Thursday, August 31, 2017

Coastal floods from rain get worse as the drop to sea level gets smaller

Something that isn't getting mentioned but should about Hurricane Harvey - gradient determines drainage speed, and higher sea level means less gradient and slower drainage. And of course you have zero gradient and zero drainage when you hit sea level, which is six or seven inches higher than it was when Houston was founded. Not an inconsiderable amount when the coast is as flat as Houston's is, and that'll get worse. This issue and Roger Pielke Jr's refusal to recognize it was one of my earlier interactions with him, back in the day.

Maybe on to a cheerier idea:

Distributed renewable generation + power storage = disaster resiliency

It's a good thing that this is gradually happening, and it's a point I was making two years ago in support of Silicon Valley cities banding together to buy their own electric power supply. It's not just good for the environment, it's about disaster preparedness. More crucial facilities can stay open if they have their own power sources or draw it from a smart grid. More people can stay home instead of evacuating if the refrigerator still operates to keep food and medicines cold, and if a stove can boil water. A bit at a time we're getting closer to this type of preparation for disaster.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Somebody Notices


Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio Is an Impeachable Offense

....Trump’s defenders will ask how a president can be impeached merely for exercising a power he undeniably possesses. But this question turns the constitutional function of impeachment on its head.

The founders included in the Constitution a congressional power to impeach presidents primarily to respond to misuse by the president of express or implied powers given him elsewhere in the document. the founders, the main point of impeachment was that there must be a remedy when a president perverts the powers of his office, either for personal or political self-aggrandizement or, regardless of motive, when the president’s acts threaten the proper distribution of authority among the coordinate branches or otherwise offend either law or fundamental governing norms.

Some things worth adding:
  • The term "high crimes and misdemeanors" in the Constitution is broader than doing something technically illegal, it refers to a gross abuse of office. It doesn't matter how unlimited the pardon power is, it is still limited by the impeachment power to remedy and prevent further abuse of office.
  • Pardons normally occur despite the petitioner's crime, done in light of the other good works and redeeming features of the pardoned person. Trump didn't pardon Arpaio despite Arpaio's illegal activities, he pardoned Arpaio because of Trump's support for Arpaio's illegal defiance of court orders directing him to stop racially profiling people. While the official statement glosses over this, Trump himself is very clear, indicating this week that he planned to pardon Arpaio because Trump viewed the illegal activities as Arpaio "doing his job."

And despite all this, I'm not quite ready to say Trump's actions satisfy the grounds for impeachment. This action is one article of impeachment. Another is his violation of the emoluments clause. By themselves I don't think they're enough. Other charges like collusion with Russia to harm American democracy are still in process and not fully determined.

That Trump is unfit for office is clear, however, and he's making it likely that in addition he will soon be a good candidate for removal via impeachment (despite whatever Senate Republicans may say).

Friday, August 25, 2017

A Rare Climate Victory in Congress

From the Miami Herald:

Carlos Curbelo touts himself as a rare Republican in Washington willing to criticize Donald Trump and conservative members of his own party.

And after months of talk and lots of tweeting, Curbelo’s effort to build a bloc of moderate Republicans capable of swaying anti-climate-change legislation appears to have paid off.

Curbelo’s Climate Solutions Caucus, a group of 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats who are concerned about the impacts of climate change, voted en masse on Thursday against a proposal to nix a Defense Department report on the threats posed by climate change to military installations.

The vote was 234-185 that ended a Congressional attempt to stop the military from planning how it responds to things like sea level rise at naval ports.

It is possible to go too far in support of climate denialism - do that and you'll lose ten percent of Congressional Republicans and lose the vote. OTOH, this was a pretty extreme attempt at Congressional interference in the military.

We'll see if any other signs of sanity come out of the Republican Party.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Marohasy Mess Up

Among the things that bother Eli, and there are myriad, is not understanding that because proxy reconstructions are calibrated by using instrumental records they by necessity ASSUME Mike's trick, extending the proxy by use of instrumental data.  In fact, the instrumental data is more accurate in the period where they overlap, because the proxys are scaled to it.  Thus, the instrumental record used for the calibration should always be shown.  Moreover, IEHO, the usable instrumental records (properly homogenized of course) in the area where the proxy is sampled should be the ones used to scale each proxy individually.  Something that either does not appear to be much done or at least not much noted.  No matter.

Anyhow, Jeniffer Marohasy and accomplice John Abbot have published a paper in a soon to be former Journal, GeoResJ, of which it could be said that it is Elsevier and it is history

GeoResJ will be discontinued from January 2018 and is closed to new submissions. We would like to express our sincere thanks to the authors, referees, editors and editorial board members who have contributed to the journal over the past few years.
As to Jen and John, well Eli guesses that they have observed the profit that Judy Curry and Peter Webster are making, well they have set up their own long range weather forcasting service, one that Eli assumes will compete with the Farmer's Almanac and Piers Corbyn for James Annan's betting attention.  They even have their own journal.  Isn't the Internet wonderful.  Frankly Eli is of the opinion that Curry and Webster are ahead in that game even tho the Bunny's opinion of the later two, is, well, limited.

ATTP has published a comment on the Abbott Marohasy paper.  Go there for details, but Eli wants to pick up on the Twitting.  One of the fits from the AM paper were featured on Breitbart (friends don't link friends to Breitbart :(.  It turns out that that was from Moberg 05 and various claims were undressed by the usual skeptics.

Zeke was the first to notice, and he twitted the
which he later ammended to
Now Eli went and looked at Moberg 05 to find
To calibrate the reconstruction, its mean value and variance were adjusted to agree with the instrumental record of Northern Hemisphere annual mean temperatures [19] in the overlapping period AD 1856–1979 (Fig. 2b).
Ref 19 is Hemispheric and Large-Scale Surface Air Temperature Variations: An Extensive Revision and an Update to 2001 by P. D. Jones and A. Moberg the first two sentences of which are
This study is an extensive revision of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) land station temperature database that is used to produce a gridbox dataset of 5° latitude × 5° longitude temperature anomalies.
but also included a land+ocean data merge and it looks like that is the one Moberg used.  Gavin got an ear in pointing out that Abbott and Marohasy's time axis was off by ~ 35 years.  That meant that their 20th century was really 1845-1965. As all know there has been a steep rise in global temperature since then. 

and fetched J. Marohasy out of the brian patch
which is amusing in light of Fig. 2B from Moberg 05

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment Memorial

The Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Infantry was the first African American regiment formed in the US Civil War.  Lead by Robert Gould Shaw the regiment endured heavy casualties and fought with valor. Shaw was killed in the attack on Fort Wagner South Carolina in 1863.  Sgt William Carney was the first African American to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery in that fight.

Dedicated in 1897, the monument was created by August St. Gaudens and paid for by private donations.  The relief shows Shaw and the troopers marching off to a war that would free their countrymen from chattel slavery.  It sits opposite the State House on Beacon Street in Boston.

At the dedication
The military units present began to march past the Memorial, led by 65 veterans of the 54th Regiment. Some of the officers wore their Civil War uniforms, but most of the enlisted men were in their best frock coats. Black veterans from the 55th Massachusetts and the 5th Cavalry were also present. Among the men of the 54th, Sergeant Carney carried the American Flag. The sight of him elicited cheers from the onlookers who knew of his exploits. The 54th veterans laid a large wreath of Lilies of the Valley before the monument. All of this deeply moved Saint-Gaudens:

"Many of them were bent and crippled, many with white heads, some with bouquets... The impression of those old soldiers, passing the very spot where they left for the war so many years before, thrills me even as I write these words. They faced and saluted the relief, with the music playing 'John Brown's Body'…. They seemed as if returning from the war, the troops of bronze marching in the opposite direction, the direction in which they had left for the front, and the young men there represented now showing these veterans the vigor and hope of youth. It was a consecration."

Monday, August 07, 2017

Making the Elephant Dance as Performed by Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller

As John von Neuman put it
With four parameters I can fit an elephant, and with five I can make him wiggle his trunk.
and, as fate would happen, along comes Ned Nikolov and Karl Zellner with "New Insights on the Physical Nature of the Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect Deduced from an Empirical Planetary Temperature Model".  It's basically 22 pages of word salad and Eli may later return to pointing out some of the more amusing light fingered moves, but here the Bunny will only provide a small amuse bouche with the "interesting" exercise in fitting five numbers with four free parameters, two unphysical constants and a free choice of fitting form.

So briefly, what goes on is to fit the five average surface temperatures of five plants or moons (Venus, Earth, the Moon, Mars, Titan and Triton.  Wait you say, that's six, not five, but they leave Titan out of the mix because  (Eli told you this would be yummy) to an arbitrary functional form

y = a exp(bx) + c exp(dx)

Wait you say again, ok, that is four parameters and the functional form plucked out of thin air, but what is x and y.  That's kind of interesting and more than a bit light fingered but you have to watch the moving cup.  The independent variable is a ratio of pressures (Ps/Pr).  Ps is the pressure at the surface, Pr, well that's interesting, Pr starts out as the "minimum air pressure required for the existence of a liquid solvent at the surface, hereto called a reference pressure (Pr)" but about a page further on it morphs into 
For a reference pressure, we used the gas-liquid-solid triple point of water, i.e., Pr=611.73Pa [38] defining a baric threshold, below which water can only exists in a solid/vapor phase and not in a liquid form. The results of our analysis are not sensitive to the particular choice of a reference pressure value; hence, the selection of Pr is a matter of convention.
The alert out there have noticed that the minimum air pressure required for the existence of a liquid solvent at the surface kind of depends on the temperature of the surface, and would vary widely from planet to planet. Of course worry bunnies like Eli might ask:  What liquid?  Water exists as water on the surface of the Earth, if there was any as steam at Venus and as ice at all the others if it exists there at all.  For Venus maybe CO2, but at the surface of Venus CO2 is a supercritical fluid and you can't tell the difference between liquid and gas.  At Titan, there are oceans, but oceans of methane, so any useful Pr is going to be wildly different for all of these bodies and, in the case of the Mars, and Triton some pretty fancy liquids are going to be needed.

Selection of water as the solvent of choice is then both arbitrary and unphysical.  But why do Nikolov and Zeller insist on using it? Turns out their elephantine trunk waving depends on using dimensionless variables, but restricting Pr to an inappropriate value independent of the planet is equivalent to stripping the units off of the surface pressure Ps.

How about y.  y is defined as the ratio (Ts/Tr) with some really serious trickery buried in TrTr is defined as a reference temperature,
the planet's mean surface temperature in the absence of an atmosphere or an atmospheric greenhouse effect.
At this point no bunny should be surprised to find that that ain't quite that.  Whoa.  Where that come from.  Old timers may remember Eli's old friends Gerlich and Tscheuschner who were also in the business of trying to falsify the greenhouse effect, by as was pointed out, not understanding what the greenhouse effect was.  As Science of Doom put it
 Gerlich & Tscheuschner have written an amazing paper which had the appearance of physics yet failed to address any real climate science.
Eli and several distinguished bunnies had a run at G&T, but, of course, as such things go, the majicians never give up, and one may anticipate a visit from Nikolov and Zeller too.  Good times to be had.

Anyhow, one of the results was a nice arXiv article by Arthur Smith explaining how the surface temperature of a rotating planet varies with the rotational period and the heat content of the surface, which for the earth is basically that of water.

The parameter λ for the Earth is 0.04 and describes the ratio of the energy absorbed from the sun in a day to the heat capacity of the surface.  The effective temperature is the temperature determined by emission from  the surface on a non-rotating body needed to maintain thermal equilibrium.  Depending on your model Arthur showed, as was well known, that the average temperature of the surface of a rotating planet without greenhouse gases has to be less than the effective temperature.

Nikolov and Zeller reproduced Smith's results in another paper with one very strange twist.  In their model  they insist that every planet without an atmosphere will have the same surface as the moon.  (Basically λ =20 in the figure above.)  Using the bare moon Tr now Tna, is, again arbitrary, but let's go ahead and look at the fit which is all John von Neuman told you it would be

Further hand waving ensues.  Nikolov and Zellner will soon be here to entertain you.  Eli warns the bunnies they are indefatigable and will tell you to read the paper.  Eli's advice is if you want some laughs go ahead.  Scott Denning has been trapped into the endless circle, so be sure to take some survival rations for him.

Friday, August 04, 2017

The face of a champion

Context (link here if the video doesn't work, just scroll down):

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Tyler Cowen and defensive innovation: reasonable idea, problematic execution

Tyler Cowen has an interesting point about "defensive innovation" meant to prevent future problems, wherein he describes climate change as a future problem and Tesla as a defensive innovator that solves the future problem without necessarily improving human lives over baseline conditions.

It's a reasonable point viewed in isolation, that we may overestimate how technology improves lives over the baseline condition when it just solves problems we anticipate. The problem is overplaying the point. One example is Cowen referencing a cure to Alzheimer's as a defensive innovation - yes it's true that Alzheimer's will likely become far worse of an affliction as our population ages in the next few decades. OTOH, it's already a tremendous problem today - as an economist, Cowen should appreciate the tremendous, current economic cost in treatment and decreased earnings from Alzheimer's today, let alone the negative utility from human suffering (and to be fair, he doesn't completely ignore this).

Climate change is a comparable example - for one thing, it's already harming us. For another, environmental impacts are rarely unique - the pollution that causes climate change has many other negative impacts on health and the environment.

A thought experiment:  compare a modestly optimistic future for our Earth in the year 2050 relative to Earth 2 in another universe, exactly like ours except some quirk in physics or technology keeps greenhouse gases from building up in their atmosphere. Earth 2 will be still be using coal and petroleum in 2050, with resulting air quality health impacts and devastated environment from mining and spills. They'll talk about switching to wind and solar, but those technologies will be expensive because Earth 2 hadn't spent many decades subsidizing research in those fields. Earth 2 will also be poorer than us because fossil fuel energy there will be more expensive than cheap renewables here.

Other than the climate impacts, Earth 2 will be worse than Earth. Climate mitigation is making Earth a better place.

One final point - from a policy perspective, it doesn't matter whether an innovation is defensive or an improvement over current conditions. If it fixes a problem in the future at an acceptable cost, then it doesn't matter whether that problem exists in the present or just in the future - you should still fix it. Climate change exists in the present, but regardless, the future catastrophe is well worth preventing.