Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bad stats for Obamacare at the Supremes, but Kennedy is a cipher

Statistical analyses have backed up conventional wisdom among lawyers, that more questions/words directed at one side of a case by judges during oral arguments suggests it's more likely that side is going to get its teeth kicked in.  The Monkey Cage reports that the stats don't look good for Obamacare after the Supreme Court hearing this week, with the usual 5-4 split by justices posing questions/comments, possibly leading to a 5-4 decision against the mandate.

There is another hand though, because this is law that we're talking about.  I'm much less interested in what the nine judges tend to do on the Court than I am with one of them - Kennedy.  According to the main paper that Monkey Cage uses, "The principal exception is Kennedy; none of his question variables produces a statistically significant coefficient." (See page 21 of the pdf.)  As Kennedy goes, so goes the Court in this case.

So even though Kennedy mostly questioned the good guys, we might still have a chance.

Friday, March 30, 2012

First try doesn't quite imitate a 13 year old's science experiment

Previous post refers to a kid's video about proving "global warming in a jar".  I'm not sure I'm proving anything given the comments, but I thought I'd try it out anyway.  Today was a dry run, so no video of my misadventures.

I wanted to do it cheaper, first of all, so no heat lamps or seltzer sources.  My thought was carbonated water versus regular water, and my heat source is the sauna at the gym.  I followed the NASA recipe where I hit my first snag, with trouble finding thermometers that I could stick through bottle caps.  No luck at the hardware store, and then thought I had the genius solution of using perfect-sized digital thermometers from the drug store.  Failing to read the fine print, I missed that these medical thermometers only register temps between 90 and 110F.

I thought it might still work though by placing them on the floor of the sauna.  Filled the bottom quarter of two bottles with water in one, cabonated water in the other, both waters starting at the same temp (kept the source bottles together in the backpack before pouring into receiver bottles), stuck them on the sauna floor and sweatily waited five minutes.  First reading was 107 for carbonated, 108 for regular.  Both increased temperature while I watched - within seconds, carbonated was warmer than regular, then within a minute it hit 110 and became useless.  The other took about three minutes to do the same.

I remove the bottles and me from the sauna.  The water at the bottom of both still seemed cool to touch, all the warmth was at the top of the bottles.  I was chagrined to realize I had put just slightly more water in the control than soda water in the experimental bottle, so even my very limited data has a problem.

So obviously the next step is get the right thermometers.  I'd also like to try it outside on dark pavement on a sunny day, but the sunny days lately have been pretty windy.  I think if I could leave the bottles in the sauna long enough, I might also be able to get enough water vapor to have an effect/feedback.  Maybe one bottle with baking soda and vinegar, one with water, one with carbonated water, and a control.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mr. Bluster meets Deadpan Dan

UPDATE:  By popular request the tale of Brave Sir Robin

Some time ago as these things go, Mr. Bluster, aka Christopher Monckton, accepted Tony Watt's offer to hold his coat for a written exchange with Peter Hadfield, known previously as potholer 54 who had published a number of videos questioning Monckton's claims about this and that, climate being among the this and also the that.

The exchange, the videos and the resulting challenges are illustrative of the two styles of British debate.  Monckton being an advocate of the big bluster,
 Various You-Tube videos by a former “science writer” who uses a speleological pseudonym “potholer54″ sneeringly deliver a series of petty smears about artfully-distorted and often inconsequential aspects of my talks on climate change. Here, briefly, I shall answer some of his silly allegations. I noted them down rather hastily, since I am disinclined to waste much time on him, so the sentences in quote-marks may not be word for word what he said, but I hope that they fairly convey his meaning.
 and Hadfield the toneless recitation which flays by small cuts
Mr. Monckton doesn’t claim to be an expert, and neither do I. All I can do is to check and verify his claims. So the question is whether Mr. Monckton has reported the sources he cites accurately in order to reach his conclusions. I have made it very easy for you to check by playing clips of Mr. Monckton making these assertions in my videos, then showing images of the documentary evidence he cites. Since this response is text I will write out Mr. Monckton’s assertions verbatim and quote the documentary sources verbatim (with references in the body of the text.)  References to the relevant video (linked at the bottom) and the time on the video where they are shown, will be shown in square brackets.
 As a game this is rock paper scissor, the goal of the blusterer is to bury the opponents under an avalanche of verbage and then anger them at which point a win is declared and the fans cheer, but if the bait is not taken then the blusterer is left twisting in the wind.  Monckton, of course, is not so much an embroiderer of the truth as an eliminator of context who ruthlessly edits necessary detail although he has been known to tell a few progies.  His is the oral platform, the written response being Kryptonite.

Although playing on a home field, Monckton clearly knew that he had a weak hand so he broke off the exchange.  Hadfield wants to play a bit more and sent an open letter to the Viscount, but Eli suspects that Scrotum advised against a positive response
Despite promising Anthony Watts that you would respond when you returned from Australia mid-February, you have not done so, and now you have written to tell me that you are, in effect, running away. Sorry, I don’t know how else to phrase your abrupt retreat from our debate as soon as I showed evidence that supports my allegations and starkly contradicts your claims.
I am referring to your e-mail to me dated March 22nd: I am on a very busy tour and will be still more busy when I return to the UK, so I do not know when I shall have further time to respond. Many people like to engage in debates on inconsequentialities and, while I try to accommodate them, other priorities must sometimes come first.
Let me address the first excuse first. I understand you are currently on a busy tour, but you promised Anthony Watts you would respond when you returned from your last tour, and you did not. Meanwhile I note that you have had plenty of time to respond to a university newsletter that criticized you, and you spent two hours talking on skype to a small classroom of students. I fail to see why these are “priorities”, while my 57,000 subscribers and the hundreds of thousands of subscribers to wattsupwiththat are not deserving of an answer from you concerning clear evidence that you seriously misled your audiences over a period of several years. The people watching this debate have watched you vacate your chair, and are still expecting to see you to re-appear from backstage at any moment with some incisive rebuttal after checking my evidence. I am sure they will be as shocked as I am to hear the squealing of car tyres as you make good your escape.
This death match has many who would be willing to watch, but Watts has figured out that this is a no win for him and his
 While I can’t hear what Hadfield is saying (he sounds like a British mumble to me) they seem totally infatuated with their manhunt, so much for Hadfield’s repeated claims of being “dispassionate and logical”. Thanks for posting this. When he starts colluding with that hateful “greenman”, all semblance of rational debate is destroyed.

This video then cements my decision not to provide any further space to Hadfield here. – Anthony
 Peter Sinclair, his pen name "greenman" having been taken in vain, has tubs of popcorn going stale

Monckton and Watts Cut and Run from Debate. Blame “hateful” Climate Crocks.

March 27, 2012

I normally ignore the inside baseball back-and-forth that occupies too many people’s time on the blog-o-sphere, but this is just too hilarious.
Barry Bickmore is also amused by the squeal of tires as Chris pulls out
Apparently, Monckton had promised to answer Hadfield’s criticism, but he has now responded to Hadfield’s requests by saying that he all of a sudden has far too much other stuff to do, and so he can’t possibly be expected to address such “inconsequentialities” as whether he misrepresented his sources to make all the major points in his public lectures.  This is quite amusing to Monckton watchers like myself, because for years His Lordship has been touting the fact that Al Gore refuses to debate him.  Al Gore would likely refuse to debate Jessica Simpson or the guy who played Screech on Saved by the Bell, too, but the fact is that Monckton has very publicly criticized certain points in Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth, and many, many people repeat those criticisms.  In my opinion, most of the criticisms are absurd, but I don’t think Gore would be remiss in assigning a staffer to do some kind of written response.  I’m all for ignoring fringe figures, but when fringe figures are testifying before the U.S. Congress as “expert” witnesses, maybe it’s time to take notice.
Eli? Eli is a fuzzy bunny

Hansen Wins

About four years ago, James Hansen wrote a letter

A year ago, [ER-2008] I wrote to Gordon Brown asking him to place a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants in Britain. I have asked the same of Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, Kevin Rudd and other leaders. The reason is this -coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet.
 Today, from the Washington Post
The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions  from new power plants as early as Tuesday, according to several people briefed on the proposal. The move could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.

The proposed rule — years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review — will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt. 
 From the New York Times
According to people briefed by the Environmental Protection Agency, all existing plants — including the 300 or so coal-fired power plants that now release the highest level of these emissions and yet-to-be-built plants that have already received E.P.A. permits — will be grandfathered in at current levels, meaning they are exempt from the new proposed rule. . . .
The White House official explained that the goal of the rule is to hasten the introduction of carbon controls on new coal-fired power plants, while not causing immediate economic harm from the shutdown of existing plants. The rule is certain to face stiff challenges in Congress and the courts. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Compare and Contrast

There is a small business in posting how the various global temperature series change and match up to the predictions of experts and, well, some not so. Wood for Trees has a great franchise, and Nick Stokes keeps the widgets coming. Eli's position has always been that looking only at global temperature throws away too much information to be satisfying and leaves great room for statistical hanky panky.

The Oxford Climate Prediction.Net folk have a new paper at Nature Geosciences (paywall). They graciously allowed others to run their simple GCM and from the large number of returns, and here is the point, they selected the ones that best matched the regional patterns of temperature anomalies from 1960 to 2010. The observed 20o1-2010 global pattern is shown in a below, the patterns from the selected model runs with a high and low ensemble members are shown in b and c.

Figure d and e show the predictions for warming as compared to the average for 1960 - 1990, which comes out between 1.8 and 3.0 C, significantly above the AR4. Hindcast skill needs improved evaluation parameterization for sure.

Endangered Species Act also at risk along with Obamacare tomorrow

Obamacare undergoes Supreme Court scrutiny tomorrow, and we'll hear in a few weeks/months as to what the Court does.  The challenge is whether Congressional ability to regulate interstate commerce allows the government to require people to buy health insurance, paying a penalty if they refuse to do so.

Wading through the mumbo jumbo, I think we ultimately have two choices.  One is that except in the most strained and patchworked circumstances, Constitution places almost no restraint on the ability of the federal government to act like a state government in terms of economic regulation.  Politics, not courts, restrain the scope of federal government.  This is the choice that courts have made since the 1930s.

The other choice is that except in strained and patchworked ways, the Constitution doesn't allow the federal government to operate like a modern integrated nation-state in terms of economic regulation.  The government could figure out weird work-arounds involving tax incentives in some cases, but otherwise we'll just have to hope that government is the problem and not the solution, because we're not going to let it operate as a solution.

These are the ultimate choices, and a decision to partially overturn Obamacare doesn't send us all the way to the second choice.  It does start us down the road though, with consequences to follow.

Next in line could be the Endangered Species Act, which has been challenged often and unsuccessfully for involving non-economic, intrastate activity.  It's the nature of species dwindling enough to be eligible for listing as endangered that also makes them less important economically, and they rarely locate their last habitats on the border between states instead of inside a single state.  Lower courts haven't worried about this though, based on Supreme Court precedent since the 1930s.

The Supreme Court never reviewed this particular challenge though, and Chief Justice Roberts, back when he was a wee appellate judge, signaled his own concern with the ESA.  If the Supreme Court changes how we understand the Commerce Clause, things can change for environmental regulation.

A lot is dependent on what the Court decides over Obamacare, and on who gets to make the replacement appointments between now and January 2017.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nuclear energy versus flood control - choose one

I spent most of this last week on my second trip to Washington DC on behalf of our local water district, trying to see if we can funding for flood control projects primarily, and secondarily for environmental restoration and dam safety.  I'm getting to the point now where I'm starting to understand what it is that I don't know, so maybe that's progress.

Comments I wrote about the previous trip still stand, especially regarding budgets.  Here's something new to me:  the implication of the fact that the Corps of Engineers flood control budget competes with the Department of Energy's nuclear power development program budget in a budgetary appropriations subcommittee.  DOE also supports nuclear weapons programs, but I'm not clear as to exactly where that money comes from.  As political actors starting from Obama and moving to his right support subsidies for nuclear power, that limits the amount of money we can get to support our flood control projects (which incidentally have a lot of good environmental aspects to them).  So far, it's not looking good for flood control.

In a rational world it's not clear why these two budget items would face off any more than any other two federal budget items, but that's not the hand we've been dealt.  More question in my mind then whether nuclear power deserves the vast level of subsidy it's been given.

In other news, more speculation about Santorum 2016, this time from an apparent Santorum skeptic who sez "I wouldn't put him among the top three contenders".  I suggested in the comments that we make it interesting with a nominal $50 bet over whether he fails to place third.  The apparent skeptic questioned whether he had made a prediction, so I guess I stand corrected.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Climate of Physics

Something to read with your Saturday Morning Breakfast Comics

this is a problem with 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! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Explaining Science

Scientists look at the world around them as a puzzle they would like to solve. Some start with one small piece and insist on building out from it. Others concentrate on putting the border into place, the big picture. But like that 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle your cousin gave you for your birthday, just because you haven't yet figured out where that one annoying piece is (maybe your cat made off with it) or your kid forced a single piece into the wrong place, that doesn't make the other 890 pieces you have got right so far all wrong and that certainly doesn't mean that the picture of the world that is emerging on your coffee table and in our understanding of the climate isn't usefully clear.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Bob Grumbine calmly explains to Tony about the problem in trusting Steve Goddard,

There's a bit of a tempest at WUWT and Steven Goddard's regarding satellite data on sea ice. And there are some anxious comments about FOIA filings to be made regarding data that's been hidden. I have to concede that it takes a bit of a historian to know what's really being said in the IPCC first report regarding sea ice. (see page 224, figure 7.20 for the source of the tempest.) Fortunately, I am such a historian :-) To give away the ending: There's nothing terribly dramatic going on in the sea ice or the history. But I'll take the chance to talk history of sea ice analysis.

The tempest arises because the figure shown there has sea ice cover in the early 1970s in the Arctic being notably lower than it was through the 1980s. (Curiously, no interest is displayed at either site regarding the Antarctic being far higher in the 1970s than the 1980s.) If the figures were commensurate with the satellite observations such as those used in the Cryosphere Today anomaly figures, it would suggest that the Arctic coverage of the last few years wasn't as remarkable as we've generally thought. (On the other hand, it would also say that the 'record high' Antarctic coverage of recent years was not particularly high at all, a point being neglected at both sites.)
Go read the whole story. Meanwhile at the place where this all started, the Weasel, Julienne Stroeve and Bob try and clear things up, summarized by Guenther Kirschenbaum

What is so complicated about this whole Skate picture?

The Skate is famous for surfacing at the North Pole, so someone inadvertently assumed that picture must have been from that event and said so on the Internets. Then someone who really badly needs to refute the existence of AGW comes by, copies the whole thing and goes: “Hahaa, there you go, warmistas! There was open water at the Pole in 1957! No AGW! Hahaa!”

Of course, this half truth travels around the world a couple of times and gets so much attention that folks find out that this picture wasn’t made at the Pole in 1959 (not that it matters, it was a piss poor argument to begin with), and they change the caption.

As can be expected, this changing now becomes the focus, accompanied by a casual “I’m interested in nailing down the date on the one in question”.

First the Goddard conspiracy theory du jour, and then this, together in one post. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. As always, top notch science, Anthony.

In other news, the Yorkshire Ranter wanted to know how the Montreal Protocols could have been passed.
Perhaps more telling is this NASA web page, which describes the output from the Goddard Space Flight Centre's Chemistry-Climate Model given inputs corresponding to a world that kept using the stuff. It's either utterly terrifying, or enormously inspiring, depending on how you look at it. Rowland, Paul Crutzen, the British Antarctic Survey people who did the fieldwork...they essentially saved the world.

But what really interests me was how they got the Vienna and Montreal protocols passed. I had the vague impression that something had changed since 1989, that the ex-tobacco industry unscience industry was only cranked up later to bash the climatologists. In fact, I'm wrong. A comment at Realclimate points out that they were indeed targeted by the usual suspects. Rowland was accused of being a KGB agent trying to destroy capitalism
Eli had a thought
One of the things was that Dupont and ICI management was still full of chemists and that Thatcher herself (although they are reluctant to take credit) was an Oxford chemistry BA. So even though they didn't want to believe the science they had the tools to understand it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Snow Job

There appears to be some contention about whether the snow pack in California is increasing, decreasing or wiggle waggling. Now Eli is a RTFR kind of bunny and when someone provides a reference tends to follow the tracks, and sometimes when there is no clue he follows the Rabett tracks using the dread google. Sometimes Eli learn something, as indeed was this case when upon googling Sierra snowpack a paper by Kapnick and Hall by popped up

To assess inter-annual variations in California snowpack evolution, a metric was developed for quantifying systematic changes in snow accumulation and melt timing. In particular, we focused on the timing of peak snow mass. We created a measure of the timing of peak snow mass relying on SWE [snow water equivalent- er] observations taken around the first of the month from February to May.

We used these monthly snapshots rather than daily SWE data because the daily data are only robustly available from 1980 to the present, too short a time series to calculate long-term trends in maximum SWE timing.

The peak snow mass timing is defined for any given year as the temporal centroid date, also known as the center of mass, of SWE values (SWE centroid date, or SCD) from approximately 4 February 1 to May 1 for stations with complete data over this four-month time period.
which, among other things, made the points that SWE on April 1 is an indicator of the water supply that will be available for the rest of the year
A study of the California Sierra snowpack has been conducted using snow station observations and reanalysis surface temperature data. Monthly snow water equivalent measurements were combined from two data sets to provide sufficient data from 1930 to 2008. The monthly snapshots are used to calculate peak snow mass timing for each snow season. Since 1930, there has been a trend toward earlier snow mass peak timing by 0.6 days per decade. The trend towards earlier timing also occurs at most individual stations. The majority of stations have experienced simultaneous reductions in April 1 snow water equivalent. Reductions in April 1 snow water equivalent may therefore be due to earlier snowmelt rather than reductions in total snowfall. Analysis of individual years and stations reveals that warm early spring temperatures are associated with earlier snow mass peak timing for all spatial and temporal scales included in the data set. The influence is particularly pronounced for low accumulation years indicating the importance of albedo feedback for the melting of shallow snow. Regional mean averaged March and April temperatures have increased at a rate of 0.1°C or 0.2°F per decade since 1948, and the robustness of the average early spring temperature influence on peak timing suggests the trend towards earlier peak timing is attributable to the temperature trend. Given scenarios of warming in California, we can expect to see acceleration in the peak timing trend; this will reduce the warm season storage capacity of the California snowpack.
emphasis added. What water folk like Brian care about is the amount of water available to carry CA through the summer and fall, until it starts to rain and snow again. The Sierra functions as a huge reservoir which stores water over the winter and releases it well into the late spring. As the water makes its way through the hydrological system in the spring and sumer when rainfall in CA is scarce, it provides water for the cities and farms. The later the SCD and the higher the SWE then, the greater the water supply. If the trend in SCD continues, at a minimum CA will have to invest heavily (wes are poor, taxes are high and government is evil) in expanding its reservoir system.

In Memoriam, Norbert Untersteiner

The University of Washington reports the passing of Norbert Untersteiner.  (1926-2012). While not part of Eli's scientific community, we knew him by what he did, Ice Station Alpha from the 1957 International Geophysical Year, something that inspired this young bunny then, establishment of polar science at the University of Washington and more.

Fittingly, Cryosphere Today  replaced the Arctic Ice image with one of Untersteiner in memorium.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

George Mason creates copyright risks for outside publishing of work by its academics

John Mashey has a thorough and sad rendition of the whitewashing done by George Mason University to protect a tenured, climate denialist professor from the consequences of plagiarism.  After receiving complaints, GMU found plagiarism existed in one case where an outside journal had already reached that conclusion and forced retraction of an article.  In another case where no outsider had made a decision, GMU not only found no plagiarism but found "no misconduct," even though less of the same copied material was in the second case, the infamous "Wegman Report" to Congress that criticized climatologists.

Deep Climate has an update that the plagiarized material, also found in other material by GMU academics affiliated with Wegman, has been cleaned up with little explanation and no admission of error.  DC doesn't speculate much on the motive for doing it but I will - it's the copyright, stupid.

Copyright and plagiarism violations are not the same but overlap greatly.  Copyright is a legal property right, enforceable in court, to one's way of expressing ideas.  Plagiarism is an ethical concept, usually not enforceable in court, that authors' ideas must be attributed to them when others use those ideas.  Plagiarism is about the ideas, copyright is only about the way the ideas are expressed.

Plagiarism is generally a much broader concept because you can change the way of expressing the ideas and no longer violate copyright but still plagiarize if the new expression is done without attribution.  In a Venn diagram, plagiarism is a big circle, copyright is a small circle, and all of the small circle sits within the big circle except for a tiny little bit sticking out.*

The legal relevance of this is that a strong culture at a university against plagiarism also protects against copyright violations, and outside publishers will know that submissions by academics are less likely to have stolen text that will blow up at some later point in a lawsuit against the publisher.  After reviewing the color-coded material that John provides in the pdf at the bottom of the first link, I think the copyright violation is obvious (and because it's unattributed, it's obviously plagiarism) but GMU considers it to be no misconduct, i.e. an acceptable way to do scholarship.

The best that outside journals and publishing houses can hope for is that GMU is just demonstrating rank hypocrisy for one especially-favored professor and his PhD students, and that won't happen again for him, his students, or anyone else at GMU.  But can they count on that?  GMU has very publicly found that this level of copyright violation isn't misconduct in this case, so it will be much harder for it to make the contrary claim about violations by other academics and students.  Wegman and the others involved in this will find it almost impossible to enforce against plagiarism themselves - I can't imagine the level of wikipedia copying that will go in papers in his classes.

The ramification of the committee’s finding of no misconduct therefore includes the risk that GMU will not have a culture that reduces copyright violations in submissions by GMU scholars to outside journals and publishing houses.  Those outside publishers will have to weigh the increased legal risk of publishing a GMU scholar, knowing that competing authors submitting from other universities come from academic cultures that have undertaken steps to minimize copyright violations.  Not only would publishers become more vulnerable to lawsuits, they might be unable protect their publication of GMU academic work from copyright theft (because the author never owned the material while claiming otherwise).  The publishers might even mistakenly bring a copyright claim against another outside author, only to find that author, and not the publisher, owns the publisher’s material that the publisher claimed was stolen.

John speculates on page 28 of his pdf as to why GMU did this.  Here I'm speculating on legal consequences - DeepClimate has shown that others have already started to clean up material, which I think was done to limit copyright violations (it doesn't eliminate the legal harm already done, however).**  Things could turn out worse for those publishers, and the implication to publishers in general is that they assign increased legal risk to material from GMU academics.

*The theoretical exception, where you can commit copyright violation without plagiarism, is by copying extensive material from the original author while clearly attributing the copied material to the original.  As a practical matter, outside of overt piracy this is unimportant because the potential copyright violation sticks out like a sore thumb and alerts reviewers to the problem.

 **Much of the material was also copied from Wikipedia, which maintains no copyright to its work (UPDATE:  maintains limited copyright only, see comments).  This distinction makes no difference as to plagiarism however.  You can still do a thought experiment:  1. if wiki had copyrighted the material, 2. if sufficient amount was copied verbatim, and 3. if inadequate attribution, then you've established plagiarism.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Who are these people that John Christy is refuting?

Maybe Christy is just being polite by failing to name the people he describes below:

"The dramatic claims about snow disappearing in the Sierra just are not verified," said Christy, a climate change skeptic and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. "It looks like you're going to have snow for the foreseeable future."
I'm somewhat surprised that people were saying that a massive mountain range with much of the elevation exceeding 10,000 feet was not going to have snow in the foreseeable future.  As kind and fair as Christy is, I think he should gently criticize by name the people who've said that, as well as the experts who've said that we currently see a decline in the Sierra snowpack.  Of course the article has a contrary expert:
Mike Dettinger, a climatologist and research hydrologist at the Scripps Institute of the U.S. Geological Survey, said Christy is picking and choosing data while misleading people about what climate change scientists are actually saying.
Recent studies by Scripps scientists have found that over the last 50 years the southern Sierra snowpack has gotten larger while the northern Sierra pack has shrunk. Although they have predicted the overall state snowpack would decrease over time as a result of climate change, nobody has claimed that it has happened yet, Dettinger said. 
What's significant in terms of global warming, he said, is the fact that the snowpack has declined over three quarters of the western United States, an area that includes Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico. Scripps researchers, in coordination with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists, have concluded that 60 percent of that downward trend is due to greenhouse gases. 
"There is a popular conception that the snowpack has declined everywhere, but that is not what the science says," Dettinger said. "What we're saying broadly is that across western North America there have been declines in spring snowpack."
Might have been helpful to include this info near the beginning of the article instead of at the end.  Christy can always counter the criticism by naming names.  Go to it!

Also worth noting that he's combining different measurement systems over time to reach a conclusion, the exact thing that denialists criticize about temperature and sea level records used by climatologists.  So now we know it can be done, apparently.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Eli Thanks the Committee

Via various unnamed sources comes this landmark decision about slipping disacknowledgements into your thesis. The Plaintiff, sued various and sundry at UCSB for refusing to accept his master's thesis after he had slipped in two extra pages (commented on here and there)

To the Dean and staff of the Graduate Division,

You fascists are the largest argument against higher education there has ever been. Any claims you make as an ally and resource for students is an utter sham. All dealings with you have ended in sheer frustration. I'd rather take a hot stick in the eye then deal with your bureaucratic nonsense. An especial disacknowledgement to David Fishman whose officious, blind devotion to absurd rules provides disservice to both education and the university.

To the entire management of the Davidson Library,

Your strict adherence to self-serving draconian policy has made it a supreme displeasure to work in your vicinity. Incomprehensible fines, unwillingness to help and general poor attitude has made most library visits an ogre. I trust your incompetence will preside over the continued decline in library quality.

To Professor Fred Wudl (formerly of UCSB, tenured at UCLA),

For failing to realize that your professorship and tenure doesn't give you the privilege of disrespectful and cruel treatment of your students and employees. Further, it has surprised me that your arrogance and proclivity at being an ass can affect even those isolated from your presence. It is my supreme pleasure to never have associations with you again.

To Former Governor Pete Wilson,

A supreme government jerk who has personally overseen the demise of the university. You policies have 1) raised tuition and fees fourfold since my first association with the university, 2) dismantled and traded some of the most competent senior faculty, and 3) generally hurt as many people as possible. For these, I wish you to never wield any governmental power again as you have surely proved your ineptitude.

To the UC Regents,

Whose continued suppression of graduate students, your most loyal employees, serves as a paragon of corrupt management. May your continually biased and corrupt practices be fraught with continued controversies brought upon by the students who you offer a fatuous disservice.


To Science,

For being a hollow specter of what you should be. Your vapid conceits have rendered those in your pursuit lifeless, unfeeling zombies. If I can forever escape you, the better I will be.

Eli recommends reading the entire decision without hot drinks in hand. Somehow Brown got free representation from Arnold and Porter but in the end the appeals court agreed there was no Federal issue, but remanded because there may have been a state one.
We hold that Plaintiff does not have a First Amendment right to have his nonconforming thesis approved, nor did he have a right to a formal hearing with respect to his committee's academic decision not to approve the thesis. As a result, Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity on Plaintiff's damages claims, and Plaintiff cannot compel Defendants to place the unapproved version of his thesis in the UCSB library.

Because the district court did not address Plaintiff's claim under the California Constitution, we remand the case to the district court to resolve it on the merits or dismiss it.
e.g. even a Research Assistant's union can't force a committee to accept a thesis, which is a good thing, but, OTOH there is more gold in them thar hills, including an additional opinion which notes that as part of it's evidence UCSB provided an acceptable acknowledgement

To: 1) the dips**ts who decided to put the P-chemists on the forth [sic] floor, 2) the inept facilities management monkey who raised the cooling water pressure and 3) the dumb ass who left his cooling water ON for a laser that was OFF for 2 years and subsequently flooded my lab, desk, and my most important files: may your bloated, limb-less bodies wash to shore and be picked clean by seabirds and maggots....
Eli might have had a personal relationship with that laser a long time ago. Just sayin:) There is, of course, more to the story. Turns out that the university awarded Brown's degree about a year later when he sic'd ABC news on the Dean
On May 11, 2000, a producer for "ABC's Nightly News with Peter Jennings" contacted Brown expressing interest in learning more about his struggle with the administration over his disacknowledgments section. University officials spoke with the producer on May 14, 2000 and Brown was interviewed on May 15, 2000. The very next day, Brown received a letter via Federal Express stating that the university had decided to award him a degree. The university contends that the timing was coincidence, that the Dean had requested a departmental recommendation on Brown's status a month before the interviews were conducted, and that the interview with university officials actually took place after they had decided to award Brown a degree.
News at eleven: Deans Lie, if we are lucky, Wiley will show up and describe their tactics.

Monday, March 12, 2012

In Memorium Sherry Rowland

Sherry Rowland has died at the age of 84.  Rowland and his then student Mario Molina won the Nobel Prize for discovering how chlorine atoms can catalytically destroy ozone. 

When Rowland was young, reaction kinetics was also.  The community that studied gas phase reactions was limited by sources and detection methods as well as theoretical possibilities.  Eli only met and talked with Rowland once, in the mid seventies, but he worked for and with many of Rowland's contemporaries who always spoke highly of him.  That generation, the successors to such pioneers as Norrish and Porter, has essentially passed.  With Sherry Rowland's death there is one less. 

One story that remains with the Rabett is how Rowland explained that being trailed by a Dupont representative was at first bothersome, but after some reflection not, because the presence of the "opposition" kept him from embroidery and, who knows, he said, I may have convinced them.

Romney opposed both major legal challenges to ObamaCare

Romney used to support the individual mandate to buy health insurance.  This Democratic National Committee ad lays out some video clips about it, some of which are cherry-picked, but the overall discussion and the part about Wyden-Bennett are spot-on:

Glenn Kessler has a disingenuous dismissal of the ad.  In particular he claims that when Romney was referring to "we" Republicans as supporting Wyden-Bennett, Romney didn't include himself in that "we" and that Romney was not endorsing the mandate.  Read the full language at Kessler's post, but it seems to me that "we" is easily understood by non-Kesslers.  More tellingly, Kessler daintily omits the context and fails to quote the language in the USA Today Op-Ed by Romney supporting a tax penalty for those who don't buy insurance, which is the functional equivalent of a mandate.

Kessler actually uncovered a nugget that was real news, though, even if he failed to recognize it.  Romney said this:

I would not mandate at the federal level that every state do what we do, but what I would say at the federal level is we’ll keep giving you these special payments we make if you adopt plans that get everybody insured. 
While this language doesn't support the DNC's argument about a mandate, it's the same type of argument that conservatives are litigating against in Obamacare.  They say the withholding of Medicaid payments unless states expand the program is illegal control of the state governments by the federal government, and that's exactly what Romney wanted to do with the mandate program - require states to impose mandates or lose their funding.  While this argument isn't expected to do very well, the Supreme Court decided to consider it.

Romney's piled up a record that he'll have to run against if he becomes the Republican nominee.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Time to call it climate change and acidification

I think ocean acidification should stop being considered just one of the effects of GHGs and give it top-line billing.  That the oceans are acidifying faster than anytime in the last 300 million years received moderate press (I think Wired had the best pop-science coverage, would love links to other good pieces).  People had to read fairly deeply into coverage to read that we only stop at 300 million years because there's no decent geological record before then.  Those denialists who point out that temperatures were warmer than present way back when the earth was a growing ball of lava might not have an irrelevant precedent to point to in this case.

Not only are the oceans acidifying faster, they're doing at a much faster pace, with pleasant information like this at the link:

The boundary between the Triassic and Jurassic included a large increase in atmospheric CO2 (adding as much as 1,300 to 2,400 ppm) over a relatively short period of time, perhaps just 20,000 years. The authors write, “A calcification crisis amongst hypercalcifying taxa is inferred for this period, with reefs and scleractinian corals experiencing a near-total collapse.” Again, though, it’s unclear how much of the catastrophe can be blamed on acidification rather than warming.
While our CO2 level won't go as high, it's moving much faster, and the rate of change is what drives acidification and the loss of carbonates needed by calcifying species.

Additional niceties, our current ocean chemistry is even more vulnerable to change:
The ratio of magnesium to calcium in ocean water changes over time due to differences in volcanic activity along the mid-ocean ridges, among other things. When magnesium is high (as it is today), a form of calcium carbonate called aragonite becomes dominant. Aragonite is more soluble than calcite, so “aragonite seas” are more susceptible to the effects of acidification. Even though the PETM did not feature aragonite seas, it was a tumultuous time for many marine species.
I haven't seen much discussion about how ocean acidification will affect climate, possibly because we have no idea.  Maybe it'll be wonderful!  I imagine tho that drastically changing the ocean biosphere is likely to have an effect, and because we're adjusted to the biosphere that we have, that effect is unlikely to be wonderful.

I'm sure that effect will be studied further.  Wiki links to a paywalled article about potential albedo decreases due loss of oceanic clouds, presumably from reduced nucleation particles from calcifying organisms getting into the atmosphere.  Wiki also speculates that acidification will help the ocean draw out more CO2 from the atmosphere.

David Archer sez calcifying plankton scatter light on their own, so their reduction can reduce albedo (Long Thaw, p. 118). OTOH I vaguely recall somewhere in his book he said that our killing off coral through acidification would leave more carbonate in solution, assisting the ocean's absorption of CO2.  I interpret that as part of the road to victory in the battle against Mother Earth, but others may differ.

I almost titled this post, "Time to panic over acidification" but tried to go with something slightly more constructive.  Time to get worried, at least.

Even more obvious once you think about it

Eli has read the comments, thought about it a bit more and added another line to the Sea Ice Area graph, showing the maximum amount of new, first year ice formed, the red line above.   This is simply the difference between the maximum amount of sea ice in a year less the minimum amount of sea ice area in the preceding Fall.

The amount of first year ice, if anything, is INCREASING.  How could that be? To understand this we need to look at Jeff Condon's measure of ice south of 72o North

which is decreasing.

Taken together, a consistent story of sea ice in the Arctic emerges:

1.  The area covered by more than one year old ice is decreasing significantly from about 5 million sq km in 1980 to about 3 million km2 now.  That is a decrease of 40% in 32 years.

2.  The total amount of first year ice south of 72o North has decreased by about 0.75 million km2 in the same period.  Condon mentions that there is an average of about 4 million km2 that far south at maximum extent over the 32 years, so this is a decrease of about 20% (Eli is playing horseshoes here, looking for meaning not misleading statistics).  Most of this decrease is in areas such a the Baltic, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering, Greenland and Barents Seas.  So far Hudson's Bay freezes completely over.

3.  The ~1.25 million km2 (Rabett eyeball) increase in total first year ice area is entirely from filling the Arctic basin.

4.  Summers with major melting are followed by large increases in first year ice from this filling in.

5.  The ice pack south of 72o North has both regions which are connected to the Arctic (Greenland, Bering and Barents Seas) and disjoint from it (Hudson's Bay, the Baltic, the Sea of Okhotsk).  The former will contribute less in years following significant summer melt which reduces the size of the pack, the latter are sensitive only to local temperatures.  A better analysis would exclude the disjoint areas.  Eli will have a drink, thank you very much.  With ice.


Friday, March 09, 2012

That's Obvious

Tamino is doing a sea ice series (Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3) which started, what else, with a provocation from Jeff Condon, owner operator of Bishop Hill some other blog

What Condon’s essay really illustrates is how fake skeptics fool themselves into thinking they have real evidence.

The gist is a re-definition of sea ice area to include only what Condon calls “annual” or “single-year” ice area. This isn’t done by determining which ice is really 1st-year and which isn’t — it’s done by noting that every year, almost all of the Arctic sea ice south of latitude 72N melts away, so the new definition is “sea ice south of latitude 72N.” That’s for the northern hemisphere, for the southern the definition of “annual” is: all the sea ice.
Eli leaves it to the gentle bunnies to go read the various ins and outs, esp a comment by Jeffey
The 72 degree mark was the northernmost divider for non-annual ice. It was identified by using data. Shame that. As you know, but managed to fail to point out, the Antarctic ice melts almost completely every year. Adding them together shows a picture of how regions which don’t support multi-year ice are reacting to global warming. In other words – Most of the ice on Earth. I found it interesting to see a minimal trend and concluded nothing much from it. As I told Nathan, nobody is taking away your end-of-the-world sandwich boards gentlemen.

Now Eli is not as swift as he used to be, but if you want first year ice, hell, just subtract the minimum ice area each September from the ice area in the following twelve months till you hit a new minimum.  It's a lot easier than getting the ice south of 72 degree, and Eli was not alone in spotting this (Ron Broberg at a minimum was another).  So the Rabett wrote a polite letter to the Cryosphere Today folks and got the data for the ice area and the anomaly and did the dirty

UPDATE:  Prettified and a bit clarified.  The green line is, as it was, the difference between the lowest sea ice area in September and the sea ice area in the following year until a new minimum is reached.  Also made the lines a bit thicker for reading.

There are some interesting things here.  For one, the simple way to get the first year ice, tells you how much ice lasted for two or more years (called old ice here, which is not quite the normal, where old ice is reserved for multiyear ice).  The interesting thing is how parallel the decrease in teh old ice is to the anomaly, but if you think about this, it's not so strange, because most of the first year ice does not survive, esp the more southerly.  Thus, the anomaly is basically a disappearance of old ice.  Second, the first year ice area jumps about until the big melt of 2007, after which it takes a big jump.  Makes sense, the old ice melted out, and usually the Arctic pretty much freezes over every winter.  This winter may be different because the western end of the Arctic was pretty ice free this year.

Someone, might even try to match the peaks of the first year ice to the NAO.

The Secret Life of Books, Part II

Continuing the Rabett Run investigation into the corrupting ways that books ruin our children's lives, Eli steals shamelessly from Ed Darrell this most enchanting fable (which also won the Oscar for animated shorts).  Roger approves, and recommends you visit the bathtub early and often, (damn it there is a link on the left) if for nothing else for Ed's recent post on statistical shenanigans in educational testing.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

A New Blog on the Block

Magnus Westerstrand brings word of a new EGU blog, which looks quite interesting.

First articles include one by Christopher Pierce about writing that first proposal

I, like many other aspiring academics, am currently locked in the rounds of writing fellowship proposals that if funded will see me break free of the shackles of being somebody’s postdoc and become an independent researcher. Before I can dream about having the kudos of my own budget code, however, I must achieve the seemingly impossible and successfully sell my science. This innocuous phrase is hammered into us from the moment we brazenly set out on our PhD, but it is not until we have been broken by too many late night stints in the lab or in front of our machine that we come to realise exactly how mundane most scientific research is, and just how hard it is to make what we do sound interesting to an outsider.
One by Claire Desplats about passion and science
Man, this guy was good looking – tall, broad shouldered, soft eyed, tousled hair, cute little dimples, … and then…
“Oh wow – that is amazing!”
I looked in shock from Adonis to the oscilloscope we were using and discovered, that, yes, he was indeed talking about the little oscillating line on the dinky screen.  That’s when it struck me that I would probably never be a scientist.  That passion for the quivering green line just escaped me.  Not only that, but I couldn’t even begin to glimpse the reason behind the passion…
And one by Andrew Rushby, that makes Eli's heart flutter (see above) about possible biogeochemistry at Europa.  Perhaps the Bunny can really retire.

Oh yes, a request from the editors.  Should the management make links open new windows or simply link out?

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Murder Ain't Explicitly Outlawed By the Rules of Baseball

They play by Wegman rules. University Presidents have very large rugs to sweep stuff under. Well, at least they didn't copy from the Wikipedia

The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia said yesterday that two of its psychiatrists were rightful authors of a widely cited 2001 paper on a controversial antidepressant. It also said that that the scientific authors broke no rules in place at the time when the final publication failed to acknowledge a medical writing company paid by the drug's maker to help prepare the manuscript.

While current journal and [university] policy call for the acknowledgement of the assistance of a medical writer...guidelines in place in 2001 did not,” the university's school of medicine said in a statement.

UPDATE: New title from Pinko Punko in the comments

Blocking and tackling

In preparation for the Easter Hansen Was Wrong in 1988 offensive Eli went back and looked at an old post. As Hansen said

The climate model we employ has a global mean surface air equilibrium sensitivity of 4.2 C for doubled CO2. Other recent GCMs yield equilibrium sensitivities of 2.5-5.5 C.....
Forecast temperature trends for time scales of a few decades or less are not very sensitive to the model's equilibrium climate sensitivity (reference provided). Therefore climate sensitivity would have to be much smaller than 4.2 C, say 1.5 to 2 C, in order for us to modify our conclusions significantly.
Eli pointed out that
We are getting to the point, twenty years on, where the high estimate of climate sensitivity is making itself felt. OTOH, the 1988 paper estimated the forcings slightly on the low side. The result was a pretty good prediction. Definitely in the class of useful models.
We are also at the point where Scenario C, the one where CO2 went to zilch in 2000, would, according to the 1988 model, plateau, but one would expect that this far on the 1988 predictions would begin to look a bit too high because of the large climate sensitivity.

So in the spirit of the thing, allow Eli to plot the 1988 model data, let's throw in the GISSTemp temperature anomalies, as was done in the 1988 paper, basing the anomaly on the 1951-1980 period.

UPDATE:  As any thinking bunny might expect, for this Nick Stokes has a better gimmick, but he should work on the background.  Eli understands that Pat and Chip could loan him their Photoshop.

Koch vs. Cato in fourteen words

Love of liberty should not imply a firm belief about the spectrum of CO2
Explained at Noahopinion, how libertarians have been funded and manipulated by authoritarian rent seekers and how "only at the end do they understand". The climate issue is just a by blow.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Warmongers always accuse enemies of insanity

What Paul Pillar says.  We can live with a nuclear Iran, because their leaders are evil, not insane:

The simple argument is that Iranian leaders supposedly don’t think like the rest of us: they are religious fanatics who value martyrdom more than life, cannot be counted on to act rationally, and therefore cannot be deterred. On the campaign trail Rick Santorum has been among the most vocal in propounding this notion, asserting that Iran is ruled by the “equivalent of al-Qaeda,” that its “theology teaches” that its objective is to “create a calamity,” that it believes “the afterlife is better than this life,” and that its “principal virtue” is martyrdom. Newt Gingrich speaks in a similar vein about how Iranian leaders are suicidal jihadists, and says “it’s impossible to deter them.” 
The trouble with this image of Iran is that it does not reflect actual Iranian behavior. More than three decades of history demonstrate that the Islamic Republic’s rulers, like most rulers elsewhere, are overwhelmingly concerned with preserving their regime and their power—in this life, not some future one. They are no more likely to let theological imperatives lead them into self-destructive behavior than other leaders whose religious faiths envision an afterlife. Iranian rulers may have a history of valorizing martyrdom—as they did when sending young militiamen to their deaths in near-hopeless attacks during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s—but they have never given any indication of wanting to become martyrs themselves. 

I think Khomenei would've been most likely to be an insane-from-our-perspective fanatic, and he negotiated an end to the Iran-Iraq war because it was in the interest of his regime's continued power.

Of course this doesn't mean evil leaders won't be aggressive or take risks.  Hitler attacked the Soviet Union when he hadn't finished digesting Western and Central Europe.  OTOH, there's no way he would've attacked the USSR if the Soviets already had nukes.  It is possible to reason through how an evil leader thinks.  If Iran gets nukes, and I don't even know how determined they are to get nukes as opposed to nuclear capability, it would be insane to give them to terrorists.

I think warmongers accuse enemies of irrationality to keep the rest of us from using reason ourselves.  If our enemies are insane, our only choice is to overcome them.  We heard the same stuff about Saddam, with no evidence afterwards that he was insane.  I suppose it's not impossible to encounter an insane enemy, but overuse of that argument, and Iranian history, suggests it's unlikely here.

A gem from James - HADCRUT4 also says 2010 was the Best In Show for bad temperature news

Two months old, but hasn't had much play that I've seen.  The HADCRUT global surface temperature dataset, often preferred by climate denialists who play at such things, got an upgrade with more Arctic coverage.  Like other datasets, that Arctic climate amplification is enough to put HADCRUT4 2010 over the top of previous record holders 1998 and 2005.  I guess the denialists won't play with it as much now.

I have no idea if the difference for 2010 is statistically significant, but that's not an adverb that denialists care about.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Pay Attention to What the Carrion Eaters Say

Eli does not usually get explicitly political, although there probably are not three bunnies on earth who could not guess where the Rabett stands politically (maybe slightly to the right of Bernie Sanders and somewhat more to the left of Barack O), but the recent Limbaugh meltdown has important lessons, and the one Eli wants to teach is don't follow fools down the rabbit hole (the Rabett hole also being a bad place to go).

As some emerging from a week long car wreck may recall, Rush has been forced to apologize (not gracefully) to a Ms. Flake for calling her a slut and a prostitute for supporting Obama's gambit, requiring birth control (pills) be covered by health insurance as a medication/device.  According to Rush

What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex, she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps. The johns. That's right. We would be the johns. No! ... Pimp's not the right word. Okay, so she's not a slut. She's round-heeled. I take it back.
Eli's barnyard colleague, the Capitalist Imperialist Pig, put it pretty well
The wimpier Republicans are fleeing Flush Limbaugh's little adventure in calling a law student who testified before Congress a "slut" and volunteering to set himself up as her pimp. Never fear, though, little Stevie Landsburg Rushes in where logic, taste, and an understanding of the actual question at issue fear to tread.
Go read the comments at Stevie Landsburg's blog for a taste, but, Eli says, and here Eli is always right, the Pig, and everyone else are missing the real point.

So let Eli tell you exactly how stupid Limbaugh, Landsburg, Lubos and  the jackels are:  No slut, whore, what have you, uses birth control pills today to let them screw about.  Why not?  Have the clowns not heard about HIV??  Birth control pills are no barriers to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Birth control pills as birth control are used by women in committed if not married relationships.  They are also used to control the pain of menstruation and other conditions.  In other words they are pharmaceuticals used to control biological functions.  They are medicines.  Health insurance covers medicines, and if you are lucky enough to be covered, it even covers some for others that you will never use.

This has been another dispiriting example of the takeover of conservatism by the carrion eaters and our acceptance of their framing.

Eli will have some ice with that

Since, with the coming of Spring, ice is in the air, from the Daily Conversation,

Combustion is a curse
Coal is the worst

From Jason Box (go read) another damn feedback

Summer Greenland ice sheet albedo (reflectivity)
Freshly fallen snow under clear skies reflects 84% (albedo= 0.84) of the sunlight falling on it (Konzelmann and Ohmura, 1995). This reflectivity progressively reduces during the sunlit (warm) season as a consequence of ice grain growth, resulting in a self-amplifying albedo decrease, a positive feedback. Another amplifier; the complete melting of the winter snow accumulation on glaciers, sea ice, and the low elevations of ice sheets exposes darker underlying solid ice. The albedo of low-impurity snow-free glacier ice is in the range of 30% to 60% (Cuffey and Paterson, 2010). Where wind-blown-in and microbiological impurities accumulate near the glacier ice surface (Bøggild et al. 2010), the ice sheet albedo may be extremely low (20%) (Cuffey and Paterson, 2010). Thus, summer albedo variability exceeds 50% over parts of the ice sheet where a snow layer ablates by mid-summer, exposing an impurity-rich ice surface (Wientjes and Oerlemans, 2010), resulting in absorbed sunlight being the largest source of energy for melting during summer and explaining most of the inter-annual variability in melt totals (van den Broeke et al. 2008, 2011).

Oh yes, Tamino has a word

Is the Earth Getting Warmer? A prominent leftist says "NO".

Is the Earth getting warmer?

A prominent left intellectual says "no". Journalist Alexander Cockburn, writing on his CounterPunch website, describes "the earth's current cooling phase, during which - contrary to warmest doctrine - CO2 levels have been rising." See Cockburn's essay, Sunspots and Republicans, March 3-4, 2012. on the CounterPunch website (

So what is happening to the Earth's temperature? The largest data set was compiled by Richard A. Muller, Berkeley physics professor and former global warming skeptic. Muller got money, including Koch money, to ask, "is the Earth really getting warmer?" The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project announced its findings in October 2011. They found - are you ready for this - that the Earth is really getting warmer.

They have submitted their findings for publication in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres. The graph on the upper right is Fig. 1 from their manuscript "Decadal Variations in the Global Atmospheric Land Temperatures," and you can download your very own copy from this website . Your downloaded file should be entitled berkeley-earth-decadal-variations.pdf

The graph shows the earth's land temperature for the last 60 years (1950-2010). The long-term trend is flat from 1950 to about 1975, and then increases by about 0.2 C per decade. The total increase from 1975 to 2010 is 0.8 degrees C.

Cockburn is a talented journalist, but on issues of climate change he is just not reliable.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Firing the right guy for the wrong reason

California's Fish and Game Commission Chair Dan Richards should quit or be fired, but it's just a shame that if he goes it's for the wrong reason.  The guy has ignored his responsibility for environmental protection and fought the establishment of marine reserves, which is what he should be fired for.  He also hunted a mountain lion in Idaho, where it's legal, although it's illegal in California based on a voter initiative.

I'm the former chair of the Santa Clara County Fish and Game Commission, where we worked hard and mostly successfully to bring environmentalists and hunters together.  It's a shame that doesn't happen on a state level.  I'm not a hunter and I don't see an ecological need to hunt apex predators, but I don't seen an ecological problem with it either if managed properly.  If it were up to me, lion hunting would be legal here in California.

via wiki, click photo for source

Hunters like Richards who don't care about the environment are a big problem.  Environmentalists tried to get the burrowing owl, pictured above, listed as endangered under California law several years ago and were denied, and they've been on a severe decline in our area ever since.  I'd give even odds they'll be gone in 10 years in the Bay Area, although they're doing okay elsewhere.

Richards and other roadblocks should be fired, but they should be replaced by hunters who care about the environment, not just trophy maximization.

FWIW, I'll give an example of where cooperation broke down on our local level.  Our county is considering a Habitat Conservation Plan for protecting endangered species.  I tried to unite our county F&G Commission behind a letter calling on the use of hunting as a management tool for controlling non-native species, particularly pigs and turkeys, that harm habitats.  I was blocked by a right winger who's no hunter now, but just hated governmental protection of endangered species so much that he wanted nothing to do with it.  That's the type of thing we need to overcome.

UPDATE:  based on this report, I'd disagree with the assertion made at my first link that it was a canned hunt.  There may have been a canned hunt of pheasants, but the lion was wild and presumably free to go anywhere he wanted..

Eli Despairs

From the obituary in the NY Times of James Q Wilson, emphasis added

But even his critics acknowledged that he was less an ideologue than a scientist; he supported the war in Iraq and wrote that marriage should be defined by the union of one man and one woman, but he dismissed criticism of Darwin and suspicion of the theory of evolution.
we are doomed.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Hey Anonymous Donor - fund this kid instead of Heartland

(UPDATE:  sadly, there may be problems with the first video - see the comments and this article.  The article mostly deals with convection from open containers, but argues that closed containers have problems too.  No problems identified yet with the second video.)

I doubt Heartland's anonymous donor would ever do anything sensible, at all, but this kid could provide sensible, accurate information and how-to guidance instead of the lies that Heartland wants to put in children's education.

My vision is to see him tooling around the country on a biodiesel bus with his entourage, all of them dressed up in Ray-Bans and Bill Nye Science Guy bowties, laying on the science and helping kids run their own experiments.  Too bad it won't happen.

NASA, btw, agrees with his experimental proof.  I thought he stole it from NASA but his video is four years old, so maybe the theft went the other way.  The NASA link also describes how to do it cheaper, without seltzer siphons and heat lamps, so I might try that and put up my own video.

Also relevant, "Visual proof that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation," with this BBC video:

Friday, March 02, 2012

Cuccinelli goes down, but likely escapes the ethics investigation he deserves

(A representative of The Future has an opinion about Cuccinelli's activities.)

Eli refers below to the Virginia Supreme Court shooting down the fishing expedition that the denialist VA Attorney General attempted against Mike Mann's entire history (background here, court opinion here).  The Court ruled on a narrow technical issue of whether Cucc could even go after the University of Virginia, ignoring the broader issue that the lower court found no basis was given for issuing the CID/subpoenas.  A Supreme Court dissenter disagreed on the technical issue and therefore went on to the substantive issue, and mostly agreed with the lower court.

It's that broader issue - no basis for issuing the CIDs to begin with - that constitutes Cuccinelli's ethical violation of using his state office to threaten supporters of opposing political viewpoints.  Without a definitive resolution of that issue, it becomes harder to make the claim to the state bar association that they need to discipline him.  They should anyway.

I argued earlier that they should at least try to make Cucc pay their attorney fees because his argument was frivolous. Also somewhat harder given the narrow ruling, but not impossible.

UPDATE:  per dbostrom's patient suggestion, one might consider donating to the Climate Science Legal Defense Fund.  This stuff is going to be happening a lot, and we'd rather have scientists worry about the science instead of fighting frivolous lawsuits.

Also going to recopy something I wrote in the comments:
The general American legal rule, for those who don't follow this stuff, is that the party who wins a lawsuit still has to pay its own attorney fees. It's easier for the winning party to get court costs of filing lawsuits covered by losers, but those are trivial compared to attorney fees. 
Various exceptions to rules apply, one is that if one party files a frivolous claim or does something unethical, then the other party may be able to recover attorney fees expended in response to the action.

Follow the Money

The world is atwitter, atwitter, Eli says, and reads, with news of the Va State Attorney General being told that he can't sue the state (aka UVa) for Michael Mann's Emails.  Details all about, but the important thing being missed is that the decision was with prejudice, meaning go away and don't come back Ken

For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court setting aside the CIDs, but, unlike the circuit court, we set aside the CIDs with prejudice, on the different ground that the University of Virginia, as an agency of the Commonwealth, does not constitute a "person" under the Fraud Against Taxpayers Act and therefore cannot be the proper subject of a CID. Accordingly, we enter final judgment here in favor of the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.
So on to the next which Eli will explain to all, the seemingly crazy suit brought by Charles Koch against the Cato Institute (nee the Charles Koch Institute), Kathryn Washburn, the widow of William Niskanen, former President of Cato, and a Director herself and Edward Crane, a shareholder and current President of Cato, essentially for control of the Institute.  Makes no sense whatsoever.  Cato has been on the Koch teet like since the day dot.  They win this suit and the music stops.

Now you would think that Ed Crane would not be biting the paw that feeds Cato, but you would be wrong.  Today he told the world

"Charles G. Koch has filed a lawsuit as part of an effort to gain control of the Cato Institute, which he co-founded with me in 1977. While Mr. Koch and entities controlled by him have supported the Cato Institute financially since that time, Mr. Koch and his affiliates have exercised no significant influence over the direction or management of the Cato Institute, or the work done here.
Mr. Koch’s actions in Kansas court yesterday represent an effort by him to transform Cato from an independent, nonpartisan research organization into a political entity that might better support his partisan agenda. We view Mr. Koch’s actions as an attempt at a hostile takeover, and intend to fight it vehemently in order to continue as an independent research organization, advocating for Individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace."
Ah, dear bunnies, to understand this, follow the money, Cato is sitting on total assets of 51,969,477 as of December 31, 2010, (see the 990) and it looks like they might have banked an additional tidy sum in 2011.  That may be chicken feed to the Kochs but not to the Widow Niskanen or Crane.

Oh yes, Pat Michaels has a paw in this, his New Hope Environmental got $203,500 in 2010