The consequences of inclimate weather –or– Take an interest

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

The consequences of inclimate weather

I’ve been reading Climate Audit for a bit now. Its sobriety strikes me. I have learned that my general fears—public climate science is being done by those who fundamentally underestimate its complexity—were optimistic and the real situation is worse. The public face of climate science is cronyism, bullying, agenda pushing, sloppy research practices, politics, and preconceptions being used in lieu of judgement. If the statute of limitations had not run out on certain violations we could also call it criminal.

The smartest guys in the room world

Something you’ll note in a lot of fringe “science” is that there are few individuals who are experts or trained or qualified in anything. The vaccine linkage to autism is an excellent example of this. The expert was a doctor who paid kids at birthday parties for blood samples and the study he wrote that supported the tripe has been repudiated. Most of the other experts I’ve noticed who supported the idea have been chiropractors and dentists.

The climatologists who are telling us we have to change the world economy or we’ll destroy the planet ought to be physicists, statisticians, meteorologists, oceanographers, and chaos theorists. A few seem to be. Many are not. It’s a bit hard to determine for many in fact. Here are some of the actual areas of expertise of climatologists that weren’t hard to find: Electrician, soft porn novelist, botanist, and more than one n/a…

Something you should note in a lot of publicized information is how terribly and completely wrong the acknowledged experts are. Climate Audit recently reminded us that Enron was considered the best managed company in America. It was in point of fact one of the worst. Given enough time, no amount of expert testimony could hide that.

I think you all forget too quickly just how bad things really are.

To punish, reform, and correct the financial institutions that got us into the mortgage mess the experts recommended giving them as much money as they needed. If you’ve read the news this week you know that AIG losses were underestimated and that Fannie Mae continues to bleed money and wants another fifteen billion dollars now. Don’t pretend you were away at the time, you know what happened. No amount of candy coating can change it. No amount of expert testimony to Congress will get the jobs or the houses back. These are the experts. Every field that becomes mired in politics, every issue which becomes political, seems to land here. Education? Jobs? Lobbying? Corporate political donations? Accounting? Homes? Health care? Oh, but not climate change! That’s pure and clean.

Climate Audit got me interested in amateur science again. So in one hour I went from knowing almost nothing about where the temperature evidence comes from to getting one of the raw data sets and parsing and graphing it. La–

Couch potato climatology

So, I have independently validated global average temperatures as reported in a certain data set are rising over the last 200 years.

What does this mean? I have plenty of ideas. I have no proof. Neither do the experts. To prove your ideas in science they must be verifiable. One of the predictions in climate science was that oceanic storms would rise in severity and frequency. Yet hurricanes have hit records for mildness in years that were predicted to be peaks. The prediction being completely opposed to the observation means the theory was wrong; it’s invalid and it’s time to try again. Data is not science. Inductive reasoning is no better than a Ouija board in complex systems.

Carbon dioxide has been drastically higher in the past. Life did not abate. The Earth has been much warmer in the past. It kept spinning and plants and animals and other bearers of ribonucleic schemes kept on keeping on. That graph is 200 years. There has been 500,000,000 years of biologically relevant weather on Earth. 200 years would be an indiscernible wink on a graph of that time line.

So, some ideas.

The oceans are somewhere between 70% and 99% of the livable space in the world depending on how you measure. They are also the primary gas exchange regulation system in the world. We barely understand how they work. Major discoveries are being made right now. Any predictions about global warming that are not founded there are more than flawed. They are no better than numerology.

Humans have altered the albedo of the Earth significantly with deforestation, agriculture, and architecture. Not coincidentally, I say, most of this was in the last 200 years. Granted I only started reading climate change literature recently. I’m a newbie. I haven’t seen albedo mentioned yet though Googling for it with “climate science” turned up quite a bit. It’s not something that can be reasonably left out of any theories that make conclusions or predictions.

Rural v urban heat change

Some reports try to address the heat reservoirs of urban centers. Those that don’t are suspect.

The energy in a system is more than its surface temperatures. I’m appalled at how limited the temperature data is that is being used to make grand conclusions about the actual heat energy at work on the Earth. Without comprehensive sea temperatures and atmospheric readings from each sphere, the conclusions are based on huge assumptions and wishful thinking. The science to do this is only a few decades old—satellites and deep sea research equipment—and it is not being fully applied.

A simple example is the difference between two equal volumes of water and air at 25°C. The plain temperature reading inadequately expresses the energy difference and completely ignores the changes that take place in the energy over temperature ranges. Simplistically: water resists getting warmer more than air does and the warmer it gets, the stronger the resistance.

This is complex and the conclusions that are coming from the government backed and funded experts appear to be every bit as naïve as the temperature graph I created above.

I’m not a PhD in physics or statistics or meteorology or anything for that matter. I’m just someone who took an interest. And you don’t have to take my word for it that my research was valid because the code to repeat it is below; and here is a github gist of it. If I’m wrong or lying or being tricky to serve an agenda you can find out on your own. No Freedom of Information request required.

Take an interest. Get your head above the waves. Make yourself part of a species worth preserving.

#!/usr/bin/env perl
use warnings;
use strict;
use List::Util qw( first );
use Statistics::Descriptive;
use HTML::Entities;
use Time::Progress;
use URI::GoogleChart;
use LWP::Simple qw( mirror );
use File::HomeDir;
use File::Spec;

$| = 1; # For Time::Progress

#---------------------------------------------------------------------
my $home_dir = File::HomeDir->my_home;
my $v2_mean_file = File::Spec->catfile($home_dir,"v2.mean");
unless ( -s $v2_mean_file )
{
    my $ghcn_v2_mean_uri = "ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ghcn/v2/v2.mean.Z";
    my $v2_mean_file_z = File::Spec->catfile($home_dir,"v2.mean.Z");
    print "Mirroring $ghcn_v2_mean_uri...\n";
    mirror($ghcn_v2_mean_uri, $v2_mean_file_z);
    print "Gunzipping $v2_mean_file_z...\n";
    system("gunzip", $v2_mean_file_z) == 0
        or die "Couldn't gunzip $v2_mean_file_z: $?";
}

open my $fh, "<", $v2_mean_file
    or die "Couldn't open $v2_mean_file for reading: $!";

# Data lines are 78 chars long.
my $progress = Time::Progress->new;
$progress->attr( min => 1, max => int( ( -s $fh ) / 78 ) );

my %years;
my $line = 1;

while ( <$fh> )
{
    chomp;
    my ( $station, $year, @months ) = unpack("A12A4(A5)*", $_);
    # next if $year =~ /2010/;
    # Contains a missing record, so toss the whole year.
    next if first { /-9999/ } @months;

    my $stat = $years{$year} ||= Statistics::Descriptive::Full->new();

    for ( 0 .. 11 )
    {
        $months[$_] /= 10;
        $stat->add_data($months[$_]);
    }
    # last if $line++ > 15000; # For faster testing.
    print $progress->report("Parsing temperature data %40b%p%L%E\r", $line++);
}

my @years = sort keys %years;
for my $year ( @years )
{
    printf("%d %5.2f %5.2s %5.1f %5.1f\n",
           $year,
           $years{$year}->mean,
           $years{$year}->variance,
           $years{$year}->min,
           $years{$year}->max,
           );
}

my $title = "GHCN v2 Raw Global Mean Temperatures in \x{B0}F $years[0]\x{2013}$years[-1]";
my $chart = URI::GoogleChart
    ->new("lines", 500, 150,
          # label => [ @years ],
          data =>  [ map { $years{$_}->mean * 9 / 5 + 32 } sort keys %years ],
          title => $title,
          range_show => "left",
          encoding => "s",
          color => "CC0033",
          chxt => "x",
          chxl => join("|",
                       "0:",
                       $years[0],
                       $years[@years*.125],
                       $years[@years*.25],
                       $years[@years*.375],
                       $years[@years*.5],
                       $years[@years*.625],
                       $years[@years*.75],
                       $years[@years*.875],
                       $years[-1])
    );

print "\nURI\n$chart\n\n";

printf(qq{Image\n<img src="%s" alt="%s" />\n\n},
       encode_entities($chart),
       encode_entities($title),
    );

exit 0;

__DATA__

=pod

=head1 NAME

GHCN v2 Raw Global Mean Temperatures Google Chart Generator

=head1 USAGE

The script will take several minutes or longer to run. It provides
output of its progress and estimated run time.

The output is a summary of the yearly data and Google chart URI
composed from the data with a corresponding HTML image tag.

=head1 INSTALL

You might need to install some of these modules: L<List::Util>
L<Statistics::Descriptive>, L<Time::Progress>, L<URI::GoogleChart>,
L<LWP::Simple>, L<HTML::Entities>, L<File::HomeDir>, L<File::Spec>. A
couple of them are core so should be present already no matter your
setup.

The script relies upon the tool C<gunzip> being available. If it's
not, you'll need to uncompress the data file yourself.

=head1 SEE ALSO

L<ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ghcn/v2/> and
L<ftp://ftp.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/ghcn/v2/v2.temperature.readme>.

=head1 LICENSE

Copyright (E<copy>) 2008 Ashley Pond V.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it or modify it or
both under the same terms as Perl itself.

=head1 DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTY

Because this software is licensed free of charge, there is no warranty
for the software, to the extent permitted by applicable law. Except
when otherwise stated in writing the copyright holders or other
parties provide the software "as is" without warranty of any kind,
either expressed or implied, including, but not limited to, the
implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular
purpose. The entire risk as to the quality and performance of the
software is with you. Should the software prove defective, you assume
the cost of all necessary servicing, repair, or correction.

In no event unless required by applicable law or agreed to in writing
will any copyright holder, or any other party who may modify and/or
redistribute the software as permitted by the above license, be liable
to you for damages, including any general, special, incidental, or
consequential damages arising out of the use or inability to use the
software (including but not limited to loss of data or data being
rendered inaccurate or losses sustained by you or third parties or a
failure of the software to operate with any other software), even if
such holder or other party has been advised of the possibility of such
damages.

=cut
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Discussion

Comments


ligne

Re: The consequences of inclimate weather –or– Take an interest

"The climatologists who are telling us we have to change the world economy or we’ll destroy the planet ought to be physicists, statisticians, meteorologists, oceanographers, and chaos theorists."

most of them *are* physicists, etc. i'm not sure how you got a different impression.

"Carbon dioxide has been drastically higher in the past. Life did not abate. The Earth has been much warmer in the past. It kept spinning and plants and animals and other bearers of ribonucleic schemes kept on keeping on. That graph is 200 years. There has been 500,000,000 years of biologically relevant weather on Earth. 200 years would be an indiscernible wink on a graph of that time line."

that's true. but recent warming has been occurring at an unprecedented rate, and it's not at all clear how well the natural world will handle that. temperature changes that would usually take thousands of years, are occurring in mere decades. and there are an increasing number of examples where this is not the case.

for instance, huge swathes of forest in western canada have been decimated by pine beetles, which are able to spread as the winters are no longer cold enough to kill them off. and that's not just an ecological disaster, it's having a terrible effect on the local economy, which is heavily reliant on logging. more details: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=velocity-climate-change

just because life has survived warmer environments before doesn't mean that it will thrive this time. even the Permian–Triassic extinction event didn't turn the earth into a dead ball of rock, but that doesn't mean that it's something that's fun to sit through.

----
you note a lot of factors that could affect understanding of the climate. but what makes you think that any or all of them are routinely being neglected?

certainly albedo and urban heat effects have been studied for decades (albedo is critical to understanding how the milankovitch cycles cause glaciations. this piece gives a good overview of how urbanisation affects the instrumental temperature trend, and how it is accounted for http://www.skepticalscience.com/urban-heat-island-effect.htm ).

if you're interested in how the instrumental record is processed, you might want to have a look at http://clearclimatecode.org/ -- they've taken the codebase that NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies use, and ported it to python (booo! :-p ).

if you want to understand the physical basis and history of climate science, you probably could do worse than reading "the discovery of global warming" by Spencer Weart of the American Institute of Physics. it's available free online here: http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

By ligne on 10 March 2010 · 03:49
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Ashley

Re^2: The consequences of inclimate weather –or– Take an interest

Thanks for the comments. Good things. I want to clarify, I’m not a warming skeptic, I’m a “why are we drawing conclusions that life is at any increased risk whatsoever or we need to roll back the world economy to the 1830s?” skeptic.

I’m curious if you’ve read the Climategate emails. It’s clear that there is junk science going on at East Anglia U (they don’t know if some of their data is monthly or annual yet they continue to use it, they don’t know how some of their data was “cleaned-up,” etc) and anti-science procedures taking root (blocking of peer review, boycotting magazines that publish unfavored authors, dropping the tree ring modeling when it is contrary to the observed temperatures while still using the likely faulty same tree ring modeling for periods when they have no observations, illegally blocking the handful of FOI requests with lies, cherry picking periods of time for dramatic effect). These guys seem to be where the UN is taking its information and where a soft porn novelist is calling the shots and using invalid, unconfirmed, unreviewed data in reports to make huge, economy changing, poverty inflating, recommendations.

Recently related: In regards to the verb conjugational errors of Gerry North, “chairman” of the “NRC” “Report” on Surface Temperature Reconstructions.

I’d believe this is just a handful of bad apples pushing ultimate conclusions on what is just formative research but when anything gets politicized this is exactly what to expect.

By Ashley on 10 March 2010 · 07:12
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ligne

Re: The consequences of inclimate weather –or– Take an interest

I don't think I've ever heard anyone saying we should take ourselves back to the Victorian era to avoid global warming. It's certainly not something I'd ever promote (I'm a geek. I'd be dead within a week).

But we should be thinking about ways to encourage investment in more efficient technologies. Currently there is no cost associated with emitting CO_2 (in fact, there's usually a strong business case to do the opposite), even though it's becoming increasingly clear that mitigating for climate change is likely to be very expensive.

I did read the emails (the controversial ones, at least. most of them seem to be pretty dull office chit-chat), though I can't say I got the same impression you did. The vast majority of the "damning quotes" floating about the interwebs seem to have been taken pretty badly out of context.

"dropping the tree ring modeling when it is contrary to the observed temperatures while still using the likely faulty same tree ring modeling for periods when they have no observations"

The divergence problem has been known about for years. It only seems to occur in high-latitude trees, and even then only some of them (this is a nice illustration of what's going on -- they track very closely for ~950 years, and only diverge in the last few decades). This paper gives a good review of research on the topic. From the abstract:

Possible causes include temperature-induced drought stress, nonlinear thresholds or time-dependent responses to recent warming, delayed snowmelt and related changes in seasonality, and differential growth/climate relationships inferred for maximum, minimum and mean temperatures. Another possible cause of the divergence described briefly herein is ‘global dimming’, a phenomenon that has appeared, in recent decades, to decrease the amount of solar radiation available for photosynthesis and plant growth on a large scale.

So I think it's a bit of a push to say they were trying to obfuscate, especially as Briffa, Jones and Osborn have all published on the topic before, and they explained what they had done in the paper in question. For space reasons, scientific papers tend to assume the reader already knows the field well (this was the bane of my life when I was an undergrad ;-) ), and will often gloss over details that get in the way of the point being made on the basis that the reader is aware of the caveats. The most obvious example would be applying a filter to remove noise, so the underlying trend can be seen more clearly.

It's all a bit moot anyway, since more recent historical climate reconstructions have got the same result even without tree data (Mann's 2008 PNAS paper, for one).

It wasn't exactly a handful of FOI requests. The biggest wave seems to have been 58 in 5 days (if you don't have nature access, it's summarised here). That's not to say they were right in denying them, of course.

As for the NRC report, it looks like a pretty bad characterisation of North's comment by ClimateAudit. The committee were never expected to do *original* research -- they were tasked with reviewing the literature, and verifying that appropriate procedures were applied in the analysis, and that the data supported their conclusion. To go from there to implying they didn't do any research at all is a pretty big jump.

By ligne on 11 March 2010 · 11:13
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Ashley

Re^2: The consequences of inclimate weather –or– Take an interest

I don't think I've ever heard anyone saying we should take ourselves back to the Victorian era to avoid global warming.

You can’t tell me you’ve never heard of the turkey neck from Tennessee so emphatic about forcing government surveillance chips into personal computers, so enamored of regulating music with mature lyrics, and so good at politics he lost the presidency to a Texas sack of crap that he had to be given the Nobel Peace Prize. That was one of the punchlines that the emissions of the ’20s, IIRC, were the tipping point. Well, we’re more than four billion monkeys over budget since then so if that is to be taken at face value we actually need to return to the emissions of the 1200s or so. But that wouldn’t be much of an improvement since average temperatures of the day were close to the warming we see now.

On some of your other points, I think you give those guys—the IPCC and East Anglia U—the benefit of the doubt. I’m not talking about the “the trick.” They intentionally colluded to erase evidence. They are unable to reconstruct their data from the raw sources because they had no quality control or auditing, internal or otherwise. I don’t know that they responded to a single FOI request let alone the deluge they allege. One wonders if merely responding to one might have short circuited most of the others. The guys at Climate Audit are alleging the tree ring data is cherry picked too and they seemed to make a good case.

The UN report regurgitated 2nd hand, unreviewed, pamphlet propaganda from the WWF which was from some bad independent research of some Indian climatologist. The bit about the glaciers in the Himalayas likely to be gone in 25 years. A conclusion so ludicrous as to make me say: They knew it was false and didn’t bother to check up on it because it supported their, at best, preconceptions, at worst, agenda. It’s fairly scandalous, really.

One of these cats, I need to look up which, was saying in the ’60s and ’70s that Earth was going to freeze and we’d all be dead soon if we didn’t halt world economics growth. When I was a kid it was the population bomb that was about to destroy the world.

The pollution cost of anything is roughly equal to its dollar cost. The emissions savings of a Prius is amortized by the pollution it takes to make one. Is it an improvement? Probably but I’d rather see numbers. I saw some for example that demonstrated that Styrofoam in the landfills is less wasteful than washing your own coffee cup at work because of the water, sewage, soap, and heat costs. The idea that these “new” technologies are going to save us… it is a free lunch. It’s cold fusion. It’s eating your cake and having it. It’s the same sad sci-fi/fantasy that has plagued America since the late ’40s.

And like all these kinds of things, it will only help rich people get richer and make it more difficult for poor people to improve their situation.

Now, that said—

My house and this computer run on 100% wind power. I don’t use the AC in the car. I keep the heat down in the winter. I recycle and reuse. I have a 19 year old car that gets 40mpg. I take the bus to work and for as many weekend trips as I can. My wife ran Seattle’s recycling program for the city—one of the nations best—and now runs a legitimate green services company. I pick up trash in public places. I talk to strangers about conservation and watershed pollution. My “carbon footprint” is probably still bigger than 5 families in rural Asia but I’m not the least bit worried.

If the situation were really, truly as dire as Gore and his kin claim, we’d be plain old fucked anyway unless we eradicated 70% of the world’s population and forced the remains to live as vegetarian hermits.

In any event. Thank you for taking the time to comment! You did give me some things to think about and reasons to learn more.

By Ashley on 11 March 2010 · 20:48
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