“There isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas” says Rep. Michele Bachmann

One of my least favorite members of Congress these days is the representative from Minnesota, Michele Bachmann. This might not be totally true, as she is a wealth, a cornucopia, of craziness that I normally only get to enjoy late at night listening to Coast-to-Coast-AM. She is a member of Congress, but seems to have little grasp of reality, and certainly no grasp of science. Below is a video clip of her on the floor of the House (via Kate Sheppard... via Wonk Room).


Let's not get into the details. Let's just all agree that, yes, carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring gas, and that it is a trace gas in the atmosphere. But let's also agree that carbon dioxide can be a deadly poison!


Former senators in the house

I just read Kate Sheppard's coverage of Friday's debate of the climate bill currently going through the House of Representatives [LINK]. The core of the article is drawing the dichotomy between Al Gore's testimony and Newt Gingrich.

Essentially, Al Gore says what he always says, which is what he's been saying for a decade. Namely, that the time to adopt strong regulation of carbon emissions is nigh, and that it is our moral responsibility to transition from polluting technologies to clean ones.

Then Newt Gingrich said that he doesn't think there's any need to rush into anything. He concedes that climate is changing, but doesn't think we understand it. Here's a quote from the article: [Gingrich] also argued for more studies of the problem. “On the facts of climate change, we need a national inquiry,” said Gingrich. “I want to invite Vice President Al Gore to participate in a nonpartisan inquiry, and I’d love to have this committee agree to help sponsor it, so that every high school and college campus this coming October could have a discussion about the facts.”

Here's the thing about such a national inquiry, though: we've done it. We did it in the late 1970s. We did it in the 1990s, and GW Bush even did it just a couple of years ago. The National Academies issued a report in response to a request from then-president Bush, and they confirmed strongly the findings of the IPCC.

This also allows us to address on of those common denier lines of argument, namely that climate scientists have a vested interest in climate change, that they are reaping millions of dollars of research money... blah blah. The problem is that if true, it would suggest that climate scientists would widely agree with Gingrich, who's now calling for more research into the issues of climate change. Instead, though, climate scientists nearly ubiquitously side with Al Gore, calling for decisive action, which would shift the focus from basic science to adaptation and mitigation strategies.


Boehner and the conservative fight against climate change

Another quick post today, basically sending you over to DeSmogBlog, where they have more details in addtion to the video below. The video clip is of House Minority Leader John Boehner basically poo-pooing climate change, specifically carbon dioxide emissions as something that need to be regulated. 

Dealing with climate change deniers is something that gets a lot of play in the blogosphere, and there are blogs/sites that are basically devoted to explaining why the "skeptical" standpoint on climate change is unreasoned and unjustified. Here, we don't deal a lot with debunking these ridiculous claims, both because those other sites do it well and also because it more widely disseminates that illogical viewpoint. When it comes to public figures, especially government officials, I take a slightly different stand. These people represent a direct interface between the science, the public, and the policy, and when congress-people or other government officials ignore the entire science part of the issue, pandering to some fringe subset of the public and undercutting effective policymaking, it hurts our society. Representative Boehner is not an isolated incidence of climate change denialism in Congress, and in fact as the DeSmogBlog post reminds us, the GOP leadership seems to hold fictitious ideas about climate change. This viewpoint is predominantly held by far-right to mid-right conservatives, for no really apparent reason except that climate change has some association with environmentalism, and conservatives have in the past 2-3 decades been (and again apparently without a good reason) anti-environmentalism.

Adopting appropriate measures to combat climate change would be hard enough for a purely centrist congress that accepts scientific findings, but throwing these irrational arguments into to the pot will only make the job more difficult. My fear is that whatever climate policy can escape from congress will be impotent, and the practices that have lead to global warming will continue unabated for another decade before effective measures can be instated, and by then it could be too late to stop a good deal of life-altering climate change.


Brook takes down Plimer, as usual

I just read Barry Brook's response to Ian Plimer's new book, Heaven+Earth. Plimer is a notorious climate change denier in Australia, and apparently has enough "cred" to get a book deal. According to Barry, the book is 500 pages of rubbish, rehashing the same old arguments that all the climate change deniers always march out. It sounds like Plimer also takes ALL climate scientists to task for being bad scientists, by committing intellectual fraud and misleading the public about climate change. Brook gives a broad overview, and a list of specific errors and misrepresentations from the book. What will be interesting to see, over the next year or two, is whether this book becomes the standard go-to reference for climate change denial. I hope it does, as I'm sure that there will soon be compilations of fact-checking focused on the book, and having a pre-existing refutation of everything in the book would be disarming for (at least some) people sympathetic to the denier worldview.


China gently asked to please think about playing nice someday

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has approached China, "warning" the country that it needs to reduce carbon emissions. [LINK] Will China take this warning to heart, and start cleaning up its act? Well, considering that 80% of China's electricity is from burning coal, and the well-used statistics that China is opening a new coal-fired power plant every week, I think not. 

Maybe I'm just feeling pessimistic today, but I just don't see China and India shaping  up in time to stop atmospheric CO2 levels reaching 450, and probably 550, ppm. The two countries have more than 2 billion people, and are both "developing" nations, which now seems to mean nations that are trying to replicate what the USA and other "Western" nations did 50 years ago. The desire to "catch up" with the developed world is so great that these giants can not rationally address climate issues. 

What is the solution? Well, ignoring geoengineering for now, the only way to get China and India to shift away from fossil fuels is to demonstrate a better system, that is more efficient and at least as cheap as the fossil fuel based one that has taken hold. One big obstacle on that front is that China has enormous coal reserves, so burning coal is amazingly cheap in China, and it's hard to imagine an energy system that will be cheaper for China than coal. That even holds for a system that will be cheap in, say, the USA, since such a system would either be sold to China or reverse-engineered, which would incur additional costs.

The IEA warns of some kind of regulation, which I guess could be effective if such regulations were very widely adopted. That would add up to the same kind of carbon tariffs that India wants to avoid. The problem is that China is such a gigantic manufacturer that it would be difficult for many countries (e.g., the USA) to penalize China without hurting themselves. Clearly this is a sticky issue, and there's not a good solution. The problem is that a solution is desperately needed to avoid dangerous levels of anthropogenic climate change.

I just came across an article in New Scientist that suggests China and the USA might be coming together on plans for reduced carbon emissions. In actuality, these are two unrelated stories. The one about China is kind of interesting. China's climate negotiator, Su Wei, says that in their next 5-year plan, China will likely reduce the "carbon intensity" of their energy production. Here's what he says, "China hasn't reached the stage where we can reduce overall emissions, but we can reduce energy intensity and carbon intensity." What does that mean? Not much. As I have to keep saying, it doesn't matter what the carbon emissions per capita are, only the total amount of carbon. Just because China will become more efficient in their use of energy doesn't mitigate global warming. In fact, by continuing to increase carbon emission, China continues to exacerbate the problem.


EPA rules on greenhouse gases

The EPA today ruled that greenhouse gases are pollutants, and thus can be regulated by the EPA. This is potentially a game-changing decision, since it says that greenhouse gases cause substantive harm to people, just like sulfur emissions (acid rain), CFCs (ozone hole), or mercury (drinking water, fish), which are all regulated. No rules or even targets have been announced, and the EPA (and Obama administration) say they would rather have Congress control greenhouse gas emissions. The bottom line, though, is that if Congress drops the ball (yet again) on adopting strict regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, the administration now has a strong case in stepping forward with its own set of rules. See story in NYTimes.com for more details.


Notes on Freeman Dyson's irrelevance

The New York Times Magazine recently ran a long profile of Freeman Dyson, a brilliant mathematical physicist known for contributions to the unification of quantum theory with electrodynamics. Unfortunately, that seminal work was mostly done by 1949, and ever after Dyson bounced eclectically from topic to topic. His contributions have been significant, if notably unfocused, and he is generally regarded highly in the physics community. I've actually met Dyson, when he visited my undergraduate physics department to give a talk, and met with a group of undergraduates, and then attended a meeting of the research group I was part of. Dyson was very nice, and seemed incredibly bright, but even then he was very old.

In the past few years, Freeman Dyson has come out as something of a climate change denier. This isn't really news anymore, as it really has been a while, but for some reason Dyson seems to be getting more press recently. The NYT Magazine piece spends most of its effort on the climate change issue, I think in an attempt to bring across Dyson's independent spirit, or maverickness. It does not totally work because it degenerates into a fictional publicity struggle between Dyson and James Hansen. The author, Nicholas Dawidoff, exaggerates the situation and paints Hansen as a caricature.

Here I just want to pull some of the relevant things that Dyson is saying, hopefully in context, and evaluate them. The main point I want to make is that Dyson is not dealing with climate change as a science issue. Here's an excerpt from that article that starts to make my case:
... in a 2007 interview with Salon.com [Dyson said] that “the fact that the climate is getting warmer doesn’t scare me at all” and writing in an essay for The New York Review of Books ... that climate change has become an “obsession” — the primary article of faith for “a worldwide secular religion” known as environmentalism.

We all are aware that there are chunks of environmentalism that are not exactly science-based, but to lump the entirety of the global warming issue into one of environmentalism is offensive to say the least. Note that there's no science in his declaration, though.

Not all his issues are so explicitly non-scientific,
Climate models, he says, take into account atmospheric motion and water levels but have no feeling for the chemistry and biology of sky, soil and trees. “The biologists have essentially been pushed aside,” he continues. “Al Gore’s just an opportunist. The person who is really responsible for this overestimate of global warming is Jim Hansen. He consistently exaggerates all the dangers.”

This does bring up an important point in the first half. Though he misrepresents the evolution of the science, which started from a physical science point of view because the models started as weather prediction models. The role of biology and chemistry have long been recognized, and inclusion of chemical and biological processes in climate models is still being incorporated. As a practical matter this has been slow because there are trade-offs between complexity and resolution in climate modeling, which is a consequence of the limited computer power that has been available. More focus has been on physical processes because they are thought to be of lower-order importance overall; there are examples including new processes and getting wildly different solutions, though usually less realistic ones. The trend is for more and more complexity, though, and over the next few years we will have much more comprehensive representations of the carbon cycle and nitrogen cycle. The bottom line, though, is that the main results are unlikely to change much, even if some regional effects are substantial. The second half of the quote is just specious, and has nothing to do with science.

In the next paragraph of the NYT Mag article, a list of common climate denier talk is rehashed. In order, the article suggests Dyson believes that (1) rising carbon dioxide just doesn't matter much to the Earth, (2) the globe isn't warming everywhere so it isn't really global warming, (3) more carbon dioxide could be good for the climate, (4) ocean acidification is probably exaggerated, (5) sea-levels are rising but we don't really know why, and ending by essentially saying we have to do more work and figure stuff out. After a paragraph about coal, this last issue is more explicitly stated; apparently Dyson wants to see more evidence. And then this:
One of Dyson’s more significant surmises is that a warming climate could be forestalling a new ice age. Is he wrong? No one can say for sure.Beyond the specific points of factual dispute, Dyson has said that it all boils down to “a deeper disagreement about values” between those who think “nature knows best” and that “any gross human disruption of the natural environment is evil,” and “humanists,” like himself, who contend that protecting the existing biosphere is not as important as fighting more repugnant evils like war, poverty and unemployment.

Where to start? Well, I think a lot of the real answer starts to come in the following paragraph, which states, "Embedded in all of Dyson’s strong opinions about public policy is a dual spirit of social activism and uneasiness about class dating all the way back to Winchester, where he was raised in the 1920s and ’30s by his father..." In fact, I think this captures an essential aspect of Dyson's denial, as well as quite a lot of other climate change deniers, particularly the issues of class in the first half of the 20th century. As energy became cheaper and cheaper, manufacturing became easier, and wealth began to get distributed to a larger chunk of the population, at least in the countries we now think of as developed. This was all a result of the "second industrial revolution" and the advances made in the immediate aftermath, and going into World War I. Dyson seems to be concerned about distribution of wealth and opportunity, and is a proponent of equal rights, which are all worthy things, and have nothing to do with climate change. In Dyson's worldview, as far as I can tell, an important part of breaking down class barriers and spreading peace and freedom is the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels did completely change the world, and particularly in the early 20th century in western Europe and North America. I think this is a foundation for denying climate change: some people see the attribution of climate change to burning fossil fuel as a threat to humanity's progress. For the oldest generation or two, this can be a visceral threat, which evokes suspicion or anger. Denying climate change might be a psychological response to this feeling of threat. I also have a hunch that this fits well with Naomi Oreskes' findings linking conservative, anti-communist groups to first opposition of smoking-cancer links and later to fossil fuel-climate change links. (Even if Dyson himself isn't all that conservative in many ways, his connections with the Orion program and JASON do connect him strongly with groups that are strongly associated with that ideology.)

As for Dyson's particular claims, I don't need to devote any time to them because they come straight out of the standard climate change denier language. Take a look at how to talk to a climate change skeptic, or RealClimate's wiki. All of these claims are debunked in detail. Also note that whenever an impending ice age is invoked, it should trigger red flags, as this is a last bastion of the desperate denier.


India won't play nice

An article by Rama Lakshmi in the Washington Post is a reminder that despite the increasing concern about global warming and carbon emissions, developing nations still want to develop without constraint. Put pretty succinctly by one of the Indian delegates to a recent UN conference, "It is morally wrong for us to agree to reduce [carbon emissions] when 40 percent of Indians do not have access to electricity."

The article goes on to say, "Last week, India's special envoy on climate change, Shyam Saran, told reporters in Bonn that he opposed any attempt by the European Union and the United States to impose 'carbon tariffs' on exports of Indian goods produced in energy-intensive industries such as steel, aluminum, cement and fertilizer." It also says that India doesn't think it is fair to be targeted for its emissions because per capita India emits 1/10 of what the US does.

The problem, clearly, is that the population of India is over 1 billion people, and growing. A second problem is that the climate system just doesn't care about the population; the temperature rises in direct proportion to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, without dividing by the number of humans who put it there.

There are tricky ethical issues here, and there is no absolutely right answer. India does deserve to continue to develop, bringing the standard of living up for its citizens. India must take responsibility for its contribution to global warming, which threatens the standard of living for just as many people around the world (through changes in precipitation, sea-level, ecosystem response, melting of permafrost, changing migratory patterns, etc).

What can the UN or the United States do to spur India to action, to make a real effort to reduce CO2 emissions? Well, not a whole lot for now. However, going back to Shyam Saran's comment above, I see no reason not to impose carbon tariffs in the near future. This will depend on the adoption of some kind of carbon pricing mechanism (e.g., "cap and trade"). Once a price is placed on carbon use, then it will have to be applied to imports as well, including the amount of energy that goes into transporting material goods.

From my simple viewpoint, which might be naive, it seems like there would absolutely have to be such tariffs. Otherwise, it would become even cheaper to outsource jobs to developing countries. This includes non-manufacturing. Already it is very cheap for companies in the US (and elsewhere) to hire Indian companies to do a lot of work (see e.g., The World is Flat
). If energy costs were to rise substantially in the US because of the price of carbon emissions, without a commensurate rise in price of outsourcing, then there would be little choice left other than to send those jobs overseas, which would be a severe blow to the local economy. So a carbon pricing system imposed, say, on American companies would necessarily include the carbon emitted by their contractors, provided that the contractors are not already paying for those emissions. The job of tracking all the emissions and who pays for what seems gargantuan and nearly intractable. In the end, the whole goal of the system would be to get enough people paying enough money that large-scale shifts in energy generation would ensue, eventually eliminating the need for burning fossil fuels. But the path is tortuous, even if paved with good intentions.


I build crowds, guaranteed!

There's something kind of mesmerizing about this video. He's like the dad character in Drop Dead Gorgeous.


The super chimney that will save us all!

Yesterday I threw up a teaser for a future post about the Super Chimney, and here it is. I can not resist the pull of this posting, it has been rattling in my head since I found the Super Chimney (via SGTU podcast #192). The site that is home to the Super Chimney is simply superchimney.org, and is run by a man named Michael Pesochinsky. I know nothing about Mr. Pesochinsky, his motives, his background, or his mental state. I can only take the site at face value, as there is no indication that it is farce, and it appears that some effort has been put into the site, excepting quite a few grammar and spelling errors.

Here is the skinny on the Super Chimney: Mr. Pesochinsky suggests that building a few (around 10) Super Chimneys of diameter 1 km and height 5 km, anthropogenic global warming will be mitigated, the world's energy problems will be solved, and carbon will be sequestered in the newly arable land that is created by rain around the chimneys. So, what is the idea, well by clicking a link to the "principle," it is quite simply explained: "Hot air rises above cold air because hot air is less dense and therefore, it is lighter than cold air." Quite right, and really the underlying principle for a surprisingly large amount of the atmospheric sciences. The Super Chimney idea simply says that you can throw up a structure with openings at the bottom and top, and hot near-surface air will rush in at the base and rise with striking speed up the chimney because the surface air is so much hotter than the air at 5 km up. Along the way, harness all the kinetic energy of the updraft by installing turbines.

The idea is simple, and at first makes sense to a lot of people, which makes it a bit dangerous. In this post, I want to address two points: (1) be skeptical of things that seem too good to be true, and (2) the Super Chimney is a ridiculous and naive idea that has no hope of working in any way.

So, the first point about being skeptical. Whenever a new idea is presented, whether a product like a "dietary supplement," a medical treatment, intelligent design, or a mitigation strategy for global warming, there are several levels of skepticism that have to be addressed. If the idea/product/etc claims to solve even one "grand challenge" problem, that is a red flag, and if the claim is that multiple important problems are solved, many, many red flags should be waving in your head. These difficult problems, the problems of all humanity, are hard to solve, and lots of people are working to solve them. Rarely does one obscure idea emerge from the din to successfully tackle an important problem. This goes back to the old saying about something being too good to be true... Also, it is good to ask whether this miraculous idea/device/medicine/etc has been vetted by the scientific community, or have the interested parties gone straight to the media or public? And consider the source itself. Is this a single person, from outside the field, or a respected professional? Does the person have any experience relevant to the topic at all, and is there any information even available about the background?

In the case of the Super Chimney, let's see if the idea really merits much consideration just based on these questions. Well, the claim is that building 10 Super Chimneys will produce arable land, sequester carbon, generate the world's energy needs, and mitigate global warming. No small feat!! So, it sounds too good to be true, and claims to solve huge problems. The source seems only to be this website, and there's no scientific publication to back up the claims. On the plus side, there are no testimonials on the site yet. Finally, Mr. Pesochinsky is not a climate scientist, and we don't really know anything about him. None of this suggests that the proposal should be considered seriously. How does it stand up to scrutiny?

To start, let's suppose that it is feasible to build towers of the size suggested (1km wide, 5km tall); there are some issues with this, but I'm totally willing to concede the engineering is possible.

Next, let's not get caught up with the end results for now, and only address the physical principle underlying the proposal.

Yes, hot air rises, and it is because hot air is less dense than cold air. The Super Chimney relies on hot air at the surface entering the tower and then rising because, as is stated, "As we climb up, the temperature drops 10° C (roughly 20° F) every 1000 meters." So because of this unstable situation, i.e., cold air over warm air, the warm air rises.

Hold on a second.... there's warm air at the surface -- check -- the temperature decreases with height -- check -- warm air rises -- check... BUT ALL THE AIR HIGH UP IS COLDER THAN THE AIR AT THE SURFACE!!! Everyone please don't panic, proceed to the nearest shelter, we expect the Earth's atmosphere to blow upward from the surface at supersonic speeds at any moment. Just as soon as the atmosphere realizes that the surface is warmer than the air aloft.

There is a logical fallacy going on here. The air at the surface is warmer than the air aloft, but it is not necessarily buoyant, and where it is, it does indeed rise. An important aspect of atmospheric dynamics exactly involves instability and convection, with the take-home message that convection acts to eliminate instability. This really means that the atmosphere will convect, i.e., air will rise, as long as it can and then it will stop.

Imagine you take a blob of warm air from the surface up to some height, and you do it such that all the energy in the blob is retained. Physically, this transformation has to change the temperature of the air in the blob. When you are done moving the blob and you measure the temperature inside the blob and outside the blob (at the same height), if the temperature of the blob is greater than the environment, it is buoyant and could continue to rise, but if it has cooled to a temperature less than the environment it would sink. We'd say that in the former case the blob is unstable to this "adiabatic" transformation while the latter situation is stable. The way that meteorologists make this kind of problem simple is by defining alternative temperatures; in this case the quantity that would be of particular value would be the potential temperature, which is simply the temperature air would have if it were brought to a reference height in this kind of transformation. It turns out to be very easy to derive an equation that says that the temperature decreases by 10 degrees C per about 1000 m of height with no vertical motion. That explains why the air above the surface is colder than the air at the surface without being unstable; in a dry atmosphere this would be the situation everywhere, but it turns out that the condensation of water changes this temperature change, and for the tropics and sub-tropics the change is more like 6.5 degrees of cooling for every 1000m of height.

The fact that the surface air is NOT unstable to vertical displacements makes the Super Chimney idea fall flat. Of course, if you warm the air at the surface enough, it will become unstable and rise, but doing so requires pumping energy into the air, and removes any benefits that could be achieved by the chimney. It simply can not work.

Additional Considerations?
There are a host of other potential problems with the physics of the Super Chimney idea. In fact, every claim that is made on that site is suspect, and most of them are demonstrably wrong.

Unfortunately, given the fundamental flaw in the premise of the Super Chimney, it is impossible to address many of the outrageous claims made. For instance, take the idea that the venting air at the top of the chimney would cool down, condense water vapor, and rain in the vicinity of the tower. My first thought is that, no, this won't happen, you will really get the cloud forming inside the tower, and rising up out of it. However, that requires the air within the tower to have a reasonable temperature profile, which immediately invalidates the crazy claims of a constant updraft of more than 100 m/s. If you did have an updraft in the tower, though, the cloud base would form about where liquid water can exist, which in most environments would be around 1-2km above the surface. The result would be, among other things, a downpour within the tower itself which would cool the lower part of the tower as liquid water fell into the warm air and evaporated, and this would stabilize the column by cooling the low levels. You could actually then imagine outflow from the the base of the tower! (And, by similar reasoning to the original Super Chimney idea, maybe you could then pump cold air down to the surface and solve global warming via refrigeration!)

Another ludicrous claim is that just 10 of these towers would dramatically alter the Earth's climate. Just from a scaling perspective, this can be dismissed. A single tropical thunderstorm is an updraft that reaches from near the surface up to 15km or so, and is several km in diameter. There are thousands of such storms at any given time across the tropics. Yes the energy contained within them is enormous, but the idea that just putting 10 small, but intense storms in fixed locations and expecting them to completely change the temperature structure of the atmosphere is beyond the pale.

In retrospect, I probably should have ignored this topic, as the more I look at that site and think about it, the more and more crazy it is. The whole thing is based on completely misunderstanding the basic physics of the atmosphere, and that is even before we start considering the implications for global warming or energy production. The lesson to be learned is that if an idea doesn't pass snuff on the basic skeptical questions, it probably isn't worth digging into it in any depth, at risk of your own mental well-being. However, just as a reminder that craziness can have consequences, I suggest checking out the website WhatsTheHarm.net.


oh, a good post is coming...

Thanks to the Skeptical Guide to the Universe, I have come across superchimney.org. The premise is that by constructing a very large chimney, we can defeat global warming (by producing electricity) and create arable land in the desert. I have only had a couple minutes to look at the site, but I already have several ideas for how to prove that this idea does not work. It's bunk from the premise, so consider this a teaser for a more complete post later.


Earth Day '09 ... better start your shopping early!

Well, I am informed by Amazon that Earth Day is approaching, and what better way to celebrate the Earth than by buying some products from Amazon. Probably something that you don't really need, shipped from somewhere far away from you. 

Anyway, if you do want to take a look, just follow this link. 


Conflicting reports about Colorado snow pack?

Just last week I posted a link to an article saying the northern Colorado snow pack was slightly above the 30-year average, even though much of the state remains in drought conditions. Saturday, the same news source posted an article saying the state's snow pack is slightly below the 30-year average. 

So, what's the story? 

As of 1 March, the state-wide snow pack was above average for all the major basins. February was, however, quite dry, and lead to decreases in the percent of normal across all basins. [source: US Dept of Agriculture, Nat'l Resources Conservation Service] It is also notable that the dry conditions in early 2009 have made the snowpack much less than in 2008. The story from Friday, supposedly from GreeleyTribune.com (I can not find the article) specifically is about the 1 April report, though. 

Although the report from the USDA NRCS for 1 April does not appear to be available, the data is. Looking at the Basin reports, it is clear that the FortCollinsNow.com article from 1 April is misleading. Here are the relevant numbers:

BENNETT CREEK         83 64
BIG SOUTH             50 79
CAMERON PASS         105 108
CHAMBERS LAKE         74 72
HOURGLASS LAKE        69 64
RED FEATHER           91 94
Basin Totals          93% 95%
Number Courses         9  8
                   (LSWE = 108.5) (SWE = 93.3)
                   (LAST = 117.0) (AVG = 97.7)

Cameron pass is 108% of average, and 105% of last year (these numbers are as of today), just as the article reported. However, Joe Write Resevoir is just 110% of average, not the 112% reported. More importantly though, note that every other station in the Cache La Poudre Basin is below normal, some amazingly below normal. The basin as a whole is at 95% of normal, which is clearly below 100%. 

The Colorado state-wide snowpack stands at 96% of normal as of 1 April. This is the value given in the FortCollinsNow.com article from yesterday.

So to summarize, I think we've learned a couple of things. First, Colorado is, on average, below the 30-year mean snowpack. Second, there is large regional variability, and very large station-to-station variability. Third, we are reminded that news sources are not as reliable as they should be; the numbers in the article I linked to on Friday are a clear cherry-pick. Two spot measurements clearly do not reflect the overall situation in either the Cache La Poudre basin or state-wide. 


Northern Colorado has water!

Yes, according to a recent survey of mountain snow pack, northern Colorado is (slightly) above the 30-year average. I guess that means no water shortages this summer, right? Don't get too excited, Coloradoans, since almost the whole state is still in drought conditions according to the US Drought Monitor.



Ads that drive content

Just for fun (well, we'll see if it is JUST for fun), I have added Ads by Google to the blog. There's one up there, between the title and the content, and then another down to the right in the bar. There's also an Amazon tag-cloud, but more on that another time. Google tries to target the adds based on the words on the page, which here will include clouds, climate, carbon dioxide, global warming, you see the pattern. Of course, there are only so many advertisers for climate-related topics, and also Google doesn't deal with the semantic content, just the literal words, all with the result that some interesting ads have already been reported.

One in particular is an add for something called the Douglass Report, which is a climate change denier site operated by Dr. William Campbell Douglass. The add takes you to a page that asks for your email address, in return Douglass sends you his report about how climate change is all a big hoax AND a you get a subscription to his medical newsletter.

The claims on that page are absolutely outrageous. Douglass drags out all the old, debunked claims that deniers always use. I don't often deal with these claims here because they've all been beaten to death elsewhere (cf., RealClimate's wiki). Let's just point out the two that really get my goat. First is,
"Scientists have reaped MILLIONS from their global warming 'research.' They've turned supporting global warming - despite what the science really says - into a cash cow!"
Oh, don't even get me started. One definitive answer to this canard is that if scientists are getting so much money from studying global warming, why would the vast majority of climate scientists be calling for intense investment in R&D of climate solutions, rather than additional funding for climate studies? If this is about the avarice of scientists, then they'd all be saying, "let's wait and see," but the truth is that almost no one who seriously studies climate change thinks waiting is a reasonable strategy at this point.

Second, is the tired argument that "these same scientists were trying to convince us the world was cooling just a few decades ago, when that's where the grant money was." No, actually that is just not true. There was discussion of a new ice age, but there was no serious concern that we'd precipitously enter into one, since that isn't how ice ages work. In fact, there was already quite a bit of serious concern about global warming by the mid-1970s. Read more in the BAMS article that tackles this issue in some depth. (See also (1) and (2).)

This guy is also apparently well-known as a medical crackpot, peddling snake oil and discouraging proper health practices. For example, he doesn't think that exposure to sunlight causes melanoma. He also believes that there is no evidence that cholesterol in any amount is bad for you, and that DDT (yes, the poison) might prevent breast cancer! There's more craziness if you do a quick search (example). And I kid you not, he's not only been a guest on Coast-To-Coast, but went on to talk about the health benefits of tobacco!!! (here). The bottom line is that this guy seems to be wrong about everything, and I have to now assume he is a brilliant satirist, as no one could believe all the garbage that comes out of this guys head. So kudos to Dr William Campbell Douglass.

Getting back to the ads on the blog. Here's the great thing. First, we've already gotten quite a kick out of the ads that have shown up, so that makes it all worthwhile. And second, if you can't believe what you're seeing, click it. Worst case scenario is that you make me a few pennies, and cost some terrible web site a few. Good deal.