Monday, February 29, 2016

DiCaprio, Gore and the Scientists Circular Firing Squad

There is a self defeating gene in scientists that makes them insist on absolute accuracy, even when they are parsing ~97% correct (hmm, Eli did it there again with the ~) statements.  Leonardo DiCaprio in his Oscar acceptance speech said

Starting at ~2 minutes, damn that is a strong ~ GMO in there,
And lastly, I just want to say this, making The Revenant was about man's relationship to the natural world — the world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production had to move to the southernmost tip of this planet just to be able to find snow. Climate change is real, it is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.

We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous peoples of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who will be most affected by this, for our children's children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.

I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted; I do not take this night for granted.
brought forth the niggle in his acceptance speech when he pointed out that the Revenance crew had to move down to Chile from Alberta to find snow.

Now this is not a new statement from DiCaprio, the usual suspects were chewing on a similar statement DiCaprio had made at the Screen Actors Guild awards ceremony.  The counter is that a strong Chinook wind had blown through, but the fact is that northern hemisphere snow cover is falling faster than even arctic ice and 2015 was unusually warm in Western Canada as Mike Mann tweeted

Yes, there was a chinook, but there was also less snow than usual.  Eli will be back later with updates, but Ms. Rabett calls. 


A couple of tweets

Some moderates - Kasich is running to be Trump's VP, Christie endorses the disaster candidate

I first saw Clare Malone at 538 suggest it, then somewhere else - Kasich is in the race to be Vice President. It makes sense of course that any second-tier candidate would have this as the backup possibility. Kasich has mostly stayed out of the mud (he did attack Trump some last fall), and his staying in the race is tremendously helpful for Trump.

He'd appear as a good "balancing" candidate for Trump with both DC and governing experience, and could help a bit with Ohio, an important swing state. He's somewhat less helpful for Cruz whose odds are diminishing now anyway (we'll see Cruz again in 2020). He's a disaster for Rubio, so he's really running to help Trump, maybe have a shot with Cruz.

And we have Christie, who's gone off at length about the importance of actual governing is as required experience to be president, now endorsing the one candidate with even less experience than the senators he derided as unqualified. Christie might think he's VP material but that's unlikely - as the nominee he might have had a slight chance to shift New Jersey, despite his unpopularity, but not as the Veep. He's likely to sit in the cabinet with Sarah Palin.*

These two "moderates" both know from direct personal experience with Trump and from his policies how unqualified he is for office. They're doing this anyway, and that tells you something about the current state of the Republican Party on the national level.

It's useful to think of Kasich and Christie, if they had become president, as having political policies comparable to the last Bush. Rubio and Cruz would be far, far worse.

As for Trump, who knows? He doesn't even know what his policies are going to be, so there's some chance I suppose they could be better than any other Republican.

Despite that, Kevin Drum is right and Trump is the worst possible candidate that could become President. In addition to being disastrously incompetent and generally evil, Trump poses a risk to democracy different from the others. Dick Cheney is a stronger believer in democracy than Donald Trump.

That's not to say that Trump hates democracy - he probably hasn't noticed the concept. But if he stumbled into the chance opportunity to harm or completely destroy American democracy, he'd do it. If he knows about Julius Caesar destroying what remained of the Roman Republic to set up an empire, he probably thinks "strong leadership move".

I don't think a President Trump would probably destroy American democracy - he likely wouldn't get the opportunity, and the people around him would probably stop him if the opportunity did arise. But I don't want to take the chance, or find out how Trump would react to another 9/11.

President Cruz or President Rubio would make us look fondly upon the last Bush administration. President Trump would be even worse.

Update Mar. 30:  Lately Kasich has been more critical of Trump, so possibly I was wrong, or maybe Kasich is changing in response to too much Trump. Or not. The key for the rest of the campaign is whether Kasich runs in a way that maximizes taking delegates away from Trump as opposed to away from Cruz.

*Okay, kidding about Sarah - even Trump has limits.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Compare and Contrast

Everett Sargent points out that Hansen & Co have revised their paper for Atmospheric Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 °C global warming is highly dangerous", it has now been accepted and is available in the arXiv.
Chemistry and Physics, bunnies know this as the paper with the associated shit storm, both in the discussion and the blogs.  Formerly known as "

Perhaps a good place to start are the abstracts, which now reads
We use numerical climate simulations, paleoclimate data, and modern observations to study the effect of growing ice melt from Antarctica and Greenland. Meltwater tends to stabilize the ocean column, inducing amplifying feedbacks that increase subsurface ocean warming and ice shelf melting. Cold meltwater and induced dynamical effects cause ocean surface cooling in the Southern Ocean and North Atlantic, thus increasing Earth's energy imbalance and heat flux into most of the global ocean's surface. Southern Ocean surface cooling, while lower latitudes are warming, increases precipitation on the Southern Ocean, increasing ocean stratification, slowing deepwater formation, and increasing ice sheet mass loss. These feedbacks make ice sheets in contact with the ocean vulnerable to accelerating disintegration. We hypothesize that ice mass loss from the most vulnerable ice, sufficient to raise sea level several meters, is better approximated as exponential than by a more linear response. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield multi-meter sea level rise in about 50, 100 or 200 years. Recent ice melt doubling times are near the lower end of the 10-40 year range, but the record is too short to confirm the nature of the response. The feedbacks, including subsurface ocean warming, help explain paleoclimate data and point to a dominant Southern Ocean role in controlling atmospheric CO2, which in turn exercised tight control on global temperature and sea level. The millennial (500-2000 year) time scale of deep ocean ventilation affects the time scale for natural CO2 change and thus the time scale for paleo global climate, ice sheet, and sea level changes, but this paleo millennial time scale should not be misinterpreted as the time scale for ice sheet response to a rapid large human-made climate forcing.
As compared to the previous
There is evidence of ice melt, sea level rise to +5–9 m, and extreme storms in the prior interglacial period that was less than 1 o C warmer than today. Human-made climate forcing is stronger and more rapid than paleo forcings, but much can be learned by combining insights from paleoclimate, climate modeling, and on-going observations. We argue that ice sheets in contact with the ocean are vulnerable to non-linear disintegration in response to ocean warming, and we posit that ice sheet mass loss can be approximated by a doubling time up to sea level rise of at least several meters. Doubling times of 10, 20 or 40 years yield sea level rise of several meters in 50, 100 or 200 years. Paleoclimate data reveal that subsurface ocean warming causes ice shelf melt and ice sheet discharge. Our climate model exposes amplifying feedbacks in the Southern Ocean that slow Antarctic bottom water formation and increase ocean temperature near ice shelf grounding lines, while cooling the surface ocean and increasing sea ice cover and water column stability. Ocean surface cooling, in the North Atlantic as well as the Southern Ocean, increases tropospheric horizontal temperature gradients, eddy kinetic energy and baroclinicity, which drive more powerful storms. We focus attention on the Southern Ocean’s role in affecting atmospheric CO2 amount, which in turn is a tight control knob on global climate. The millennial (500–2000 year) time scale of deep ocean ventilation affects the time scale for natural CO2 change, thus the time scale for paleo global climate, ice sheet and sea level changes. This millennial carbon cycle time scale should not be misinterpreted as the ice sheet time scale for response to a rapid human-made climate forcing. Recent ice sheet melt rates have a doubling time near the lower end of the 10–40 year range. We conclude that 2 oC global warming above the preindustrial level, which would spur more ice shelf melt, is highly danger- ous. Earth’s energy imbalance, which must be eliminated to stabilize climate, provides a crucial metric
The paper is now a svelte 64 pages, but, of course, the page size is a bit larger.  It is a nice day and Eli left his grep in the garage, so have at it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Lighter Than Air Dreams

Originally introduced in WW I as surveillance platforms, lighter than air vehicles are making a comeback even in competition with drones.  For one thing they can carry a lot of stuff including people and stay on station like forever

In the meantime, his surveillance-blimp business is thriving. A new, larger Sky Dragon, capable of carrying two thousand pounds of cameras and other spy equipment, just went into production. Customers in the Middle East are using Aeros equipment to monitor oil fields, and the Ukrainian government just signed a deal for an entire “integrated Ukrainian border-protection system.”
Jeanne Marie Laskas at the New Yorker has an interesting article on the competition to beef up the blimps (or zeppelins as the case may be) to large cargo delivery vehicles (like north of 20 tons).
The point, which Boyd makes in a promotional video, “The Road Not Needed,” is that “more than two-thirds of the world’s land area and more than half the world’s population has no direct access to paved roads.” Modern airships could take off and land with the precision of helicopters and deliver entire warehouses, drilling rigs, or fully stocked factories. Today’s airship designers share a vision: magnificent amounts of trucking going on in the sky—regular convoys of enormous airships carrying timber, coal, wind turbines, prefabricated homes, or an entire summer harvest, puttering gently along at about a hundred miles an hour, ten thousand feet over our heads.
There are applications which has kept the airship business running, advertising and surveillance, but cargo is the elephant, and indeed to compete with air and sea delivery on a general basis, the amount of cargo delivered has to be enormous.or the need has to be to a region where roads and airports are rare such as the Arctic, or the Amazon.

Airships are faster than sea transport and slower than airplanes.  They can be designed to be fuel efficient compared to both moreover solar powered designs have been at least proposed.  Perhaps a partial solution.

Admins for the win. But at a cost....

I posed the question earlier about why reality wins at wikipedia, the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, when it's a closer call for dealing with everyone in general. Imposing the question later at Stoat got an answer from William, better than what I'd suggested:
if there is a conflict, you’re required to talk, on the talk page, to resolve the issue. If you’re not able to talk sanely, you’re going to lose when others come to see the debate, or when the admins come to visit. I think that is the crucial piece -W
Sounds right, although it also takes us to the next question - why do these admins, who aren't especially focused on climate science, decide that reality is sane and the denialists not? I'll give myself a consolation prize here, that wiki's emphasis on Reliable Sources and high education levels among editors and admins both push somewhat in favor of reality.

William also makes another point about the cost of it all:
I think that the wiki-bureaucracy tends to see the end result – mostly decent pages, e.g. Global Warming – and fails to appreciate how much the energy drain and inevitable disrespect puts people off -W
It takes a lot of effort to fight nonsense. I personally got tired of it after a while and have done mostly innocuous wiki edits in recent years. Might finally get back in though - I think wiki might need an article on stratospheric cooling. Anyway, it's interesting that wiki got things right, mostly, many years before the mainstream media.

Related thought - hard to overstate wiki's importance as a source of information, so another interesting question would be to what extent scientific reality has gained a foothold among the public, especially the young, because wiki is a fairly accurate source that excludes denialism.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Moving the Overton Window

Eli may have been the first to gaze out the Overton Window to a fine game of Climate Ball, and indeed he formulated the problem in terms of consensus messaging even in 2007

 There has been a great deal of discussion about why the Republicans in the US reject climate science (ear tip to Chris Mooney's Republican War on Science) and a lot of other science. If one thinks of their tactics as a struggle for the Overton Window it makes sense
Overton (who was pretty far to the right) saw staking out extreme positions as the best way to move his window because of the natural tendency to middle.  Eli, at least in the title of his post suggested another tactic, consensus messaging.

This might be described as how to deal with the crazy uncle at the family dinner tactic. Given a consensus in the family, even the most spit flecked will, sometime, not bring up his nuttiness and if he does the ladies at the table will stick their elbows into the gentlebunnies and quickly change the subject.  Some things are not fit for discussion.  The Bunny has pointed out in the past that one of the problems with the web is that it lets the Sky Dragons, the Flat Earthers, the Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and whatever else is totally wrong guys find others of their ilk.

Which brings Rabett Run to the issue of consensus messaging.  While for a long time those who accepted the scientific consensus about climate change allowed themselves to be bullied by a false narrative that "science is not about a consensus" (Readers of Rabett Run, know this for the claptrap it is.  As Kuhn pointed out the existence of a strong consensus is what allows scientists in a field to have meaningful discussions and collaborate with each other),  the push back from the know littles starting with the three minute hate against Naomi Oreskes has slowed public acceptance of the problems associated with our changing the climate.

Cook, et al brought this to a boil.  Not only by showing that there is a ~97% consensus supporting the proposition that climate change caused by humans is significant and underway as judged from abstracts of a huge number of papers in the last couple of decades, but they got an almost matching percentage of the authors to agree that they supported the proposition.

This, of course, raised the furries, amongst them Dan Kahan whose theory is that you will never convince a denialist by reminding said creature that almost all of those who know anything about the Earth system believe in the consensus.  It, according to Kahan, makes them feel stupid and therefore they reject the consensus.

ATTP has been kicking this down the road with numerous comments,
I don’t really know how best to interpret what is being suggested here. So, consensus messaging is somehow toxic and damages other attempts at science communication? Well, that there is a strong consensus with respect to AGW is essentially true. If consensus messaging is toxic, then that seems to suggest that some respond poorly to being made aware of something true, which is – in itself – interesting. There may well be better ways in which to use consensus messaging, but to suggest not using it at all would seem to imply avoiding saying something that is true. I find that mildly disturbing.
At about the same time, van der Linden, Leiserwitz and Maibach published the results of an experiment on consensus measurement
This experimental study evaluated whether communicating the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change is likely to be effective with the American public. Drawing on a large national sample (N = 6,301), we set out to replicate and extend the findings of van der Linden et al. (2015). Consistent with the original study, we find robust and replicated evidence that communicating the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change leads to significant and substantial changes in perceived scientific agreement among conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike. These findings prove robust, even among those predisposed to receive counter-attitudinal information (e.g., Fox-news watchers, global warming skeptics). Further, among conservatives, we find the greatest change in perceived consensus among the subset whose own friends and family are least likely to believe in human-caused global warming. In short, we find little evidence of identity-protective cognition and no evidence of belief polarization across these groups.
This did not sit well with said Dan Kahan who proceeded to do the whole Tol Niggle Routine in the course of which Eli wandered over and commented
Dan K says: 
So give me a prediction: what is the probability a conservative republican who doesn't believe in global warming says that he believes in AGW after AAAS msg?
And again misses the point which is that consensus messaging shifts the Overton window for everyone, which is the point of consensus messaging and the fantasy camp message that there is a significant number of those who study climate and closely related matters that oppose the consensus.

So the real question is what is the probability that a conservative republican who doesn't believe in global warming would loudly say that in an audience that does accept the scientific consensus on global warming?

Planck was more right than you know.
This second method, using consensus messaging to move the Overton Window shall henceforth be known as the Rabett Shift. 
Dan K being a sucker for punishment replies

So your prediction about how likely a conservative who doesn't believe in climate change is to change his or her mind in response to the "97% msg" is, "Who cares."
To be honest in the Planck sense Eli only cares as denial wastes time and time is valuable, but, otoh, in terms of getting to action denial is an issue that consensus messaging deals with, just not in the brain cases of the truly committed who will never be reached and so the Bunny continued
Now some, not Eli to be sure, might think this simply Dan's plea for mercy to avoid having to confront a serious problem with his thesis about consensus messaging. Messaging does not only have to convince, it can limit the response of opponents. In the case of the spherical earth consensus, there is little purpose in claiming the Earth is flat. We have fine evidence that it is not and given the consensus on that, this moves those who claim it is flat to the kook korner.

Time need not be wasted proving to the flat enders that the world is spherical (actually a bit pear shaped, somewhat like Eli), they can simply be dismissed while the rest of us get busy constructing GPS systems. Oh, GPS you say, well, if you use a GPS system you believe in both flavors of relativity, although there are some dead enders there too, but they can simply be dismissed or giggled at.

Climate change is real and carries with it potential serious problems. We need to get past denial to start dealing with the problems and if consensus messaging moves the Overton window, well goody.

Where environmentalists did need to change their tune

Nuclear power proponents keep saying that environmentalists should sing a nuclear tune, and a few enviros agree. Personally I remain "meh", maybe even moreso (moremeh?) over the years as the price of renewables and storage keep dropping. I know that nuclear power cost breakthroughs are scheduled for South Korea and China, but we've all heard that one before.

What did need to change among environmentalists was the attitude towards transmission lines. A generation ago, part of being an environmentalist meant fighting the unnecessary, industrializing, and ugly lines pretty much wherever they went.

They aren't any prettier than they used to be, but times they are changing:
Back before anyone talked about climate change or clean energy, fights over new high-voltage electric transmission lines were pretty black and white: Power companies were for them while environmental groups were not.   
But debate over the proposed Badger-Coulee Transmission Line through the scenic hills and valleys between La Crosse and Madison shows how much the energy landscape is changing. 
While many living near the potential route of American Transmission Company's 345-kilovolt line remain steadfast against it, the project is drawing support from groups like Renew Wisconsin, which say the line will ease the delivery of wind power from Iowa and Minnesota into major population centers to the East.
This isn't to say enviros don't fight or shouldn't fight transmission lines anywhere - right thing in the right place still applies - but there's a recognition by environmental groups of the value of getting renewable power from where it's generated to where it's needed. It's always windy somewhere. The sun is somewhat less generous but the power can still be moved 2000 km from the sunniest to least sunny locations (or even where the sun's not in view). Environmentalists recognize this and have so for a number of years.

It's valuable to recognize there has been a change in tune, where required. It's also been done with no fanfare, a quiet change in campaigns. Maybe that's the way change really happens.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Funny what turns up

(apologies for the bad language)

I was looking for an image version of the above dialog, minus bad language of course. Didn't find a good one, so I made this:

The funny thing is one image I found when I searched for the phrase "denial is the most predictable of human responses":

The search is accurate.

UPDATE:  Decided I wanted a better image of The Architect with Neo in the background. Also, the Stoat has fun with Heartland attempting to "correct" its wiki page.

There's probably an interesting story to be told about why scientific reality has generally triumphed at website that can be edited by anyone who speaks English, when it's a much closer question among English-speakers in general. I have some guesses, but a deep dive would be interesting.

The Hammer: Section 115

A long time ago as some of the young bunnies reckon, Eli pointed out that the Obama administration was pursuing health insurance globalization through legislation and given the heavy lift, was likely to go after climate change issues via regulation.  Eight years is a long time and the sausage moves slowly through the bowels of the bureaucracy be it national or international.

But Paris did happen, and lest some of those trying on their dentures have missed it, Paris will have consequences in the US and everywhereelse, assuming that the Republican clown show goes off the road(and Eli has not been hostile to everydamnrepublican, just the Inhofe and Dan Kahan wings of the party, and the wide footed in their party running for President of the US).

From Columbia and collaborators, comes a short legal analysis of the Clean Air Act which points to what will shortly be known as the crucial Section 115

The success of the recent climate negotiations in Paris provides a strong basis for invoking a powerful tool available to help achieve the country’s climate change goals: Section 115 of the Clean Air Act, titled “International Air Pollution.” This provision authorizes EPA to require states to address emissions that contribute to air pollution endangering public health or welfare in other countries, if the other countries provide the U.S. with reciprocal protections. The language of Section 115 does not limit the agency to regulating a particular source-type, or a given industrial or economic sector. Rather, it grants EPA and the states broad latitude to address international air pollution comprehensively through the Clean Air Act’s State Implementation Plan process, increasing administrative efficiency and reducing burdens on regulated companies. EPA and the states could use the provision to establish an economy-wide, market-based approach for reducing GHG emissions. Such a program could provide one of the most effective and efficient means to address climate change pollution in the United States.
The bilateral implication is that it is not even necessary for the US to pass separate laws enacting limitations on greenhouse gas emissions as well as other pooping in the land or sea, but that relying on a strong long passed previously, the Clean Air Act, the US government can act based on laws enacted by other countries.  Justin Trudeau is paying attention as well as folks in Europe and the South Pacific Islands.  The US government has a strong justification in law (EINAL, ask Brian) for taking broad action.  The black helicopters have landed.  Heads are exploding.  And Paris is the Hammer
Although there are numerous bilateral and multilateral agreements on which EPA might rely, the strongest evidence may be found in the procedural rights provided and the substantive commitments made through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the international efforts to address climate change which recently coalesced in Paris in December 2015. Indeed, the Paris Agreement provides for both an “enhanced transparency framework,” through which the U.S. can comment on other countries’ climate action, and the submission of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which include significant pledges to mitigate GHG emissions. At the time of this writing, nearly 190 countries have made emissions reductions pledges through the INDC process, accounting for over 93% of current global GHG emissions.
Here are some other thing that Section 115 allows the EPA to do according to the brief

  • If necessary, EPA can implement a federal Section 115 program within recalcitrant states: 
  • EPA can integrate a new Section 115 program with existing and future rules for stationary sources:
  • EPA can integrate regulation of transportation fuels (and residential and commercial natural gas) into a Section 115 program:
  • EPA could permit the use of offsets in an economy-wide, cross-sectoral trading program: 

 Eli has to go out to the store and buy more popcorn.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Eli Would Like Some Ice With That

Usually the NH winter is a time when the bets are laid for the summer minimum.  Friend Weasel was not too excited last year although things were, as they were pretty, but not astoundingly (see 2011) low.  This year already astounding things are happening, or perhaps better put not happening, in the Arctic winter.  Not that there is no ice, but there is a lot less ice than expected.  Enough less that 2016 looks like a lock for the lowest global sea ice evah.

John Nielsen Gammon has been sending around a frame comparing how in 1922 the farthest north that a expedition could get was 81o 29', open ice this year.  Andy Dessler tweeted it

 OTOH, the resolution of Cryosphere Today is a bit low, so let's take a look at the higher resolution images at the University of Bremen from the AMSR2 (2016) and the original AMSR (2003) for February right now and then.

 But wait, there is even more, at Neven's Arctic Sea Ice Blog and Gerg has a GIF of  the sea ice in August from the Danish Meteorological Institute’s sea ice maps between 1920 and 1939.  Today's February looks pretty much icewise like August then.

All of the maps can be found at the NSIDC FTP site, they extend from 1893 to 1956 with versions for several months during the spring and summer.  The map below is from 1946

Friday, February 19, 2016

Water Vapor, Water Vapor Everywhere and It All Absorbs in Air

Elementary quantum mechanics quickly shows that harmonic oscillators (shown by the dotted line in the figure to the right) can only absorb or emit light associated with a transition between neighboring quantum levels such as between v = 0 and 1.  To the extent that molecular vibrational motion is harmonic, this is an absolute rule. Oh yes, there also has to be a change in the dipole moment between the two levels of the transition which explains why homonuclear diatomics (N2 , O2, H2) don't absorb in the infrared. However, molecular vibrational motion (loosely defined as the relative motion of the atoms in a molecule relative to each other) is not quite harmonic (shown by the solid line), and the vibrational selection rule is not absolute in transitions between distant vibrational levels.

Multiquantum changing transitions are weak, but they can be observed, both in the laboratory and the atmosphere.  Karl-Heinz Gericke at Uni-Braunschweig has an on line molecular spectroscopy textbook that goes into detail. Of course, for polyatomic molecules there is more than a single vibrational level and there are transitions that involve not only mutiquantum changes in a single vibrational stack, but also combinations of these changes.

Water vapor, as a triatomic non-linear molecule has three vibrational modes and tens of thousands of observed lines.  Starting about 2000 a major effort was made to explore the quantum states and spectra of water vapor, extending from the near IR into the visible which involved many people and a remarkable mutually supportive set of experimental measurements and theoretical calculations.

As emphasized already in Parts I and II, a distinguishing feature of the present series of IUPAC-sponsored spectroscopic studies is the joint utilization of all available experimental and the best theoretical line (transition) and energy-level data, with a long-term aim of creating complete linelists for all water isotopologues. While determination of a complete linelist is outside the scope of present-day experiments, it can be determined by means of sophisticated first-principles quantum chemical computations. Studies on the spectroscopic networks of water isotopologues  also revealed that a large number of energy levels participate in some transitions strong enough to be observable. Thus, although only a small portion of all the allowed transitions will ever be observed experimentally, it seems likely that the majority of energy levels will eventually be connected to observed transitions. For the time being, as experimental line positions have a higher accuracy than those yielded by even the most advanced computations, complete line lists will necessarily contain a mixture of accurate experimental data and less accurate computational data. MARVEL-type efforts (a) replace as many computed lines as possible with their experimental counterparts, (b) validate and ideally reduce the uncertainty with which a transition has been determined, and (c) facilitate the assignment of experimental spectra. Unlike line positions, the overwhelming majority of one-photon, temperature-dependent absorption and emission intensities can be computed with an accuracy matching or even exceeding most of the measurements. Thus, the availability of first-principles intensities, based on computed and perhaps empirically adjusted potential energy surfaces (PES) and dipole moment surfaces (DMS)  greatly helps in the assignment and labeling of experimental absorption or emission spectra.
What does this have to do with the climate?  The transmission of sunlight through the atmosphere in the near infrared (between say 0.7 and 1.5 microns), is limited by the absorption of water vapor and we now know with precision where each of the lines is, how strong each is at any temperature and what transitions they correspond to.  The figure below shows the absorption through the entire atmosphere.  For comparison on a strong CO2 bending mode line a photon might travel a few meters before being absorbed, On one of these near IR lines, the average distance traveled before absorption might be a kilometer or more, so these lines are comparatively weak, but not vanishing.

A key predictions of climate models and common sense is that increased surface temperature will drive a positive feedback by increasing the water vapor content of the atmosphere, resulting in more rain, or if the bunnies prefer, precipitation.  This strengthening of the hydrological cycle on the front end depends on faster evaporation driven by warming of the surface, and on the back end by the lapse rate which cools the atmosphere at altitude and results in condensation.  Anything which warms the atmosphere where precipitation forms weakens the hydrological cycle but until relatively recently good line by line calculations were limited by the data.  Of course complex climate models which extend beyond radiative transfer cannot include all of this detail and rather parameterize  enables the calculations to take slightly less time than the age of the universe.  Each model in the CIMP5 ensemble is different on this account.

In an article in Nature (with an introduction by Steven Sherwood) deAngelis, Qu, Zelinka and Hall consider the effect of the NIR absorption by water vapor in the atmosphere on precip.
Using an ensemble of climate models, here we show that such models tend to underestimate the sensitivity of solar absorption to variations in atmospheric water vapour, leading to an underestimation in the shortwave absorption increase and an overestimation in the precipitation increase.  This sensitivity also varies considerably among models due to differences in radiative transfer parameterization, explaining a substantial portion of model spread in the precipitation response.
CIMP5 models find an increase of 1-3% in the cycle per degree kelvin surface warming, while this may appear small, it is a factor of three and a difference in the ensemble average of ~35%.   The parameterization varies from reasonably in agreement with observation (HadGEM2-ES, ACCESS1.3, GFDL-CM3) to way out (GISS-E2-R/H).

Basically, the path from bad to good is temporal, with more modern, and complex parameterizations performing better, and older schemes such as those based on the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project, flux data set showing the worst agreement.  Sherwood concludes that
It is remarkable for a paper not only to identify a useful link between observable behaviour in today's climate and a crucial aspect of global climate change, provigind a physical explanation, but also to trace that link back to a specific scheme within models.  Such links, sometimes called emergent constraints, are now a hot topic in efforts to narrow the known uncertainty (model spread) in predictions of global warming.  They should take centre stage in any efforts to 'weight' the predictions of some models over others.  But most emergent constraints reported so far either lack a clear physical explanation or fail to significantly narrow the uncertainty, either because the relationship is insufficiently strong or because there are not enough relevant observations to exploit it.  DeAngelis and colleagues provide an example of what such efforts should aspire to.
DeAngelis et al is a major step forward, but as Sherwood says,
Their result is impressive, but its value for our understanding of climate change is more theoretical than practical.  The main impacts from global warming will depend on regional changes in the amount and intermittency of precipitation, rathe than theon the global, time averaged amount.
As the modelers incorporate this work into their models, and they are doing so, it will be interesting to see how it plays out on a regional basis.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Morality of Existence

Ray Pierrehumbert does a guest turn at Dot.Earth. Judging from the picture this is from his Chicago days.  Given that he is now at Oxford, perhaps a bit more in the Gloucester Fisherman line of apparel might be more appropriate.  Eli had pretty much given up on Dot Earth because Revkin is a balancer of the first water.  Interestingly the tide does appear to have changed and wmar and Adrian O are being challenged.

In talking about the ambition and results of LIGO  he notes that

This is just one of the most dramatic examples of what we are capable of, given the chance to be our best selves. In science, I’d rate the revolution in detecting and characterizing exoplanets way up there as well. There’s no limit to what we can accomplish as a species.
But, you knew there would be a but
But we have to make it through the next two hundred years first, and this will be a crucial time for humanity. This is where Destiny Studies and our paper on the Anthropocene come together. The question of why we should care about the way we set the climate of the Anthropocene is far better answered in terms of our vision for the destiny of our species than it is in terms of the broken calculus of economics and discounting.
and Ray points to an important responsibility that Earthlings have
For all we know, we may be the only sentience in the Galaxy, maybe even in the Universe. We may be the only ones able to bear witness to the beauty of our Universe, and it may be our destiny to explore the miracle of sentience down through billions of years of the future, whatever we may have turned into by that time. Even if we are not alone, it is virtually certain that every sentient species will bring its own unique and irreplaceable perspectives to creativity and the understanding of the Universe around us.
This is a powerful moral argument.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

LIGO and Normal Science

The detection of gravity waves by LIGO is the big science news this week.  Eli is old enough to remember the long series of explorations that failed.  When he was a student, Joseph Weber at the University of Maryland lead the charge, and though that he had caught the boojum, but alas, it was a chimera.

Now some, not Eli to be sure, would argue that by the rules of junior high school science as taught by Karl Popper, each of the failures, and there were many, completely falsified Einstein's general theory of relativity, and indeed there were many who did so the link being only the first that popped up on the search engine. 

LIGO was a triumph of normal science. Normal science is characterized by coherence, consilience and consensus agreement.  Over time Einstein's general theory has met all of these tests as a coherent theory which describes our observations of the universe and which is accepted by a strong consensus of experts.



Law of the case

Scalia's death might change everything for the Clean Power Plan. Before there appeared to be a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court that was likely ready to overrule the appellate court if the appellate ruling favored the Plan. Now there's just four, and on a 4-4 split, the appellate ruling would stand.

Some initial points, and I expect we'll see more about this:

  • "Law of the case" was going to kill us prior to now, but now the reverse is true. If the Supreme Court splits 4-4 on the Clean Power Plan, then it doesn't matter if a Republican wins the presidency and appoints some throwback - that case is finished. This is different from constitutional issues like Citizens United, where a future Democratic president appoints a changed majority of the Court that could reconsider the legal issues based on a new case that arises, like a new state law regulating campaign cash.
  • The 4-4 split means no change in the current status of the Plan, however. The stay suspending the Plan stays in place until the Supreme Court decides what to do with the inevitable appeal by whoever loses at the appellate court. Here's the actual language: "If a writ of certiorari is sought and the Court denies the petition, this order shall terminate automatically. If the Court grants the petition for a writ of certiorari, this order shall terminate when the Court enters its judgment."
  • In the past, when cases would've ended in a tie and then a new appointee arrived, they rescheduled and reargued the case - this could happen for the Clean Power Plan, which could get heard by the Court before a Republican gets appointed, and a decision issued afterwards. The 4-4 split stands only if it's issued before a new appointee gets on the Court.
  • If I were the Republicans, I would slow-walk the case. In particular if I lost at the appellate court, I'd petition for en-banc review by all the judges in that appellate court before appealing to the Supreme Court. Stall as much as possible and hope to win the presidency. Not sure what the EPA could do in response - maybe if there were some piddling issue they lost on, they could appeal to the Supreme Court - not sure if that's a good strategy.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

More Apps For Bunnies

To keep up with the trade, Eli offers an app for the bunnies to play with

From Bernd Herd, in honor of Nicola Scafetta, a gadget to show you how changes in sun spot number over the last couple of centuries doesn't explain very much.if you believe that the sunspot number is a good proxy for Total Solar Insolation aka TSI (bunnies can change the start date and the app updates each month)

Now some, including Eli might hope for a somewhat more recent take from the Sun Goddess or maybe even Leif Svalgaard.  Before the getting too crazy about the app allow Eli to point out that one thing the Rabett has learned from Leif is that the sunspot number is at best an interesting proxy for solar irradiance, and at worst not such a good one.  What is clear is that the old TSI reconstructions based on the Opinions, of course differ, but what is clear is that the variation since we have satellite observations has been minimal, nothing at all if we simply look at changes at the solar cycle minima, and less than 1 W/m2 from valley to peak.

That being said, over the Mauna Loa CO2 record, there is good agreement between the various solar reconstructions TSI do not correlate with the increase in temperature

Walking and Gum Chewing

It is established science, policy and politics that coal is the black devil for climate change forcing in the wrong direction.  It is also clear that particulate, sulfate and mercury pollution from coal are about as healthy as a three pack a day habit and that there is humongous excess mortality, in the UK and US during the early to mid part of the last century and in China, India and the rest of the developing world now and into the future.  Beyond the obvious (see picture of Beijing to the left), fine particles, aka P2.5 , e.g.2.5 microns and smaller as well as ozone 

And then we have the Fab Five on the US Supreme Court

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Day Late

Maybe not
One of the largest earth and space science meetings in the world is moving to New Orleans in 2017, drawing more than 25,000 scientists to the city.
The meeting will move to Washington D.C. in 2018, then return to its usual home in San Francisco by 2019.

In a news release, the American Geophysical Union said planned renovations at San Francisco's Moscone Center prompted the group's decision to relocate the annual meeting for two years.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Nigel Persaud Dons His Eyeshade and Audits the Auditor

Some time ago Nigel Persaud took up the trade of auditor and inquired about this and that.  Somebunny known here and abouts took up the challenge, only to find that careful examination showed that most of the inquiries were, shall Eli say it, perhaps about nothing at all, but that there were a couple of lacuna, things missing.  They eventually were noted in the appropriate place.

On the scale of errors, there are blunders, there are errors, there is over clever data selection, and there is ignorance.  There might be more, Eli will await word from Willard, but blunders occupy a special and deep circle of academic hell.

One of the auditors, Ross McKitrick, has an impressive case of the blunders.  Tim Lambert made a hobby of finding them.  There was, of course the famous confusion of degrees with radians in Michaels and McKitrick 2004 (MM04) and much much more.

A bunch of the lab mice, Rasmus Benestad, Dana Nuccitelli, Stephan Lewandowsky, Katherine Hayhoe, Hans Olav Hygen, Rob van Dorland, and John Cook have taken MM04 under the microscope as an example of, well, pretty much all of category of errors discussed in their recent paper.  They further respond to the McKitrick beasts wails of hurt in a recent Real Climate post.

There is one crucial point that McKitrick seems to have missed, which is that nearby temperature trends are related because the trend varies smoothly over space.

An important point made in (Benestad et al., 2015) was that a large portion of the data in the analysis of McKitrick and Michaels (2004) came from within the same country and involved common information for the economic statistics (GDP, etc). In technical terms, we say that there were dependencies within the sample of data points.
Bob Grumbine had pretty well nailed this over a decade ago after looking at the original version of MM04
He was fooling around with correlating per capita income with the observed temperature changes. He concluded that the warming was a figment of climatologists imaginations, as there was a correlation between money and warming. ‘Obviously’ this had to be due to wealth creating the warming in the dataset, rather than any climate change—his conclusion.
Along the way he:
1) selected a subset of temperature records
1a) without using a random method
1b) without paying attention to spatial distribution
1c) without ensuring that the records were far enough apart to be independant—ok, I shouldn’t say ‘he’ did it, because he didn’t. He blindly took a selection that his student made and which was—to my eyes—distributed quite peculiarly.
2) Treated the records as being independant (I know William knows this, but for some other folks: Surface temperature records are correlated across fairly substantial distances—a few hundred km. This is what makes paleoreconstructions possible, and what makes it possible to initialize global numerical weather prediction models with so few observations.)
3) Ignored that we do expect, and have reason to expect that the warming will be higher in higher latitudes
4) Ignored that the wealthy countries are at higher latitudes
Hence my calling it fooling around rather than work or study. He was, he said, submitting that pile of tripe* to a journal. *pile of tripe being my term, not his.
His main conclusion was regarding climate change—namely that there isn’t any. His secondary conclusion was that climate people studying climate data were idiots. Neither of those is a statement of economics, so my knowledge of economics is irrelevant (though, in matter of fact, it is far greater than his knowledge of climate; this says little, as his displayed level doesn’t challenge a bright jr. high student.).
Now this discussion of McKitrick and Michaels stirred a memory in Eli's rememberer, a comment that Steve Mosher had made when a follow on paper to MM04 and MM07 was being featured by Judith Curry.
I downloaded his data. In his data package he has a spreadsheet named MMJGR07.csv.
This contains his input data of things like population, GDP etc.

In line 195 he has the following data

Latitude = -42.5
Longitude = -7.5
Population in 1979 =56.242
Population in 1989 = 57.358
Population in 1999 = 59.11
Land = 240940 In his code he performs the following calculation

SURFACE PROCESSES: % growth population, income, GDP & Coal use // land is in sq km, pop is in millions; scale popden to persons/km2 // gdp is in trillions; gdpden is in $millions/km2

generate p79 = 1000000*pop79/land
generate p99 = 1000000*pop99/land
So, at latitude -42,5, Longitude -7.5 he has a 1979 population of 56 million people and 240940 sq km and a population density in the middle of the ocean that is higher than 50% of the places on land. Weird.
A few others looked at the spread sheet and saw that well in the words of another McKitrick was spreading the population and GDP of France across a couple of small islands in the Pacific.

WebHubTelescope summed it up
Whether it is getting radians and degrees mixed up, or doing elementary sanity checks on the data, this stuff isn’t that hard to verify for quality. Could it be that some people just don’t have the feel for the data? Or that they rely too much on blindly shoving numbers into stats packages? McKitrick’s paper has that sheen of mathematical formalism that can obscure the fact that he lacks some the skill of a practical analyst. Beats me as to his real skill level, or that he is just sloppy. 
 As far as Eli can see this "event" was only discussed in one other place, Marcel Crok's blog by Jos Hagelaars. 

Today Eli went and downloaded the file.  Just a quick pass through shows that of the 25/469 stations south of -40.0 latitude, 4 are UK territories and are associated with the population and GDP of the UK and the south pacific data is dominated by french territories.  Oh yeah, the Faroes have the population of Denmark.

Said file is available on request with a donation to the Ancient Bunny Fund. 

Yuck. Supreme Court puts hold on Clean Power, not a good sign for the future legal argument

This afternoon the US Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote issued a stay of the application of the Clean Power Plan to emitters (one example of the stays is here). They contradicted a lower court decision not to issue a stay pending a final legal ruling, so now the requirements are blocked for a period of months or more. The lower court has to issue its ruling, and then the inevitable appeal will be made by the losing party, and the Supreme Court will almost-inevitably accept the appeal and go through its own process. It won't end before the next President takes office.

That's obviously bad news for efforts to fight climate change, delaying initial requirements for taking place. The real question though is what does it tell us about the likely final outcome at the Supreme Court. Stays are generally issued based on four criteria:

(1) the likelihood that the party seeking the stay will prevail on the merits of the appeal; (2) the likelihood that the moving party will be irreparably harmed absent a stay; (3) the prospect that others will be harmed if the court grants the stay; and (4) the public interest in granting the stay. 

It's that first criterion that can set back global efforts on climate change. Courts do a balancing of the criteria, so if the Supreme Court majority weighed the other three strongly against the EPA, then they may be only somewhat doubtful of the Plan's legality. On the other hand, EPA argued that the early stages of the Plan place few restrictions on emitters (the emitters disagreed, saying they have to plan for outcomes many years in advance).

This is a situation where the way you argue at one stage of a case may not necessarily help you later. The winning side hopes the Court ignored their own arguments when it came to potential harm and listened to their arguments on the merits, and the losing side hopes the reverse is true.

It's still very unfortunate. If the Clean Power Plan gets thrown out, then a Democratic Party president will seek some regulation that can partially replace the Plan. A Republican president will doubtless seek to do absolutely nothing, and then face lawsuits by environmental groups and by some states for failure to apply the Clean Air Act. Those lawsuits will take a number of years to move forward, a loss of time that we can't afford.

UPDATE:  some more bad news, from the NY Times:  "The 5-to-4 vote, with the court’s four liberal members dissenting, was unprecedented — the Supreme Court had never before granted a request to halt a regulation before review by a federal appeals court." That makes it even more likely that the majority is ready to shoot the law down - they'd otherwise be hesitant to take an unprecedented step.

One consolation is that the constitutional arguments against the law are so silly that even this conservative Court is unlikely to adopt them. It's the statutory interpretation arguments that are more dangerous, and they're most likely to limit the Plan's application, not kill it entirely.

Harvard law professor Larry Tribe, known as a liberal in some circles, makes the invalid constitutional arguments, and it's not the first time he's sought to take down environmental protections. I don't see how his legal philosophy could possibly be appropriate for a judicial appointment by a Democratic president.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Temperature Baths

The key to understanding the greenhouse effect is that it is a problem of energy flows, not of energy per se. a zeroth order thermodynamical model in which there are two large (in thermo speak infinite) heat baths, the sun @ 6000 K and space at 3 K. The earth, stuck between these monsters is too small to be a heat bath is better though of as a heat engine, but a very lazy one producing no work on the external surroundings and therefore having to reject an equal amount of heat to space as it absorbs from the sun.

If the heat engine slows down because some thermal radiation is blocked by greenhouse gases, other parts of the spectrum have to heat up to compensate.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Saturday, February 06, 2016

So much for that - the Washington State's renvenue-neutral carbon tax proposal

Too bad:

The carbon-tax effort has also struggled to attract support from progressives and Democrats, who are concerned that the proposal isn’t really “revenue-neutral.” The latest news from the Evergreen State suggests that this effort may well be doomed: 
 [T]he Washington State Democratic Party [has gone] on record as opposed to CarbonWA’s I-732, joining the Washington State Labor Council and [the Washington Council of Machinists] in the no camp. I-732 is a complex tax swap proposal that would levy a carbon tax while also reducing sales and business & occupation taxes. 
CarbonWA and other I-732 proponents contend that their tax swap is “revenue neutral” (meaning it would not increase or decrease state revenue). Nonpartisan legislative staff and the Department of Revenue don’t agree. According to DOR’s calculations, I-732 would reduce revenue by nearly $1 billion over the next four years.... 
CarbonWA’s endorsements page doesn’t list a single organization affiliated with the Republican Party or active in the conservative movement. And, as even CarbonWA has admitted, polling suggests right-leaning voters in Washington are incredibly hostile to the idea of levying a carbon tax.

I'm no expert in Washington state politics, but the Democratic Party is against it as not being truly revenue neutral, major unions are against, and no Republican leadership is for it. You're not going around these folks and getting a majority of the grassroots.

I think this thing is on the ballot and can't be changed. So support it and maybe some fluke will get it through, and if not then back to the drawing board.

Tom Steyer and friends have an alternate proposal for WA that I've heard about, but I suspect they're not going to get something on the same ballot. Maybe it'll be their turn next.

Monday, February 01, 2016

We made it to 3000

3000 posts at Rabett Run, that is.

Somebody get Eli and Ethon a gold watch and a toaster.

Cruz has a plan for the nomination that the others don't - in 2020

While Trump may well take Iowa tomorrow, it's widely acknowledged that Ted Cruz has the strongest grass-roots level of organization among conservative evangelicals and other conservatives, in contrast to Marco Rubio's weak organization that relies on media rather than putting people in the field. I'm not absolutely convinced that Rubio's strategy is wrong for this election, but the election's not the only thing that's in play.

Rubio's strategy is based on everything working out just right, as it indeed has so far in his short political career, but he's not building anything that lasts beyond this election. Cruz is building an organization and cadre of loyalists. If Cruz wins the nomination, then that's great according to him. If he doesn't, and the Republican nominee doesn't win, then Cruz enters the 2020 race for the nomination with the best field organization of any candidate already in place.

And of course there's more - if another Republican wins the presidency, Cruz will be a stalking horse for the next four years, threatening to run against that Republican if he turns out to be too moderate. Cruz also will not be relying on building influence within Republican elites, so he's creating an alternative power structure that he can use to pressure the Republican leadership.

Kind of obvious, but I haven't seen it remarked elsewhere. Good thing his anti-charisma limits his reach, but we're going to have to be dealing with him until demographics fix Texan politics. 

With that happy thought, we'll see which disaster gets chosen by Iowa Republicans tomorrow.