shown
But once again, the data projecting larger future global warming was inconvenient for Patrick Michaels' narrative, so he simply deleted it.

The dashed lines in the horizontal direction are the projections from the unconstrained climate model for the three emissions scenarios (the RCPs). The solid vertical lines are the model projections using the 1851-2010 data, and the dotted vertical lines (deleted by Michaels) are the model projections using the 1901-2000 data.

and Eli said something along the lines of
The figure was not adapted from Gillett, et al., it was copied and altered without permission in a [- snip- ] way.
and the word dishonest got snipped.
Moderator Response: [Rob P] You're going to have re-phrase your comment here - the snipped portion is a breach of the comments policy.
But dear bunnies, if you blow up the Michaels and Knappenberger graph you clearly see that it was not redrawn or drawn from the data as Knappenberger claimed, but simply copied and the inconvenient data erased, pixel by pixel.

If you think that ain't dishonest, Eli has fine, but underperforming football player to sell you, bids start at $10 million on Ebay.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Let's return to this February, 2013 and see if 'victory' still smells as sweet". Why wait?

The above is the political prediction of a political scientist that delaying the Keystone XL decision was Obama's brilliant way of playing his supporters for fools until the next election.

Or maybe not (although who knows for sure, but it's no help to the project).  Now the fight may also switch to Canada deciding whether to build their own pipeline to export the oil overseas, instead of piping it to Louisiana to be sent overseas.  It's a long game.

(Edited for a tad more context.)

Whaling cap and trade has the politics of carbon taxes

The politics is that I don't see it happening, or at least not as the primary tool for managing the problem, regardless of the merits.

Unfortunately the paywall means I can't RTFA in Nature, but here's the Washpost and an interesting take by Holly Doremus.  A pure cap/trade, which they're not proposing, would require whaling nations to buy whaling allocations they now steal from the world's common heritage for free, so politics rules that out.  The authors apparently propose allocating parts of the harvest for free to whaling nations, which raises the question of why anyone else would support it.

The other biological aspect of this issue that I haven't seen discussed stems from my understanding that the current harvest is likely significantly less than what some common whale species can handle.  Of course whalers currently ignore species restrictions and kill whatever whales they can find, but that gets arm-waved (and more could be done if the political will existed).  This proposal could result  in an increased allocation, making it more expensive for whaling opponents to buy out quotas.

I agree with Holly that there are non-economic problems with this proposal, although I disagree with her implication that an economic approach is incapable of addressing non-economic problems.  Just this one.

Holly also picked up on the same parallel I saw to attempts to buy slaves as a way to end slavery.  I wouldn't be as dismissive as she is though.  I suspect buying slaves their freedom was an important method to reduce the number of slaves in states where it was a marginal activity, making it easier for those states to move to abolition. Pennsylvania then moved to a gradual abolition of slavery in 1780, diminishing the economic impact to slaveowners by putting it off into the future.  Economic approaches have their value.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Yosemite Valley, 1861

Via the Guardian, the Getty Museum collection of photographs of the Yosemite Valley from 1861 taken by Carleton Watkins. Tip of the ears to Leo Hickman and the Getty Museum

Monday, January 16, 2012

All data is wrong

Some data are useful.


UPDATE: Fixed the grammar

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Oxidation bumblers

Oxidation numbers are one of those ancient retainers that chemistry suffers from. Convenient, but with enough bumbling exceptions to drive every student crazy. In discussing various reactions we commonly use oxidation numbers, oxidation and reduction, but not everybunny has had, or more to the point, remembers their chemistry.

The language comes from about three centuries ago, when metallurgists talked about reducing metals from their ores, e.g. getting rid of whatever else the metals were combined with by heat driven reactions. Oxidation is somewhat more recent, dating to 1777 or thereabouts when Lavoisier named oxygen (discovered by Priestly in 1774) and discussed its role in combustion and corrosion, e.g. reactions with oxygen hence oxidation.

The first use in English was a translation from Lavoisier (OED)
1789 R. Kerr tr. Lavoisier Elements Chem. iii. viii. 445 It is much to be wished that some person would undertake a series of experiments upon oxydation of metals in the several gases.
Reduction of metals comes from the earlier usage (1450)of bringing back something to an earlier state, but the first metallurgical reduction mention is
1741 tr. J. A. Cramer Elements Art Assaying Metals 186 Metals destroyed, and changed into Scoria or Ashes, are, by their Union with the same matter, again restored to their metallick Form. This Operation is called Reduction.
Mendelev constructed his periodic table by characterizing the number of atoms of each element which combined with oxygen and hydrogen

While we (and Mendelev) think of reactions as involving atoms, they really involve the transfer or sharing of the outermost electrons often called the valence electrons, the ones which are held most loosely. Oxidation numbers are a model which assigns each of these electrons completely to one of the two atoms in every bond whereas a better picture takes account of how they are shared.

An atom can, of course, have multiple bonds. The oxidation number is the difference between the number of valence electrons an isolated atom would have available for bonding and the number of electrons assigned to it in the molecule.

Isolated hydrogen atoms, H, have one electron available, carbon, C, four and oxygen, O, six. The other two electrons in carbon and oxygen are so strongly bound to the nucleus that they are never involved in the bonding and we take about the four and six being the valence electrons for C and O. In water vapor, H2O, the electrons associated with the H atom are "transferred" to the oxygen, so the oxidation number (or effective charge) on the H atoms are +1 (electrons have negative charge, that is another story) and the oxidation number of the O atom is -2, it "has", or rather is assigned, two more electrons than the isolated O atom. In CO2, each O atom attracts two electrons from the C atom, so the C atom "has" four less electrons than the isolated C atom would have, and an oxidation number of +4, while the O atoms have oxidation numbers of -2 each.

In reality, the electrons are shared between the atoms, it is just that on average they are closer to the oxygen atoms, e.g. the oxygen has a stronger pull on the electrons associated with the bonds. The figure below illustrates this for a series of hydrogen halides, HF through HI (F is fluorine, Cl Chorine, Br bromine, and I Iodine. Blue stands for low electron density, red for high. The assignment of the electron from the H atom to the halogen is much better justified for HF than for HI, but the oxidation number rules assign +1 to the H atom and -1 to the halogen in all cases.

Fluorine, F, is the atom which attracts electrons most strongly, it has the largest electron "affinity" and it has a very large ionization energy, the energy needed to pull an electron away from the isolated F atom. There is a convenient metric for figuring out which atom in a bond will most strongly attract the bonding electrons called electronegativity, which is a combination of the strength which an atom holds electrons, the ionization energy and the strength at which it attracts electrons, the electron affinity.

The higher the electron affinity and the ionization energy, the higher the electronegativity and visa versa. This is not how the original scale was constructed by Pauling, but it is effectively, and there is a simpler electronegativity scale due to Mullikan which states this explicitly.
χ = [½(IE + EA)] × 3.48 - 0.602
where the weird numbers are the results of matching the scale as best as possible to Pauling's original one, which for some reason known only to Pauling set the electronegativity of F as 4

F is the atom with the highest electronegativity. The larger the difference between the electronegativity of two atoms bonded together, the more polar the bond, with the electrons attracted closer to the atom with the higher electronegativity. Ionization energy and electron affinity are basic properties of atoms which determine electronegativity. From electronegativity it's pretty easy to figure out which end of a bond will be more polar, and for the purpose of assigning oxidation numbers where to push the electrons.

One arbitrarily (this will NOT be on the test) sets an electronegativity difference of 1.7 as the boundary between ionic and covalent bonds. Opinions differ.

If you are interested in the "rules" for assigning oxidation numbers, there are any number of places for finding them. The problem is that in the traditional course you learn about oxidation numbers before electronegativity and assigning oxidation numbers becomes ad hoc. Thus the attraction of teaching with what is called the atoms first approach where you start with atomic structure and properties such as ionization energy and electron affinity trends.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mother Blogger

One of the things about free things is that the giver of free things appears to think they know best, so the design of Rabett Run has been "upgraded" to the new blogger standard. Eli has poked around in the design section, but he is only a simple bunny. Any suggestions on how to disimprove the new design

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cutting down the mightiest tree in the forest with a herring

Take three large shots of your favorite mind numbing substance before reading.

Louise, wasn’t allocated space above to answer, so here it is: I have given myself an order – to simplify things; because complicating don’t change the truth, but is used exclusively for confusing the majority on the street, by people that are scared from the truth. Should I make exception for you? .

Ask anybody that has being using gas for cooking; they will tell you that methane is heavier than O+N on sea-level / in gas state. When you recognise the truth, wouldn’t complicate / massage the facts – instead you look for real reasons: the 4 atoms of hydrogen in the methane molecule only have PROTONS that’s where the gravity is; but no lots of neutrons as in O+N, which take space = volume, but no weight. 2] 2H2 (2 deuterium) in methane hug each other – oxygen + nitrogen in the air stay apart. It’s just a small example; if is something unusual, look for real reasons, don’t make fool of yourself, just to be argumentative. Louise, 4 ball-bearings are heavier than a cork with double the volume. I challenge you: ”you challenge every scientist on this blog; what would they say; is methane heavier than O+N on sea-level – then ask a WORKING PERSON on the gas station that handles methane – will tell us all, who is cherry-picking / who has interest to massage the truth? Definitely the person WORKING with methane will be the one to believe, not a Warmist academic.

Methane is very important subject that will affect the atmosphere / climate. Not for what the propaganda says; but because burning methane depletes lots of oxygen – creating new methane is REVERSING THE DAMAGES; I have A page on methane in the digestive system on my website. Yesterday 62 people visited my website; only 2 people went to the page on methane.= all are avoiding what is most important for their life – instead will keep repeating here about: albedo, noise, observation, forcing, equilibrium bla, bla…. = Sir Humphrey’s empty talk” If you read every sentence of the text I am referring – you will understand how harmful empty talk is – how important exposing the truth is – take the challenge, all of you. It’s a big crime in progress – most of them are plying Sargent Schulz ( I know noooothing) That is a crime in itself

denial with style, or poeing on Judy:)

Go to bed. . .

Go to bed said Ms. Rabett, but Eli respectfully pointed out that someone said something wrong on the INTERNET and it's the Bunny's job to set them straight. Go to bed she replied and pulled the plug leaving Eli to hunt down the laptop.

Methane is much in the news (see Real Climate for example) and Eli wandered into a D-K moment at Judy's where one of the front pagers (notice how Judy is undercutting Tony in guest post quality?) was spitting up. Not so much wrong, as wrong for the case at hand, so the Rabett pointed to an article on methane oxidation that he had posted earlier, featuring a very nice diagram of the simplified reaction scheme from a review article by Ravishankara.

Well, harumphed the D-K poster child

So yet another Hare-brained scheme:-

H-O-O(dot) + NO(dot) (Peroxy Radical and Nitric Oxide) is generally given to generate peroxynitrous acid O=N-O-O(1-)H(1+), which then become nitric acid.

Whereas the dumb bunny has 
H-O-O(dot) + NO(dot) giving HO(Dot) + NO2(Dot).

Thus, the reaction of the peroxy radical and nitrogen dioxide is given to be a source of hydroxyl radical and nitrogen dioxide by a floppy eared fool.

Bunny actually needs the rate constants for the reaction series 

H-O-O(dot) + NO(dot) --> O=N-O-O-H

O=N-O-O-H --> HO(Dot) + NO2(Dot).
 O=N-O-O-H --> HNO3

So mister bunny, go an look up the reaction kinetics and reflect upon the implications of a bifurcated pathway where one branch is in a rapid equilibrium and the other is irreversible.
At one time or other Eli had actually looked up those rate constants for his original take, in the place to look them up the IUPAC atmospheric chemistry critical data evaluation, and surprise, the rate for the first, yielding HO and NO2 is more than two orders of magnitude faster than the second yielding HNO3, so that the relative yield of nitric acid is substantially less than 1% under atmospheric conditions. Moreover, the HO, HO2, NO and NO2 are not in a thermodynamic equilibrium, but there is a steady state situation where the sources of NOx and HOx(combustion, etc) balance the sinks such as 1a. There is an important difference between an equilibrium situation and a steady state one which Eli will get to in another post.

There are things about atmospheric chemistry (more precisely gas phase reactions) that are worth discussing because if all you have is general chemistry you miss the point as was done comprehensively by Doc Martyn, and this set of reactions is not a bad place to start.
(1) HO2 + NO --> HO + NO2

(1a) HO2 + NO --> HNO3, or nitric acid
Thus once again it becomes clear that Eli will have to stay up late correcting wrong Weblike pontifications.

The HO radical is the key reactant for atmospheric oxidation reactions, degrading stuff to water vapor and carbon dioxide. The HO2 radical acts as a reservoir species for reactive HO. Throw in some nitrogen oxides and you get

(1) HO2 + NO --> HO + NO2
(2) HO + CO --> H + CO2
(3) H + O2 + M -->HO2 + M
Reaction 2 is basic to all hydrocarbon oxidation since those schemes almost always pass through formaldehyde, H2CO which decomposes to yield CO. CO oxidation to CO2 is dominated by reaction with HO and the H atoms combine with O2 to form HO2.

What is that M you ask. Anything else. When the H and the O2 near each other, there is an attractive force between them, but it is not sufficient to stabilize HO2 unless a third body M can carry away some of the energy and stabilize the adduct. If there is no third body, the kinetic energy of the collision causes the reactants to fly apart and the addition reaction does not occur.This need for a third body to stabilize adducts is one of those things that we never get to in general chemistry, and, indeed never really need to because in solution, where general and organic chemistry are mostly done, there is always a third body provided free of charge by the solvent.

Reaction 1 has all this in spades. Looking only at the reactants, the average or sub-average chemist would say, do a Doc Martyn, clear we got nitric acid! as the product and, of course it is here that the good Doc Martyns go astray
So mister bunny, go an look up the reaction kinetics and reflect upon the implications of a bifurcated pathway where one branch is in a rapid equilibrium and the other is irreversible.
Well, true 1a is irreversible, but the rate constant is small, especially compared to 1 and the OH and NO2 products of 1 are themselves involved in a number of other fast reactions of which 1a is a termination step so real Rabetts need to be more sophisticated..

To discuss what actually happens we need a potential energy surface (PES). In the old days we did the Lamb thing and scribbled free hand, what we thought reasonable, but there are computers and ab initio chemistry programs with lots of alphabet soup (would you like a dash of DFT B3LYP/6-31 G++ with that, or perhaps some CCSD(T) sauce?) and we can get the PES, which, if not perfect, is indicative

Here the reactants start on the right, where they belong, and the products are on the left, but sometimes in the middle as will be explained. Eli has taken but slightly modified this surface from Butkovskaya, Kukui, Pouvesle, and Le Bras. J. Phys. Chem. A 2005, 109, 6509-6520

Confused? Let's take a look a some prototypes in order to gather vocabulary. There is simplification, omission and some wiggle in what follows in order to emphasize the high spots.

To the left is a PES for the typical gen chem reaction, A + BC --> AB + C with a barrier in the entrance channel. By entrance channel we mean that first thing, the reactants have to collide with enough energy to exceed the barrier in order to react. The transition state (TS) represents the lowest energy configuration which the reactants have to pass through in order to become products and the height of the transition state is the minimum collisional energy needed for the reaction to take place. If the collisional energy is lower, then nothing happens. ΔE is called the activation energy. If the collisional energy is above the TS barrier then the reaction will occur and the products AB + C will separate with kinetic energy which is the difference between the collisional energy and the potential energy of the products. In such a case the temperature dependence of the reaction rate constant has what is called the Ahrennius form k = A exp(-ΔE/kT) where k is Boltzmann's constant. Increasing the temperature of the system increases the average collision energy, and thus the rate of reaction.

Now let us look at something a bit more complicated

Here we have added a stable adduct, ABC in a potential well. If there are no additional encounters with third bodies (the divine molecules M) during the reaction (sub nanosecond times at the most), the reactants with collision energy above the barrier sail on through to form the products, AB + C, but if the pressure is high enough there are collisions which drop the activated complex ABC** down into the ABC potential well and the relative yields of AB or ABC depend on the number of collisions or, equivalently, the pressure

Finally there are radical (and radical-radical) reactions. Radicals, for Eli's purposes are odd electron species which are very reactive. Their reactions do not have a barrier in the entrance channel although there might be later ones as is the case for Reaction 1. The characteristic of a radical reaction is a NEGATIVE activation energy, so that the rate INCREASES with decreasing temperature. This is a measure of the strength of bond formation for the activated complex. The lower the collision energy, the more likely the complex is to form and not fall apart and thus the more likely that there will be a reaction.

In the next chapter RR will return to the HO2 + NO --> PES.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Organizing the Academy

Eli, being a well known ear sucker, has cast a brain cell or two to the organization of knowledge, the sort of thing where there is STEM and NOKESENCE (No Other Knowledge etc.) and come up with the Six Fold Way that does a lot better than the usual Colleges of Mish and Mosh. Deans and Provosts, Rabett Run is open for consulting. The Rabett accepts VISA and PayPal.


Friday, January 06, 2012

Eli Thanks Ernst Beck (Shock! Horror!)

Now Eli, in his time, has been quite hard on the late Ernst Beck, but he is here to praise (time will tell) some of his work. In the course of trying and failing to understand the global changes of CO2, Beck was quite impressed by some of the worst scientific work ever done, and unimpressed by some of the best, but in the course put together a bibliography of just about every published measurement back to the year dot, and some before.

Georg Hoffmann pointed out that

Secondly, nearly all early sampling facilities were tested in continental environments often under the sporadic influence of heavily polluted air masses (such as Paris, Parc Montsouris, Copenhagen, Dieppe etc.). How large is the influence of such “CO2 pollution”? A quick tour through my car-traffic-saturated home town, Paris, can give us a good first impression:

  • Jardin Luxembourg (major but still tiny green spot in the center of Paris) 425ppm
  • Place de la Bastille: 430ppm
  • Place de l’Etoile (the crazy huge roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe): 508ppm
  • And the winner was Place de la Nation: 542ppm (ie 160ppm over background!).

All these measurements by David Widory and Marc Javoy (reference below) were snapshot measurements, but they show how CO2 concentrations can vary strongly due to nearby fossil fuel combustion. Even in apparently “natural” environments there are many technical pitfalls to avoid. Strong CO2 fluxes due to the breathing (i.e. photosynthesis and respiration) of the biosphere are producing large diurnal cycles. A sampling site too close to the surface or shielded by a surrounding forest can easily bias the CO2 signal by several dozens of ppm.

In a wonderful example of how blunders can become features, Eli was wandering through the AGU hall of 10,000 posters when he came across "CO2 Megaparis: An intensive study of CO2 emissions from Paris megacity (in collaboration with the EU project MEGAPOLI)," given by Irene Xueref-Remy reprising their EGU presentation earlier in the year. The group has been measuring mixing ratios all around the city and surroundings for a while
Nowadays, CO2 emissions from Ile-de-France are known only through inventories, but no independant verification has been provided. Furthermore, the role and variability of the different emission types need to be better assessed. We present here the project CO2-MEGAPARIS funded by the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche, that aims to verify inventories from Ile-de-France through the use of powerful modeling and observational tools, at an hourly scale and a spatial resolution up to 2.5 x 2.5 km2.
In discussing the poster with Dr Xueref-Remy, Eli mentioned that there were some seriously old measurements, which were probably reasonable, but of course determined by the local situation. Did she know about them. . . well no, never heard of the things, so the bunny forwarded the appropriate links with appropriate warnings.

Which, just shows that amateurs have their uses
Uncle Eli has always admired astronomy, botany, and zoology as sciences with important amateur participation. By nurturing the large community of those interested in the science these fields have built important support groups, and amateurs have made important contributions. Many amateurs become obsessed with relatively narrow and previously trodden areas. Within those areas their knowledge often exceeds that of professionals. To Eli the most important thing is that people get to experience the joy of science.

What amateurs lack as a group is perspective, an understanding of how everything fits together and a sense of proportion. Graduate training is designed to pass lore from advisers to students. You learn much about things that didn't work and therefore were never published . . In short the kind of local knowledge that allows one to cut through the published literature thicket.

But this lack makes amateurs prone to get caught in the traps that entangled the professionals' grandfathers, and it can be difficult to disabuse them of their discoveries. Especially problematical are those who want science to validate preconceived political notions, and those willing to believe they are Einstein and the professionals are fools. Put these two types together and you get a witches brew of ignorance and attitude.

Unfortunately climate science is as sugar to flies for those types.
but even they have their unexpected pluses.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The indelible dumbness of physicists

Eli has always been impressed by Myanna Lahsen's take on physicists

they think they know everything, because they’re smart. What they don’t understand is that yes, it is true, actually meteorology is a branch of physics. And so you take a physicist, like me, and you can sit him down, and in 2 or 3 years, they could learn meteorology. But physicists confuse being smart and having the ability to learn everything with actually knowing stuff!
and by way Watts, excerpted by Tallbloke, via a comment at Open Mind, comes another example, one Robert Brown, PhD, at Duke who offers up a BOE to showcase another argument from personal incredulity.

As some noble prize winners, he gets the wrong answer for the right reason. We have all gone through the trivial exercise of balancing the solar input against radiative loss from an Earth without an atmosphere, which shows that without greenhouse gases the temperature of the Earth would be a uniform 255 K, about 33 K colder than it is on average. Brown asks what would happen if the surface temperature was not uniform, without realizing that Arthur Smith provided the answer, it would be a lot colder. If you account for day/night differences, the change of temperature with latitude and such, 33K is a lower limit for the greenhouse effect if you insist on radiative balance. To cut a long story there short, assumption of a uniform surface temperature UNDERESTIMATES the effect of greenhouse gases on surface temperature. To return to the first paragraph, DECREASING the temperature at which the Earth's atmosphere radiates to space by increasing greenhouse gases, requires that the surface temperature INCREASE in order to restore radiative balance. Brown clearly was not on the distribution list.

The point is that as temperatures increase, the rate at which the Earth loses heat goes strictly up, all things being equal. Hot bodies lose heat (to radiation) much faster than cold bodies due to Stefan-Boltzmann’s T^4 straight up; then anything that increases the inhomogeneity of the temperature distribution around the (increased) mean tends to increase it further still. Note well that the former scales like:

P’/P = 1 + 4 dT/T + …

straight up! (This assumes T’ = T + dT, with dT << T the warming.)
P' being the radiated power.
At the high end of the IPCC doom scale, a temperature increase of 5.6C is 5.6/280 \approx 0.02. That increases the rate of Stefan-Boltzmann radiative power loss by a factor of 0.08 or nearly 10%. I would argue that this is absurd — there is basically no way in hell doubling CO_2 (to a concentration that is still < 0.1%) is going to alter the radiative energy balance of the Earth by 10%.
Well, Eli leaves it to the reader to decide whether a 6 K temperature change is reasonable for CO2, greenhouse forcing doubling, without getting into the issue of why Brown chooses 6K rather than the generally agreed on 2-3 K (so that is only a 2- 3% change), please don't spit the cherry pits out on the linoleum or the window, this is a high class blog, but even without going much further, how unreasonable is that 2-3 K change if the greenhouse effect accounts for more than 33 K of surface warming, which it does. Still dear bunnies, there is more.

The statement that "The point is that as temperatures increase, the rate at which the Earth loses heat goes strictly up, all things being equal." is where the good Doctor Brown goes serious GIGO. It is correct that the rate at which the Earth's SURFACE loses heat goes strictly up, but the surface is NOT where most of the thermal IR is emitted to space.

That is rather high up in the atmosphere, which can be seen by comparing the emission to space with the Planck distribution of thermal emission from the surface for example, but there are plenty of accurate measurements and models.

The point at which the emission curve matches a blackbody curve tells you the temperature of the effective altitude at which emission is occurring to space. Raising the greenhouse gas concentration raises the level at which the emission to space occurs to a colder level, and thus one where emission is slower. To make up for that the surface has to warm in order to push more energy through the open window directly into space.

Pass the mole hammer please.

Monday, January 02, 2012


Eli was wandering through AGU when he came across a poster which insisted that all climate change is just a collection of jerks. This has now, in more impenetrable form (according to the author) been accepted for publication in JGR, and you know what editors are. Roger Jones proposes that continuum models just do not fit the data at all scales and intervals, that stuff changes suddenly.

Past climate change has often been rapid. Although future climate change could also be rapid, it is usually communicated as a trend.

Climate projections developed from coupled atmospheric ocean models are interpreted through a signal to noise model. This model interprets the anthropogenic signal in climate variable (temperature, rainfall, etc.) as a smooth curve and variability as noise around that curve..

For long time series of annual data, annual to decadal variability is interpreted as being of natural origin.

Were these changes natural variability superimposed on a long term trend or were they a non-linear response to anthropogenic forcing

The resulting investigation has concluded that anthropogenic climate change is a non-linear process. Rather than following the signal-to-noise model, climate change follows a step and trend process.
Jones has looked at a number of changes, including air and sea temperatures at local to global scales, precipitation, and more.

The bunnies thought about this, and the useful analogy is earthquakes. Stress (e.g. forcing) builds steadily, but change happens suddenly. Averaging, smooths change to a fair-thee-well, continuum models do the same. The uncertainty monster is not anyone's friend.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

More Physics Follies

Back in March 2011, writing on this very blog, I described the efforts of global warming rejectionists, who tried to get the American Physical Society (APS) to water down or reject its earlier statement on global warming. Instead the APS strengthened its statement.

One result of the kerfuffle was the creation of a Topical Group on the Physics of Climate (TGC). John Mashey, writing a comment on the realclimate.org blog, provided a very illuminating brief history behind the creation of the TGC. Gentle readers of Rabett Run (are they any other kind of readers?) are referred to Mashey's masterful history.

Meanwhile, while randomly twiddling the teevee dial over the holidays, I accidentally discovered a new PBS Nova film about the melting of arctic glaciers, Extreme Ice . The Greenland ice is melting in ways that are not fully understood, but the melting is occurring faster than many climate scientists believed in the recent past. The film is actually quite frightening.

The latest (2007) IPCC document includes global sea level rise from the warming up of the oceans (thermal expansion), but does not include any contribution to the sea level rise from melting terrestrial glaciers, because there was no agreement on how to model the melting process.

This brings us to a point: skeptics and rejectionists stress the uncertainties in the predictions of global warming. However, glacier melting is one factor which, if included, makes the future predictions more alarming, not less alarming. As climate science advances, the case for doing nothing becomes even more untenable.