June 24, 2013


Oh the poor glaciers are melting... booo hooo!  Whatever will we do without the glaciers?  We will have to rename Glacier National Park and just call it National Park!
Unless you are so crazily arrogant that you believe we can dial in some optimal global temperate like setting the thermostat in our homes, we have two main choices when it comes to earths temperature:  Ice-Ages and interglacial periods.
The history of the planet is ice-ages, but between each one are nice warm interglacial periods.  We are currently enjoying one of those nice warm periods.  Go outside and look around.  Trees, flowers, grass, animals, cities, homes, lakes, etc.  But go back ~20,000 years (a mere eye blink in Earth time) and this is what your local northern skyline looked like:


I choose global warming.
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June 15, 2013


Usually, I skim through the NYT’s articles on global warming and move on. They are mostly the same: a sprinkling of real science, sometimes interesting data, but surrounded by the typical alarmism and pseudo-science and the never-ending call for government carbon taxes. But last week’s article was too much.
They finally got around to reporting that there has been no known increase in the earth’s temperature for over a decade. Below is the article and my response.
First some definitions:
Alarmist = Someone who thinks CO2 released from man’s burning of fossil fuels is the main driver of earth’s temperature. The rise in CO2 will cause a rise in temperature which will lead to mass droughts, floods, desertification, starvation, extreme weather, etc. We must limit our use of fossil fuels to keep these things from happening in the future.
Skeptic = Someone who thinks CO2 released from man’s burning of fossil fuels has some effect on earth’s temperature, but is much smaller than Alarmist think. Long term prediction of what weather changes will be in what area are impossible. The cures of forcing current renewable technologies or taxing carbon are more harmful and expensive than using that money to simply adapt to any future changes. We should be responsible with our energy use, but not because we are “killing” the planet.
Denier = Someone who doesn’t believe CO2 warms the planet, someone who doesn’t believe there can be ANY good things about global warming, someone who doesn’t believe the holocaust occurred, or generally about 5-10% of the population of any group who are near completely ignorant and near completely arrogant. This group accounts for 98% of comments on most websites.
And now for the article:

NYT June 10, 2013
What to Make of a Warming Plateau
As unlikely as this may sound, we have lucked out in recent years when it comes to global warming. The rise in the surface temperature of earth has been markedly slower over the last 15 years than in the 20 years before that. And that lull in warming has occurred even as greenhouse gases have accumulated in the atmosphere at a record pace.
This only sounds “unlikely” to the readers of the NYT. Readers of the NYT may be remembering when in April 1998 they said, “It is a well-established fact that human activities are heating up the planet and that global temperatures will continue to rise for decades to come.” Or maybe they are remembering March 2009 when the NYT said, “The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded with near certainty that most of the recent warming was a result of human influences”. When they are told that CO2 from human burning of fossil fuels is THE driving force for the temperature of the planet, and “the science is settled” and there is “97% consensus”, then I can see why the earth not warming lock-step with CO2 levels is surprising and one would get the feeling “we have lucked out”. But, if you read both sides of the issue, you would know that the more we learn about our climate the more we realize we don’t know. And, while CO2 is a greenhouse gas, we are FAR from understanding the earth’s temperature sensitivity to that one variable.

The slowdown is a bit of a mystery to climate scientists. True, the basic theory that predicts a warming of the planet in response to human emissions does not suggest that warming should be smooth and continuous. To the contrary, in a climate system still dominated by natural variability, there is every reason to think the warming will proceed in fits and starts. But given how much is riding on the scientific forecast, the practitioners of climate science would like to understand exactly what is going on. They admit that they do not, even though some potential mechanisms of the slowdown have been suggested. The situation highlights important gaps in our knowledge of the climate system, some of which cannot be closed until we get better measurements from high in space and from deep in the ocean.
If more paragraphs where as honest as this one, we would be in a much better and much less politicized position in the climate debate.

As you might imagine, those dismissive of climate-change concerns have made much of this warming plateau. They typically argue that “global warming stopped 15 years ago” or some similar statement, and then assert that this disproves the whole notion that greenhouse gases are causing warming.
Yes, I assume those “dismissive of climate-change concerns” will make much of the lack of warming. I guess similar to how those pushing climate-change concerns have made much of the warming in the 1990’s. Also, please provide a source backing up your claim that skeptics are using the lack of recent warming to “assert that this disproves the whole notion that greenhouse gases are causing warming”. What a ridiculous statement. Greenhouse gases, by definition, are causing warming. Without them the world would be an ice-ball right now. I know what Mr Gillis is trying to say, but setting up this silly straw-man is dishonest. This is what seems to be irresistible to those on the alarmist side in this debate. They seem to be incapable of an honest acknowledgement of the opposing side. Instead, they invent strange caricatures to argue against. Skeptics, for the most part, claim that the sensitivity of the global temperature to CO2 concentration is less then alarmist predict and the cure (carbon taxes/trading, current renewable energy options) will not work or be too expensive. This is much different than saying greenhouse gasses don’t cause warming.

Rarely do they mention that most of the warmest years in the historical record have occurred recently. Moreover, their claim depends on careful selection of the starting and ending points. The starting point is almost always 1998, a particularly warm year because of a strong El Niño weather pattern. Somebody who wanted to sell you gold coins as an investment could make the same kind of argument about the futility of putting your retirement funds into the stock market. If he picked the start date and the end date carefully enough, the gold salesman could make it look like the stock market did not go up for a decade or longer. But that does not really tell you what your retirement money is going to do in the market over 30 or 40 years. It does not even tell you how you would have done over the cherry-picked decade, which would have depended on exactly when you got in and out of the market. Scientists and statisticians reject this sort of selective use of numbers, and when they calculate the long-term temperature trends for the earth, they conclude that it continues to warm through time. Despite the recent lull, it is an open question whether the pace of that warming has undergone any lasting shift.
My goodness! How obtuse and hypocritical can one person be? He must live in a small bubble indeed if he thinks that only the skeptics use selective data! The whole global warming movement has been using selective data and distorted charts and out of perspective information to scare the public into thinking we have a crisis. Virtually every global warming chart I have ever seen starts in the Mid 1800’s. They claim it is because this is when people began pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. But really it is because this was the end of the “Little Ice Age”, one of the coldest times in our planet in thousands of years. Alarmists cherry picking data is rampant. Here is a recent example that I wrote about: http://davesuncommonsense.blogspot.com/2013/04/why-all-weather-is-now-extreme.html
So, Mr Gillis, spare me the lecture on data manipulation. That is what we skeptics have been complaining about for years. The data is (currently) not supporting your theory; you don’t get to ignore it.

What to make of it all? We certainly cannot conclude, as some people want to, that carbon dioxide is not actually a greenhouse gas.
There is that straw-man argument again. Who is claiming carbon dioxide is not actually a greenhouse gas? NOT ONE PERSON. That is a lie. I would understand if this was some blog on the internet. But the New York Times?! They must all have such similar thinking and bias that no one is capable of seeing a sentence like this and realizing how distorted and bogus it is. And it is not as if this is an opinion article. This is supposed to be a science article; it is in the Environment section of the paper.

More than a century of research thoroughly disproves that claim. In fact, scientists can calculate how much extra heat should be accumulating from the human-caused increases in greenhouse gases, and the energies involved are staggering. By a conservative estimate, current concentrations are trapping an extra amount of energy equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima bombs exploding across the face of the earth every day.
Here, Mr Gillis uses the very same techniques he was so critical of just a couple of paragraphs back: using selective and out-of-perspective data. 400,000 Hiroshima bombs? Oh wow, sounds scary! But how about explaining how much heat that actually is compared to the total heat input on the planet? It is a technique used often by the alarmists, I wrote about one example here: http://davesuncommonsense.blogspot.com/2013/02/how-to-make-scary-news.html
Using explosives to compare the energy of the earth is silly. The natural energy of our earth’s systems is so staggeringly large that we can hardly comprehend it. The Myth Busters did a great episode where they tried to make a wave they could surf using 200 lbs of TNT. http://youtu.be/_ds0XV3ORmI
It only made a couple of inches of “waves”. So think how much energy is in the ocean waves hitting our beaches every day! If I wanted to scare people, I could say, “The ocean waves are predicted to hit Hilton Head Island with the energy equivalent of 400,000 Hiroshima bombs today”.

So the real question is where all that heat is going, if not to warm the surface. And a prime suspect is the deep ocean. Our measurements there are not good enough to confirm it absolutely, but a growing body of research suggests this may be an important part of the answer. Exactly why the ocean would have started to draw down extra heat in recent years is a mystery, and one we badly need to understand. But the main ideas have to do with possible shifts in winds and currents that are causing surface heat to be pulled down faster than before. The deep-ocean theory is one of a half-dozen explanations that have been proffered for the warming plateau. Perhaps the answer will turn out to be some mix of all of them. And in any event, computer forecasts of climate change suggest that pauses in warming lasting a couple of decades should not surprise us.
Exactly. There is a great deal we don’t know and need to understand. However, claiming the computer models suggest that there will be pauses in warming lasting more than a couple of decades is false. Two years ago the climate scientist Benjamin Santer released a paper saying it would take 17 years of a trend (or no trend) to separate the noise from the trend. https://www.llnl.gov/news/newsreleases/2011/Nov/NR-11-11-03.html
We are currently right at that 17 year mark with no statistically significant warming. Below is a chart that shows all the major computer models of climate compared to the CO2 level and the measured temperature. It doesn’t take a special climate scientist to realize there is more driving the planets temperature than the parts-per-million of carbon dioxide.

The black line is the average of what all the computer models predict based on the CO2 concentration. The red line is the measured CO2 concentration. The dark blue circles are global average temperature as measured by balloon, the light blue squares is global average temperature as measured by satellite. Of the 75 plus computer models, NONE predicted global temperatures this cool at 400 ppm CO2. So obviously, the sensitivity to CO2 is too great in the computer models, or there is other phenomenon we don’t yet understand.

Now, here is a crucial piece of background: It turns out we had an earlier plateau in global warming, from roughly the 1950s to the 1970s, and scientists do not fully understand that one either. A lot of evidence suggests that sunlight-blocking pollution from dirty factories may have played a role, as did natural variability in ocean circulation. The pollution was ultimately reduced by stronger clean-air laws in the West. Today, factory pollution from China and other developing countries could be playing a similar role in blocking some sunlight. We will not know for sure until we send up satellites that can make better measurements of particles in the air.
Um, so we can cure global warming by building more “dirty factories”?

What happened when the mid-20th-century lull came to an end? You guessed it: an extremely rapid warming of the planet. So, if past is prologue, this current plateau will end at some point, too, and a new era of rapid global warming will begin. That will put extra energy and moisture into the atmosphere that can fuel weather extremes, like heat waves and torrential rains. We might one day find ourselves looking back on the crazy weather of the 2010s with a deep yearning for those halcyon days.
Mr. Gillis finally lets loose his inner alarmist. It is as if he is hoping for rapid global warming just so he can be right. And we are warned of “weather extremes” like heat waves and torrential rains! I think the human race has been dealing with heat waves and torrential rains the entire time we have been on the planet. Anyway, it is certainly interesting that the planet has not warmed (that we have measured) in 15+ years. CO2 levels have steadily climbed but not the temperatures. This goes against all of the computer models. So the computer models are wrong. Period. They are not evil or need to be thrown out or ignored, but they are wrong. We don’t have the right formulas in them. So we cannot use them to predict the future. Perhaps with more study and more data we can learn more. But until then I think the following quote applies, “Under highly controlled conditions, children, wild animals, and the weather will do as they damn well please.” __________________________________________________
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April 8, 2013


No matter how many times its proven wrong, this type of thinking never goes away.

For those of you who think, "Yeah, that's sounds reasonable".  This is the same "collective" argument that socialist governments have historically used to inflict massive damage on their citizens while the central authority lives in luxury.  The elimination of personal rights, property rights and personal responsibility is an evil that never leads to a social utopia, it leads to tyranny.  This sounds very much like the "Great Leap Forward" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Leap_Forward
Private farming was prohibited, and those engaged in it were labeled as counter revolutionaries and persecuted. Restrictions on rural people were enforced through public struggle sessions, and social pressure.  The Great Leap ended in catastrophe, resulting in tens of millions of excess deaths. Estimates of the death toll range from 18 million to 45 million. Historian Frank Dikötter asserts that "coercion, terror, and systematic violence were the very foundation of the Great Leap Forward" and it "motivated one of the most deadly mass killings of human history." The years of the Great Leap Forward in fact saw economic regression. Political economist Dwight Perkins argues, "enormous amounts of investment produced only modest increases in production or none at all. ... In short, the Great Leap was a very expensive disaster."

Why do people who think like this teach in our Universities, and host at MSNBC?  Well, that's because they want to be part of the central authority, it's a great life if your inside the circle, living off of others work. 
"Invest" in "our" children... who can argue with that....
Read it again:
 "We have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities" [government]
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April 4, 2013


On March 8, 2013 a paper was published in Science Magazine by Marcott et al http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6124/1198.abstract
They claimed, using 73 global proxies, they were able to increase the temperature reconstruction from the typical past 1500 years all the way back to the past 11,300 years. And they also reported that the recent rate of warming (past 150 years) is “unprecedented” in the entire time frame. Their graph is shown below: (click to enlarge) 

You can see the dramatic increase in temperature (purple line) that is clearly -shockingly- different in the past 150 years. This gives strong evidence of human caused climate change driven by the industrial revolution and the burning of fossil fuels.

Predictably, the press trumpeted the new study:
“The modern rise that has recreated the temperatures of 5,000 years ago is occurring at an exceedingly rapid clip on a geological time scale, appearing in graphs in the new paper as a sharp vertical spike.”— Justin Gillis, New York Times

“Rapid head spike unlike anything in 11,000 years. Research released Thursday in the journal Science uses fossils of tiny marine organisms to reconstruct global temperatures …. It shows how the globe for several thousands of years was cooling until an unprecedented reversal in the 20th century.” – The Associated Press

“What that history shows, the researchers say, is that during the last 5,000 years, the Earth on average cooled about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit — until the last 100 years, when it warmed about 1.3 degrees F.” – National Science Foundation

“We’re screwed: 11,000 years’ worth of ­climate data prove it.” — The Atlantic

Well this, of course, was quite an attention getter for those in the climate community and those of us who follow it. Questions were asked, first being, how was the data derived? The 73 proxies were collected from various previous research studies, 31 of these were from ocean layer alkenones that come from phytoplankton. There are chemical properties in the layers that can correlate to temperature. These can give a low resolution temperature profile (averaged over several centuries) of the distant past. One problem with these is when the cores are drilled, the top layers are usually destroyed and scientists must carefully mark and date where the data becomes useful and robust. Typically very few of these proxies can be used for the 20th (or 21st) century, they are better for averaged trends of ocean temps dating back farther.

Had Marcott used this data as published and dated, his chart would have had no sharp uptick. In fact, this is the same data he used for his PhD thesis at Oregon State University in 2011, and his chart then shows no skyrocketing temperature in the past 150 years:

So what happened?

It turns out Marcott RE-DATED a number of the core tops, changing the value of the temperature in the past 150 years and thus CREATED the huge spike in temperature. When challenged he finally confessed, “[The] 20th-century portion of our paleotemperature stack is not statistically robust, cannot be considered representative of global temperature changes, and therefore is not the basis of any of our conclusions.” So that means his whole study shows nothing other than the globe has been slowly cooling for the past 7000 years with bumps and dips, which we already knew. All the press releases were wrong. Marcott is now trying to defend his original claim saying that if you overlay our current 20th century thermometer records onto the end of his proxy chart it shows a dramatic spike in temperature. But you can’t just attached two completely different types of records and look at the trend line. His chart is made with low resolution data smearing all the temperature fluctuations over years or even centuries into a single layer with a single datapoint. You can’t compare that to temperature data now taken continuously with computers.

This is a common problem. People using our current computer monitored temperature record and comparing it to records in the past. We have low resolution data for the distant past. The proxies take an average temperature over years or decades or centuries. We have medium resolution data pre-computer era, even the best methods in the recent past used thermometers and were recorded by a person once a day during what they thought was the hottest part of the day. Today, we have high resolution data. A computer continuously monitors the temperature to the 10th of a degree and if it even briefly hits a higher number it is recorded. Obviously we will have lots more “record” highs with this method.

A good metaphor for how comparing this different resolution data will create a “hockey stick” spike is to count the number of curves in Interstate 80 from San Francisco to New York. You start out with low resolution data that averages, do this by looking at a map where 1 inch = 100 miles. This is like looking at a proxy (like ocean layers or ice layers) where one layer = 100 years. Now count the number of curves (each red dot is a curve):

When I counted and did the calculation I got about 0.05 curves /mile (or 1 curve every 20 miles). But now let’s change to high resolution data. As we approach New York, change your resolution so one inch = 1 mile. This is like changing to using computer monitored temperature data:

I now calculate 1.25 curves/mile (or 1 curve every 0.8 miles). OH MY, EXTREME HIGHWAY CHANGES!

Both measurements are “scientific”. But you can’t just directly compare one data set to the other. The road didn’t suddenly become 25 times twistier, you’re just looking at it with more resolution. We don’t have EXTREME weather today; we are just looking at it with more resolution than in the past. 1000 years from now, if we pull up the ice cores or ocean layers, they will show a slow warming or slow cooling just like in the past, not an extreme spike.
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March 18, 2013

March 6, 2013


Well… wonders never cease!
A tiny amount of common sense has made it to official policy at the TSA.  One could gripe about how it took 12 years to decide a golf club or a ski pole was not a terrorist threat, but hey, let’s give credit where credit is due.  Three cheers for the small bit of freedom returned to us from our friendly government!
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March 5, 2013


We worry about our children and how to keep them safe. We worry about their health so we have health classes that teach them proper decision making in eating and exercise. We teach them about drugs and how to avoid them. We worry about drinking so we teach them how to be responsible with alcohol. We worry about them getting in an accident, so we give them drivers education and spend time showing them the proper and safe ways to operate an automobile. We worry about their sex life, so we give them sex education and access to councilors, doctors and birth-control to ensure they make smart decisions. We worry about gun safety, so we create “gun-free” zones, where you can’t talk about, look at a picture of, or pretend to use a gun (real or fake) or you will be expelled… wait, what?!

There is a growing problem spreading across the country of teachers, principals and administrators completely freaking out about “weapons” in what can only be described as hysteria.

1- At D. Newlin Fell School in Philadelphia, school officials reportedly yelled at a student and then searched her in front of her class after she was found with a paper gun her grandfather had made for her.

2- In rural Pennsylvania, a kindergarten girl was suspended for making a “terroristic threat” after she told another girl that she planned to shoot her with a pink Hello Kitty toy gun that bombards targets with soapy bubbles.

3- At Roscoe R. Nix Elementary School in Maryland, a six-year-old boy was suspended for making the universal kid sign for a gun, pointing at another student with one finger out and his thumb up and saying “pow-pow.”

4- In Sumter, South Carolina, a six-year-old girl was expelled for bringing a broken clear plastic Airsoft gun that shoots plastic pellets to class for show-and-tell.

5- A 10-year-old boy at Doublas MacArthur Elementary was arrested after police said he brought a toy gun to school. He was charged as a juvenile with brandishing a weapon, suspended from school, and expulsion is being considered.

6- A 7-year-old boy at a Brooklyn Park, Maryland school was suspended for two days after he bit his donut into the shape of a gun and “made inappropriate gestures” with it. A letter was sent home to all parents to “let them know about the incident” and it said that there would be counselors available for any children who were “troubled” by the incident.

7- A 7-year-old at Mary Blair Elementary in Loveland, Colorado was suspended for playing by himself at recess and throwing an imaginary grenade at an imaginary group of bad guys and making a “pshhh” sound of the exploding imaginary grenade.

In most of these cases, sanity was restored only after the facts were reported to the public and lots of pressure was put on the school by the community and blogs/news organizations. We have a responsibility to be vigilant in reporting and pressuring any teacher, principal, administrator, or school board member who thinks this type of witch-hunt is ok.

Some people feel safe with the zero tolerance policy of a "gun free" school. However, like all zero tolerance policies, the result is a complete failure. Children are attacked, belittled, embarrassed, punished and marginalized for completely normal or innocent behavior. If an educated adult can not distinguish between a real gun posing a real threat, and a fake gun or a picture of a gun or a food item in the shape of a gun posing zero threat and zero possibilities of a threat, then that adult does not deserve to be in any position of leadership or power.

All parents and all voters in every school district must take action to ensure that no student is punished simply because of the hypersensitivities of some misguided school official. We do not want a generation of Americans growing up believing that it is a crime against society to even think about a weapon or to see a picture of one. 

Please share this information and contact your local school district to communicate your feeling on this absurd national trend.  For those in this area, the Greenville County School Superintendent is W. Burke Royster. Telephone: 864-355-8860. E-mail: wroyster@greenville.k12.sc.us

February 7, 2013


Jason Box, a glaciologist at Ohio State University (who has been to Greenland 23 times to track its changing climate), gives us a perfect case study on how to make scary news: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/climate-desk-greenland-and-69-feet-sea-level-rise

First, you take perfectly good data (in this case the current area change of ice cover in Greenland). 
Second, you make a chart that zooms in on the data:

Third, you remove any perspective or context.  In this case you don’t tell how much ice there is in Greenland or what that rate of loss means or if it is unusual or how long it would take to all melt at that rate.

Finally, you throw in scary sounding quotes and meaningless statements:

“Humans have already set in motion 69 feet of sea level rise”

And you make scary youtube videos called “Can Greenland be saved?”: http://youtu.be/2r8cHXP8P4A

Scary huh!

So, let me show what happens when, instead of trying to mis-inform and scare, you are trying to educate and communicate.

First, you take the same data, and establish that Greenland is melting at about 130 km2 each year (50 square miles).  You can even show the same first chart.

Second, you communicate how much ice coverage there is in Greenland, about 734,000 square miles of ice.  Also, you communicate that most of the ice sheet is over a mile thick.

Now you can make another chart showing the affect of that melting on the total ice sheet.  At this rate it would take 14,680 years to melt.  At this rate, over the next hundred years, the Greenland ice sheet would drop to 729,000 square miles and total sea level rise would be 2 inches.

Not quite as scary huh?
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