Category Archives: Environment

Arctic Sea Ice Extent: Sprucing up a Chart

Bernard,

This important and useful chart was on the National Snow and Ice Data Center site on August 8, 2017:

But I found it unusually hard to read. Here is my spruced-up version:

No more hard-to-read vertical text. Zero-based, thus enabling one immediately to see how much lower the extent was in 2012 and is projected to be in 2017. Date of measurement prominent in the title area. Labels close to their items, so the eye doesn’t have to travel back and forth to interpret. Percentage of total ocean area on the left axis, as opposed to square km values in the original, for which one would have to know that the Arctic Ocean’s total area is 14m+ square km in order to realize that the ice extent remains nearly 100% at the start of May.

To me, the original’s main errors were 1) not being zero-based, which forces you to imagine the full picture in order to grasp the real meaning, and 2) expressing measured ice area on the left axis instead of % of total Arctic Ocean area, forcing you to look elsewhere to find out how full or empty the Arctic Ocean actually was/is of sea ice. A basic rule of user interface design is, “Don’t Make Me Think!” unnecessarily. That’s the title of my favorite user-interface book, written lightly and gracefully by Steve Krug and well worth a read.

Wayne

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Global Warming XV: The Coming Ice Age

A recent Politico report tells us that Trump’s Deputy National Security adviser, K. T. McFarland, put a copy of two Time magazine cover pages in his reading list. One cover, which showed a lone penguin on a mound of snow and ice, had the title: How To Survive the Coming Ice Age: 51 Things You Can Do to Make a Difference. It’s from April 9, 1977. The other cover, which showed a lone polar bear on a small floe, had the title: Be Worried: Be Very Worried: Climate Change isn’t some vague future problem—it’s already damaging the planet at an alarming pace. Here’s how it affects you, your kids and their kids as well. Headlines for some of the issues’ stories, shown on the cover are: Earth at the Tipping Point, How It Threatens Your Health, How China & India Can Help Save the World—Or Destroy It, and The Climate Crusaders. It’s from April 3, 2006. The point of this juxtaposition is to demonstrate that since scientists once worried us about a coming Ice Age and now they alarm us with talk of roasting, they really haven’t a clue.

In fact, the Coming Ice Age cover is a fake. Here’s Time’s own explanation. The con artist had changed the headline, three digits in the year, and a couple of the top story teasers from a 2006 Time cover. According to Politico, an unnamed White House colleague defended McFarland on the grounds that the cover was “fake, but accurate.” (?!?!?) In fact, the cover is not only fake, but it is inaccurate. The opposite of the truth.

Here’s the fake cover and the one the con artist modified, from the Time explanation.

My essay deals with the idea that in the 1970s climate scientists thought that we were heading for an Ice Age. You can read more about K. T. McFarland in Wikipedia. Word is that she will be appointed our ambassador to Singapore, and inside the beltway types are wondering if it’s a dream come true for her, or exile.

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Bret Stephens’s NY Times Op-Ed on Climate Change: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Bernard,

This April 28 Bret Stephens op-ed debut is way off the mark every inch of the way.

First, what Old Jew Of Galicia? Milocz wrote that epigraph and hundreds or thousands have cited it as if it’s ancient and real wisdom that transcends the folly of whomever you want to lambaste. But what Old Jew of central or western Europe would use precise figures like 55% as opposed to 60% to describe degrees of being sure that one is right? And right about what? Everything? It seems to me that’s the only possibility of the quote, given no other information than the “quote” itself. It seems to be about totalitarian regimes that rewrite truth and history to their liking and allow no dissent. But that’s a whole different world! Climate scientists are not claiming they’re 100% right about everything, only 97% right about something very important that they’ve looked at from dozens or hundreds of different angles and almost always come up with the same conclusion, which is that warming will with high likelihood accelerate and all of humanity with high likelihood will be in a peck of trouble therefrom.

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Global Warming IX – The Climate Has Always Changed …

Wayne,

Global warming deniers tell us that “the climate has always changed, and it always will.” The deniers assert this truth as grounds for complacency and inaction. They imply that the climate scientists who are warning us about the dangers and causes of global warming don’t know this fact and that the researchers are alarmists. Often, the deniers follow their truth with a falsehood: that the scientists are uncertain as to the cause of the present warming. Once the scientists have figured out the causes, then we can deal with problems we know are real they say.

As part of your suggestion that we devote part of our blog to fact-checking and idea checking of matters of current interest about which we have useful perspectives, I’m posting this ninth in my series on global warming. I’ll put this issue of historical climate change, warming and cooling in perspective. I’ll show how changes in the world’s climate during the period of settled agricultural, civilized existence compare to changes in the geologic past. My conclusion, and yours and of our readers to this, ought to be one of alarm. Indeed, when deniers accuse someone as an “alarmist” the accusation carries the connotation that the alarmist is unnecessarily fearful and likely exaggerating the danger. In the case of warming of the Earth caused by human’s burning of fossil fuels, alarm is appropriate.

Here is a reconstruction of the Global Mean Temperature throughout the Phanerozoic Era; that is for the past 550 million years, about 1/8th of Earth’s history. Click the chart to view a larger version.


Professor Christopher R. Scotese shared this remarkable data with me.

The horizontal axis is millions of years, with the distant past to the left. The vertical axis is in Celsius and runs from 10 C (50 F) to 28 C (~82 F). For context, from this data, 2016 was 14.5 C (59 F). The acronyms are: PETM Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (55.8 Ma, million years ago), EECO Early Eocene Climatic Optimum (54-46 Ma), MECO Mid-Eocene Climatic Optimum (42 Ma), EOT Eocene-Oligocene Transition (40-33 Ma), MMCO Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (15-13 Ma), LGM Last Glacial Maximum (21,000 years ago), PAW Post-Anthropogenic Warming (+5000 – 10,000 years in future). This last is a prediction, of course.
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Global Warming VII – Carbon Dioxide History

Wayne,

Continuing my series of posts (see Global Warming I, Global Warming II, Global Warming III, and Global Warming IV, Global Warming V, Global Warming VI) about Global Warming I have graphs of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. I think that these are significant for several reasons and in several contexts.

First, these data support my contention that no citizen should vote for any Republican for any office from school crossing guard and dog catcher and higher. That party must be delivered an unmistakable message from voters that it cannot invent its own reality, and it must stop damaging the world.

Second, these data show powerful evidence, through correlation, if nothing else, that human activity has led to a major and still unending increase in CO2 in the atmosphere. As the knowledge that tells us that water vapor and carbon dioxide and some other gases are major factors determining Earth’s climate and temperature goes back more than 100 years and is not in question even by global warming deniers, those deniers have the serious problem of demonstrating why the major increase in atmospheric CO2 has not caused the observed surface temperature increase of recent decades.

Third, these data show that, as many of those who deny the importance of global warming assert, the climate has always changed and will continue to do so. But those who deny the importance of global warming with this true claim, many politicians among them, neglect to mention that the change in CO2 concentrations that we are experiencing is unprecedented in the past million years, at least, and that it extends far beyond the range of any earlier fluctuations.

Fourth, those who assert that humanity should and can merely adapt to these changes, an adaptation that they claim will not be difficult, neglect to mention that the entire span of human civilized existence, about 10,000 years, has also been a span of stable CO2 and stable climate. Thus, we have no certain ideas as to what will happen to the climate in the future nor any way to predict whether civilization will be able to maintain itself. Although this will not make much difference to me, now that I am an old guy, I am an alarmist because I believe alarm is justified.

Fifth, I apologize to coming generations for the mess my generation and a few earlier ones are leaving for them. We have much to be proud of, but global warming is a horrid blot upon our reputations. Continue reading

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Global Warming IV

In earlier posts, Climate Change I, Climate Change II, and Climate Change III, (and later ones, Climate Change V and VI that I’ve already posted) I’ve discussed aspects of the science of Climate Change as I see it, and as I presented it to my Physics 125 students at the University of Tampa.

In the previous essay, Climate Change III, I told how the author of Physics 125 textbook, Dr. Richard Muller, a UC Berkeley physicist, created the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. He proclaimed that he would review the temperature record raw data to check for himself whether the climate professionals had properly done their work. He let it be known that he was skeptical, and, therefore, he drew funding from various climate denier groups. In the end, however, Dr. Muller’s analysis reproduced that of decades of work by many climate researchers. He admitted as much in a New York Times op-ed essay.

In this essay, I will describe another interesting aspect of the climate scientists’ work measuring the Earth’s temperature. This illustrates the thoroughness with which they are studying this matter and the methods followed by researchers to resolve discrepancies in the data and differences of opinion between scientists. In this matter, I’m writing as an informed amateur, as I am not a climate scientist. I’m also not an historian of science. I’m just going to tell you about some of what I know, but further details are readily available on many climate
change
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The VW scandal, the effectivness of regulation, and the science of engines

Bernard,

The small nonprofit organization, ICCT, that used a “simple road test” to uncover the VW defeat device has an annual budget of $12m; see this outstanding Guardian article.  “’We really didn’t expect to find anything,’ German said of his research that found Volkswagen had installed sophisticated software designed to cheat strict emission tests across the world. His simple test – checking the car’s emissions on real roads rather than in lab test conditions…”

The EPA’s 2015 budget is $7.89b. The EPA’s highway emissions lab is self-proclaimed “state of the art”. “Staff at NVFEL are highly trained professionals with backgrounds in automotive technology, engineering, mechanics, statistics, natural resources, and economics.”

With 658x the budget of ICCT, the EPA failed to execute, even once, a simple cross-check test outside of the lab and on the road. Really, someone at EPA needs to be fired and the EPA lab needs some severe shaking up. This is rich fodder for those who say our government is bloated and mostly useless.

Wayne

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