Friday, July 31, 2015

What Fish Need is Bicycles - BPL

Title changed from Choking the Fish

While there has been considerable discussion of desorbing carbon dioxide from the warming oceans, less, to literally none, has been paid to the stuff that sea life breaths.  This, it turns out, could be of even more importance because oxygen concentrations in the ocean are not buffered in the same way that CO2 is as part of a complex series of chemical equilibria.

Oxygen behaves as a nearly ideal gas, whose concentration is controlled by Henry's Law and currents, the currents determining how well mixed it is, and among other things the depth profile.  For those who forgot, Henry's Law says that the concentration of gas well mixed into a liquid, C, is proportional to the partial pressure of the gas above the liquid, p,

C = k(T) p

where k(T) is a function of the temperature and the molecular identity of the gas.  For the purpose of this post, all one needs to know is that as temperature increases k(T) decreases, so the concentration of the gas in the liquid decreases also.  The van't Hoff equation can be used to calculate k(T).

ADDED: To provide an idea of how the maximum concentration of oxygen in water varies with temperature, the figure to the right shows the non-linear nature of the van't Hoff equation

In Science Deutsch, Ferrel, Seibel, Poertner and Huey, work out the consequences of a warming ocean on the ability of fish to breathe.
Warming of the oceans and consequent loss of dissolved oxygen (O2) will alter marine ecosystems, but a mechanistic framework to predict the impact of multiple stressors on viable habitat is lacking. Here, we integrate physiological, climatic, and biogeographic data to calibrate and then map a key metabolic index—the ratio of O2 supply to resting metabolic O2 demand—across geographic ranges of several marine ectotherms. These species differ in thermal and hypoxic tolerances, but their contemporary distributions are all bounded at the equatorward edge by a minimum metabolic index of ~2 to 5, indicative of a critical energetic requirement for organismal activity. The combined effects of warming and O2 loss this century are projected to reduce the upper ocean’s metabolic index by ~20% globally and by ~50% in northern high-latitude regions, forcing poleward and vertical contraction of metabolically viable habitats and species ranges.
There is an editor's summary which puts this a bit more forcefully
It is well known that climate change will warm ocean waters, but dissolved oxygen levels also decrease as water warms. Deutsch et al. combined data on metabolism, temperature, and demographics to determine the impact of marine deoxygenation on a variety of fish and crustacean species (see the Perspective by Kleypas). Predicted climate and oxygen conditions can be expected to contract the distribution of marine fish poleward, as equatorward waters become too low in oxygen to support their energy needs. Furthermore, even the more-poleward waters will have reduced oxygen levels.
Deutsch and co. looked at how the oxygen content would shift populations of cod, seabream, eelpout and rock crab.  They define a metabolic index Φ as the ratio of the available partial pressure of oxygen to the oxygen needed by a resting sea critter. When Φ = 1, about all a fish can do is float.  OTOH, for Φ < 1 the fish has to go somewhere else to be able to survive.  The figure below shows how this shifts under RCP 8.5 in 100 years from the generic 2000 to 2100.

To concentrate the mind, this is just a map of what happens because of a decreasing concentration of oxygen in the oceans, not changes in pH, pollution and other things.  This is also for the oceans, where there is a place to go.  Aquatic life in lakes and rivers can't for the most part pull up the moving van, and there are indications that the same sort of deoxygenation is happening there.  Consider the implications of "Globally significant greenhouse gas emissions from African inland waters" by Borges, et al.

ADDED:  Victor V at Variable Variability has more on how lakes are warming worldwide.  The implications for the things that live in them are not good unless fish are planning to grow legs.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Play it again Uncle Sam - climate action for the next president without Congressional approval

I was going to write about Clinton's initial climate plan and still will, but I got distracted with a plagiarism proposal I want to suggest. Much of her plan requires Congressional approval, and we all now how problematic that will be. What can be done without it?

I think the answer is a lot - just by doing more of what we're already doing, by plagiarizing Obama's Clean Power and making it stricter. More specifically, wait until the Clean Power Plan has cleared all its legal hurdles, and then set up the sequel.

It's not all the easy to find the guts of the CPP, but it's here (starting on page 8). A modified version of each state's predicted baseline carbon emission rate per MWh is established, and here (page 34837, assuming I've read it correctly) each plant has to meet that average rate or find a way to offset the excess, possibly through some state-established system. If all the above-average emission facilities have to get to average levels in some form, then the total emissions go down.

CPP tries not to be arbitrary, so making it tougher in a non-arbitrary way presents a challenge. OTOH, one factor in determining the predicted baseline rate is each state's future Renewable Portfolio Standard (see first link, page 15). If instead of using the individual RPS, the EPA applies the best-in-class RPS from a similarly-situated state, then that could significantly knock down the baseline average emission that plants would have to match.

Figuring out the best-in-class is somewhat flexible, but you could look at every state with a similar or worse level of existing percentage of renewables, take the one that has the highest RPS for the future, and determine that to be the best-in-class. This wouldn't force each state to match the toughest RPS, because they could find other ways to reduce carbon emissions.

This is my version of the "if ain't broke, do it some more" rule. Regardless, serious presidential candidates need to say what they will do on climate change if Congress doesn't cooperate with reality.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Search for Terrestrial Intelligence

ATTP points to another pontification by the good Roger Pielke Jr., which as usual misses the point,
however, in fairness ATTP hisself also whiffs a bit.

Today a self proclaimed expert on football and FIFA (it is corrupt, something that Eli agrees with), Roger wanders into the SETI world.  However, there too, Ethon's food group betrays his lacks with the Pielke like set-up
Upon hearing of the new project, called Breakthrough Listen
Eli thought about this a bit.  Does anybunny associated with the Breakthrough Institute take time out from ceaseless self promotion to listen?  Sadly no, but it turns out that the Listeners are another bunch what has snagged them a rich Russian to fund a SETI project to the dismay of Shellenberger, Nordhaus the Lesser and Pielke the Jr. fudraising being the major industry of the Breakthrough types.

Jr. continues
I was reminded, of all things, of a recent prison break. Last month two convicted murders escaped from a New York prison. They had spent months carefully planning and executing their escape, which involved cutting and digging their way through walls, pipes and concrete. Remarkably, however, the pair gave little thought to what they would do if they actually succeeded in their plans. The consequence of the lack of planning was a short effort to flee from authorities followed by the death of one prisoner and re-capture of the other by authorities.
Well, no.  They suborned a prison worker to be waiting there on the outside with an automobile which would whisk them away.  Unfortunately for them, she got cold feet and was not waiting outside the manhole cover they popped out of.

Having taken literary license, Roger then draws the ill logical conclusion
The search for extra-terrestrial life shares some similarities. We are investing considerable attention and resources into the search, but little into thinking about the consequences of success.
But, of course, in the scheme of things relatively little resources have been spent on SETI, much of which has been analyzing astronomical radio telescope signals taken for and funded by astronomers for their purposes while bootlegging time on personal computers. And yes, people have thought of the consequences from early times as any reader of science fiction or the scientific literature would know. Tailoring of reality to fit one's needs is good sport in Boulder

Roger Jr. uses his fabrication view of the world as an introduction to a puff piece on an old science fiction theme, e.g. we should not shout out into the universe because things like Willard Anthony and Mark Morano, e.g. the deeply evil looking for an opportunity to take the fish, might be listening.

ATTP takes this up.  Discussion ensues about how to do SETI, is there a risk in listening, etc.

However all parties appear (Eli has not read all the comments) not to have noticed that in the last few years the SETI game has changed.  We no longer have to search everywhere.  Planet finding technology will allow those SETI bucks to be burned listening to or beaming out to stars that have earth like planets, today in the sense of being in the habitable zone and being rocky, and coming real soon having an atmosphere, even an oxygen rich one.  Maybe more.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fraud via proxy still seems fraudy.

A puzzled Stoat asks what's the big deal and what's new about revelations that Exxon picked up on climate change issues back in 1981 while funding climate deniers for many years after.

I'll note by response that first those are two separate questions - even if you think it's not particularly news, that doesn't eliminate the problem for Exxon

The real issue as I see it is if Exxon has been trying to spread messages it knows aren't true - that's called fraud, and that's what got the tobacco companies in trouble. Paying someone to commit your fraud for you is no magic shield from liability.

There's this quote at Stoat (but not by Stoat):
Exxon NEVER denied the potential for humans to impact the climate system. It did question ‐ legitimately, in my opinion ‐ the validity of some of the science…
Well, I'm not sure that's an accurate statement, but again it doesn't matter too much if you're using someone else to do your denial for you.

Proving to a judge and jury that's what Exxon did isn't necessarily simple though. It's not Exxon speaking directly, so you'd have to show that Exxon is promoting that speech. Funding climate-denying politicians could just be because Exxon likes their bold stances in favor of motherhood and apple pie. Climate-denying non-profits that exist to do little else could be more problematic. Being able to subpoena documents could really clear this stuff up in terms of nailing down what the motivation was.

Via the Ubiquitous John Mashey, I see Scripps did a forum on the tobacco/climate connection from a few years back. I'm going to have to look at it in depth, but there's this:
A key breakthrough in the public and legal case for tobacco control came when internal documents came to light showing the tobacco industry had knowingly misled the public. Similar documents may well exist in the vaults of the fossil fuel industry and their trade associations and front groups, and there are many possible approaches to unearthing them.
We might have the first stage of this internal documentation with the latest info on what Exxon knew in 1981. Maybe we'll find out more.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

An honest (well for Eli) question

For some odd reason, maybe it was the slow season, Retraction Watch has caught up with the Journal of Economic Prospectives latest gremlin whacker (gremlins being the newest moles), aka correction of Richard Tol's 2009 article on the costs of climate change.  Eli, of course, being the quick and dirty bunny he is had already had a say, but there remain things both interesting, perplexing and concerning about the paper, and indeed all of the papers that Richard cites for his paper, best seen in the figure displayed in the gremlin whacker linked above

and the supplementary Table 10-1 can be found in the supplementary material appended to the WGII report.

 The problem is that neither the discussion in the original paper, the WGII or pretty much anywhere else,  does not reference baselines for each calculation or for the conglomeration of calculations.

This of course is irrelevant to the question of whether IAM calculations are worth a bucket of warm spit (this being a family blog, which a few exceptions when Dad Rabett goes nuclear).

The serious question is what is the baseline for each study and which sets the zero of the temperature scale?  Did Poor Richard align the baseline for all the calculations.  For which is the baseline pre-industrial (in which case the world is now past Tol’s outlying positive point at 1.0 C), 1860 or so when instrumental records start in which case the world is pretty close to it, or some more recent time, in which case, another couple of degrees would, at least according to Tol, have little effect.

Eli notes that Chris Field Hope's model, which underlies the Stern report, appears to be making a differential calculation, which, also raises some interesting Couéen questions by itself.  Or, on the other hand, is there some agreed zero that you need to have the secret handshake to know about.

Eli has an honest question here.  Maybe.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Best Tweet Evah

Sandra Boynton is one, maybe the only, joy of Twitter.  Follow that cartoonist.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Pictures from Goresat

Goresat, aka DSCVR has reached the Lagrange point and started sending back pictures of the Earth

Eli has been a fan of Goresat since it was Triana and is happy to see Al Gore's vision realized

setting records

Over and over again, the deniers claim that "Global warming has stopped". Show them this article including a very instructive graphic. The world climate is setting temperature records. Actually, smashing them.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cascadia quake and climate correlations

New Yorker's article on the exposure of the Pacific Northwest to a massive quake and tsunami is well worth the read. I used to live there and knew they're equivalently vulnerable to quakes as we are in California, and much less prepared. I didn't know about the tsunami danger.

The correlations I see between this issue and climate are in the seriousness of risk, timescale, and effort needed to respond to the problem. Overall Cascadia may have an even greater problem with the quake and tsunami than they/we have with climate change - the long tail of risk includes immediate catastrophe as a possibility. If they/we are lucky for the next 50 years, taking action on both mitigating emissions and tsunami-proofing our coastal areas without a catastrophe hitting, my guess is the cost of tsunami-proofing in the region would be higher than mitigating and adapting to climate change.

One other overlap is that one way to adapt to tsunamis is to relocate away from sea level, at least with your most vulnerable communities and critical infrastructure, and that will help with sea level rise as well. Finally, they are doing something to deal with this problem, just not doing enough.

Having said all that, one thing that did bother me with the article is that some things seemed exaggerated. Getting knocked over by ankle-deep running water? Call me skeptical. Same thing with Sacramento's alleged vulnerability to tsunamis - I'd like to get learn more about this, but I do know that there are two constriction points between the city and the ocean (Golden Gate and Carquinez Strait) and lots of room for water to spread. Hopefully the other risks aren't exaggerated.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Climate confusion

According to a UPI dispatch, Prof. Valentina Zharkova, of the University of Northumbria predicts that the Sun’s output will decrease by 60% by 2030, triggering a mini ice age. This is just 15 years in the future.

However, this prediction smells like bunk to me.

The normal fluctuation in the Sun's intensity, the 11-year sunspot cycle, has an amplitude of about 0.1%. By comparison, 60% is huge.

If the Sun's output decreased by 60%, what would be the resulting change in the Earth's temperature??

Here's a very rough estimate. Assume that the surface temperature is proportional to the Suns power output, raised to the 1/4 power.

Then a decrease of the Sun’s output by 60% would cause a new temperature proportional to

(1.0 - 0.6)0.25 = (0.4)0.25 = 0.79,

which means a decrease of 21% in the absolute (Kelvin) temperature.

Since the surface temperature is about 15 C or 288 K, the change in temperature of 21% is about 60 degrees C. It only took a decrease of about 7 or 8 C to cause the last Ice Age!!

The estimate could of course be refined, but it would not change the conclusion: If the Sun's output decreases by 60%, it would cause an extremely cold ice age.

IF (and it could be a big "IF") UPI* has accurately represented Prof. Zkarkova accurately,

then there are only two possibilities:

if Zharkova is right, the Earth is doomed to freeze to death in 15 years.

Or Zharkova could be mistaken.

*Dunno if it's still true, but at one time, UPI was owned by Rev. Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church, who do not exactly have a great reputation for accuracy.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Ezra Kleinian hippie-distancing

A version of something I wrote on email struck a chord with some folks regarding the assertion "GMOs are safe":

The term "safe" should be bifurcated into "safe for human health" and "safe for the general environment".  
GMOs are health-safe so far, with complications regarding farmworkers exposure to pesticide. There are serious concerns and reasons to proceed cautiously on environmental safety, especially for genetic contamination of wild relatives of domestic plants and animals.  
 I think there's a "cool kids" attitude among some, the Ezra Klein types, that tries to show how they're not old-school dirty hippies by expressing love of GMOs.
Incidentally, the term "safe to eat" is carefully chosen - many people conflate that as "safe for people" or just "safe", when it's a nice dodge around the issue of farmworkers' increased exposure to herbicides.*

I think there's also a broader issue here that connects to Ecomodernism and its unhealthy relationship to the unnatural. They're not quite hippie-punching, but they definitely want to show a distance. So to them being unnatural is either everything to be avoided on the natural side of the earth that is to be decoupled from humanity, or nothing to be worried about (and maybe even encouraged) on the parts of the planet where the human footprint should dominate.

Unnatural is a something that needs to be considered, not an everything or a nothing. Unnatural means we can't rely on experience and must rely on our feeble brains instead:
To some, [Ecomodernism] carries a whiff of triumphalism. “For a long time, I’ve been a card-carrying pragmatist about environmental issues, but the pragmatism of the Breakthrough Institute is a pragmatism I don’t recognize,” Ben Minteer, a professor of environmental ethics at Arizona State University and a co-editor of the new anthology “After Preservation,” told me. “I don’t see any of the humility or caution that’s such a central part of pragmatism.”
That doesn't mean don't go ahead, but rather as John Mashey says, "proceed with caution". And maybe don't proceed in some cases - I wouldn't plant GMO crops in regions where the wild originator of the domesticated plant exists, or where the plant spreads widely as a weed.

Unnatural indicates caution in other ways, with nuclear power as an example. The unnatural concentration of long-term radioactive waste is a problem, not something we have experience or even a geological record to understand how it may go wrong in future millenia. Still, it's a limited problem with a limited geographic scope. I'd put it a distant third in terms of the problems of nuclear power, after the distant second of catastrophic accidents, and the by-far number one problem that nuclear costs way too much.

Considering unnaturalness can be done, pragmatically acknowledging our limitations while not letting them control all we do. Ecomodernism misses this.

*GMOs may also result in farmworkers being less exposed to more poisonous herbicides, and to some insecticides. It's complicated, making "safe to eat" a not very comprehensive vision.

Moral Derpitude

With the summer doldrums, ATTP going to conferences and the Greek crisis, it becomes necessary for Eli to borrow seriously in order to maintain paid readership (Damn Eli needs to monetize this blog but Brian will demand a cut).  Thus by way of Crooked Timber, Noah Smith on definitive derpiness, a subject he has deeply studied

It has to do with Bayesian probability. Bayesian probability basically says that "probability" is, to some degree, subjective. It's your best guess for how likely something is. But to be Bayesian, your "best guess" must take the observable evidence into account. Updating your beliefs by looking at the outside world is called "Bayesian inference. Your initial guess about the probability is called your "prior belief", or just your "prior" for short. Your final guess, after you look at the evidence, is called your "posterior." The observable evidence is what changes your prior into your posterior.

How much does the evidence change your belief? That depends on three things. It depends on A) how different the evidence is from your prior, B) how strong the evidence is, and C) how strong your prior is.

What does it mean for a prior to be "strong" really, really believe something to be true. If your start off with a very strong prior, even solid evidence to the contrary won't change your mind. In other words, your posterior will come directly from your prior. (And where do priors come from? On this, Bayesian theory is silent. Let's assume they come directly from

There are many people who have very strong priors about things. For example, there are people who believe, very strongly, that solar power will never be cost-efficient. If you confront them with evidence of solar's rapid price declines, they will continue to insist that, despite this evidence, solar will simply never be cost-competitive with fossil fuels. That they continue to insist this does not necessarily make them irrational in the Bayesian sense; they simply have very strong priors. Someday they may be convinced - for example, if and when unsubsidized solar power starts being adopted on a mass scale. It'll just take a LOT to convince them. (A more entertaining example can be seen in this classic comedy video)

But here's the thing: When those people keep broadcasting their priors to the world again and again after every new piece of evidence comes out, it gets very annoying. After every article comes out about a new solar technology breakthrough, or a new cost drop, they'll just repeat "Solar will never be cost-competitive." That is unhelpful and uninformative, since they're just restating their priors over and over. Thus, it is annoying. Guys, we know what you think already.

English has no word for the constant, repetitive reiteration of strong priors". Yet it is a well-known phenomenon in the world of punditry, debate, and public affairs. On Twitter, we call it "derp"

Go read Noah and the comments

Friday, July 03, 2015

The Amazon is Cool

Well, it's summer in the North, and the birds are singing, the bunnies, well, you know what, and people all over are sweating.  It has been particularly bad in Europe, the Western US, and disastrous in South Asia, both India and Pakistan.

As Eli could have told you the search is on for excuses, especially in light of new papers which attribute and increase in heat waves to climate change.  Some, not Eli to be sure, recommend very large air conditioners to handle the problem.   ARPA-E has been working on that, well along the line of solar and thermal driven units, not extra jumbos, and there is progress.

Others, actually the same some playing the others card, are going the ostrich route, nothing happening here, move on.  This has lead to a cheerful back and forth between La Curry and El Tamino.  Curry posted some slides from a talk by NOAA's Prashant Sardeshmukh describing shifts in mean temperature and the standard deviation of the temperature distribution and coming to the conclusion that there has been no increase in heat waves.

Now to be honest there are some issues with this.  First, the slides only deal with changes in December-January-February, which is the northern hemisphere winter (Yes, Eli knows about Australia and the newly popular concern of some of those who block the Bunny's tweets with Africa) but most land and most people find themselves in the northern hemisphere, which, also is where they get hit by heat waves during the summer.  Oh yeah, it's real TLT out there, the temperatures are from the 850 mbar level where no one is hot because of the lapse rate, and from reanalyses, not measurements.  Of course Eli expects that such manipulation would not be allowed in the blogs of denial.  Eli is often disappointed

Curry shows a slide of temperature distributions by Sardeshmukh defining a heat wave as when the temperature exceeds a fixed limit.  Curry then shows a slide by Sardeshmukh showing the global distribution of temperature changes,

and the global distribution of the change in the width of the temperature distributions

and, then what Sardeshmukh purports to be the probability of a heat wave

Red is increase, blue decrease.  Apologies to the color blind and Doug McNeall will be here in a moment.  Somewhat seriously, Uncle Rabett was so color blind that you could not let him out of the house without checking his dress, which often followed an early Rowan and Martin theme if not examined by Aunt Rabett.  There has to be a color shifting app to handle that.

Eli will let Tamino, who noticed this explain in detail, why this is sausage.  If you look at the little box on the right, it is an area where both the temperature and the width of the distribution go up, but the probability of a heat wave, according to Sardeshnukh go down.

How is this done, well, according to Curry, lots of air conditioners are installed as the world warms and this means that for a "real" heat wave the temperature at which one is declared, goes up too.

Go read the tweets and especially Tamino's two posts (one, two)  Sardeshnukh has weighed in at Curry's claiming that he did define heat waves as being past the post at a fixed temperature, and Tamino is asking (politely, as Mozart would) for the data.

Curry, however, was at least this morning, of Tamino's opinion about what Sardeshnukh had done
Tamino’s argument is essentially a quibble about how heat waves are defined, there are various definitions

For the heat wave forecasts that my company provides to the energy sector, so they can anticipate high energy demand, we define heat wave in terms of the standard deviation above the climatological mean for that location (we use 1.5 standard deviations for the energy demand applications, whereas Sardeshmukh used 2 standard deviations). For our heat wave forecasts in Ahmedabad India, we use specified temperature thresholds. Other definitions are tied to a specific temperature increment, e.g. 5C above daily average.

Sardeshmukh’s analysis uses two different baseline temps: one prior to 1950 and the other post 1950, and then calculates deviations from those means. His whole point is that the standard deviation and skewness changes can dominate, resulting in fewer large excursions from the mean.
As Tamino said in his first post
Which makes me wonder, what the hell is going on? If he was trying to emphasize that we can’t use the change in mean and standard deviation to understand the 2-sigma exceedance, well duh. When the mean goes up and the standard deviation goes up and you change the limit to define “extreme” temperature, you should expect nothing less.
All this will play out relatively quickly, but it did inspire Eli to play a bit with the temperature and standard deviation figures above using (shudder Powerpoint, which has some interesting features.  By sharpening up the colors and overlaying the two figures One can make out areas where both temperature and standard deviations changed in the same directions and in opposite directions

If they both increase, the color is red, if one increases and the other decreases purple.  There is ONLY one spot where both the temperature and the standard deviation decreased, right about at the mouth of the Amazon.