THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 600 December 7 - 13, 2009
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December 7, 2009
Musing about Istanbul and Copenhagen
There was a lot of disturbing news today. Not much of it is news in the sense of unexpected, but that doesn't make it less disturbing. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal reminding us of the bitter fruits of interventionism: we denigrated Turkey for not having a "real" democracy because the Army defended the secular Constitution and much of the populace wanted a more Islamic state. We are about to reap what we sowed as Turkey turns against the west, and becomes more Muslim in its policies. That leaves the US with few options in the Middle East. We have no political choices regarding Israel, and if one is an ally of Israel one is automatically an enemy of some, and at best a trade partner/customer of others.
Example of what's happening in Turkey: "I know that Bashir is not committing genocide in Darfur because Bashir is a Muslim, and a Muslim cannot commit genocide," said Turkish Prime Minister Ergodan. How far this goes I don't know. Turkey was rather forcibly secularized by Ataturk, and the Army pledged to defend the Turkish Constitution. How long that continues is worth discussion.
The news from Copenhagen is bad enough: the politicians meeting there (so many of them that the eco-footprint of the meeting is larger than that of entire countries -- they ran out of limousines in Denmark and had to borrow some from Germany) seem determined to act as if there is no longer any room for scientific debates. No evidence and no data will be allowed in contradiction. Of course much of the data are gone, erased some years ago...
There remain historical data. Some are discussed by Bjorn Lomberg in
today's Wall Street Journal op-ed "Global Warming and Mt. Kilimanjaro"
In 1936, the year Hemingway published his story, Kilimanjaro had already lost more than 50% of the surface area of ice as recorded in 1880, much of it in the 19th Century. The Earth is certainly warming, and has been since the Little Ice Age ended, but it doesn't seem to be man-made. In Kilimanjaro's case the loss of ice isn't due to warming anyway: in 1880 there was a climate shift all right: a drought began that continues to this day. It's not warming that's shrinking the snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro, it's the lack of snow in winter.
There's also an article by Edward Pinto on "Saving More Homes for the
All told, a bit depressing: and another reminder that the Republic is at a fairly critical point. The current Administration and Congressional Leadership seem bent on imposing carbon taxes and government health care despite the unpopularity of these measures: meaning, I presume, that they intend to stay in power through political means unrelated to their policies.
Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty. Now more than ever.
I finished the December column yesterday and it ought to be posted tonight or tomorrow. I have sent copies to the Platinum subscribers.
The column is done and ought to be posted sometime this evening or tomorrow.
I am considering doing some video podcasts. Initially I think about 15 minutes a week in a general commentary. They can be distributed I guess through iStore. It's a bit of a whim -- all former professors miss their classrooms. The TWiT broadcast went smoothly, and my immediate notion is to do it with the MacBook Pro and its builtin iSight camera. I'd like to be able to insert some pictures, and some outline notes.
Suggestions on where to go from here are in order. I am not looking for anything that uses a lot of time and energy; the notion is to simply sit down and do a "fireside chat" once in a while.
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The EPA has pronounced "greenhouse gasses" a threat to public health. I predicted this, but it is so arrogantly astonishing that I am still having trouble believing it. With all the money at stake they still can't get Congress to do this, so it's now up to the Administration to declare that every American is a polluter. We all exhale CO2. Shame on us.
Public health menace indeed. The most optimistic forecasts I have seen say that if all the seriously proposed greenhouse gas - primarily CO2 -- limiting measures are taken the result will be about 2 degrees F at the end of the 21st Century. Few of us will be alive to benefit from that.
This is breathtaking: it is the imposition of "we know best", not even by Congress, but by Administrative fiat. I suspect it is too much.
Meanwhile, assume that rising CO2 levels are undesirable. I say assume, because CO2 level have certainly been higher in the past, and there are some reasons to welcome increased CO2 -- plants love it, as an example. There is no particular reason to assume that the levels that prevailed when we began CO2 measurements are "better" in some sense than the somewhat higher ones of today. It may be that today's are "too high", but I haven't seen any detailed analysis of why that is so, or of what the optimum might be. I haven't seen much discussion of just what "optimum" is, nor of what the "optimum" temperature of the Earth might be. Optimum for what? And for whom?
When the sophists asserted that "man is the measure of all things," Socrates responded that "the dogfaced baboon is the measure of all things," a remark more profound than it might appear at first blush. Who does decide what is "best" and for whom or what? There are candidates, of course. The Church. The well born. Those able to afford lobbyists. Party leaders. A plebiscite of males over 21 who pay 40 schillings a year in taxes. An electorate of all males over 21 whether or not they pay taxes. All over 21 regardless of sex. All over 18. The Romans allowed voting at maturity, and conscripted male citizens at 14. All citizens subject to conscription could vote. A bit like the US, which decided that if you could serve in the military you ought to be able to vote. So for the moment I suppose the measure of all things is those of both sexes over 18 years of age.
But of course that doesn't include everyone in the world. On the other hand, we are all convinced that many of those in the world won't understand the issues, so we must act for them, and at this point our heads begin to swim. On what basis shall decisions be made? Who is qualified to have an opinion? And what is the optimum climate for the human race? Do we have to take into account the orangutan? Polar bears? Fleas and dustmites? Bedbugs? Bacteria?
Once we decide what is the optimum CO2 level -- and it's by no means clear that less than now is better -- we can decide how to achieve it. Perhaps we need CO2 fixing technologies. Seeding the seas with iron seems useful, although early experiments show that it's not as simple and easy as we had hoped it would be. Things seldom are. That doesn't mean that we can't engineer technical solutions to the CO2 problem, or that stimulating ocean plankton blooms won't be part of the solution. Growing lots of plants is another obvious step. And while we are at it, if the goal is lower temperatures, should we not be looking at painting our roofs white? Perhaps we ought to reconsider our anti-pollution measures: would we be better off if there were more high altitude reflective particulates in the atmosphere to reflect away some of the sunlight?
But you may be sure they are not discussing such measures in Copenhagen as they use up all the limousines in Denmark. What's at stake in Copenhagen has little to do with achievable CO2 levels, or real temperatures. What's at stake is control. If the EPA can assert that CO2 is a public health threat, they can assert anything; and if you believe that breathing in a few more parts per million of CO2 is dangerous to your health, you will believe anything. And so it goes.
From another conference. The discussion was allocation of funds to contrarians, and one of the participants balked at the notion of public funding of people clearly wrong. He brought up Velikovsky. I said:
December 9, 2009
On Science Policy
.Days since last official sunspot: 16. http://www.solarcycle24.com/
From another conference:
More of my musings on the subject in a conference of mixed deniers and believers:
There is considerable mail on climategate. There is also a study of The Consensus: just how solid is this consensus? Is the science settled even on terms of quantity of scientists? Worth your attetion.
December 10, 2009
I seem to be getting a late start today. Just cleaning up and making notes and general life maintenance. Now it's lunch time. I'll get back to work shortly.
Query (I'll take this down when I get a useful answer). I have installed the Logitech Web Cam Pro 9000 on Bette, the communications and essay machine I write this on. It works, but I don't know what program in Windows 7 works to let me see what that camera sees. There is a Logitech phone program that seems to be a rival to Skype, and it shows that the camera is working, but I don't want to call someone, I want to see what the camera sees, and possibly take a picture with it -- either still or even a very short video. I am sure there is something built into Windows 7 or some part of Microsoft Live that does this, but I think my memory is failing. Anyone have suggestions? :
NEVER MIND. Logitech has in fact a bunch of software for doing this. It's not as intuitive as they think it is, but I have it figured out. Thanks. No help needed.
And one more test shot, closer to the camera. I need to play with all this to get things right, but apparently it works, and I can even make videos this way. The view is too long for a decent video -- that is, I have to sit closer to the screen than is comfortable, and I have no way I know of to insert screen shots and other stuff so this test program that comes with the Logitech camera isn't what's needed to do a real pod cast, but it's sure -- aha! I can zoom with this. There's a software way to do that.
Same view but zoomed in on me. Enough playing around on line. I have this set for 800 x 600; the settings go from 320 x 240 up to widescreen HD, and even to 8 megapixels. I think if I want that high resolution a picture I'll connect up my Lumix or get a Nikon; but for webcasting this Logitech seems very much worthwhile. I can play with settings and resolutions another time.
The Obama jobs program is mostly designed to keep democrats employed. No surprises there. Daniel Henninger addresses this in today's Wall Street Journal http://online.wsj.com/article/wonder_land.html.
"What's holding back our business investments?" asks President Barrack Obama. Surely he knows? The House just doubled the taxes on capital gains for venture capitalists. We have an upcoming 54% health surtax on employment. The Democrats expect to raise $4 x 10^9 in taxes on medical equipment, meaning that you probably won't want to invest in anything in that high tech enterprise.
If you want to stop people from running stop signs, you fine them for doing it. If you want people to stop doing something, you fine them -- or tax them -- for doing it. The signals from Washington are that if you invest in the United States you are doing something wrong and must pay for the privilege of risking your money, and if your risk pays off you must share the profits with those who invested and lost. Given these realities, the answer to Obama's question is obvious; one wonders if he really doesn't know?
Back after lunch.
I see that Uncle Walter (Walter Mossberg) has decided in favor of the Kindle over the Nook as a reader. So have I, and for about the same reasons. I expect that Amazon will work on the software to incorporate some of the nice things that the Nook adds.
http://www.drroyspencer.com/ has a good exposition on sun spots and climate. Nothing new, but it's well presented. Thanks to Phil Tharp for finding it for me.
This is worth your attention if you are concerned with Climategate. What has happened to the data?
December 11, 2009
First, if you have any interest in the climate debate, you must read the careful analysis of the data from Darwin, Australia that we referred to last evening. I have studied this in some detail since Joanne recommended it, and it is important: not because it is a "smoking gun" demonstrating evil on the part of the climate analyzers, but because it raises questions that must be answered before the world spends trillions on remedies to climate change.
The analysis shows that the primary raw data show one trend; the adjusted "harmonized" data that were input into the models used to predict climate change show quite another. Now this may be a very reasonable adjustment -- but that adjustment has to be open, aboveboard, and justified. So far we have not seen any such explanations, and it has all been done in house, not openly.
The analysis also shows the difficulties of finding a temperature. Think on it. Suppose all of us put thermometers outside our houses somewhere. Today we can get electronic thermometers, or we can stay with a column of mercury with number painted on it. Either way we need a calibration: where do we paint the numbers? A mercury thermometer isn't self-calibrating as a mercury manometer would be. Millimeters or inches of mercury is itself a primary measure of pressure; but how high a sliver of mercury rises in a small tube as a function of temperature needs comparison with some known temperatures before you paint the numbers on. This is easy enough to do, but it must be done; keep this in the back of your mind as we look into the problem of determining just what the temperature is 0ut on my balcony.
Having found a calibrated thermometer that I can read to some given accuracy, where do I put it? I gather there is now some agreement on the structure for housing the thermometers, but certainly that wasn't standard in 1890 or 1900. I am not sure when the housing was standardized. But since we're not going to try to project the temperature on the balcony back to past times, it doesn't matter just now; just that I use the standard housing.
Now, when do I take the measurements? It's certainly cooler at 8 AM than at 4 PM. How many measurements do I take? Since my goal is a single measurement for "how hot is it on your balcony today?" and to project that into data on "How hot was it on your balcony this year?", we have to agree on just what the "daily" temperature means: an average of how many measurements per day? Given that I don't intend to spend my life on this project, I am not likely to take measurements every hour. Perhaps 2 a day? At Noon and at Midnight? Is that enough? But when I look on line for digital recording thermometers I find I can afford a gizmo that samples the temperature continuously, and I can let it do a daily average. What formula it uses isn't apparent but it's consistent. Suppose I use that: it's going to give something different from what I got back when I was eyeballing a mercury thermometer at Noon and Midnight. If I want some continuity in my temperature measurements, I have to figure out how to translate the automatic thermometer data to indicate what I would have got had I been using a mercury thermometer twice a day. I need to "harmonize" the data, and that, I presume, is what is happening in the Australian data recalculations: but whatever they were doing in Darwin, it needs to be made explicit. What data were changed, by how much, and for what reasons?
Of course we're still not through. Eventually I come up with some definition of just what was the temperature on my balcony for any given day, and I suppose I could just take those daily figures and average them for my estimate of the annual temperature. Does anyone have an estimate of what confidence I should have in that figure? Given that I could calculate my "annual temperature on the balcony" in a lot of ways, which one do I rely on? And if I come up with a "better" way to do that, how do I compare the new and better data with the older data? To what accuracy do we have confidence in this? A tenth of a degree? Half a degree? A degree?
And now I want "the daily temperature in Studio City." So long as I only have the data from my balcony I would suppose that one will have to do: I can compare it to the figure(s) I get from the newspapers or on the weather channel. They're different. Now how do the newspapers and TV reporters get "the temperature in Studio City"? Generally they take a single measure, I think in Studio City from somewhere on the CBS lot. Why is theirs better than mine? Now to get the temperature in Los Angeles, we can either take a measure from somewhere downtown and use that, or we can average temperatures taken in Studio City, and Van Nuys, and Venice Beach, and San Pedro, and Brentwood, and -- well, you get the idea. Do we weigh them all the same and just average them? Are they all taken the same way, with standard housing of a thermometer and measures taken at the same time every day? Suppose the temperature from one of my points is just a lot different from all the others, and I go look and find that someone in the past couple of months has put in an air conditioner and the exhaust fan from that blows across my temperature measurement station. Do I remove the Brentwood data points? For how long? Do I take them out all the way back to their beginning, or only since they started looking odd?
And of course if I want a national temperature it gets worse, and to get the temperature of the Earth I have to decide a bunch of other stuff including temperatures at various altitudes, and various depths in the sea. But of course most of my sea temperature from 1950 on were taken by putting a thermometer in a bucket and hauling it up and down on a line. That's the best data I have: but how confident can I be in its accuracy? To a half degree? Surely on better than that. Perhaps to a degree?
The Australia analysis goes further. It shows that all of Australia has something like 30 input stations, and none of them have been continuous since 1900.
For the Earth: "Surface Area: Land area, about 148,300,000 sq km, or about 30% of total surface area; water area, about 361,800,000 sq km, or about 70% of total surface area."
Australia 2,968,000 Sq. Miles (7,687,000 Sq. Km) or 5.2% of the land area.
So: 5% of the Earth's temperature is determined by 50 (actually it's more like 30, but call it 50) thermometers reporting daily. .05X = 50 so we have about 1,000 thermometers to determine the Earth's land temperature. Since the land is 30% of the earth's surface, .30X = 1000 and we have 3,333 thermometers to determine the entire temperature of the earth. (I doubt we have that many, but it'll do for this.) That means 3,333 data points ever hour, or 29,200,000 data points a year. At 8 bytes per data point we're talking about 2 gigabytes of data per year; meaning that everyone reading this has the capacity to store that much data, and probably the computing power to do daily averages and print out trend curves. It's too late to do that for past years, but I propose that given the enormous economic importance of climate trends, the IPCC should publish all the raw data: uncorrected, not homogenized, just the numbers you'd get if you went out on the porch and read the thermometer (or dropped your thermocouple over the side of a boat, or whatever it is they do to get the numbers); and also publish the corresponding "corrected" or "homogenized" number that is fed into the models. That's publishing a few gigabytes of data per year, or some 10 megabytes a day. Let everyone on earth look at the data, and do things like calculate differences between raw and corrected data. We can all look at the trends and differences.
Given the trillions at stake the costs of doing this are trivial. I doubt that it will be done, but shouldn't it be?
As to why I would like to see the data published for all to see, try this:
When NASA Goddard says that last October was the warmest October in human history, it would be useful to have some instant checks on it. Turned out that Russia gave some erroneous reports that changed the trend.
I find it interesting to note that apparently the climate models weigh temperatures taken in Russia rather heavily. All of Asia is 30% of the land mass, so the area reported by Russia is what, half that? So at 15% of the land mass, or 15% of 30%, or 4.5% of the data points meaning 109,500 data points of the 2,433,333 data points per month we estimated as going into the average. Not a lot of data to manipulate, and one does wonder if anyone looks at the results: few of us would have thought that last October was all that warm. Didn't seem that warm to me, and my impression from the radio and TV was that it was actually pretty cold. Why would the 4.5%, or even 15% of world data points taken from Russia be enough to take October from pretty cold to the hottest October in human history? Doesn't seem reasonable to me.
But Hansen and NASA Goddard thought it was warm, and the Chairman of the IPCC who speaks for the science consensus didn't see anything odd about the data, and he was quick to use the "warmest October" in his speech opening the Copenhagen conference.
With Copenhagen opening to that key note, is it any wonder I think we need more openness with the data? And it wouldn't cost all that much to publish it; and we all have computers good enough to examine it once it is published.
Or is that what the IPCC is afraid of?
December 13, 2009
I took the day off. Alex was over and we experimented with installing 64-bit Windows 7 on his MacBook Pro. It was an enlightening experience, and Alex later managed a happy ending although not here. It will be in next month's column.
December 14, 2009
I took most of this day off just reading.
There is considerable mail, some confusing, about the Darwin analysis and the general openness of the climate data. Although everyone tells me there are published explanations of the climate data adjustments applied to the raw data, and that the actual observations are available, I haven't seen them; that's probably my fault as I haven't looked very hard, but what I have seen is all "adjusted" and the nature of the adjustments isn't explained to my understanding. That may be limited, but I'm not stupid, and like most tax payers I have a stake in the outcome.
Query: we know that the Santa Monica Airport ground temperature station began in a bean field and is now in the middle of a built up urban area. What percentage of the Earth's Temperature is accounted for by this measure? What percentage of the change in temperature is due to this station? What weights are given to the ground temperatures? We know that 30 measures define the ground temperature for Australia. Are there others averaged in? From where? It seems there may not be. Of the 30, none are continuous from 1895 to present. Some changed location drastically. I'd like to see the adjustment rationale.
I'm not trying to accuse anyone of anything; but there are trillions of dollars at stake, and before we rush in to Do Something, I'd like some rational discussion of why we believe this is necessary, and when those who ought to be giving us rational explanations stammer and point to polar bears, or exchange emails about making the Medieval Warm go away, I would like those who don't do such things to come forward and explain to an intelligent and science aware readership just why they make adjustments, and what they were adjusted from.
Once again: we all know that the Earth warmed from 1800 to present. It appears that much of that warming took place before 1890. One would expect the warming trend to continue after 1890, but getting a precise measure of how much is impossible. The records just aren't there, and acting as if they are accurate to a degree or so is simply unfair. They can't be. Arrhenius thought we'd get a couple of degrees "extra" in a century if we doubled the CO2. That was a simple and linear model without feedback, a back of the envelope projection from 1895. Some say we got that. Some say we didn't. Me, I don't know, but I'd sure like to see the justification for either answer -- when it's clear to me that the noise in the system is about as large as Arrhenius' projection.
Enough. The mail says all the data are available. The mail says it's all explained in textbooks, including the weights given to each individual measurement, and the raw data are available, and I ought to look harder. Perhaps so.
But is there anywhere that publishes a daily temperature for the Earth along with a brief explanation as to how that was arrived at? If so, where can I find it? Is it perhaps a spread sheet of raw observations and weights to be given each observation? Are the observations adjusted? In what way, and why? And is it a simple average, or does each observation get a unique weight? What fudge factors? These are probably stupid questions, but it should not take long for someone who knows these things to answer them.
Alex tells me that this site is hard to follow because it's not modernized. One of his complaints is that I often do not put in headlines. That's valid and I'll try to do better in future.
I do have to emphasize that this is a day book, and while I try to put in some formal essays, much of this is my reactions to the daily news, some of it reactions to mail, and some just musings that come to me; by its very nature I can't really "organize it as well as I would like. I haven't time to do that. I don't have a staff or a rewrite man or someone taking slot (a term of art from the old newspaper days; all gone forever, I fear).
I'm open to suggestions on how to improve this place, but the changes have to be implemented taking no more time than I put into this now. I can't let this place eat my fiction time, and it already takes up my mornings and some of my evenings. It's worth it: I learn by thinking about this stuff and trying to explain it, and like most former professors I miss my seminar discussions with my better students: the mail here takes that place nicely. Anyway, suggestions welcome if they can reduce the confusion, but I don't think I am going to go to some form of blog press.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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