UN not putting mirrors in space

An article in the Telegraph by Louise Gray carries the headline, "Cancun climate change summit: UN considers putting mirrors in space" [LINK]. That is a misleading headline, to put it mildly. What is really happening is that there's another "climate summit" happening now in Cancun, just like last year at Copenhagen. The difference with Cancun is that there aren't any expectations; for some reason people had high hopes for a deal at Copenhagen despite all the indications that it would not happen. This article, however, isn't really about the summit, it seems to be about the talk that Rajendra Pachauri (head of IPCC) gave at the summit. I haven't double checked, but it sounds like he gave an overview of the current IPCC endeavor, gearing up for the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), which will be released in 2014-ish. What's with the mirrors, though? Well, the AR5 is going to change structure a little bit, just like all the other reports have done. New chapters are going to be added, for example dealing with clouds and aerosols (coverage of clouds and aerosols has been spread across several chapters in the past). The mirrors are a geoengineering idea, and for the first time geoengineering is going to be dealt with explicitly in the IPCC assessment. There won't be a separate report about it, nor even a separate chapter. Like other topics that have emerged in previous reports, geoengineering will be sprinkled throughout the AR5. Specifically, there are sections in the carbon/biogeochemistry chapter (Ch. 6), cloud/aerosol chapter (Ch. 7), the near-term climate change chapter (Ch. 11) in Working Group 1 (physical science basis), plus part of Ch. 5 in WG3's report. This was all laid out already by the IPCC and is available on their web site [LINK].

This was all just to criticize the coverage by the Telegraph. The "UN" isn't considering geoengineering implementation, as the story might lead you to believe. The fact is that research, serious research, is now being done to understand the consequences of geoengineering ideas. Since the AR5 is assessment of climate change science, it is natural to include these geoengineering results. The IPCC is not going to recommend putting mirrors in space.



Invitations to contribute chapters

Yesterday I opened my email and found an invitation to contribute a chapter to a book on climate change. Huh? Yeah, reading through, it wasn't obviously random, they knew my name and my work, and they were asking my to write something related. Here's the email, with some info removed:
My name is MSc Iva Lipovic and I am contacting you regarding a new InTech book project under the working title "Climate Change", ISBN: 978-953-307-419-1.

This book will be published by InTech - an Open Access publisher covering the fields of Science, Technology and Medicine.

You are invited to participate in this book project based on your paper "XXXXX", your publishing history and the quality of your research. However, we are not asking you to republish your work, but we would like you to prepare a new paper on one of the topics this book project covers.

Publication of the book is scheduled for 26 July, 2011. It will be abstracted and indexed in major online repositories and search engines. The book will also be available online and you will receive a hard copy via express delivery service.

Why should you participate?
- "Climate Change" covers your area of research
- Free online availability increases your paper's impact
- Each InTech book chapter is downloaded approximately 1000 times per month
- More citations of your work (research findings indicate that papers published under the Open Access model are likely to enjoy increased citation rates)
- You keep the copyright to your work

NEXT STEP: For further details about this book project please visit


On this page you can find a detailed description of the book project, its scope and topics, details of the publishing process and a registration form.

For further details about InTech and Open Access please visit:
- About InTech: http://www.intechweb.org/XXXXXXXX
- About Open Access: http://www.intechweb.org/XXXXXXXX

If you need more information about this book project, InTech or Open Access, please don't hesitate to contact me.

On behalf of InTech President, Dr. Aleksandar Lazinica,

MSc Iva Lipovic
Publishing Process Manager
Open Access Publisher
e-mail: lipovic@intechweb.org
Web: http://www.intechweb.org/
Phone: +385 (51) 686 165
Fax: +385 (51) 686 166

Vienna Office
Corporate Address
Zieglergasse 14
1070 Vienna
Austria, European Union

Rijeka Office
Publishing, Marketing and Finance
Janeza Trdine 9
51000 Rijeka
Visit us in our Operations Centre in Rijeka!

I've never heard of InTech or InTechWeb before, and I don't know Iva Lipovic, and I've never seen someone use MSc as a title before, so many red flags were waving. So to the interwebs! First stop is the website they sent me to, to check out this book, which seems to exist, and the web site is nice. I start to look at the InTech website, which is also nice. What doesn't look very good are the books themselves. I looked through the books on topics that I might know something about, in particular Climate Change and Variability [LINK]. I think I know one author in the entire book. The topics seems disjointed.  The publisher does not appear to be InTech or InTechWeb, but Sciyo. Each chapter does seem to be like a real paper, but from some browsing, some of them seem to be low quality. There's a lack of editorial cohesion, in the sense that there are differences in formatting and style across the chapters. Something doesn't seem right. So now I start the Google search process.

The most useful information I've seen so far comes from an interview with Sciyo CEO
Aleksandar Lazinica by Richard Poynder [LINK]. From all appearances, this is a business model that takes advantage of the Open Access process, wherein research results are "open" to the public online, and authors pay a modest fee to the journal/publisher to cover costs. Open access is a legitimate publishing model, as evidenced by relatively high profile journals like PLoS One and ACP, but the future of this model is certainly far from settled. InTech, now called Sciyo, seems to be a mutation of the general Open Access publishing model. Instead of trying to attract high quality and high impact papers to specialized journals, they publish books for free online using "InTech" as the online publisher (there's no clear distinction between what is InTech and what is Sciyo, so I will use them interchangeably for the remainder of the post.) The catch is that they company appears to be centered on the idea of soliciting chapters from authors and charging them for publishing the chapters. The fee is not outrageous compared to standard journal fees, but this all starts to feel like a vanity press. This feeling seems confirmed by the description of the publication process on the InTech website, for example:
In comparison with scientific journals, the book format is different in scope as well as in length. Furthermore, the book publishing process has to follow strict publishing deadlines. In order to accommodate these differences, we have developed a strict review process without compromising the quality of our publications.
The Subject Editor’s screening and the Editor’s review are the conditions of acceptance for publication. Subject Editors are permanent members of our Editorial Board and, given their scientific expertise in a specific field of research, they are responsible for sorting abstracts by scope and topics. Book Editors review the abstracts ans select resourceful research papers with a bearing on developments in the field. They have overall responsibility for the content of the publication, therefore they pay particular attention to originality, research methods, key results, and language.
Only abstracts that meet all scientific requirements are accepted. However, definitive acceptance is based on the final chapter review. Following the submission of full chapters, the Book Editor is in charge of the final quality check and every effort is made to ensure that manuscripts are reviewed efficiently and to a high quality.
This is all just saying that the book editor is the only "review" of the content of the book, there is no external review of the science, and it is apparent that there is little or no copy editing. I can only conclude that Sciyo/InTech, in this current form, is a scam designed to publish as much as possible and collect publication fees along with whatever advertising revenue they can generate. Maybe this is recourse for those struggling to get a mediocre paper published without going through the hard work of making it acceptable to a mainstream journal? Isn't that what ArXiv.org is for?

I've been trying to follow up my initial searches, but with limited success. There's a little entry on an Economist blog [LINK], and some of those comments are interesting. I think there's a fair comparison between the Sciyo publishing model and both Who's Who and those poetry "contests" that have been around forever. As far as the scientific enterprise goes, the Sciyo models is problematic. Since it does not provide reasonable peer review, the reader is left to determine the quality of the research (with no baseline, as opposed to traditionally reviewed papers where there is at least some credibility to start with). Another blog has a similar story to tell [LINK], and again several interesting comments from people invited to contribute chapters and even people who have done it. Still, the only thing left to conclude is that this is a pay-to-publish model with no peer-review and no evidence of any actual benefit from having these non-reviewed publications on one's CV.

On the plus side though, this could be an interesting model for people who want to publish a book, but want to dispense with some of the overhead. An industrious editor or two could conceivably use the Sciyo system as a platform to get a collection of papers into book-form for a modest price. The downside of being non-reviewed would remain, but could be overcome by having some big names in a given field attached (and by the editor weeding out the sub-par contributions from the "invited" contributions). The result could be a useful resource for some small field, since the books really are free to download. I imagine a group of specialists getting together to basically write a free online textbook for grad students, for example, giving an overview of recent results. This is just daydreaming though, until Sciyo or some other OA publisher decides to get serious about such projects; the current model would probably demand many more papers in any given volume in order to collect more publication fees.


Mass Extinction #6

One of these days I should go back and take a look at the details of the first 5 mass extinctions. The last one was 65 million years ago, and the evidence for it being caused by a large impactor is pretty solid. The other ones are less clear, as far as I know. The sixth one is currently underway, and the cause is pretty clear. Joe Romm has a nice post about it [LINK]. Whenever reading Romm, one must remember that he's always presenting the worst case scenario (and as if it is inevitable), but even when one scales his arguments by 50% or so, it's not a pleasant picture. If anyone wants to skip the commentary and read the source material, it is a special issue of Phil. Trans. [LINK].



Just saw a post from a month ago on Skeptical Science [LINK] that makes an important point about so-called climate skeptics (aka climate change deniers). That post makes the point that the "skeptical" arguments, when taken together, are incoherent. There are arguments that the globe is not warming, that there is warming but it is natural, that there is warming that is anthropogenic but isn't harmful, that there is anthropogenic and it could be harmful but it's too expensive to deal with it, etc etc. Worse yet, is that for every one of those arguments, there are numerous versions of it, especially in terms of whether there is warming or not and whether it is natural (if there is warming). If one were to sit down and write a book about the skeptical arguments, it would be very difficult because to be coherent, most of the arguments would have to be thrown out in favor of others. Many of them are mutually exclusive.

On the other hand, the science behind climate change is quite coherent. The basic science has hardly changed in decades, but over that time the observational and computational evidence has bolstered the basic ideas of climate science. Nuances have been found and explored, but the primary narrative thread of "global warming" is and has been consistent and coherent. This is the basis of the "consensus" counter-argument that thousands of peer-reviewed papers can't be wrong. Maybe using this coherence version is a more refined response to the various skeptical arguments. Making this point conveys the consensus idea without sounding like an argument from authority, and it weakens the skeptical side by pointing out their lack of agreement even among themselves.


The Whale Pump

It's this kind of shit that makes oceanography so hard... whale shit, literally. A new study suggests (and does not prove) [LINK][PLoS], that whale poop might pump nitrogen up to the surface in some areas of the oceans, acting as a boost to biological productivity (and consequently fish population). If this "whale pump" were eventually shown to be important in the global nitrogen cycle, how would climate models cope with that information? Who's going to code the whale_poop.F90 module? Geez.


Coffee forests threatened by climate change impacts

This is serious. At least superficially similar to the pine beetles infecting forests in the Rockies, there's a pest called the coffee berry borer beetle that is infecting coffee plants around the world [LINK]. As the climate is changing, these beetles have started to become common pests in regions where they have historically been virtually unknown, such as Ethiopia. This insect problem just makes the impacts on coffee production worse, as there are already some issues with temperature sensitivity in growing coffee. Frankly, this story completely freaks me out, as I rely on coffee for survival.


Blame Cheney

Well, at least a recent NYTimes editorial does: LINK, worth a read. It says that Cheney-style denialism of anthropogenic climate change is being adopted by the current crop of GOP candidates. I'm not sure that I agree, but it depends on how one breaks down the denier strategies. From my current understanding of the candidates though, it seems like the so-called tea party candidates generally have a more naive/paranoid take on climate change than the "merchants of doubt" or "wedge strategy" that I'd ascribe to the Cheney folks. This goes for other issues as well, with these tea-party types really falling into the same category as the insane Alex Jones and similar paranoid conspiracists.


fancy words

Okay, no peeking, is this a real or fake title for a paper (answer below):

Enhanced ocean temperature forecast skills through 3-D super-ensemble multi-model fusion

Yep, totally real, I just saw it in my GRL RSS feed. Here's the rest:

F. Lenartz, B. Mourre, A. Barth, J.-M. Beckers, L. Vandenbulcke and M. Rixen

An innovative multi-model fusion technique is proposed to improve short-term ocean temperature forecasts: the three-dimensional super-ensemble. In this method, a Kalman Filter is used to adjust three-dimensional model weights over a past learning period, allowing to give more importance to recent observations, and take into account spatially varying model skills. The predictive performance is evaluated against SST analyses, CTD casts and gliders tracks collected during the Ligurian Sea Cal/Val 2008 experiment. Statistical results not only show a very significant bias reduction of this multi-model forecast in comparison with the individual models, their ensemble mean and a single-weight-per-model version of the super-ensemble, but also the improvement of other pattern-related skills. In a 48-h forecast experiment, and with respect to the ensemble mean, surface and subsurface root-mean-square differences with observations are reduced by 57% and 35% respectively, making this new technique a suitable non-intrusive post-processing method for multi-model operational forecasting systems.


Republicans, 2010 edition

Wow... another article/study that I missed somehow:

Republican hopefuls deny global warming

This is from the Guardian, reporting results from a Center for American Progress report. The punch line is that of the 48 Republican candidates for Senate, 47 of them deny climate change and/or oppose action on global warming. I don't even have any commentary on this, it simply speaks for itself.


Mann's op-ed in WaPo

Somehow I missed Michael Mann's op-ed in the Washington Post last Friday [LINK]. It's short and to the point. He's worried about the upcoming elections, specifically about the possibility of the Republicans taking control of key congressional committees. Those committees could be headed by people who continue to cast doubt on the science behind climate change, and some have stated a desire to launch further investigations into climate science and climate scientists. Such investigations would further damage the public perception of climate change and the scientists who study it, and they would also cost the taxpayers many thousands of dollars and detract from meaningful congressional activities. Mann is also saying that climate scientists need to resist these attacks. He doesn't say how, but I think that publishing such an op-ed gives some insight to his personal strategy, and probably what he recommends to a wider group of scientists: engage the public and the press. This seems to me to have greater potential for good than, for example, directly engaging the persistent climate deniers (a la Judith Curry's approach over the past couple of years).


Can someone explain why West Virginia is still a state?

See John Rudolf's NYTimes Blog post for a little additional backstory on this, though it is hardly even necessary.


The Simpson's & Banksy collaborate

In the absence of actual content, I submit entertainment:

Banksy storyboarded the sequence. Via Laughing Squid via Daring Fireball.


What if we just stopped doing things for the next couple decades?

That's essentially the though experiment discussed by Davis et al. in last week's Science [LINK]. They tried to estimate what climate change would occur if CO2-emitting devices that currently exist were used until their expected lifetime, at which point they are taken offline and non-emitting devices are installed. Basically, they say, okay, we've got a lot of coal-fired power plants (and gas or oil plants and also cars and trucks), so what if we just use them until they're not good (say ~35 years for power plants)? In the interim, no additional CO2-emitting devices are introduced. The conclusion is that, based on a vast set of rough approximations and an intermediate complexity climate model, the atmospheric CO2 could be kept below 430 ppm, keeping global warming at a "comfortable" 1.3 degrees or so.

From my reading of the paper, the important insight is that the most dangerous CO2 emissions -- those that will take us past 450ppm and then past 550ppm -- have not yet been built. This is a scary realization because if their estimates are close, then we know we aren't committed to "dangerous anthropogenic warming" yet, but we're about to be. We see what's coming, but won't do anything about it. We're like the proverbial lemmings heading over the cliff.

Now, realistically we might be in worse shape than the scenarios addressed in the paper, and the authors acknowledge that. In particular, since there are such strong economic/societal incentives to use the cheap (but dirty) fuel sources, it is impossible to achieve a scenario that is even remotely like the one simulated by Davis et al. At the end, they also touch on the China and India issues. These countries are in the midst of rapid industrialization, and they aren't going to turn back. And they are going to account for a large amount of the accumulated emissions over the next 50 years or more. The developing world, under the Davis et al. scenario, would be left behind, too, unless they employ an incredible leap-frog to using clean energy sources. In the end, this study the idealistic scenario, one small step past the most idealized scenario of 'what if we stop emitting CO2 completely today?' The lessons we learn directly are mostly about what we are committed to already. That makes these kinds of studies very policy relevant, but of course few policy makers seem to care. Indirectly, science also progresses, as these are the kinds of studies that help us understand the interactions between the societal decisions and the climate system, and can lead to more fundamental understanding of timescales in the perturbed climate system.

Steven J. Davis, Ken Caldeira, H. Damon Matthews
Emissions and Climate Change from Existing Energy Infrastructure
Science, Vol. 329 no. 5997 pp. 1330-1333
10 September 2010
DOI: 10.1126/science.1188566


Climategate hurt the reputation of climate science among TV meteorologists

There's a forthcoming paper to appear in BAMS that reviews the results of a survey of credentialed TV meteorologists. The survey asks about their political beliefs, belief in anthropogenic global warming, and their response to the "climategate" scandal. The result seems to be that the coverage of the scandal was injurious to climate science in the eyes of conservative and moderate TV meteorologists. The main caveat to the paper is that the survey was conducted only about 2 months after the initial story broke, so well before all the involved climate scientists were exonerated. You can reach at least the abstract of the study at the AMS journals web site [LINK].

The opinion of TV meteorologists is important because they are one of the main links between science and the general American population. People tend to trust their TV personalities, who they see on a regular basis, especially compared to nebulous government (or non-government) entities. It has also been shown that a surprising number of broadcast meteorologists are "climate skeptics." This has been somewhat disconcerting for a lot of the climate science community, because these broadcasters have at least a limited ability to sway public opinion about climate change. Whether they decide to make the most of that ability or not is another issue, but the potential harm they could do (and are doing, at least in some cases, e.g., Chad Meyers of CNN) is a serious issue. I think we'll continue to hear about these kinds of studies over the next few years; I'm not sure there's a strategy for reaching out to the broadcasters in a meaningful way, but I'm sure that there are a few people spending time thinking about it. (Too bad they probably aren't science communication experts.)


What is the Higgs boson of climate research?

That is essentially the question we ended the lunchtime meeting with today.

What is a big question that needs to be answered definitively by climate science? The idea is to provoke a community wide effort, funneling creativity, effort, and resources toward one big problem. The example in particle physics was the Higgs boson and the construction of the large hadron collider. Is there something equivalent in climate research?


Muir Russell report is in, findings no surprise

The independent report on "climategate" lead by Sir Muir Russell is in, and they find no major problems. The UEA official response is posted [LINK], and the report is available [LINK]. There are a few news stories I've seen floating around [e.g.], but obviously not as many as when the email were stolen. The climate blogs are covering the issue, as expected [e.g.].

The questions now are:

(1) Is the "climategate" controversy over now?
(2) Will the deniers and/or skeptics accept the findings of the numerous investigations that resulted from emails being stolen from UEA's CRU?


The Stanford Study

DeSmogBlog covers a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: [LINK]. The study finds that "climate skeptics" are not experts in climate science, while climate scientists are. No surprise, I guess, but a useful rhetorical tool.


Why make a point when you can just sound like you are?

Just read an article on Reuters with the headline: Whale poo helps offset carbon footprint. Sometimes articles get stupid headlines because the person writing the article isn't in charge of making the headline, but this article actually says this in the text. It's real short, go read it. I doubt you'll be as angered by it as I am, but maybe you'll see how incredibly stupid it is.

The story reports on science, which says that sperm whales in the Southern Ocean defecate in the upper ocean where phytoplankton use the iron from the feces to grow. This in turn, allows the phytoplankton to "absorb" more carbon. The idea is just like iron fertilization.

The point that they article makes is that the cycle actually reduces atmospheric CO2 because the amount of carbon used by the phytoplankton is twice as much as is breathed out by the whales. Thus, Michael Perry (the reporter) concludes, the whales offset their carbon and reduce their carbon footprint.

First off, whales don't have feet, so they have no footprint.

Second, though, whales also don't use fossil fuels, so whales have no carbon footprint.

The science sounds interesting enough, and it seems like they are showing that this aspect of the carbon cycle is a net sink of atmospheric carbon. One caveat that isn't dealt with is that the phytoplankton don't necessarily use the carbon immediately die and sink, there is also a lot of recycling in the upper ocean. So this "carbon sequestration" (which just means that the phytoplankton die and sink to the deep ocean) might not be as strong as this news article would lead us to believe.

A larger point is that in the absence of humans, this would just be one of many small carbon sinks that would balance a lot of carbon sources, closing the carbon cycle. Unperturbed ecosystems, much less individual species, are (over long time scales) in steady-state. Imagine that humans disappear, so all the anthropogenic CO2 stays around, but no more is added. These whales(+phytoplankton) might continue to act as a net carbon sink, but over the long run, they aren't going to suck all the carbon out of the atmosphere. Okay, I'll stop belaboring this point.

What makes this an even better example of lazy science reporting is that the really interesting point about the whales'(+phytoplankton's) role in the carbon cycle is buried in the last sentence:
Lavery said that without whaling there may have been 120,000 sperm whales in the Southern Ocean and, according to her calculations, some 2 million tonnes of carbon may have been removed from the atmosphere each year through this process.
So what this says is that if the whale population was what it should be, the carbon source would be ten times larger (there are currently ~12,000 sperm whales in the Southern Ocean). So the interesting twist, in my opinion, isn't that the whales are "carbon negative," but really that whaling represents an increase in atmospheric CO2 by reducing a natural sink. This is just like (though much smaller than) land-use change, which removes carbon-absorbing ecosystems with cropland, removing a terrestrial sink. Does this raise the question of whether over-fishing represents such a decrease in a natural sink? So instead of going off half-cocked to do geoengineering through iron fertilization [e.g.], we should make a legitimate attempt to allow the natural ocean ecosystems to recover from the past couple of centuries of abuse.

An AP story also has most of this, but better covers the whaling angle: [LINK]


Someday BibTeX's stranglehold will be broken

But probably not by CrossTeX. I'd like to believe. Maybe if Donald Knuth starts using it...

Also see biblatex and biber, if you're shopping for replacements.


A word about titles

Most scientific papers have terrible titles. Sometimes they are descriptive, often too descriptive. It's nice to see short titles, especially when they don't sound pretentious. It's even better when the title is short and clever, and that hardly ever happens. It happens so rarely, that I hardly look at titles. Today I realized that a paper I've read probably 5 times over the years, has one of the best titles ever:


I put it in all caps because that's how they did it in the print version [LINK]. 

I've heard so much about EPIC, which stands for Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate, that I never realized that the title of the paper is a play on words! I'm now pretty convinced that the field project was named EPIC just to have that title. 
Today's XKCD is funny, but I can't decide if it is extra funny because it has meteorology punchline, or if it actually kind of fails for meteorologists. If I actually went storm chasing, I'm sure I'd know immediately.


Latest GRACE data on Greenland ice mass

As a companion to my concerns about polar amplification, see this blog post about Greenland's increasing mass deficit. I don't want to be an "alarmist," but I'm feeling somewhat alarmed by the OBSERVED changes around the Arctic.


News from the Arctic, and it's bad

I was just directed to a recent paper in Nature called "The central role of diminishing sea ice in recent Arctic temperature amplification" by Screen & Simmonds [LINK]. The title doesn't quite do justice to the paper. Maybe a better title would be something like, "Staring into the face of polar amplification and knowing fear." To summarize, they use a new "renalysis" dataset called ERA-Interim to show that there is detectable polar amplification over the past twenty years. Renalysis just means a model that is guided by observations, and this one is a more sophisticated one than the more popular ERA-40 or NCEP/NCAR ones. They look at the northern high latitudes and find substantial warming, mostly confined near the surface. The rate of warming is faster than the global mean, and that is the definition of polar amplification. The fact that it is mostly near the surface implicates near-surface processes, and that is actually the key point for arctic researchers because this has recently been a bone of contention. Some previous work suggested that the extra warming was distributed through the atmosphere, leading to the conclusion that changes in atmospheric circulation were most important for the warming. This new paper reaches the conclusion that the mechanism most responsible for the polar amplification is temperature-ice interactions, which many of us like to lump into "ice-albedo feedback." They consider other mechanisms, but the evidence points toward decreasing sea ice being strongly tied to the warming. An implication of the work is that positive feedbacks are already evident in observations, and positive feedbacks destabilizing to the system and can lead to abrupt changes. Insert the phrase "tipping point" somewhere into this discussion, since that is really what we're talking about. The question now is just how far the Arctic can be pushed before things get scary. It is an open question, but clearly needs to be answered soon!


Bacterial origin of clouds and rain

From Evernote:

Bacterial origin of clouds and rain

Ok, there is a lot to say and I don't have the time now to think about it in detail, but consider this a place holder.  Basically there is a conjecture floating around that bacteria act as condensation nuclei for cloud formation [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/25/science/25snow.html?partner=rss&emc=rss].  First I guess that we have to state that there is a plausible idea, and probably more than that. There have been some recent studies that found bacteria in cloud drops, and while I have been a little skeptical of these results, I guess it is time to look at them more seriously. Second, though, I think it is important to keep in mind that a lot of this work is being driven by the biological side of the story, without a lot of input from the cloud physics side. Whether the bacterial origin can explain much of global cloudiness is up for debate.  For now, the argument for bacteria being very important for global climate is on the much weaker side. Deails to come soon.


Al Gore: The Crisis Comes Ashore

The Crisis Comes Ashore

Why the oil spill could change everything.

Climate debate gets ugly as world moves to curb CO2

A general overview of the current environment for climate scientists trying to communicate the science to the general public.


Sent from my iPad


On prospects for energy/climate legislation

From Evernote:

On prospects for energy/climate legislation

I just read that Sen. Lindsey Graham is no longer going to support the climate+energy bill that he had been working on with Kerry and Lieberman. Apparently he now thinks that the political climate is not right [http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/08/us/politics/08climate.html]. The article goes on to say that Kerry is willing to focus on the energy issues without explicitly dealing with climate, if that is what he can get passed. Graham says no, though, and insists that legislation has to put a price on carbon emissions.


I can not understand this line of thinking. Graham has been one of the only conservative politicians willing to consider meaningful policy to mitigate climate change, but now he's pulling support because of politics? That strikes me as disingenuous, and cynical. To just roll over and ignore such an important issue because it doesn't fit the current political trends is equivalent to admitting that the addressing the problem is also just a politically motivated move too. Every year that goes by without better policy is a year lost, and damns our future to a fate of dealing with the egregious impacts of climate change.

It is notable also that both the recent coal mine explosion and the gulf coast oil spill are cited as shifting the political winds. Again, to me, these are both prime examples why the cost of fossil fuels is not really as cheap as is generally thought, and should boost motivation to move away from these polluting fuels to clean and safe ones.


Maybe attaching lasers to baby birds will make it rain

From Evernote:

Maybe attaching lasers to baby birds will make it rain

There appears to be a laser technology that can be fired into the atmosphere to induce cloud formation processes. [http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100502/full/news.2010.213.html?s=news_rss] A "few" challenges remain to take the step from producing some droplets in the path of the beam to producing measurable rainfall. Whether there are any unexpected consequences is an open question. One potential issue is what happens high up in the atmosphere? The way this works is that the laser ionizes oxygen and nitrogen, which then somehow act as condensation nuclei. What happens in the stratosphere when you create ions? I don't know the answer, but I do know that there is a lot of chemistry happening in the stratosphere. We might not to perturb that chemistry if we don't understand the consequences. See also ozone depletion.

A few issues regarding the oil accident in the Gulf

From Evernote:

A few issues regarding the oil accident in the Gulf

I have not been following the coverage of this gulf oil spill very carefully, so maybe I've missed something, but it seems like there are a few things that aren't being talked about very much. First, what is being publicized well is the potential magnitude of the situation, and it seems like people are pretty concerned about the ecological damage that the spill could wreak in the coming weeks. A totally separate issue is the energy resources aspect of the story. No, this one platform isn't going to adversely affect the price of oil, and maybe that is why not many outlets have picked up this thread yet. This accident is a great example of the fragility of our energy infrastructure. It may also serve as a learning experience about the real cost of fossil fuels. We go to great lengths to extract oil from the Earth's crust, subsidizing the industry that does the extracting to the tune of billions of dollars. The purpose is to supply "cheap" energy to our society. This accident shows that it is hard to get at this cheap oil these days, I mean, who else gets to build floating cities in the middle of the ocean besides oil companies (and maybe some middle eastern princes using money from oil)? It is enormously expensive to construct these platforms, run them, and transport to oil to the mainland for refining. Now we also see that an accident can send thousands of gallons of oil spewing into the ocean, and into the fragile coastal ecosystems nearby. How much is it going to cost to stop the leak? How much to contain the spill? How much to clean up the coast? Who is going to pay? If the USA federal government pays, is that just another of these bail outs that the "tea party" is so upset about? And how many smaller (or less public) spills happen every year?

What is the alternative? Well, I would just like to posit that leveling the playing field might lead to a more secure, reliable, and cleaner energy infrastructure. Take away the deep subsidies that the oil companies get. Make them responsible for their actions, including paying for spills and clean up. Remove the archaic restrictions facing those seeking to build new nuclear power plants. Reward companies that supply local, renewable energy. I think taking these steps would lead to a revolution in the American energy landscape.

These thoughts can be extended by also considering national security. Wouldn't it be nice to stop supporting foreign governments that are, well, not exactly pro-America? I'm looking at you saudi Arabia.

Anyway those are just some considerations that are rolling around my head.
blogged from my iPad

UPDATE: Just saw this amusing post by D. Roberts: LINK.


Iceland Eruption and risk to airplanes

If you are looking for the best pictures of the ash plume flowing away from Iceland, then check out the NASA page [LINK].

Air traffic has been pretty badly impacted by the safety precautions, with a blanket ban on flights over much of northern Europe over the past five days. Things look to be getting back on track now, with the UK, France, and Germany opening their airspace starting today [LINK].

A troubling aspect of the ban on air traffic is a backlash against it [LINK]. Apparently there are a number of voices saying that grounding the flights is too cautions, including some airlines. These dissenters say that the precautions aren't based on this volcanic eruption, but on "theoretical" approach.

This line of thinking strikes a familiar chord, I think. It seems that there is a general pattern for science-based decisions, which tend toward being conservative, to be questioned by interested parties. Of course, in this case "interested parties" is a euphemism for people/corporations/industries/governments who have a financial or personal stake in the situation. The usual argument goes something like, these scientists are overly cautious (or alarmist) and the problem isn't that bad, and we should be making decisions based on what is really happening and not what some fancy computer model says.

Let us be quite honest in saying that the science-based findings will be conservative. Decision making based on science follows that. This is best summed up by the old phrase, "better safe than sorry." I think this is the right way to go. There are times when calculated risk is the right approach, but when the choice is between people perchance dying in plane crashes (and airlines making tons of money) or people NOT DYING but being stuck somewhere for a couple of days (and airlines losing some money), what is the right approach? Well, I am betting that there would certainly be some questions if planes started falling out of the sky. Better safe than sorry.

Another aspect of this story is that the decision-making process would certainly be better served with better real-time data. There's no doubt that if we had better in situ observations of the volcanic ash plume, then we would have a better idea of whether it would be safe for airplanes to fly. But guess what? There's really no money for these kinds of observations. Not in Europe and not in the USA. Sure, you can turn to the NASA satellites and get a lot of information. But the real-time information that can be gleaned from the satellites is limited, both because of the satellite coverage and technology, and also because of limited personnel who have the ability to analyze the data. I'm guessing a good amount of real science will come from this eruption, but it will take months (and years) to be done. Better observations could be collected by using balloons, mobile observing platforms, and aircraft. These all require the proverbial boots on the ground. There have to be scientists/technicians on the ready, with the equipment ready to go, a way to get to the site, and personnel to ingest the data and provide analysis to decision-makers. There's no doubt the capabilities exist, and there are scientists who would be willing to do the work (and excited to do it), but there aren't usually resources for that kind of science.

So for those who say that we shouldn't rely on models and statistics for decision-making, I think this is a false dichotomy. It is either that or nothing at this point, but the better way to go is to choose both models and statistics along with real-time observations. I'd also be willing to wager that many of those on that side of the debate would not want to put the money on the table for the kinds of observational networks and responses that they are calling for. In the end, isn't the existence of the risk enough to warrant a response? Isn't it better to be safe than sorry? Given the available resources and the collected knowledge about the risk, I can not see any other recourse.


US Federal Budget & Science

A great graphical breakdown thanks to Jorge at PHD Comics: LINK


Joanne Simpson

This news is now several weeks old, but somehow I forgot to mention it here. Joanne Simpson, a pioneer of tropical meteorology, and specifically a giant in the business of clouds, died 4 March 2010. There's a decent obituary via USA Today [LINK]. That obit also points out one of the stories that I've heard several times, which was that Simpson wanted to study meteorology, Rossby told her to study issues related to tropical clouds saying it would be "an excellent problem for a little girl to work on because it is not very important, and few people are interested in." There's a better piece, with a fantastic photo, on the NASA site [LINK]. In the day or so following her death, the tropical meteorology community was aflutter; the obituaries and news stories aren't exaggerating Simpson's importance to meteorology (and climate science more generally), she truly changed the way people think about the atmosphere and about clouds.


Streamlining your workflow

Just watched this video showing how one guy keeps his references organized. It's included below, and worth watching. My own citation organization isn't as clean, but uses basically these same tools. (Read that as: this is how I should do it!)

I'll also note that I'm a bit conflicted about whether to use BibDesk to organize my files. The definite pros are that I'm already using it to organize my references and that it is free. I've been using Yep! to organize my documents, which don't always need to be in my bibtex library, and it is a pretty nice application. The downside is that it isn't free (I got it in one of those bundles). I think Yep! is very similar to another application called Papers that I know some people like a lot.


Impact in North America?

There's been a lot of talk about an extraterrestrial impact in North America about 11,000 years ago. The idea is that such an event could have contributed to the extinction of North America's megafauna, like giant ground sloths and wooly mammoths. A new paper in PNAS by Haynes et al [LINK] examine the evidence from several "Clovis" sites. These are sites where remains of the Clovis people [wikipedia] have been found. Their analysis finds no strong evidence of an extraterrestrial impactor, and especially damning to me is that they find no enhancement of Iridium, which is a fingerprint for impacts.

While they are careful to say that they haven't ruled out an impact, I think this is strong evidence that the other hypotheses (e.g., human hunting) are more likely to have led to the megafaunal extinction.


News from the paper of record

Al Gore wrote an Op-Ed piece in the NYTimes on 27 February, and I think it is worth reading [LINK]. He covers a little science and a lot of the politics of global warming.

Meanwhile, there is going to be some kind of review of the IPCC reports [LINK]. Let's consider that this is a ~3000 page assessment of the totality of climate change. Over the past month, about three years since the release of the report, two errors have been discovered. One is mentioned in one paragraph of the second report, and misreports the time it will take for Himalayan glaciers to melt [cf. LINK]. Note that this isn't the official IPCC projection for melting, which is in the first report [cf. LINK]. The second error is that in another part of the second report, there's a statement that 55% of the Netherlands is below sea-level. This number was given to the IPCC by the Dutch government [LINK], who now decry it as an error [LINK]. Here, it should be stressed, this statement was not a scientific finding of the IPCC, the report was just using the Netherlands as an example of a country that is susceptible to sea-level rise; it is. I'm not sure why these two errors -- essentially typos -- have caused this firestorm of controversy, nor why that would warrant an independent committee to review the IPCC (which is itself a review). It is theatre of the absurd.

Also in the meantime, the Vermont legislature is working to close down a nuclear plant [LINK].

Vermont might regret this decision, as the EPA is beginning to go forward with a plan to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases [LINK]. As early as 2013 the largest emitters will be subject to regulation. This is later than regulation should happen, but it is good to see that even if the elected politicians won't act to do something, the EPA is going to be able to. Of course, as the article details, democrat congress members from coal-friendly states are trying to stop or slow this regulation. This is a surprisingly obvious example of politicians being beholden to big industry.


The deniers grasp at straws

I just saw this great post on ClimateSafety [LINK], and had to direct others to it. Some conclusions about sea-level rise have been retracted, and it is being reported as another instance of 'those-wacky-climate-scientists' getting something wrong. Cries of alarmism. Seeds of doubt about global warming. Et cetera. Well, the retraction is because they upper limit the original conclusion stated (for sea level rise this century) is not actually the upper limit; the actual upper limit (until better constrained) is much higher.

A terrific example of terrible science reporting, and the desperation of climate change deniers.


Arguments about how to smooth a timeseries

When considering the arguments of climate change deniers, my preferred approach is give the benefit of the doubt first, try to understand what they are saying, and evaluate the science. This approach, of course, usually fails immediately because most of the denier arguments are not based on science at all. There are a few of them, though, that claim that science is on their side. One of these guys is Willie Soon, an astrophysicist who has been claiming that the sun causes climate change for the last two decades [LINK].

Background on Willie Soon

The deniers love Soon because he's a real scientist. He's been able to actually publish climate-related papers pretty consistently, too, which gives him a lot of credibility (compared to other prominent deniers). I've been looking into Soon's publications, just for fun, and have noticed a few important aspects of his publication record. I haven't actually found a CV for Soon, but he does have a URL that has a directory called myownPapers-d, which I assume is his archive. This assumption might be wrong, since (1) there are quite a few non-reviewed papers in there (magazine articles and denier-think-tank "reports") and (2) there is at least one paper not credited to Soon by to Richard Mackey. So one thing that is a red flag is that most of the climate papers that Soon has published are in a journal called "Climate Research [LINK]." Why is this of note? Well, because this journal has pretty much been blackballed by the actual climate research community because of the number of dodgy papers that have gotten through "peer review" and published in CR. Now, a lot of the controversy about that journal is related to Soon himself [cf.], so maybe we should give him a pass there. (side note: the typography of CR is pretty nice, even if the content isn't) Well, except that he's also publishing in the notorious Energy & Environment. And the unknown Physical Geography. And New Astronomy. These are not what one would call mainstream science journals. But, in browsing that directory, I also found two papers in GRL, which is a mainstream journal. The second trend in these papers that I noticed was a proclivity to use 'wavelet' analysis; I'm not sure what to make of this, as it is a reasonable approach to time series analysis, but it is more complicated than other methods which are just as valid.

Soon et al 2004 versus Mann 2004

One of the GRL papers that Soon has is from 2004 and has the title: "Estimation and representation of long-term (>40 year) trends of Northern-Hemisphere-gridded surface temperature: A note of caution." [DOI] I am not going to try to simplify their analysis, since it is dead simple to understand. They take a global average temperature record (HadCRUT) and apply three kinds of smoothing using 40-year windows/intervals (running average, Hanning-window, and wavelet). They get different answers for the different methods, and then consider the difference of their estimates compared to other published estimates. They can't match the temperature anomaly at the end of the IPCC TAR at the end of the record (nor the Mann papers), so they try a few ad hoc adjustments to their filtering. They conclude -- and I am not misinterpreting or misrepresenting them -- that since they can't get the same answer then the IPCC must have misreported their methods and that the magnitude of global warming is very sensitive to the method of smoothing.

These results seemed preposterous to me. First, there is nothing novel or interesting about the results, which is a prerequisite to publish in GRL. They show nothing other than that they can't duplicate other people's graphs, which could be interesting if they had done a robust analysis and shown that the previous work had errors. Their point that different smoothing methods gives different answers is very well known, and trivial.

Later that year, Michael Mann published a paper in GRL that is basically a repudiation of the Soon et al work. The paper is titled: "On smoothing potentially non-stationary climate time series." It is more technical than the Soon et al paper, but also easier to understand. The point is to show that there are objective measures for smoothing techniques. He shows one such measure, which was used in his previous work, and shows that it captures the non-smoothed times eries better than the other methods (including the one used in Soon et al 2004). The conclusion is bolstered by comparing to a frequency-domain approach; the two methods agree well. Another example is given, applying the same smoothing methods to a different time series (a measure of the cold season North Atlantic Oscillation). In this case, the method that is best for the northern hemisphere temperature anomaly is the worst match. The point is that this time series does not appear to be as non-stationary (i.e. not such a strong trend at the end of the time series) as the other series, and that an objective measure of the smoothing gives a simple way to evaluate whether the smoothing is appropriate.

The Mann paper makes some interesting points about how to smooth time series that could be non-stationary. More important than that, it explicitly shows that an objective criteria needs to be applied to make any judgements about these kinds of analyses, which essentially blows the Soon paper out of the water because their argument was essentially, 'different methods give different answers, so there's no way to know what is right.' Finally, from reading these two papers (which I encourage you to do), we see the basic difference between doing science and trying blindly to poke holes into science. While the Soon et al paper tries to evoke scientific doubt, it ultimately fails because the methods are sloppy, no hypothesis is actually tested, the conclusions are not robust, and the points they try to make are clearly exaggerated. The Mann paper takes a more objective look at the data and methods, and teaches us something interesting about time series analysis and the nature of two important climatic time series.

If this is the quality of the Soon et al literature when they can get it into mainstream journals, I have to wonder how bad the papers that are hidden away in obscure journals really are.


Further craziness about Jonathan Leake

Stunningly bad journalism seems to be this guy's modus operandi: [LINK]

The Donald

Essentially a validation of many of the things I posted yesterday:

Donald Trump: 'With the coldest winter ever recorded, with snow setting record levels up and down the coast, the Nobel committee should take the Nobel Prize back from Al Gore.'

The source: The Daily Mail


an overuse of the '-gate' suffix

There have been a lot of 'gates' flying around, on both sides of the climate "debate." By "debate," of course, I mean the public relations war being waged by a few people who've decided that the climate either (1) isn't changing, (2) is changing but not because of people, or (3) maybe is changing and maybe because of people, but it doesn't matter because (a) it won't affect anything, (b) will actually be beneficial, or (c) is too expensive to stop. These few people appear to me to be waging this war against everyone else, except the people who believe in any of the previous anti-climate-change ideologies, even when they are mutually exclusive beliefs. This inconsistency among the climate change deniers is obvious, but has not been a useful point in convincing people of their delirium. These few people are the leading edge of a wedge, and right behind that leading edge are opportunistic types who are willing to jump on a bandwagon and blindly follow, either for personal gain or to support their own ideological inclinations.

So let's start with what some are still calling "climategate," despite the fact that it should be more accurately be called "stolen-email-gate" or something (some of the climate-related blogosphere has taken to calling it "swifthack" in analogy to the swift-boat smear of the 2004 USA presidential campaign). The most significant update is that Michael Mann of Penn State has been exonerated by a University investigation. One aspect of the investigation will continue, but it seems pretty likely that will be cleared up soon too [LINK1, LINK2]. Another bit of news related to this is that Phil Jones talked a bit with Nature, defending his own science, but really there isn't much new information in the piece [LINK]. Finally, at UEA, the investigation is starting to get going, but without Phil Campbell, who left the panel because of possible impartiality [LINK].

There have suddenly been a bunch of other "scandals" in climate science. But not really. They seem to revolve around some errors in the IPCC reports. There's a paragraph in the "impacts" report that incorrectly reports the rate of shrinkage of Himalayan glaciers. There's also some confusion about a statement about how much of the Netherlands is below sea-level. The important thing to realize here is that these are tiny details in a sea of information in the IPCC reports, and none of the conclusions about climate change rely on these statements.

These errors in the IPCC have been reported extensively in mainstream media. This has lead some to look at the sources of the reports, which seem to be coming disproportionately from two reporters: Jonathan Leake and David Rose. These reporters are reported to have essentially fabricated and/or distorted information for their stories. There is extensive coverage of the details on Deltoid and RealClimate [see also LINK]. Depending on which side you're reading, these are called "journalismgate," "leakegate," "rosegate," "Africagate," "seagate," etc. And it is all utterly asinine. The reporting in the Times (Leake) and Daily Mail (Rose) is undeniably bad and irresponsible. If these news outlets were interested in the credibility and integrity of their reporting, they would sack both of these writers, apologize, and have real science journalists set the record straight. That won't happen because both are in the business of publishing salacious stories of dubious quality.

There's a trickle down effect. Just sitting here watching CNN, I saw weatherman Chad Myers [LINK] citing the Times Online story in reference to whether there is anthropogenic global warming! As if this one, already discredited, report could show that thousands of scientists and tens of thousands of research papers have all been wrong. Oops, you got us, we didn't know any journalists would be interested. And you'll notice from the link that Myers has a history of being a climate change denier. In the span of two minutes, I heard him make at least three statements doubting the science of global warming. This hurts because most Americans' closest source of science news is their TV meteorologist [LINK], and a surprising number of TV weatherpeople have doubts about the science of global warming [LINK].

When I sat down to write this post, I was infuriated; irate that climate science is continually skewed and contorted to twist people's ideas of what is happening in the world. I thought about writing angry emails, or pleading with prominent science communicators to help expose the irresponsible reporting and illuminate the science and evidence behind global warming. By the time I pasted in that last link, I had convinced myself that science and reason have lost another battle. The scientists are losing the PR war, outgunned, outmanned, and outspent by agents of denial. News abounds showing the increasingly obvious role of climate change in the world's ecosystems and geopolitics, yet more and more Americans (and Europeans) doubt even that the world is warming, and all the while plans to mitigate global warming are being stalled by India and China (and others). Not to be a downer, but I now just wonder how long it will take before the evidence is so overwhelming that it can't be denied? Do we have to see the collapse of major ice sheets, or only a truly ice-free Arctic in summer, or maybe the inevitable 2-degree Celsius global warming? What is the evidence that people really need to see? As a personal matter, I'm having that feeling that many scientists have in these situations, which could be summed up: "I'll just stay out of all this and keep doing my work."


UEA CRU update

Well, in really the first blow against the University of East Anglia in the "climate-gate" scandal, something called the Information Commissioner's Office (www.ico.gov.uk) has apparently found that the university did not handle Freedom Of Information Act requests properly [LINK1 LINK2]. I should mention that LINK1 is pretty slanted in their coverage, and not very clear about what is going on, while LINK2 is mostly concerned with the FOI stuff and not so much in this particular case. I can not find anything on the ICO website, nor on the UEA site to corroborate the news reports. In any case, there will be no prosecutions because of the time between the violation and the complaint. The previous CRU statements say they did handle the requests appropriately, so this finding should elicit some response, I'd think.

As a reminder, the requests for information started flooding the CRU scientists when climate change denier websites started provoking their readers to use the FOI to get the CRU temperature data. The product that the CRU produces is a melding of temperature observations from many stations around the world, using (somewhat) sophisticated mathematical tools to blend the records and make a reasonable estimate of global temperature. As far as I can tell, the FOI requests seek the raw data that CRU uses as input for their processing. As has been covered by numerous blogs and news sites, most of this data is publicly available from the sources institutions. The CRU does not "make" this data, and does not "own" this data, so it would really be the wrong place to request that data; it isn't their job to provide someone else's raw data to the general public. (That requires resources that the CRU doesn't have.) Some of the data is obtained by special agreements with the source institutions, such as national weather services, and the CRU is not allowed to reproduce or disseminate that data. This has been made pretty clear, both to the denier/skeptic community as well as the scientific community. I do not understand why some people continue to declare that the CRU has been hiding data.

There are some of those stolen emails that seem pretty damning, though. Based on what I have seen (and I have intentionally avoided reading the stolen emails), I am not surprised that the ICO would find some faults with the handling of some FOI requests. That said, however, I think there is a reasonable counter-argument, and that is that the CRU was flooded with inappropriate FOI requests and did not have resources to handle all of them. I don't know what the law is in the UK, but I would think that it would be easy to show that most of these requests were unreasonable and would have been denied anyway. This doesn't excuse the CRU, they should have done better, but I'm convinced that these requests were not in good faith, and they were motivated by a desire to bury the CRU scientists in bureaucratic paperwork and distract them from their jobs.

One final side note. Are these stolen emails even admissible evidence? They are stolen property. Would their authenticity have to be verified independently? My hunch is that if the CRU/UEA denied that these emails were authentic, they could avoid some of this difficulty. However, I also guess that the CRU has implicitly stated that the emails are real, and maybe that makes them legitimate evidence. This seems like a thorny issue, and it'd be interesting to hear someone who knows about these issues discuss the case.


Will Obama talk about climate legislation in the SotU?

The NYTimes suggests he should [LINK].

I'd like to see the Prez get up there and shame the Congress for acting like a bunch of whiny babies. With a "filibuster-proof" 60 votes, what did the Senate get passed? Not health-care reform. Not energy reform. The Judicial Branch seems to have taken matters into their own (conservative) hands with campaign finance. Now, with the filibuster on the table, what will get done? Is the Congress paralyzed from the neck up without at least 60 votes on every bill? Ridiculous. When the Dems were threatening the majority Republicans with filibustering, Trent Lott schooled them by essentially threatening to change the way the Senate works through a risky parliamentary procedure [LINK]. Should the Dems turn to this "nuclear option" now, even though they cried foul when the shoe was on the other foot? There's certainly a lot more murmuring about the filibuster being unconstitutional now than I remember then. I do think, though, that having the legislative process completely derailed by the minority party is counter to the values upon which the republic is founded. The filibuster is a bad thing when used for bad reasons. The other side of the coin is that requiring more than a simple majority enforces a conservative (in the real sense of the word) evolution of law, since the most radical ideas will not be passed.

The unfortunate reality is that mitigating climate change (or reforming health-care) requires radical action, which we see is unlikely to come from the Legislative Branch. Problems like this have been dealt with in the past by circumventing the Congress. A perfect, but horrible, example is the development and subsequent deployment of nuclear weapons, which was not approved by the Congress [LINK]. Perhaps in a more transparent regulatory way, the EPA can be used to impose emissions limits [LINK]. This would be a less ideal choice, since the EPA probably wouldn't be allowed to impose a cap-and-trade system (which has been successful in reducing acid rain, LINK). Instead the EPA will impose rules, with some kind of punishment system for polluters. This "all-stick-no-carrot" approach might work, but it'd be better economically to encourage better use of resources and promote innovation and competition [VIDEO].


A stupid article in LATimes

I don't have anything else to really say than the title would suggest. Here's an article in the LATimes that basically says nothing at all about global warming, but does almost report on the results of a recent gallup survey [LINK]. It's an opinion piece, so I suppose that lowers expectations, but the journalism involved is piss poor to use a colloquialism. The author is Meghan Daum, who I've never heard of, but is apparently on staff at LAT. I hope I never have to read a word written by her again, it wasted several minutes of my life.


No they di'n't!

Turncoats? Yes, I guess so. And doing so on a hopeless measure shows they mean it.

3 Democrat Senators support global warming [via Yahoo! via AP]

*Groan* Here's more about this ridiculous assault on science and reason: Murkowski


Disappearing physicist?

I have never until today heard about Ettore Majorana, an Italian physicist who was a contemporary of Fermi. A new book about Majorana's life and mysterious disappearance is outright panned in Nature (last week, LINK) by Frank Close. While I certainly won't read the book under review, I can't help but be fascinated by this bizarre story, and may have to follow up with some additional reading.


The Dolphin Situation

It seems that dolphins may be "non-human persons," and deserves special rights above other animals [LINK]. Maybe we can just have the dolphins figure out a way to suck the CO2 out of the atmosphere and avoid making their own underwater world an acid bath. Go Dolphins!


Those Damned Tree Huggers

A thought just crossed my mind that I thought I'd share. I think that anytime you read/hear the term "tree hugger," you can immediately parse the statements of the source as biased and probably wrong. This is probably true even in those rare instances when the term is used endearingly or positively. Has this always been true? Maybe this is totally obvious. I'm going to keep my eye out for exceptions.


Coolest thing I've seen all day

If you can, watch in full screen with HD for full effect:

A related comic version: http://xkcd.com/482/


Greenland probably seeing record highs

Stop crying about being cold. Have you seed the temperature anomalies over northern Canada and Greenland? Crazy, 30 degrees above normal. Warmer in Greenland than Florida. See Jeff Masters' blog here.


Democracy? In California?

For those in or interested in California, there's an interesting bit of news happening. Linguist George Lakoff is trying to amend the California state constitution. There's a NYTimes story about the effort [LINK]. The beauty of the potential proposition is that it is 14 words, a single sentence. It will insert into the constitution:
All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be
determined by a majority vote.

That's it. The goal is to allow the majority party to actually make decisions to govern the state, which if you've been following hasn't happened in quite some time.

I'm not sure this would be enough, but at least it would be a start, so I wish Lakoff good luck. A signature gathering campaign is ongoing, as is fundraising. For more information, please visit http://ca.restoremajorityrule.com/ and/or http://www.californiansfordemocracy.com/


Welcome to 2010

Happy new year to everyone. Here's hoping 2010 sees more progress toward mitigating climate change.

Here's a quick, 2-cent review of our current standing:

1. The University of New South Wales has released a summary of climate research, basically as a interim assessment report between AR4 and AR5. The findings say that emissions are growing rapidly, temperature is increasing faster than many estimates, sea-level is rising twice as fast as the AR4 predictions, and both land and sea ice are in rapid decline. [news, orig]

2. The COP-15 didn't go so well. Some might say it was a disaster [LINK], while others are cautiously optimistic about the last-minute actions of Barrack Obama [LINK], but I think the truth is that no one knows how to interpret the outcomes yet [LINK, LINK]. That said, the meeting did not lead to a binding agreement, which means that it failed to achieve the real goal of the process. We're really left with the thought, "well, next year in Mexico City."

3. The Arctic sea ice formation season is here, and it looks like this winter is very close to the the record low sea ice extent. [LINK]

4. The year 2009 was one of the warmest ever (5th according to the Met Office), and 2010 is likely to break the record (and the arguments) for number 1. [LINK]

5. Many people still don't understand the difference between weather and climate, and climate change deniers continue to get their voices heard despite rational discussions of evidence [EXAMPLE, also see this counterpoint].