Things of Interest

New E-Cat website here. Nice.

Patronizing essay at the Conversation. My guess is that as the “Climate Crisis” continues to fizzle, the less gullible skeptical scientists will take a more prominent place. The credibility of CSIRO, BoM and Astronomers will likely suffer for the certainty they have voiced, their deference to the IPCC, and defense of poor practices.

Newt Gingrich now leading in the GOP polls. A man for the time? UPDATE: Good article on why Newt will lead – its his command of the ancient art of debating.

UPDATE: Penn State and academia:

The culture of the academy teaches that the primary allegiance of faculty and staff is to the institution and not to external democratic values.

Renewables: Dumbest f***ing idea I have ever heard

Paraphrasing Steve Jobs — reasons not to pursue renewables:

1. Anti-environment. Increasing the concentration of generation allows larger areas of land to be retained in their natural state. In contrast, harvesting of land for biomass, wind or solar or energy damages more land. Advocates of renewable energy damn the natural environment with ugly, dangerous solar and wind structures.

2. Backwards. The progress of civilization is characterized by the utilization of denser, more intense energy sources. The inclination to dispersed energy sources is a form of neo-Luddism — opposition to modern technology.

2. Inadequate. It is difficult to generate the quantities of electricity as large as those produced by traditional generators. This means renewables assume we will reduce the amount of energy we use, either by voluntary or pricing mechanisms. Some Greens don’t even balk at a $500 per tonne tax, about x5 the wholesale cost of coal.

3. Expensive. We will pay more, and industries will be less competitive. Even at the most favorable low end of the cost estimate, the total cost of wind power was really around 6-7 cents per kWh approximately double the cost of new gas-fired electricity generation–and triple the cost of existing underused generation.

5. Up-front cost. The current capital cost of renewable energy technology is also far in excess of traditional fossil fuel generation.

6. Unreliable. Renewable energy relies on the weather for its source of power. When these resources are unavailable so is the energy, and so larger reliable generators are required for backup.

7. Climate-change dependent. The viability of renewables is contingent on the urgency of CO2 reduction action, and so on the immanent threat from climate change. Contrary to predictions of climate models, actual temperatures appear to be stabilizing, and extreme events like hurricanes decreasing.

8. Taxation. JoNova maps the Climate Change Scare Machine Cycle: how tax dollars are converted into threatening messages by well-funded scientist/activists, rubber-stamped by a compliant media, and converted into massive tax-funded subsidies from a duped public.

Cap and trade is actually a giant scheme to tax and redistribute, for the benefit of political insiders.

9. Brain-damaged. Dangerous exposure to the opportunist rhetoric of eco-activists like the WWF, such as the following from the Australian Academy of Science:

Likewise, our approach to infrastructure development needs to be holistic and many-faceted. A report
commissioned by WWF Australia states:

… modelling finds that there are sufficient low emission energy resources, energy efficiency opportunities and emissions reduction opportunities in non-energy sectors to achieve reductions of 60 to 80%, and even emissions reductions of 90% or more if livestock emissions are reduced; and that there is sufficient time for the low emission technologies and services to grow at sustainable rates if development starts promptly.

10. Alternatives. Despite the risks, conventional fission nuclear is a viable alternative, and new, safe, conventional and low emission nuclear technologies are commercially available.

11. Vanity. Its hard to find a renewable energy article without the words “energy revolution” in them. What is it about renewables that attracts the Marxist narratives? Could the writers be attracted to an agenda that requires the individual-crushing social control, and big-government intervention inherent to Marxism?

12. Ineffective. The idea that renewables will reduce greenhouse emission is itself of dubious merit, as Peter Lang crunches the numbers and finds solar and wind power do little for greenhouse gas reduction.

And for those erudite academics who would take offense at my characterization of renewables as the dumbest f***ing idea I have ever heard, I give “Benjamin Franklin: Philadelphia, Serendipity, and a Summer Storm” by Dr. Bryen E. Lorenz. Quoting at length in response to the British Board of Ordinance effort in 1776 to protect its gunpowder from lightning strikes:

The question eventually became whether a pointed or blunt lightning rod end should be used in this application. Franklin, who was appointed a member of the committee, recommended a pointed end which was based on his earlier kite experiment. One dissenter on the committee had opted for a blunt end. Nevetheless, the committee’s recommendation was for a pointed end. King George III angered by Franklin’s political views, had asked Sir John Pringle, president of the society, to give an opinion in favor of the blunt end. Pringle replied that, “The laws of Nature were not changeable at royal pleasure.” To this the King indignantly responded, “…by the King’s authority that a president of the Royal Society entertaining such an opinion ought to resign.” Pringle promptly resigned. The London gossip soon found an apt verse to relish the moment.

While you, great George, for safety hunt,
And sharp conductors change for blunt,
The nation’s out of joint.
Franklin a wiser course pursues,
And all your thunder fearless views,
By keeping to the point.

Niche Modeling 2010 Roundup and Goodbye

Seth Godin, a blogger I admire greatly, suggests we publish a list of accomplishments for the year (What did you ship in 2010?).

  • Peer-reviewed publication demonstrating that policy-makers are being misled by inadequate climate models.
  • Hosted a venue for the “Watts Up With the Climate” Tour of Australia.
  • Gave four public lectures on climate skepticism, arguing that the forecasts of prominent climate modelers are not reliable.
  • Contributed to two articles on the ABC community blog site Unleashed.
  • Started a school chess club
  • Reviewed a number of manuscripts
  • Set up the The Climate Sceptics Party web site, supporting their candidates in the general election.

I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who helped as it could not have been done by me alone. I hope that in some small way a measure of common sense has been brought into the climate change controversy.

My greatest achievement in my mind was preparation of a draft of a paper on a new climate modeling approach that has been circulated to selected climate scientists. Based on a control-systems methodology and called “Accumulative model of climate systems” some highlights are:

  • A mechanism for amplification of weak solar forcing by accumulation in the ocean, explaining solar variation from 1 million to annual time scales;
  • A model showing that even if global warming since 1970 was caused by increasing greenhouse gasses (and not UHI eg.), greenhouse gasses cannot present a significant long-term warming problem, due to poor ocean-atmosphere coupling;
  • A model showing how PDO/AMO cycles may be driven by random ENSO variations.

As I would like to spend considerable time this year getting this work published, I am going to discontinue posting comments on topical events on this blog, at least until this paper is shipped.

Since there is so much control-systems background material to go through in order to understand the modeling framework, I have a mind to expand it into a book. In that case I will post draft chapters on this blog as they are done.

All the best for 2011! I’ll be back!

The Cost of Green Schemes

Another day, another half-baked green scheme busted as $150 million is blown on a clean coal scheme. Common sense tells us that burning a bulk substance, only to recapture it and return it back to where it came from will be very expensive. And, OMG, that’s what they found.

Its a good example of moral hazard, as the scientists, policy makers and advisers bear none of the costs that all fall on the long-suffering taxpayer. The list of green debacles in the state of Queensland (with a GDP about the same as Tennessee) is long:

  • ZeroGen Clean-coal $150 million
  • Mothballed Tugun desalination plant $1.2 billion
  • Traveston Dam $265 million
  • Bundamba water treatment plant $380 million
  • Gibson Island Water Treatment Plant $313 million
  • Cloncurry solar thermal power station $7 million

This from a state that is selling off assets in a desperate attempt to reduce its debt.

I see more articles starting to pin blame on CSIRO advice. Michael Asten, a professorial fellow in the school of geosciences, Monash University writes in the Australian about exaggerated government models of sea level rise:

Did scientists from the no-longer independent CSIRO (or other competent body in Australia) brief minister Combet and his team at Cancun on this discrepancy and its implications? Are they permitted to make such comment publicly? And how will such observations affect the targeting of our funds on offer for regional adaptation programs?

The same questions could be asked of the studies reporting increases in drought that motivated the building of desalination plants around the country. Did scientists from CSIRO brief the ministers on the discrepancy between the decreasing rainfall shown by the models, and the observations of increasing rainfall over the last century? And how will such observations affect the targeting of our funds on offer for regional flood adaptation programs?

Financial advisers would bear some moral (if not financial) liability for losses resulting from the forecasts of models known to be worthless. The same goes for climate models exaggerated at best and proven to be worthless at regional scales.

Climate model abuse

Roger Pielke Sr. reviews another very important new paper showing the abuse of models.

In the opinion of the editor Kundzewicz (who has served prominently on the IPCC), climate models were only designed to provide a broad assessment of the response of the global climate system to greenhouse gas (GHG) forcings, and to serve as the basis for devising a set of GHG emissions policies. They were not designed for regional adaptation studies.

To expect more from these models is simply unrealistic, at least for direct application to regional water management problems. The Anagnostopoulos et al conclusions negate the value of spending so much money on regional climate predictions decades into the future, for example on the South Eastern Australian Climate Initiative and the Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence.

Kundzewicz distances the professionals from such efforts:

They are not climate sceptics, but are sceptical of the claims of some climatologists and hydroclimatologists that these models are well suited for water management applications.

Hydrologists and water management professionals (hydrological and hydraulic engineers) have entered the scientific debate in force, because the GCMs are being advocated for purposes they were not designed for, i.e. watershed vulnerability assessments and infrastructure design.

As I showed in Critique of the DECR this is not a matter of opinion, but a matter that can be decided by applying basic validation tests in each instance. To the detriment of the field, tests that would justify the use of the models do not seem to be applied, or if they are they are not being made available. Such testing is regarded as good and standard practise elsewhere.

The recent surge of these sorts of papers suggests I am not the only one to think it is time for the field to pay the piper.

Hal Lewis’ Resignation

The APS reminds me of the Australian Prime Minister’s Standing Committee on Climate Change. Some of the more choice parts of Hal’s resignation letter are extracted below.

Everything that has been done in the last year has been designed to silence debate

The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change

The original Statement, which still stands as the APS position, also contains what I consider pompous and asinine advice to all world governments, as if the APS were master of the universe. It is not, and I am embarrassed that our leaders seem to think it is. This is not fun and games, these are serious matters involving vast fractions of our national substance, and the reputation of the Society as a scientific society is at stake.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist.

APS management has gamed the problem from the beginning, to suppress serious conversation about the merits of the climate change claims. Do you wonder that I have lost confidence in the organization?

There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation. APS no longer represents me, but I hope we are still friends.

Hal

Number of resignations by Australian scientists? Zero?

Copenhagen a failure? Think again.

Attributed to NEIL BROWN, December 26, 2009

UNLIKE most people, who think Copenhagen was a failure, I think it was a great success. It has preserved the golden rule of international diplomacy.

Years ago, when I was a young fellow and started to go to international conferences, an old hand who was about to retire took me aside. ”I’ll be shoving off into retirement soon,” he said, ”so I thought I might pass on the golden rule of international conferences.”

I was fascinated. I was sure he would say I should always pursue noble objectives, lift up the downtrodden masses of Africa and Asia, stamp out disease and poverty and generally bring peace to the world. Alas, no.

”The most important item on the agenda at any international conference,” he resumed, ”is to fix the date of the next meeting – and of course the location.”

However – and it was a big however – if a conference succeeded in wiping out poverty or pestilence, there would be no prospect of trying to go to another conference the following year on the same subject. Concentrating on the date of the next conference would guarantee poverty and pestilence would still be there the next year and would provide the excuse for another year’s travel, entertainment, spending other people’s money, passing pious resolutions and generally being self-important, all of which are the only reasons for being in politics or diplomacy.

I soon learnt that seasoned players on the international scene knew very well the vital importance of the golden rule. For example, Sir Owen Dixon told me that when he was appointed the first UN troubleshooter on Kashmir, he went to New York to recruit an assistant. Someone recommended a young man in the UN building who, believe it or not, actually had the job description ”to bring peace to the world”.

”Do you like your job?” Sir Owen asked. ”Well, at least it’s permanent,” he replied. This young man, who had a stellar career at the UN thereafter, was right, because the intractable problem of Kashmir has, by definition, still not been solved and in the intervening years has provided immense fodder for studies, working groups, theses, working breakfasts, dinners, lunches and, of course, international conferences.

Statesmen and politicians did not achieve all of this by solving the problem of Kashmir; they did it by failing and by making sure that next year the crisis would be the gift that keeps on giving.

There was also a secret protocol to the golden rule, shielded from the prying eyes of the public as far as possible – to make sure that the location of the conference was somewhere nice, for example, fleshpots such as Casablanca, holiday spots such as Bali or ski resorts such as Davos.

The proof of the pudding is, of course, in the eating. Thus, despite the fact that almost everyone says that Copenhagen was a success because it narrowly avoided being a failure, the cognoscenti know it was a great success because it was such an appalling failure.

First, climate change is as bad as it ever was. None of the weasel words of progress and achievement about keeping temperatures down can conceal the good news that the whole thing was a disaster.

If the alarmists are right, climate change can only get worse. If they are wrong, the issue still is likely to have such life in it that it could last as long as Kashmir before the truth dawns.

Second, since Kyoto and again since Bali, we were told incessantly that Copenhagen was the last chance to prevent the world being plunged into a watery grave. Everyone was going to Copenhagen in the belief that it was a last chance to save the planet.

When I heard this, I mourned for the international political and diplomatic brotherhood of which I was once a part; they clearly were not going to be able to stretch climate change beyond Copenhagen as the excuse for more conferences, new taxes, tougher and more complicated laws and the perpetual extortion of money from poor workers in rich countries to rich kleptomaniacs in poor countries that foreign aid has become. Some other issue would have to be found.

Fortunately, this has turned out not to be the case. Mercifully, climate change will be there for at least another year to take its vengeance on a profligate and decadent world. It will provide the excuse for conferences next year and for years beyond. So also is the secret protocol intact: conferences on climate change will never be held anywhere near Darfur or Bangladesh.

Neil Brown is a barrister and former member of Federal Parliament, h/t to Geoff Sherrington.

About

This site since 2006 has dealt with current scientific issues, through feedback or drawing attention to articles — perhaps even your own! We prefer articles that show a fascination with evidence from numbers — that share the passion — and welcome critical feedback as a path to knowledge.

The range of topics considered is wide, whether it be stock predictors, maths, statistics, ecology, climate, betting systems or money, algorithms for predicting things or automated trading systems for FOREX. Prediction; how to, and how not to do prediction, this blog is to help people to predict better.

Ways to be involved are:

  • Submit an original post or review for consideration.
  • Comment on a post — all welcome. Only obnoxious comments deleted.
  • Become an editor or reviewer.

Enjoy.

Validation of Climate Models – the missing link

Validation of climate models is like finding someone to cement your drive.

You ask one contractor, and they say they can do it, sometime between now and Christmas. That’s a high level of uncertainty.

You ask another, and they say they can do it, but it’s their first time. That’s a low level of skill.

You ask another, and they say that they will do it, but the result is not going to be any better than what you have already, or may even be worst. That’s an honest vendor, and a product not ‘fit-for-use’.

Model validation is very obvious when you put it in a familiar context. There is a level of service you expect from the money you have to spend. Any public servant involved in the procurement of services faces a similar situation to concreting one’s drive. Due diligence requires a check that models are fit-for-purpose.

Continue reading Validation of Climate Models – the missing link

Demonisation of Science – A trend to be fought

As I write this, my wife of 46 years is in intensive care fighting to live. She is there partly because of bad medical science and partly because of what had become a widespread syndrome in many scientific disciplines, the demonization of a person or a concept by people who can be wrong.

My wife does not provide the best example of demonization, but it is current, motivational and recent and on my mind. Please excuse me if I become too personal. The important part is not the personal part. It is the insidious danger of demonization.

I am a chemist, with a B.Sc. and part-time honours, chemistry major, from the University of Queensland, Australia. I also did a couple of years of aero engineering before a car crash curtailed further flying in the Air Force. My career covered many aspects of science, some engineering and much politics at the end. In retirement I can draw on a diverse set of experiences, but can also appreciate points of the philosophy of science. Mostly, that only comes with age and experience.

“Demonisation” is not my term. Maybe it originated with alcohol, the “demon drink”. It is now in fairly wide and expanding use. It was used a few years ago in climate circles to describe CO2 as a troublesome compound for all people, probably before the facts were complete. More recently, it has been used in a people context, as in the demonization of denialists.

Scientists to whom the demon label is attached can have a harder time than they should. In the case of Colleen, I was demonised by the general physician in charge and by senior nursing staff because I consistently told them that they should look beyond the easy diagnosis they had made. When you know a person for nearly 50 years, you can detect changes that are not so obvious to the casual observer, but then the doctor has the training and his word should be accepted. As it turned out, Colleen had a diagnosis of post-operative constipation following a repair of a broken hip – not an uncommon happening. What had really happened was that she had had an earlier colonoscopy where a cut had been made and marked with methylene blue die in case follow-up was need. This had weakened the bowel wall. Several days of large doses of morphine had dehydrated her and the combination resulted in a blocked and perforated bowel, the hole about an inch in diameter, with a couple of pounds of faecal material mingled with her other abdominal organs.

It was necessary for me to be quite forceful of expression for several days before the correct tests were done and the problem – perhaps then 6 days old – was rectified by lengthy surgery. This demonised me in the eyes of some of the medical profession involved. A lay person cannot diagnose, only a doctor can do that. But, unless I had persisted I would now no longer have a wife. Experience, observation, open mind, thinking about the evidence, reinterpretation, explaining every little observation, insisting on more data – these were the life-saving ingredients.

In my career I have met demonization several times. We inherited a site where lead batteries had been recycled and there was residual lead in the soil. We were told “authoritatively” that lead poising affects the IQ of young children. A “Team” has worked for years to prove this alarming hypothesis – but they have demonised the authors and the possibility of a simple and strong reverse causation explanation. See

http://www.mja.com.au/public/bookroom/2001/rathus/rathus.html

http://dnacih.com/SILVA.htm

Two comments follow about lead and children. First, in the mid 1980’s, when some intensive work was done, published estimates of the weight of daily soil ingestion by children differed by well over an order of magnitude. So the models had uncertainty – as do today’s global climate models. Second, this question is relevant to climate change because of the discontinuation of leaded petrol and the resultant increase of fuel use by cars and trucks. This affected the so-called GHG load on the atmosphere.

Another case from Australia, again medical, resulted in 2 Nobel Laureates, Barry Marshall and J. Robin Warren. See

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2005/index.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/oct/04/science.health

Barry Marshall in particular was demonised for his astounding proposition that ulcers were caused by bacteria and could be cured by antibiotics. He even self-administered a dangerous concoction to drive home his point. Personally, I feel that the “Team” opposition to their work should be documented better and spread more widely, so that those who demonise will know that they can be shamed in public when shown wrong.

Getting closer to climate matters, there was widespread demonization of the peaceful use of uranium for large scale electricity generation from the late 1960s onwards. From 1972 I consulted to and then joined the company which had discovered the immense Ranger uranium deposits in 1969. It was soon apparent that there were considerable learning curves for science sub-sets like radioactive decay, assaying, ore resource calculation and particularly radiation health measures. Well, the mines are still operating today and no person appears to have been harmed by them (though we did lose one employee to a crocodile attack).

The second steep learning curve for nuclear was to counter the demonization of radioactivity. You probably know that there are still many people today who have absolute belief that nuclear power generation wastes have to be managed for 250,000 years. This is simple psycobabble as can be shown in a few minutes. Of course, the future of nuclear electricity interacts with fossil fuel use and projections for atmospheric composition of GHG.

Almost by necessity, I lowered my involvement in geochemistry and increasingly went political about late 1980s to counter the anti-nuclear protest. Slowly but surely, the arguments put up in opposition were demolished by demonstration and logic, until no realistic viable case exists to further hold back on nuclear expansion. Demonisation has however resulted in Australia still having no nuclear power generators, despite a large output of mined uranium.

Demonisation has distorted the science, in a way costly to power users and the environment.

Demonisation is resurgent in relation to the Climategate emails and inquiries. Those who have submitted words critical of the science are not all extremists. There is a weight of experience and intelligence in these contra submissions, but those who make them are being ignored or derided. This is not a civil way to act. The inquirers have done shoddy work (with the exception of Graham Stringer MP from Britain; and now the penny is dropping for the Commons Inquiry leader Phil Willis.)

Wherever you look, it is not hard to find evidence of demonization in science. The anti vaccination movement is an example. There is widespread chemophobia, for example in framing where “organic” or “natural” methods are suddenly trendy, despite the certainty that many people would die of starvation if global organic farming was made compulsory. Ditto for genetic modification of crops, a human extension of a process of Nature. The demonisation of science is an insult to the truly professional scientist. I worked several years in the synthetic fertilizer industry in a very large new plant and mixed with people whose skill and dedication was too prominent to be insulted.

Recently was saw the terrible example of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences publishing lists of names of good people and demons with respect to attitudes, as they interpreted them, towards man-made global warming. This is ugly. . PNAS should take a long look at its charter, purpose and methods.

Deductions.

1. We frequent bloggers need to check if we are falling into the demonization trap ourselves. I am guilty, especially a few times when blogging was new to me.
2. Demonisation is antithetic to good science. Good science equates to open minds.
3. There are more effective ways to make an example than by demonising. Shaming is an acceptable alternative sometimes, but most effective of all is the dispassionate analysis that is done by people like Steve McIntyre and several others whom you know too well to need mentioning here. Lead by example.
4. Emotion and politics interact with science, but in an ideal world they are separate from it. It is harder to set out to do good science when you have made up your mind on the outcome.
5. Try to avoid making a mellow generalisation from data. In a surprising number of cases (well, surprising to me) the solution is in the exception to intuition. Data points that are averaged out of existence often take with little Rosetta stones.

It was the devil in the detail that led to intervention in the case of my wife, at the start of this essay. It was not helpful to be demonised for pointing out that misdiagnosis was possible.

There is more that can be written on this theme, more in the context of climate. Should our host feel that responses below warrant it, I would be honoured to write more.

Monthly Roundup

  • The Age reports that Climategate was a game changer. Judith Curry said Dr Jones had shown himself to be ”genuinely repentant, and has been completely open and honest about what has been done and why … speaking with humility about the uncertainty in the data sets”.

    So far its a case of the academic defense: “Oops, I lied.” Sir Muir Russell, the chairman of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, notes that senior climate scientists say their world has been dramatically changed by the affair. We welcome senior climate scientists to the real world of professional transparency. Steve McIntyre has received overwhelming financial support from his readers for his trip to the Guardian’s debate in England.

  • Senator Wong reminded a conference on the Gold Coast that scientists were responsible for this unpopular policy bind: “Remember why this debate started, why we all started talking about climate change and why people called for action?

    “It is because of you that we understand that climate change is real and it is because of you that we understand that climate change is happening now … and that it is caused by carbon dioxide emissions.”

    But she also challenged scientists to get their act together:

    … the science behind the political debate cannot be over-estimated. Unfortunately in the recent past, science has not been able to speak with one voice on climate change, making it impossible for politicians to enact practical measures to address the phenomenon.

    Reading between the lines, could it be that her political windsock no longer points towards the agenda of tenured liberal progressive moonbats and she is butching-up to the union bosses that put Ms Squiggle in command? Hmm…

  • Lubos reviews a sloppy article by Rasmus Benestad on climate feedbacks. He explains the system as I see it, with many short run positive feedbacks in the atmosphere (and oceans) but stronger negative feedbacks in the long run, producing a “half-pipe” response profile.
  • Lubos makes me laugh:

    Well, let me make it clear that there’s nothing controversial about negative feedbacks. In this battle between negative feedbacks and Rasmus Benestad, it is the latter who is an utterly controversial crackpot. The existence of crackpots may make basic concepts of science controversial among crackpots – and the remaining readers of Real Climate, if there are any – but it can’t make it controversial in the real science.

  • CSIRO is making science more accessible to decision-makers by “trialling different ways of presenting climate information”. And if they couldn’t be more non-committal, they are presenting the regional forecasts of models that “are complex, and constantly being refined” in a slick interface. If as my upcoming publication shows, the model forecasts are worthless, then you have to wonder — What is the point?

    The rainfall simulations in the models are completely opposite to reality over the last 100 years. To make this clear to climate scientists, when rainfall decreases the models increase. When rainfall increases, the models decrease. The best way decision-makers could use CSIRO model forecasts is as contrary indicators, i.e. buy when they say “sell”, and sell when they say “buy”.

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Upper Atmosphere Inflow of Moisture?

For those interested in the theory that upper atmosphere inflow of moisture from the Indian Ocean is a major determinant of rain in Australia, check out the satellite loop for the last 4 hours right now.

Here is the development of the inflow over the last few days.

Note this is in the presence of a high pressure system with an upper atmosphere ridge and trough, as can be seen by the slight deformation of the isobars over Queensland.

Continue reading Upper Atmosphere Inflow of Moisture?

Australian Temperature Records in Question

Ken Stewart is engaged in the first ever independent study of the complete High Quality Australian Site Network. Ken has a series of posts, the first including a lot of background information and explanation. Subsequent posts are not be as long and part 6, the data from the Victorian sites has just been done.

Like many people, he thought that the analysis of climate change in Australia, and information given to the public and the government, was based on the raw temperature data. He was wrong. He averaged maxima and minima for all stations at each site, then compared the result with the High Quality means. By these calculations (averaging the trend at each site in Victoria) the raw trend is 0.35 degrees C per 100 years, and the High Quality state trend is 0.83C. That’s a warming bias of 133%!


Continue reading Australian Temperature Records in Question

Page-Proofs of the DECR Paper

Corrected the page-proofs of my drought paper today.

CRITIQUE OF DROUGHT MODELS IN THE AUSTRALIAN DROUGHT EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES REPORT (DECR)

ABSTRACT
This paper evaluates the reliability of modeling in the Drought Exceptional Circumstances Report (DECR) where global circulation (or climate) simulations were used to forecast future extremes of temperatures, rainfall and soil moisture. The DECR provided the Australian government with an assessment of the likely future change in the extent and frequency of drought resulting from anthropogenic global warming. Three specific and different statistical techniques show that the simulation of the occurrence of extreme high temperatures last century was adequate, but the simulation of the occurrence of extreme low rainfall was unacceptably poor. In particular, the simulations indicate that the measure of hydrological drought increased significantly last century, while the observations indicate a significant decrease. The main conclusion and purpose of the paper is to provide a case study showing the need for more rigorous and explicit validation of climate models if they are to advise government policy.

Meanwhile, scientists are finding new ways to communicate worthless forecasts to decision makers.

These models have been the basis of climate information issued for national and seasonal forecasting and have been used extensively by Australian industries and governments. The results of global climate models are complex, and constantly being refined. Scientists are trialling different ways of presenting climate information to make it more useful for a range of people.

Conducting professional validation assessment of models would be a start, followed by admitting they are so uncertain they should be ignored.

Continue reading Page-Proofs of the DECR Paper

Watts Tour at Emerald

Anthony’s Tour continues at a breakneck pace this week — with only four venues to go.

The talks at Emerald that I organized went quite well, considering this is a small regional town. About 80-100 people attended an teaser session during the Property Rights Australia meeting during the day, and around 40 attended at night. We got a standing ovation during the day — the first time for me! The crowd was a mixture of ages and sexes and I think messages of bureaucratic sloth and opportunism resonated with them. Central Queensland turned on one of its trademark sunsets for Anthony:

It was good to spend a bit of time with Anthony and catch up on the goss — well not really gossip, but about bloggers and the people behind the curtain. You know how it is, you tend to get a certain view of the people involved, but when you learn more about them, it turns out they are just regular people who put their hand up for something they believe in.

Continue reading Watts Tour at Emerald

Niche Logic

The ‘strongest male’ is itself a highly variable component.

How to formalise this as a niche? Preamble. All we have, really, are observations. To put niches into a statistical framework, we only have the expected distributions of those observations (both singly and jointly). Selection (either natural or through our study design) changes the distribution of features, and we observe those changes.

For example, if the sample of breeding males is generally taller than the population of breeding males, then we could presume there is selective pressure on this feature — an important item of information. This could be detected statistical significant (e.g. the distribution differ in a Chi–squared test).

Continue reading Niche Logic

Niche Theory

A couple of questions from the last nichey post prompted this post. Geoff said that:

I’m not even sure what is meant by an optimal environment for a species/genus/whatever.

while Andrew said that:

it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of species tend to live at the margins of their “ideal” habitat.

We need a bit of abstraction to address these questions. In a laboratory, a plant would be expected to show a humped response to the main variables of temperature and water availability. The parameterisation of this function can be termed the ‘fundamental niche’ of the species, and may be equated with a physiochemical optimum unaffected by competition.

Continue reading Niche Theory

Sceptics Tour Update

Having just returned from my leg of the tour, I have been offline for awhile, but expect to catch up this week. Here is my powerpoint presentation “Tweeter and the Monkey M(e)an — Negating Climate Change Policy” (4.3MB).

The title comes from a song by the Traveling Wilburys. The message is that without proper validation, climate models are no more credible than Tweets, and from my (and others’) validation testing, the model forecasts are not fit-for-forecasting, showing no more accuracy than the “Monkey Mean” — the average temperature and rainfall. I critique CSIRO and BoM reports and conclude with an example of how to make rational business decisions under climate forecast uncertainty.

Continue reading Sceptics Tour Update

Extinction artifact in coarse scales

CO2 Science reviews a study showing that the appearance of high levels of extinction due to shifts in climate is due to the coarse resolution of the grid cells used in the simulations. This is another vindication of the conclusion of our 18 author collaboration.

When grid cells are coarse, a one degree shift in temperature, say, affects a large area, and can appear to eliminate all habitat for a species in the grid cell. The virtual species must move a long way to find another suitable grid cell. In actuality each coarse grid cell contains a range of temperatures. When the grid cells are finer, there will most likely be areas within the grid cell with suitable habitat for the species, enabling it to persist through large climate variations.

Refugia are well known to have a crucial role in species’ persistence, and may be characterized as areas of high spatial heterogeneity. It is easy to see that choice of scale would have a large effect on determinations of species persistence, and great caution would be needed in interpreting results of simulations conducted on coarse grids.
Continue reading Extinction artifact in coarse scales

Australia's Government Debt

Below is a graph of the blow-out in Australian Government Debt.

I don’t know why everyone is blaming Rudd. Growing the State is what tax-and-spend-spend liberals do.

The idea that the budget should be in deficit for the next four or five years when the economy is at near-full employment, should be laughable. But Rudd and Abbott would prefer to test the electorate’s mendacity than complete our rise as a world-beating economy by paying our own way in recovery.

But the article makes an interesting observation related to Hauser’s Law.

In a speech last year, Treasury secretary Ken Henry identified a little known fact. Government spending exploded under Gough Whitlam, from 18.9 per cent of GDP in 1971-2 to 24.8 per cent in 1975-6. And it has stayed at about that level ever since, through Fraser-Howard, Hawke-Keating and Howard-Costello.

“In the 3 1/2 decades since, while there have been significant annual fluctuations, the average level of spending by the Australian government has changed little, to be around 25.25 per cent of GDP.”

Continue reading Australia's Government Debt

On the Use of the Virial Theorem by Miskolczi

Virial Paper 6_12_2010 submitted by Adolf J. Giger.

Allow me to make some more comments on the Virial Theorem (VT) as used by Ferenc Miskolczi (FM) for the atmosphere.

As I said on this blog back in February, a very fundamental derivation of the VT was made by H. Goldstein in Section 3-4 of “Classical Mechanics”, 1980, Ref.[1] : PE= 2*KE (potential energy=2 x kinetic energy). Then, he also derives the Ideal Gas Law (IGL), P*V = N*k*T as a consequence of the VT, and shows that PE=3*P*V and KE=(3/2)*N*k*T. The two laws, IGL and VT, therefore are two ways to describe the same physical phenomenon. Despite its seemingly restrictive name, we know that the IGL is a good approximation for many gases, monatomic, biatomic, polyatomic and even water vapor, as long as they remain very dilute. Goldstein’s derivations are made for an enclosure of volume V with constant gas pressure P and temperature T in a central force field like the Earth’s gravitational field. They also hold for an open volume V anywhere in the atmosphere. As to FM, he points out that the VT reflects the fact that the atmosphere is gravitationally bounded.

Ferenc Miskolczi in his papers [2,3] relates the total potential energy of the atmosphere, PEtot, to the total IR upward radiation Su at the surface. This relationship has to be considered a proportionality rather than an exact equality, or Su=const* PEtot. We see that this linkage makes sense since Su determines the surface temperature Ts through the Stefan-Boltzmann law, Su = (5.6703/10^8)*Ts^4 , and finally the IGL ties together Ts, P(z=0) and PEtot.

FM then assigns the kinetic IR energy KE (temperature) in the atmosphere to the upward atmospheric IR emittance Eu, or Eu=const*KE. The flux Eu is made up of two terms F + K , where F is due to thermalized absorption of short wave solar radiation in atmospheric water vapor, and K due to heat transfers from the Earth’s surface to air masses and clouds through evaporation and convection. Neither F or K are directly radiated from the Earth’s surface. They represent radiation from the atmosphere itself. There is an obvious limitation for such an assignment mainly because for the VT , or the IGL in general, the temperature (the KE) has to be measured with a thermometer, whereas Eu represents the radiative temperature (flux) that has to be measured with a radiometer, and these two measurements can give vastly different results as we see for the two following extreme cases:

In between these two extremes we have the Earth where FM’s version of the VT , Su = 2 * Eu applies reasonably well. We will see next in a discussion of FM’s exact solution how close, and for what types of atmospheres FM’s VT ( Eu/Su=0.5) holds, but we can say already that no physical principle is violated if it doesn’t. The VT that always holds for gases is not being violated, it is simply not fully recognized by FM’s fluxes that have to be measured by radiometers. This may be an indication that the VT is less important for FM’s theory than normally assumed.

On the other hand, the IPCC assumes a positive water vapor feedback and arrives at very imprecise predictions for the Climate Sensitivity ranging from 1.5 to 5K (and even more). It is clear that this wide range of numbers is caused by the assumed positive feedback system, which apparently is close to instability (or singing, as the electrical engineer would call it in an unstable microphone-loudspeaker system). With such large uncertainties in their outputs true scientists should be reluctant to publish their results.

Continue reading On the Use of the Virial Theorem by Miskolczi

New Miskolczi Manuscript

Ferenc sent out reprints of his upcoming manuscript, and graciously acknowledges the contribution of a number of us for support, help and encouragement. I particularly like the perturbation and statistical power analysis, checking that a change in the greenhouse effect due to CO2 would likely have been detected if it had been present in the last 61 years.

The Stable Stationary Value of the Earth’s Global Average Atmospheric Planc-weighted Greenhouse-Gas Optical Thickness
by Ferenc Miskolczi,
Energy & Environment, 21:4 2010.

ABSTRACT
By the line-by-line method, a computer program is used to analyze Earth atmospheric radiosonde data from hundreds of weather balloon observations. In terms of a quasi-all-sky protocol, fundamental infrared atmospheric radiative flux components are calculated: at the top boundary, the outgoing long wave radiation, the surface transmitted radiation, and the upward atmospheric emittance; at the bottom boundary, the downward atmospheric emittance. The partition of the outgoing long wave radiation into upward atmospheric emittance and surface transmitted radiation components is based on the accurate computation of the true greenhouse-gas optical thickness for the radiosonde data. New relationships
among the flux components have been found and are used to construct a quasi-all- sky model of the earth’s atmospheric energy transfer process. In the 1948-2008 time period the global average annual mean true greenhouse-gas optical thickness is found to be time-stationary. Simulated radiative no-feedback effects of measured actual CO2 change over the 61years were calculated and found to be of magnitude easily detectable by the empirical data and analytical methods used. The data negate increase in CO2 in the atmosphere as a hypothetical cause for the apparently observed global warming. A hypothesis of significant positive feedback by water vapor effect on atmospheric infrared absorption is also negated by the observed measurements. Apparently major revision of the physics underlying the greenhouse effect is needed.
Continue reading New Miskolczi Manuscript

Species extinction by Johnston

It’s gratifying to see the essay by Johnston getting the attention it deserves (at WUWT and JoNova) after Pielke brought it to our attention. Johnston reviews many areas of climate science in 82 pages of readable prose and concludes:

Insofar as establishment climate science has glossed over and minimized such fundamental questions and uncertainties in climate science, it has created widespread misimpressions that have serious consequences for optimal policy design.

Apparently somebody asked “What does a lawyer know about climate science?”. Well, firstly, he is an environmental law professor. Secondly, the areas he writes about where I am knowledgeable show surprising insight. His assessment of estimates of species loss (20-30%) due to global warming restates exactly what I said at the time in Biased Towards Extinction:

Given the extensive and foundational criticism by biologists of the methodology underlying the species loss probability prediction generated by Thomas et al., the IPCC’s publication of that probability without qualification seems dangerously misleading, and in any event clearly exemplifies the rhetoric of adversarial persuasion, rather than “unbiased” assessment.

Of five “problematic” uncertainties and complications that he raises (and there are many more I might go into) of the Thomas et al. study, one that I mentioned in the CO2 science editorial is particularly offensive:

v) Finally, and perhaps most strikingly to my layperson’s sensibilities, the methodology employed by Thomas et. al. will “inevitably detect extinctions. Negative changes in the size of a species’ range contribute to an increased extinction risk overall, while positive changes have no net effect on extinctions,” this despite the fact that
locally, “the net effect on diversity at any one locality might well be positive, as species spread towards the poles from the most species-rich habitats near the equator.”

Thomas and authors achieved this statistical slight-of-hand by ‘cherry picking’ all species whose home ranges were reduced by warming, and removing those whose home ranges increased. The change in the size of home range is assumed to affect the survival of the species.

When I questioned Thomas about this, his defense was that the method had been approved by a number of eminent conservation biologists who found it perfectly fine. He said that those species with reduced range were are greater risk of extinction from global warming, while those with increasing range were of course going to be OK.

However, it takes a layman’s sensibilities to see, apparently, that for every species that decreases its range another increases its range, therefore the overall rate of extinctions does not change. If overall rate of extinctions does not change, then no increase in extinctions could be expected from global warming.

I tried to explain this trivial point to the coauthors and three rounds of reviewers without success. The final straw was the assertion of one reviewer to the effect that “We know that global warming is going to increase extinctions, so your analysis must be wrong.” I concluded, as Jason Johnston did, that the field “exemplified the rhetoric of adversarial persuasion, rather than ‘unbiased’ assessment.” – i.e which is, I suppose, code for ‘green advocacy’.

So, read the summary of the state of play on species losses by Johnston. He mentions the article I helped prepare with 17 scientists in related fields rebutting Thomas et al. which has largely been ignored by the conservation field. He also touches on the murky origins of the iconic statement that:

“[a]pproximately 20-30% of plant and animal species assessed thus far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global temperature exceed 1.5 – 2.5°C.”

In what could be called a Species-gate, this statement was eventually attributed to Thomas et al. by the IPCC, despite the fact that the Thomas et al. methodology and manuscript do not mention probability. The determination of species ‘committed to extinction’ is not quantified by probability.

As if anybody cares about accuracy and precision anymore. The sad part is that such papers as Thomas et al., and the minimization of fundamental questions and uncertainties even when legitimate problems are raised, lead people to believe that “the science is settled”, and take us further from knowing the real truth about climate change and survival of species.

Problem 4: Why has certainty not improved

Problem 4. Why has a community of thousands or tens of thousands of climate scientists not managed to improve certainty in core areas in any significant way in more than a decade (eg the climate sensitivity caused by CO2 doubling as evidenced by little change in the IPCC bounds)?

This problem has been the hardest, probably because it takes enormous hubris to claim solution to a problem that defeats thousands of usually intelligent people. One man who does that is — Dr Roy Spencer — claiming a huge ‘blunder’ pervades the whole of climate science regarding the direction and magnitude of ocean-cloud feedback, the subject of his upcoming book and paper.

What I want to demonstrate is one of the issues that is almost totally forgotten in the global warming debate: long-term climate changes can be caused by short-term random cloud variations.

The main reason this counter-intuitive mechanism is possible is that the large heat capacity of the ocean retains a memory of past temperature change, and so it experiences a “random-walk” like behavior. It is not a true random walk because the temperature excursions from the average climate state are somewhat constrained by the temperature-dependent emission of infrared radiation to space.

As showed previously, an AR coefficient of 0.99 is sufficient to change a random walk behavior (AR=1) to the kind of mean-reverting behavior his model shows. This difference is virtually undetectable using the usual tests on the available 150 years of global temperature data. Global temperature cannot be a random walk, but it can be ‘almost a random walk’. It can also respond to random shocks, such as volcanic eruptions, and sudden injections of GHGs, and oscillating solar forcings while still retaining the random walk character.

Continue reading Problem 4: Why has certainty not improved

Frequency dependent climate sensitivity

Nicola Scafetta published another paper today, confirming the period dependency of climate sensitivity. (I would have loved to write this, but he attributes the original idea to a book chapter by Wigley in 1988, so its not original anyway.)

In his words, climate sensitivity is frequency dependent:

However, the multiple linear regression analysis is not optimal because the parameters ki and τi might be time-dependent and, in such a case, keeping them constant would yield serious systematic errors in the evaluation of the parameters ki . Moreover, climate models predict that the climate sensitivity to cyclical forcing increases at lower frequencies because of the strong frequency-dependent damping effect of ocean thermal inertia [Wigley, 1988; Foukal et al., 2004].

When the signal is properly decomposed, solar forcing is significantly stronger at longer periods of oscillation:

Continue reading Frequency dependent climate sensitivity

CSIRO Affair?

Terry McCran’s accusation that CSRIO ‘breached trust’ in The Australian this weekend sounds like an overly possessive lover saying he will never trust them again:

… our two pre-eminent centres of knowledge and public policy analysis across the social and hard sciences spectrum are now literally unbelievable.

In case you hadn’t heard, this is about the unseemly Treasury/Mining Co. cat fight over the RSPT, and Tom Quirk’s fracas with Paul Fraser, the Chief Research Scientist at CSIRO at Quadrant over his article CSIRO Abandons Science identifying a convenient omission in their State of the Climate position statement.

But the State of the Climate report has a number of very odd and questionable statements other than the one Tom wrote about. I will go through them in order:

Continue reading CSIRO Affair?

Celestial Origins of Climate Oscillations

Now reading…

Empirical evidence for a celestial origin of the climate oscillations and its implications by Nicola Scafetta

Abstract: We investigate whether or not the decadal and multi-decadal climate oscillations have an astronomical origin. Several global surface temperature records since 1850 and records deduced from the orbits of the planets present very similar power spectra. Eleven frequencies with period between 5 and 100 years closely correspond in the two records. Among them, large climate oscillations with peak-to-trough amplitude of about 0.1 $^oC$ and 0.25 $^oC$, and periods of about 20 and 60 years, respectively, are synchronized to the orbital periods of Jupiter and Saturn. Schwabe and Hale solar cycles are also visible in the temperature records. A 9.1-year cycle is synchronized to the Moon’s orbital cycles. A phenomenological model based on these astronomical cycles can be used to well reconstruct the temperature oscillations since 1850 and to make partial forecasts for the 21$^{st}$ century. It is found that at least 60\% of the global warming observed since 1970 has been induced by the combined effect of the above natural climate oscillations. The partial forecast indicates that climate may stabilize or cool until 2030-2040. Possible physical mechanisms are qualitatively discussed with an emphasis on the phenomenon of collective synchronization of coupled oscillators.

Continue reading Celestial Origins of Climate Oscillations

Blood in the Water

Even the Age is circling the wounded beast. Time to go to ER.

PORTLAND hospital was rushed into signing a $4.9 million funding agreement for its new GP super clinic so the Rudd government could avoid political embarrassment, a leaked email has revealed.

Hospital management was told to sign the agreement by noon on Wednesday – just moments before shadow treasurer Joe Hockey delivered his post-budget reply to the National Press Club.

Portland District Health chief executive John O’Neill warned his board members of the urgency of the government’s request in an email that morning: “I have been asked to sign this agreement before 12 noon today – that is, before Joe Hockey makes his budget reply … If not signed, funding will be withdrawn.”

A representative Catallaxy comment by JC:

It’s not funny anymore. These people are liars and will stop at nothing to impose a dishonest policy based on a dishonest set of assumptions.

They have to go.

Continue reading Blood in the Water

Numeracy Rules the RSPT!

Cheering developments today show the force of numbers in the debate over the Resource Super Profits Mining Tax:

As the Treasurer implored the mining industry to drop its “rhetoric and threats” and negotiate with the government, his weekend claim that miners pay effective tax rates of between 13 and 17 per cent was torpedoed by tax office figures produced by the opposition.

The ATO data said miners paid an effective rate of 27.8 per cent, which rose to 41.3 per cent with the inclusion of state royalties.

The opposition also sought to undermine the source of Mr Swan’s claims – a paper from the US National Bureau of Economic Research written partly by a graduate student at the North Carolina University whose international comparison lumped Australia and New Zealand together.

The Coalition attacked the research, by PhD student Kevin Markle and professor Douglas Shackelford, as “the shonkiest piece of work”.

Professor Shackelford said:

“[T]he paper is a draft form and likely will undergo additional revision before publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Moreover, the paper’s usefulness in formulating policy for one sector in one country should not be overstated.

In the updated version of the paper, the researchers removed references to mining companies paying an effective tax rate of just 13 to 17 per cent.

Continue reading Numeracy Rules the RSPT!

No Clue on Global Warming and El Nino

Almost a mea culpa in today’s publication of The impact of global warming on the tropical Pacific Ocean and El Niño (CSIRO and PDF) by a who’s who of atmospheric circulation research including Vecchi, and CSIRO/BoM researchers Cai and Power.

Therefore, despite considerable progress in our understanding of the impact of climate change on many of the processes that contribute to El Niño variability, it is not yet possible to say whether ENSO activity will be enhanced or damped, or if the frequency of events will change.

This is illustrated by figure 3, where some CGCMs show an increase in the amplitude of ENSO variability in the future, some show a decrease, some show no statistically significant changes.

enso models

Their paper flatly contradicts Power and Smith [2007] that increased El Ninos are caused by weakening of the pressure differential, indicated by the SOI:

Continue reading No Clue on Global Warming and El Nino