Thursday, September 21, 2017

My Slate Article on Measuring Hurricanes

I have an article in Slate tonight:

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Lessons on Scientific Prefixes


1072 = yotta yotta yotta

This Year's Accumulated Cyclone Energy is Far Above "Normal"

Here's an interesting graph of this year's ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) for the North Atlantic, compared to the 1981-2010 average:


Another hockey stick! 😉

Thursday, September 07, 2017

The IPCC on Hurricanes: What It Says

Perhaps just a short note about what the science actually says about hurricanes, as oppose to what many people are assuming it says:


In Oregon

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

It Seems Like Half of Oregon is On Fire

It seems like half of Oregon is on fire right now. From the Oregonian:


Here it's smoky -- you can see it clearly and smell it too. The most prominent fire, the Eagle Creek Fire, is in the (incredibly beautiful) Columbia River Gorge, east of Portland. The only highway through there, I-84, is closed and they've ordered some evacuations near the Bridge of the Gods. About 10,000 acres are on fire, and it's jumped the river into Washington. The fire is 0% contained, as they say. There are lots of trails and waterfalls on both sides, especially the Oregon side -- someone called it "Portland's playground." And it's now all being burned. And it was probably started by a teenager playing with fireworks.

Plus there's ash falling in Portland. Here's a picture of my sister's car early this morning:


Not any in Salem at the moment. There are health advisories all over the place, and Portland schools are letting out early. It's not helping that we're having another heat wave -- highs of 98°F in Salem both last Saturday and Sunday. Normal high for those days is 80°F.

August in Salem was 5.4°F (3.0°C) above the 1981-2010 average.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Richard Muller on Moving From AGW Skeptic to Believer

From an Q&A with Richard Muller in Physics Today (2/10/17; paywalled):
PT: When talking about global warming, you’ve described yourself as a “converted skeptic.” What persuaded you to move from skeptic to believer? Does your experience suggest strategies for talking to current climate skeptics?
MULLER: I was a skeptic because there were five major issues that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was not adequately addressing. My daughter Elizabeth and I formed the nonprofit Berkeley Earth to examine those, and remarkably, we were able to address all five issues. We enlisted some great team members who were experts at objective analysis of big data, including [Nobel-winning astrophysicist] Saul Perlmutter and [the late Berkeley physicist] Art Rosenfeld.

All of the issues legitimately raised by skeptics were potential biases: data selection, temperature-station siting, data adjustment, and heat island. The fifth was potential bias from the large number of adjusted parameters that were used in the global climate models, and from the instability of those enormous simulations. We came up with a solid analysis of each of the biases and were able to conclude, using our independent work, that global warming was real and caused by humans. We can go farther than the IPCC by attributing 90% of the warming of the past 260 years to humans. We’ve kept our work open and transparent.

I get along very well with skeptics, largely because I respect them. Most of their complaints against climate change are legitimate. Most headlines and most comments made by politicians―and by many scientists!―on this subject are either exaggerated, misleading, or false; that’s why there are so many skeptics. I’ve talked privately to very prominent scientists who admitted to me that they exaggerate on purpose to garner public concern and action. But I think such exaggerations are counterproductive; they lead to a mistrust in science.
All well and good. Separately, I still remember when Muller wrongfully scorned the Michael Mann and the hockey stick, and as far as I know he never corrected himself on that, or apologized. He should.

There's more about this in Wikipedia.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Trump Picked a Climate Change Denier to Head NASA

On Friday Trump indicated he will nominate Representative James Bridenstine, a Republican from Oklahoma, to be the next administrator of NASA.

But Bridenstine is a climate change denier, pure and simple:

 

There's some opposition, but only because he's a "politician" and not a space person, not because his views on climate science are completely whacked.

Added 7:24 pm - Amazingly, the New York Times did not mention Bridenstein's climate denial.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

How Fast Is the Probability of Extreme Temperatures Increasing?

So awhile back I hypothesized that the probability of extreme temperatures increases exponentially when global temperatures increase linearly.

Recently the NY Times posted some data that I think lends some qualitative support to this contention. It's in a graphical form, not numerical, so I can't really analyze it statistically -- only by eyeball. They're the changing probability distributions of summer temperatures in the northern hemisphere:






I don't know -- is the forward tail increasing outward (leftward) faster than the leftward movement of the the distribution peaks? It kind of looks like it, to me....

Monday, August 28, 2017

How Climate Change is Making the Houston Situation Worse

One way climate change is certainly making the Houston flooding is because because sea level is rising. That increases the height of storm surges and brings more water inland.

NY Times:

"Exacerbating the situation, said Hal Needham, a storm surge expert and founder of the private firm Marine Weather & Climate in Galveston, Tex., was that the storm surge elevated Galveston Bay, blocking drainage of the rain that pummeled coastal and inland areas."

Galveston, which is a barrier island, has seen 0.75 meters of sea level rise since 1900. Much of that is due to the island’s subsidence, but sea level rise is making this worse than where the land isn’t sinking. And, with small-slope beaches and relatively flat land, the inland extension of the water is increasing too.

inland extension ~ sea level rise/sin(coastal slope)

And the storm surge of a hurricane is much more dangerous than the winds.

According to a 2013 article in the Houston Chronicle
A 2007 study underwritten by the city of Galveston that anticipated rising sea levels would cover the coastal highway on the west of the island within 60 years appears to have been overly optimistic.

The $50,000 geological hazard report was prepared for the city by geologists from the University of Texas, Rice University and Texas A&M University but then shelved. The report based its calculation on historic sea level rise and failed to include climate change. Sea levels are rising much faster than previous estimates that accounted for climate change, according to reports released in December by U.S. government scientists and in November by the World Bank.
So right there is an example of how political influence in a climate report (which is why I assume the Texas university's report left out climate change) is dangerous.

A 2016 article from the Houston Chronicle about the land subsistence shows that it is large all over the region.
Parts of Harris County have dropped between 10 and 12 feet since the 1920s, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

State and local officials have made various efforts over the past 40 years to stabilize the ground, but some areas continue to sink - by as much as 2 inches per year.
And why is this happening? Humans. People are drawing too much groundwater out of the aquifers, and the land above is sinking.
There is little mystery to why this is happening: The developing region draws an excessive amount of groundwater to keep itself quenched. Over the last century, aquifers here have lost between 300 and 400 feet, leaving the land to collapse.

The science behind this phenomenon is called subsidence.

Houston sits in one of the nation's largest subsidence bowls, so-called because of the crater effect that happens when the ground caves.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Sun's Changing Obscuration During the Eclipse

Sorry, but there's one more eclipse-related topic I need to get out of my system.

As we were watching last Monday's eclipse, from the moment the Moon's disk was first noticeable over the Sun, we were trying to figure out how fast the Sun's light was diminishing. First it starts at 0 (0%), of course, and at totality it's 1 (100%).

But how fast does it proceed between the beginning and totality? It's a calculation of how much one disk (the Moon) obscures the other (the Sun).

I had actually tried to calculate this before the eclipse, and while it's just geometry it's a bit tricky, especially for someone who rarely calculates anything anymore. My brother-in-law is a laser physicist, and he said he once had to calculate this once regarding two laser spots (or some such), and only found it after a few hours of work.

Eventually I started hunting around the Web, and found this nice derivation from ​Adrian Jannetta, a math instructor in England. He also built this interactive calculator (at the page's top) to calculate the Sun's obscuration for different radii of the Sun and Moon.

Eclipse astronomers classify how far along the eclipse is by the magnitude M, which is how much of the Sun's diameter is covered up, at any given time, by the Moon. Also, the algebra simplifies considerably if you take the Sun and Moon to have the same radii -- remember, this is the radii as seen in the sky, not in actuality, and the very reason a solar eclipse happens is because the angular diameter of the two is very nearly equal.

(Actually for Monday's eclipse I read the Moon, at totality, obscured 103% of the Sun's area, so its angular radii was just a bit bigger than the Sun's, but I'm going to ignore that here.)

So setting the Sun and Moon radii equal in Janetta's equations gives

where

where again, M is the magnitude, and α is just an intermediate parameter to make the math look simple.

M is going to be proportional to time, assuming the Moon glides uniformly across the Sun's disk. (Probably not exactly true, but close enough for this example. At our location it took 1 hr 11 m 55 s from beginning to totality.)

Then I get the following for the obscuration as a function of magnitude:


The eclipse banana
This is a lot more boring than I was hoping for. The obscuration starts out relatively slowly. At M=0.5 it's only 39%, and then it proceeds almost linearly to totality. The it reverses as the Moon starts past the Sun.

I guess I thought there might have been a quickening, nonlinear obscuration closer to totality -- when the "banana" shows up, then continually shrinks. But we were all too excited to really judge it objectively.

Anyway, I spent some spare hours working on this because I couldn't get it out of my head. Now's it's gone.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Final Thoughts on Today's Eclipse

I've seen three things in my life that didn't look real -- the Grand Canyon, Crater Lake, Oregon, and today's total solar eclipse from Salem, Oregon.

Of the three, the eclipse is the least describable. Words don't exist. It was as if the entire world suddenly turned into a giant dream, where all rules were suddenly turned off and you instantly realized you were someplace you'd never been before. I can't exactly remember what I expected to see -- except, in my mental image, I stupidly pictured myself in this park looking to the west. (I know the sun rises in the east, but my pre-image had it backwards, because the eclipse started at the coast and went west-to-east, and perhaps also because the sky from the park I knew we would be in is much larger to the west.)

Still this was nothing like I could have expected. By that I mean, I don't think I'm capable -- or anyone is capable -- of imagining this in any way like it actually happened. It's a relatively simple astronomical event to grasp, but the actuality of it is not.

About 20 minutes before totality we started to notice the day was getting darker. Subtly at first. Not so much the sky as the grass and trees around the park -- they were tinged in a more muted shade of green. The last few minutes before totality were very exciting -- in fact the entire hour and 6 minutes was exciting -- but then suddenly darkness seemed to come out of nowhere.

It didn't get completely dark, but more like a night with a full moon. The rest of the sky turned to dusk on the horizon (see below for a few pictures). For the two minutes of totality here, I wasn't aware of anything else going on in the world, of anything else even existing in the world -- it was a deep immersive experience that took me over at my core. And then, at the end of the quick two minutes, the diamond ring appeared -- and the entire park of maybe 300 people erupted in even louder cheers and whooping. The ring only lasted 2-3 seconds, but it was the most amazing sight of all.

I now understand why you have to be in the path of totality to experience this fully. Even the last 30 seconds of pre-totalilty, when obscuration was 98-99%, was nothing like totality -- the sun is just too bright even at one or two percent. At totality everything suddenly changes. The world collapses. I can understand why the ancients might have thought the world was ending. The sun's corona was very clear, and seemed to extend several solar diameters -- three or four? -- but still it was too much for my unfiltered iPad camera (see below).

Ten minutes after totality we were already Googling to see where the 2024 U.S. eclipse will happen -- it's a swath from Texas up through the Ohio valley to Cleveland and Buffalo. Today's event was so absolutely amazing that I am
definitely going try and travel to the path of totality to see that eclipse.

Today here couldn't have been more perfect. It was a completely clear, blue sky -- not a cloud to be seen. It was at a nice time of the day, a refreshing morning still hanging in the air. It was in August, when the Williamette Valley usually sees very clear skies. And it was Monday, easy to take off, and you still have the week ahead of you. I got lucky.

Below are some pictures I took today. The pictures during totality aren't good -- I was using my unfiltered iPad. Also, as I only realized later, I had it set to Video and not Photo, so every click was a 1/2-second video. (Here I've included screen shots of those clips.) I now wish I had not attempted to take any pictures at all -- especially without a filter -- and instead just looked at the eclipse and felt it even more; as it was I forgot to look for stars coming out, or planets (my sister said she clearly saw Venus), or pay attention to the temperature and the winds. I was barely aware of myself. My sister wept during totality; I got goosebumps. It seemed like a dream, and it still feels like it was a dream. I can't convey what I felt. I can't even convey it to someone who also saw totality, it was that unique.


The best my unfiltered camera could do at totality.

Looking west during totality

Totality, looking east

#eclipse2017

This was the best I could do with my unfiltered iPad. Totality was almost dreamlike.... The whole park cheered at the diamond ring.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Solar Eclipse As Seen From the Moon

A painting of a solar eclipse as seen from the moon, from space illustrator Pat Rawlings, was published at TheAtlantic.com. Rawlings painted this almost 30 years ago; from his tweet:  “I actually thought 28 years in the future tourists might watch the eclipse from the Moon. Sigh.”


A Nonvertical Ice Spike

From the mysterious confines of my refrigerator's freezer:



Friday, August 18, 2017

Getting Ready for the Eclipse

The eclipse is only two and a half days away, and the weather forecast for Salem, Oregon is looking good for Monday.

My biggest stressor is that my sister and her family are coming down Sunday morning -- they're saying traffic is going to be a serious mess -- and they'll tent in my back yard. (I only have one bed. But at least I arranged to turn off the 5:15 am water sprinklers.) It's stressful because, let's just say, her and I have different standards of housekeeping. So I'm trying to clean up things I should have cleaned up months ago. This is actually what worries me the most about this grand celestial spectacle.

We're going to watch the eclipse from a park just across the street. Here, the Moon starts to obscure the Sun at 9:05:25 am PDT, and totality begins at 10:17:21 am PDT. Totality here lasts for 1 minute, 54 seconds.

I haven't detected any increased traffic here yet, despite some claims I've read around the Internet that grocery store checkout lines are out the door. They are not. But people are already arriving out in the sticks of central Oregon. Those poor small towns just aren't prepared for an influx of visitors -- an Oregon tourist administrator told me that they're expecting one million people to travel into the path of totality, a 25% increase in the population of the state. Salem is allowing people to sleep in its parks, no permit required. My sister is hoping to beat traffic by coming down Sunday morning, when hopefully the traffic won't be too bad, and they'll try to get home Monday evening. I hope we don't have an argument about housekeeping.

I wrote a couple of blog posts for Physics World magazine: "America counts down to the big eclipse," and "The American eclipse: wonder, science and festivities." There are a lot of eclipse-related activities going on here and in Corvallis (and elsewhere across the U.S.), but I'm wary of traffic. Truth is, I'll be happy if there are no serious discussions about the housekeeping. (Hey, she has a maid who comes in weekly to clean!)

I'm not planning on taking any pictures. I may shoot a couple with my iPhone at totality, without any filter, but there will be pictures galore. I'm more interesting in how the eclipse will feel, how the temperature will drop, winds pick up, and the general strangeness and grandeur of it all.

I've been looking forward to this since I first learned of it six years ago. I have this picture in my head, surely not realistic, that it's going to be a massive bacchanalia, something like the 5-year end-of-the-world party in Ian Banks' The Hydrogen Sonata.

If only.

Now, back to the cleaning. Yikes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Some Things I Noticed Today

GISS's global temperature anomaly for July was the warmest July in their record, albeit only by 0.01°C, so technically it's a statistical tie. (But global warming is only preceding at about 0.02°C/yr, by itself a statistically insignificant. Short-term comparisons are really just numerology.) Also, they've changed their ocean surface data from ERSST v4 to the newer ERSST v5.

Still, it's rather surprising July was so warm. The El Nino has been over for a year now, and the most recent season, 2016-2017 that just ended with May/June/July, was a weak La Nina, according to the ONI.

JFK, upon Accepting the Liberal Party Nomination for President, New York, New York, September 14, 1960: "What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label, "Liberal"? If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But, if by a "Liberal," they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes that we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say that I'm a "Liberal.""

Rich Lowry, Politico: "Trump’s sensibility is highly unusual for a politician—let alone for the leader of the free world—but very familiar from the internet or social media. As his news conference showed, his level of argument is at the level of a good Breitbart blogger, or of a Twitter egg of yore. He would absolutely kill it in the comments section of a right-wing website or trolling a journalist."



Saturday, August 12, 2017

Global Sea Ice Extent Sets a Record Low

Every year, global sea ice extent -- the simple sum of Arctic SIE and Antarctic SIE -- has two maxima.

The first, lower maximum, usually occurs sometime in July. The second, higher maximum, in November.

This year's first maximum is a record low:


and here's the plot of the annual first maximum:


Currently, Arctic SIE is 2nd lowest in the satellite record, and Antarctic SIE is 4th lowest. But they add such that global SIE is lowest, and it has been for most of 2017. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dept of Wrong Predictions -- No Tricks Zone edition

The denier blog No Tricks Zone was sure, almost seven years ago, that global cooling was coming.

They even compiled a list of 31 scientists who said so! Wow. Impressive.
"As winters get harsher and the snow piles up, more and more scientists are now warning of global cooling. Reader Matt Vooro has compiled a list (see below) of 31 prominent scientists and researchers who have words that governments ought to start heeding."
And then they added yet another scientist's voiced to the list! 32. Looked like an attempt to establish a "consensus."

--

Needless to say, no cooling of any kind has occurred since 2010 -- there's been only warming, with 2014 and 2015 clearly warmer, and 2016 the warmest year on record -- warmer even than the El Nino season of 1997-98.

Do you suppose the blog's keeper Pierre Gosselin, or the blog post's writer, Matt Vooro, admitted they were wrong, and contacted those 32 scientists to ask why their predictions were wrong? ...Don't be silly....

GISTEMP up to June 2017

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Stupidest Part of that Stupid WSJ Op-ed

On July 30th the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by David R. Henderson and John H. Cochrane, whoever they are, two economists at the conservative Hoover Institute, titled "Climate Change Isn’t the End of the World: Even if world temperatures rise, the appropriate policy response is still an open question."

So apparently now deniers are nearing the endgame: climate change is real, but we shouldn't do anything about it.

The article is paywalled, but you can find the first half or so here.

It contains a lot of shallow thinking, but this I found the most incoherent of all:
"But spread over a century, the costs of moving and adapting are not as imposing as they seem. Rotterdam’s dikes are expensive, but not prohibitively so. Most buildings are rebuilt about every 50 years. If we simply stopped building in flood-prone areas and started building on higher ground, even the costs of moving cities would be bearable. Migration is costly. But much of the world’s population moved from farms to cities in the 20th century. Allowing people to move to better climates in the 21st will be equally possible."
This is just dumb, because people aren't going to "moving" to escape climate change in, say, Florida, as it's inundated by sea level rise, they're going to be abandoning Florida.

No one will buy the house anyone abandons due to sea level rise -- home and business owners will simply lose the amount they've paid for their property and buildings, in a reverse game of musical chairs. No insurance companies will bail them out -- insurance companies are already pulling out of Florida.

  • "If sea levels rise as much as climate scientists predict by the year 2100, almost 300 U.S. cities would lose at least half their homes, and 36 U.S. cities would be completely lost.
  • "One in eight Florida homes would be under water, accounting for nearly half of the lost housing value nationwide.
  • "The median value of a home at risk of being underwater is $296,296. The value of the average U.S. home is $187,000." [Source]

If they're made whole at all, it will be by the federal government, which I expect will happen. Too many affluent people will complain to their representatives, saying it's not their fault that sea level rose, and it will be U.S. taxpayers who bail them out, who make them whole. And the same in most OECD countries.

How much will this cost? Trillions of dollars, at least, in the U.S. That will likely be paid by US taxpayers.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Now Haze, Too

It's supposed to be 107°F here again in Salem -- that was yesterday's high, a record -- and on top of that there is noticeable haze in the air, which meteorologists say is due to wildfires in British Columbia and in the mountains east of Salem. Here's a view of the haze here:



It's just a bit eerie.... Here's a satellite view of the Pacific Northwest, showing the big picture:


Meteorologists say the haze is keeping temperatures down a degree or two. There's an air quality alert for most of the state. In Portland it's even worse, with the air called "unhealthy" [news video that I can't get to embed; pictures from Portland].

I didn't mind the heat when I was younger -- I lived for 3 years in New Mexico and a year and half in Tempe, Arizona, and bicycled lots -- but as I've gotten older -- and, okay, larger -- I find it unpleasant. 80°F is about the top for me. The average high peaks at 84°F here, but in recent years there have been 100+ °F heat waves every couple of years. This is the worst I've see since I've been here. I loathe air conditioning, but am using it these last few days -- a fan just isn't enough. Even my cats are content to stay inside.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

New Ocean Heat Content Data is Out

The ocean heat content (OHC) for the 2nd quarter of 2017 has just been published, and it shows strong warming from a year ago.

Data: 0-700 m; 0-2000 m.

OHC for both regions is actually down slightly from a quarter ago, but this seems like the usual occurrence. But they're both up compared to 2Q16:

0-700 m region four-quarter change: +1.8 W/m2
0-2000 m region four-quarter change: +2.3 W/m2

where, again, I spread the heat change over the Earth's entire surface, since almost all (about 93%, plus or minus) of the trapped heat goes into the ocean.

By my calculations, the OHC of the 0-2000 m region -- basically the top half of the ocean -- is accelerating since 1Q2005 at 0.04 ± 0.02 (W/m2)/yr. That uncertainty is 2σ, and doesn't include consideration of autocorrelation.

Here are the graphs. Since OHC is the best measure of a planetary energy imbalance, it's clear the planet has kept warming.





Thursday, July 20, 2017

Eclipse traffic

Oregon Dept of Transportation says traffic could be congested in Oregon for up to a week, on I5, the major north-south route here.

Glad I live right under the path of totality. My sister and her family in Portland are coming down, a day early. Sleeping in the back yard.

http://www.oregonlive.com/eclipse/2017/07/beware_this_oregon_solar_eclip.html#incart_push

Some Pictures from the Oregon Coast

Just south of Yachats:





Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Giant Iceberg Nearly The Size Of Delaware Breaks Off Antartica

The White Whale:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/larsen-iceberg_us_59660d73e4b03f144e2f53b2

Here's the report from the MIDAS Project.

They say it will be named "A68" -- I saw on Twitter that some were suggesting it be named the #ExxonKnew -- and weighs over a trillion tonnes. That's about how much ice the planet has been losing per year for a few years now.

In the picture to the right, I'm guessing that's sea ice to the outer edge of the breakoff, which this iceberg will begin pushing through.

The Larsen C ice shelf is, suddenly, 12% smaller, and, "potentially less stable," says MIDAS. "This is the furthest back that the ice front has been in recorded history," says a MIDAS scientist. Another said, interestingly:
“We have been anticipating this event for months, and have been surprised how long it took for the rift to break through the final few kilometres of ice."
Mind, it did break off in the depth of the dark, Antarctic winter, but I'm sure he took that into account.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Larsen C, Almost Free

When last we looked, the Larsen C ice shelf was hanging on by an 8-mile sliver.

That's now down to 3 miles.

In the spirit of Layjez's calculation in the comments, that's 5 miles in about 36 days, or 1/7th of a mile per day. That's an average of only 0.2 meters per minute, compared to his (earlier) value of about 3 m/min.

So clearly this isn't linear, or easy to predict. The Antarctic is just coming out of its winter depth, which you'd think might have helped the crack to heal. But nature has other ideas.

At least this won't kill any penguins. That'd be a hell of a way to die.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Good Lord, Here We Go Again

Geostorm, 2017:

More About RSS's Large Changes to Their Temperatures.

RSS has posted a FAQ about their version 4.0 changes for the lower troposphere temperature anomaly, here.

Roy Spencer says, yabutt, their new numbers (+0.18°C/decade, up from +0.12°C/decade) are still nowhere close to the model calculation of 0.27°C/dec. I don't know where that number comes from, so I asked him. Will let you know.

Frankly, I'm starting to wonder if either of these satellite datasets can be useful. Roy writes:
In general, it is difficult for us to follow the chain of diurnal corrections in the new RSS paper. Using a climate model to make the diurnal drift adjustments, but then adjusting those adjustments with empirical satellite data feels somewhat convoluted to us.
This doesn't sound good. If the one set of supposed experts can't follow what the other set of supposed experts are doing, then who are we to possibly judge?

Maybe it's time to just forget about the satellite measurements of the atmosphere and focus on surface, where measurements are much easier. That's where we all live, anyway.

Anyway, here are the data for RSS v4.0's 12-month moving average:


Pretty obvious warming.

Also, whereas RSS LT v3.3 shows 2016 to be the warmest year by, like UAH, 0.02 C, the new version v4.0 shows it to be the warmest year by 0.16 C. Huge and indisputable.

These differences will probably remain for some time -- I doubt UAH will do another entirely new version before Christy and/or Spencer retires, after which the UAH dataset will probably, unfortunately, fade into insignificance. It's now clearly the outlier when compared to RSS and the several surface datasets.

The (Comparative) Size of the Moon


Wednesday, July 05, 2017

New Atmospheric Temperatures from RSS -- They're Higher

As you may have heard, the team from Remote Satellite Systems (RSS), which like UAH has a model that attempts to calculate atmospheric temperatures, has a new version for the lower troposphere, version 4.0, upgraded from version 3.3. 

Here's their paper describing the changes.

You can read more about all this from Nick Stokes, here and here.

Personally I'm not interested in getting too far into the details, except to note that the changes are pretty big, especially after 2000:


RSS v4.0's trend for the lower troposphere is now +0.18 C/decade, compared to UAH v6.0's trend of +0.12 C/decade. That adds up over almost four decades, and again puts UAH at the outlier (when compared to GISS, NOAA, HadCRUT4, JMO and Cowtan & Way measuring surface temperatures).

"A Man Who Knows Everything"

Gerald 't Hooft:
"Following his family's footsteps, he showed interest in science at an early age. When his primary school teacher asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, he boldly declared, "a man who knows everything."
Some background: 't Hooft is a Dutch theoretical physicist. In graduate school at the University of Leiden, he worked under the also-now-famous Martinus Veltman to study a interesting theory that was emerging at the time, called the Yang-Mills theory of the strong interaction.

His last name is pronounced something close to"tooft."

(I sat in a talk Veltman once gave at Stony Brook, when I was a graduate student. I don't remember much of it, but the room was small and crowded and I remember he had a big kind-of jolly authoritative air about him. And that everyone very much respected him. One of the most prominent professors in our department, Peter van Nieuwenhuizen, co-discovered supergravity -- basically Yang-Mills + gravity -- and was also Veltman's student. I wrote about him here for Physics World.)

The strong interaction is also called the nuclear force -- it's what keeps all the positively charged protons in the nucleus from repulsively exploding outward -- it's why the atomic nucleus can exist. Those protons are all positively charged, of course -- so how do they all stay together in the nucleus? It's because there is a force even stronger than electromagnetism -- the strong force. Yang-Mills theory is the theory of the strong force, of interacting quarks and gluons.

This quantum field theory had the same problem as did the earlier quantum electrodynamics -- a quantum field theory of electrons and photons developed by Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Tomonaga: calculations of real-world properties like how an electron careens off another electron gave results that were infinite.

Here's what separates physicists from mathematicians -- in the face of calculations that gave infinities and so were clearly(?) wrong when compared to the real world, the physicists plowed ahead anyway, looking more deeply into their equations and finding other infinities that cancelled out the first infinities. In essence they claimed

∞ - ∞ = some actual finite number that actually
agrees with experiments, like
maybe 1 over 137.036 times pi.

Talk about chutzpah! This looks absurd, but it works. Quantum electrodynamics was said to be "renormalizable." Freeman Dyson was the first to show this, when still a very young man. (He also showed that Feynman, Schwinger and Tomonaga's separate theories were equivalent [PDF].)

To my knowledge, quantum electrodynamics has never yet been proven, in a mathematically rigorous way, to give finite results like this. But some mathematicians are still trying. But the physicists didn't care (so much) for rigor, but for results.

And since then, physics students have been taught to "just shut up and calculate."

Anyway, 't Hooft, also as a very young man, showed that Yang Mills theories were also renormalizable -- infinities could be subtracted from infinities to give finite answers that also agreed with experiments.

't Hooft's calculations were more difficult than was Dyson's -- which was already tough enough -- because unlike electrodynamics, where the photons exchanged between electrons have no electric charge, the gluons of Yang-Mills theory that carry the force between quarks DO have a charge. It's just not an electric charge, but what's called "color charge."

As you know, electrons have a negative electric charge. Their antimatter partner, positrons, have a positive electric charge. And the photon, which carries the force between electrons and electrons, or electrons and protons, or electrons and positrons, etc. has no electric charge. That keeps things (relatively!) simple.

In the theory of the strong force, the particles that make up protons and neutrons, the quarks, also have a charge. It's not an electric charge, but was whimsically (and arbitrarily) given the name "color" charge. It comes in three values, not two: red, blue, and green. It's just a number, a property of quarks -- we're just not as "used to" color charge as we are electric charge. But if you think about it, we don't know what electric charge really is either -- we just know how particles and objects with it behave and interact, and we get used to not knowing more. (And maybe that's all there is to know about electric charge, anywayt?!)

So there are quarks with a red "charge," some with a blue "charge" and a green charge. And anti-quarks of the same color charges, or anti-red, anti-blue, etc.  These charges attract and repel in various ways -- there are eight gluons that take care of all that, emitted and absorbed by the quarks.

There's more, but this is our basic mental picture of it all.

The gluons also carry color -- actually, two colors, a color and an anti-color. This makes the Yang-Mills theory much more complicated, requiring "group theory," that you've probably heard mentioned at some point. The calculations are much more involved.

What 't Hooft showed, in the early 1970s, was that the calculations of Yang-Mills theory could also be made, despite all the infinities lurking everywhere, to give finite results. It was "renormalizable." That it, it was useful. It gave results, like 4.56309, that could be compared to the real world.

One of the ways 't Hooft and Veltman did this was simple but clever: instead of assuming the world had four dimensions -- time, length, width and height -- they assumed it has a little more of a dimension. Not five dimensions, just a little over four.

In they way mathematicians have used the letter "epsilon" to denote a very very small quantity -- this goes back to basic calculus -- 't Hooft and Veltman assumed space -- really spacetime, as we've known since Einstein -- had not four dimensions, but 4+epsilon dimensions.

It's just a mathematical trick. You assume that's what spacetime looks like, do your calculations with all the infinities, add and subtract them, and then in the end set episolon equal to zero. Simple, right?

Well, this technique, called dimensional regularization -- gives Yang-Mills answers that are finite, not infinite. Amazingly. It's a ludicrous trick, but it works.

For this, 't Hooft and Veltman received the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics. I wonder if, after all that, 't Hooft thought, maybe for just a day or two, that he did indeed know everything.

There's a lot more to 't Hooft, which you can get a sense of by perusing his Web site.