A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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Coronavirus: And so it spreads, lock downs in Italy, South Korea, riot in Ukraine

Coronavirus, Covid-19, cases outside China. Graph.

Coronavirus, Covid-19, cases outside China.   Source JoDiGraphics

The short not-good news: It’s looking like early exponential growth outside China

The cases outside China have reached 1,500. South Korean cases leap to 156, 204, 340, mostly centred on one church and one hospital.  In China, prisoners were discovered to be infected and a 29 year old doctor has died. The first death in Italy is confirmed, cases jump from 4 to 17, and the health minister there has cancelled or closed schools, events and shops in ten towns. The Iranian death toll has risen to 4, and Iraq has closed flights to Iran. Improbably Canada’s ninth case turns out to be a woman who flew from Iran, raising the worrying possibility that the virus is spreading undetected. Lastly, panic is spreading too. There were attacks in Ukraine to stop a bus of evacuees from China for their 14 day quarantine. It was triggered supposed by an email hoax.

Wise people might like to stock up the pantry just in case. As the people in some Italian towns just found out, there may not be a lot of warning.

The extraordinary rise in South Korea:

Four days ago South Korea had 30 cases. Now, 346. Where the percentage progressing to “severe” was nought, now it’s hard to calculate. How many infections did the country really have eight days ago? Officially, South Korea had 28, and of those, supposedly now 17 have recovered, 9 have progressed to severe and of those, 2 have died. It’s shifted from being the good news outlier to the place to watch.

In South Korea many cases revolve around the Shincheonji Church which is considered to be cultlike. According to the NY Times people sit on the floor packed together, with no glasses or facemasks, they come when they are sick and are taught “not to be afraid of illness”. So the sudden freaky rise may not reflect bad luck but a kind of amplified “superspreader on steroids” visits a “virus farm in waiting”. Unfortunately the authorities can’t find about 700 of the 1,000 worshippers who were there to check them. If only patient #31 in South Korea had not turned up there with mild symptoms.

Raw twitter tales of a country in seige

On the twitter feed of  #Coronavirus (if you dare) it’s tough. There are one or two images of people jumping out of windows in China, some mass killing of farm animals, plus even footage of pet cats and dogs being killed (it’s not clear they can catch this virus, as most viruses are species specific).  It’s a warzone, and checkpoints are run with disturbing military efficiency. There are many shots of people are being forcibly dragged away by the Hazmat police. It’s a poignant kind of thing. Some of these people may not see loved ones again and if they don’t have coronavirus there would be much to fear from being incarcerated with those who do. One (see below) shows people being led in a roped long line. Another shows masses of people allegedly waiting to get their money from a bank in China. Is this the first bank run? (UPDATE Probably not — comments under it suggest it is not a bank). In others, people appear to be collapsing on trains, or sometimes in the street. It’s all unverified, and hard to know whether it’s one freak event or even a fake, but it’s a strange land. If people are going door to door to kill pets in China, it may be just a sign of a desperate (and possibly pointless) panicked reaction by some local authority? (It didn’t appear to be for food, but then, there are tweets talking about starvation.)

How many progress to “Severe”? Still 0 – 11%

Trying to track nations (or cruise ships) with an 8 day lag from diagnosis to the “severe” state has become even harder with the numbers changing so fast that estimates change by the hour.

The most meaningful early guesstimates of how many cases will need medical attention are still ranging from 0 to 11%. Hong Kong 11%; Thailand 6% Singapore 9%; Taiwan 6%. But no cases have progressed to severe in Australia, USA, Malaysia, Germany, Canada and the UK (which together had 92 cases on Feb 14th). It’s not all bad news.

The numbers matter because it not only tells us how many people might get quite sick, it also gives us some idea of how many hospital beds we might need, especially of the Intensive Care kind. Severe cases need some assistance, or supplemental oxygen and estimates are around 1 in 6 severe cases will need the ICU.

Transmission: Aerosol or not?

Chinese officials say it is spread via aerosol but the US CDC still says “droplet”. Aerosol borne viruses carry on air currents, and are much harder to contain. It would explain why the Diamond Princess disease control of standing 6 ft apart on deck was futile, as was confining people to cabins possibly with shared air conditioning. Though one US medico warns that it looks just like influenza spread – airborne.  For a month twitter has shown Chinese medical experts behaving as though it was an aerosol.

…one US infectious disease expert cautions that, overall, the epidemiologic data continue to point to airborne transmission being the driver of the COVID-19 outbreak. “It’s almost a rewrite of the influenza playbook,” said Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

The US CDC now lists five countries as having likely “community based spread”.

  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam

Given how little is known, stopping flights to these nations would seem wise, even just for a week or two.

On the plus side, if we believe communist statistics of no fixed definition, then the worst province in China is plateauing, “peaking” and the quarantine is having some effect. Ponder how draconian and difficult it is and how long they may need to maintain it for. If they have managed to stop millions from being infected in Wuhan and surrounds, they still have a vulnerable population, and even if they could theoretically extinguish the virus in those regions — there will be the continuous threat of reinfection from other provinces and other nations. What then, a new local lock down each time one breaks out? Having given the virus to Africa, it will be difficult not to get it back in return…

Many books are going to be written about what is happening in China at the moment

We feel for the people of Wuhan.


There looks like the first run on a bank in China:

The Optimistic Mantra (repeated):  Covid 19 will almost certainly be less severe outside China due to cleaner air, healthier lungs, better diets, lower population density, possibly genes (ACE2 receptor), cultural habits, more sun, better nutrition, lower rates of smoking, and better medical systems.  We also got a head-start. Estimates in China suggest 82% of people have only a mild infection, and we can still hope that the rate of mild infections turns out to be a lot higher in the West, or that some anti-virals in the multiple trials turn out to be useful and can be mass produced.

Keep reading  →

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Royal Commission on Fires based on Myth of Hotter-Drier Summer

More lies by omission from the Bureau of Misinformation

When a PM gets it totally wrong, where is the BOM…

“What this royal commission is looking at are the practical things that must be done to keep Australians safer and safe in longer, hotter, drier summers.” — Scott Morrison. – ABC

The BoM, like Prof Andy Pitman of UNSW, and all other climate scientists know that “climate change” will make the world a hotter wetter place. Who are the evaporation deniers among us? Yet, apart from one momentary candid admission from Professor Andy Pitman, which of our paid public servants will correct the PM when he says things that are flagrantly, 100% wrong? Will a Royal Commission really be forced to accept a complete myth?

Looks like extra CO2 “causes” Summer rainfall in Australia to increase

Apparently, we should burn fossil fuels to stop fires. You know it makes sense…

Southern Australia rainfall, trends, Bureau of Meteorology,

Australian rainfall trends, Bureau of Meteorology,

But wait,  what about Southern Australia?

To cover every last caveat, it’s possible that “climate change” could change where rain falls, or when rain falls — so lets look at the BoM’s own rainfall records.

CO2 apparently makes summers wetter across Southern Australia too

Australian rainfall, Bureau of Meteorology, South East Australia, long term trend, graph.

Australian rainfall, Bureau of Meteorology, Southern Australian rainfall totals, long term trend.  Source

It’s also possible that the rainfall could increase but fall in a more variable pattern which increases floods and droughts, but in 178 years of data, that isn’t happening either.

How about the South East corner of Australia


Summer rainfall, Australia, South Eastern region, trend, graph.

Summer rainfall, Australia, South Eastern region, trend, graph. Source: BOM

What about individual towns? Don’t believe your lying eyes: See a century of rain in Dalgety, Cobargo, Ensay, and 160 years of nothing in Melbourne and Sydney.

As Prime Minister, there is no excuse, it is Scott Morrison’s fault that he’s wrong and he needs to fix it

It’s Morrison’s job to make sure he asks hard questions, trusts the right people, and gets good advice. A leader cannot say “I just accepted what the experts said”, or “I assumed they would correct me”.

This is high school type science. It is “just basic chemistry” that the world will become a hotter-wetter place. Sadly, the BOM, CSIRO, ABC, and most of lower and higher Education have been eroding public scientific knowledge for 3 decades — undoing anything useful that people learnt in high school science lessons.

Time for skeptics to write to the PM and all the rest: Let the “hotter wetter summer” campaign begin.

On another note: When will the Press Council investigate the ABC for publishing repeated misinformation that serves to promote Labor Party policy, increasing the odds of Australians voting for the type of governments that increase ABC salaries. Is it incompetence, or self serving culpable negligence?

Some things matter.

Top posts on fires, rain and droughts

The Hotter-Drier “Climate change” myth — the rain in Australia has always been erratic, no CO2 trend

Blockbuster: 178 years of Australian rain has nothing to do with CO2, worst extremes 1849, 1925, 1950

Climate change and bushfires — More rain, the same droughts, no trend, no science

Prof Andy Pitman admits droughts are not worse and not linked to climate change

Figure this: Andy Pitman says “we don’t understand what causes droughts” but “the indirect link is clear”!

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Global confusion: Turns out global warming doesn’t cause wandering Jet Stream “extreme weather”

It’s a flip on a flop. After all the media headlines, a new paper suggests that some climate scientists are not just wrong, they got cause and effect mixed up, and that the wandering “blocking” jet streams are not caused by warmer arctic, but may be causing the temperature changes instead.

“”The well-publicised idea that Arctic warming is leading to a wavier jet stream just does not hold up to scrutiny,” says Screen.

“With the benefit of ten more years of data and model experiments, we find no evidence of long-term changes in waviness despite on-going Arctic warming.”"

The truth is that most big models loosely predicted that global warming would make the jet streams less wiggly, but from the mid 1980s the jet-stream-trend was the other way. As the Arctic warmed the “waviness of jet streams increased”. So in 2012 a few modelers came up with a post hoc rationalization of why, really, truly, actually a warmer Arctic meant that the jets streams would wander more. The media enthusiastically repeated it, though it was contentious and disagreed with most models. But oh dear, by golly, by 2015 the trend started to reverse again. Now in 2020, Blackport and Screen are resolving the latest inconsistency by discovering the data going back 40 years and the longer trends. They explain (quite sensibly) that temperature changes in the Arctic have no significant effect on the jet streams, though the opposite might be true.

Welcome to the world of climate modeling where long monotonic trends can be explained in a jiffy, but no one can predict a turning point in advance.

When will the newspapers retract all the false headlines?

Polar Jet Streams

A wandering polar jet stream can drag cold air south, and warm air north. | NASA/TRENT L SCHINDLER

“Global Warming is responsible for Freezing”

This paper heavily criticizes a central media theme in the man made global warming theory. At the core of this was the principle that the poles would warm the fastest, this would reduce the temperature gradient between the poles and the equator, and that would mean the winds would slow too, and the jet streams would be “wavier” (meaning wandering north and south). They would bring hot air away from the equator, and dump cold arctic blasts in the most odd distant places. This Francis and Vavrus hypothesis was only devised in 2012 (discussed more here). This theory though, has been used by the science-media industrial complex to tell us that  cold snaps, snow storms and warm weekends were caused by polar vortexes, which were thus driven by our evil coal plants and our horrible light globes.  If only we drove more Teslas we’d get less blizzards, right?

Media Headlines -- Climate Change causes Polar Jets which  cause cold snaps

 Media headlines in The Independent, The Guardian, Forbes, Financial Times.


 National Geographic may want to interview someone other than Michael Mann next time (see the image below). There is so much wrong with this, starting with the Earth only having two poles and one of them isn’t warming. (Antarctica has generally been cooling since Roman Times. The small part that has warmed sits on 91 volcanoes and the Southern Oceans haven’t warmed either.).

Michael Mann on Polar Jets

Michael Mann said so…  National Geographic

Who knew — the theory was always contentious?

It appears that ever since this theory was published there were plenty of scientists who weren’t sold on it (and these are the same climate modelers that the newspapers usually love to quote — read the introduction of this 2014 paper by Hassanzadh et al.). Indeed it appears many climate scientists really didn’t think that Arctic Warming would create more “blocking” events. Where were they when the journalists were blaming coal stations for storms and blizzards?

The post hoc stop-gap theory:

 It has been proposed that the faster warming of the Arctic compared to the rest of world—so-called Arctic amplification—is altering the atmospheric circulation and contributing to an increase in extreme weather in the midlatitudes (6). One hypothesis proposed by Francis and Vavrus suggests that the reduced equator-to-pole temperature gradient weakens the predominant westerly wind, which, in turn, causes larger-amplitude waves in the midlatitude circulation (78), hereafter referred to as a “wavier” circulation. A wavier circulation has been linked to increased occurrence of extreme midlatitude weather, with the types of extremes favored by amplified waves varying by location (9)

The new paper looks at the way that the Arctic kept warming in autumn and winter but the jet stream waviness didn’t. The increase in waviness suddenly, and for no reason the models could say, reversed in the last few years.  Blackport and Screen do the most surprising thing and draw the obvious conclusion: the models are wrong.


As usual, the paper solves model failures and discrepancies that the public didn’t know existed. Where was that press release?

Our results help to resolve the apparent discrepancy between the observed increased in waviness and the small decrease projected by modeling studies.

So the models predicted waviness would go down, but it went up. Then someone came up with a way to explain that, but now the waviness stopped going up. So we’re resolving nothing much by dropping that dud theory except that climate modelers do not understand what drives jet stream trends.

The increase was only detected in 2012. (Ref 7):

In the years since the observed increase was first detected (7), Arctic amplification has continued; however, the increase in waviness has not. Over the past 40 years, seasonal trends in waviness across all regions and using multiple metrics are close to zero, in agreement with multidecadal trends simulated by models. This strongly suggests that the previously reported increases in waviness were a manifestation of internal variability.

Note “internal variability” is code for “some factor we don’t know” which in this case could be The Sun. None of the models include little old factors like solar magnetic changes, solar particle flows, or massive solar spectral changes. The Sun swings through high UV years to low ones but the models won’t find out if that matters because they are not even looking.

Keep reading  →

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Jan 2020: Coldest ever day in Greenland -65C comes, goes, no one notices

The coldest ever day recorded in Greenland stands at -63.3 C  (minus 81 F).  But on January 2nd in 2020, after Greenland suffered a century of global warming, the thermometer at Summit Camp sunk to at least -64.9C. I say, at least, because it may have been even colder. Sharp eyes of Cap Allon at Electroverse saw it hit minus 66C. Ryan Maue also saw it and predicted there would be cold as the Arctic Oscillation broke down.

Greenland lowest temp record cold 2020

4:13 AM · Jan 4, 2020

I sought confirmation at the time (among the Bushfire days in Australia). I looked for any official tweet even, but couldn’t find any. How’s that work — a new all time record for a whole continent for any month of the year, and no one who was paid to care about these things even writes a paragraph?

Good for Paul Homewood, who wrote to the DMI (Danish Met Institute) and has now confirmed that the NOAA GeoSummit  records showed it got down to -64.9 C, an all time record.

John Cappelen:  I have now had the opportunity to go through the American observations from NOAA GeoSummit from January 2, 2020 . I have at NOAA’s wab-site found January 2020 ftp data up to January 15, 2020.

January 2, 2020 was a cold day at SUMMIT and 23:13 utc the temperature had a minimum -64,9C…the same temperature was registered 23:15 and also 23:16 utc….data looks all right…


Greenland record low temperature 2020

That’s nearly three degrees cooler than the record for January at Summit Camp:

Greenland record low temperature 2020

Paul Homewood writes that it’s a record one way or the other:

Although the DMI equipment has now been closed, it was at the same location as the Geo Summit, so readings should be comparable.

Quite clearly then, a new record low has been set for both Summit and Greenland. Whether it is –64.9C, as stated by John Cappelen, or the graphic reading from Electroverse remains a mystery.

Nevertheless, we await the new record to be officially declared by NOAA, and reported in the world’s press!

Compare this to the rush to declare the highest ever June temperature in Greenland last year which was announced in the newspapers but turned out to be wrong and was quietly corrected a week later. From Anthony Watts at WUWT August 2019 “Shoot out the headlines first, ask questions later.”

Danish climate body wrongly reported Greenland heat record

The Danish Meteorological Institute, which has a key role in monitoring Greenland’s climate, last week reported a shocking August temperature of between 2.7C and 4.7C at the Summit weather station, which is located 3,202m above sea level at the the centre of the Greenland ice sheet, generating a spate of global headlines.

But on Wednesday it posted a tweet saying that a closer look had shown that monitoring equipment had been giving erroneous results.

“Was there record-level warmth on the inland ice on Friday?” it said. “No! A quality check has confirmed out suspicion that the measurement was too high.”

Thanks to Ryan Maue for the satellite images as the polar vortex “anchored to Greenland”

Coldest Day in Greenland ever recorded, Jet streams, Arctic Oscillation.

Coldest Day in Greenland ever recorded, Jet streams, Arctic Oscillation.

It’s those dang meridonal jet streams — as predicted here by Stephen Wilde five years ago and postulated via solar driven UV changes or charged particle shifts.

Can’t blame the coal plants, so it’s like it never happened. Don’t call the media “sensationalist”, call them “activists”.

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Thursday Open Thread

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Coronavirus demographics — very much a risk for older people and the strange split in severe case rates 0 – 15%

The good news — babies and children appear to be not at risk. The not-so-great news, people over 80 in China have up to a 15% fatality rate (usual caveats, based on unreliable communist statistics and will hopefully be lower for many reasons, see below.) Note that even with the “one child” policy effects in China, that most western nations have a higher proportion of older folk — especially  France, Germany and Greece.

The news on “rates of severe cases” is mixed. Singapore, Japan and HK are looking at 15% early rates. But many other nations are looking at 0%. Hmm?

Coronavirus mortality, demographics, graph.

A/ Fatality rate per age group. b/ Demographic age groups in different nations.  C/ Relative mortality compared to China (apparently due only to the age demographic).    |  Click to enlarge.  Age and Sex of COVID-19 Deaths  REF China CCDC

*Fatality rates calculated by the China CCDC won’t include many unrecorded asymptomatic infections, nor the deaths outside hospitals and don’t appear to include the lag either.  But they show which groups are at most risk.

Worldometer now gives us rates according to sex and preexisting conditions. (Reproduced below). Basically there are 30% higher death rates in men, and death rates are 6 – 10 times higher in people with heart, lung or diabetic type conditions. That is partly due to the conditions themselves, but may also just be due to the ACE2 gene — which the virus binds too. Since variants of the the ACE 2 gene increase the risk of both heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, it may be that those with a genetic predisposition to those conditions are also predisposed to either the infection or to the more damaging effects from the virus. Given that young people with those same genes are able to cope and recover though, it’s not all “genes”.  Managing those conditions may help reduce the risk. For some reason, younger people don’t seem to progress to the cytokine cascade — the inflammatory response that gets out of hand.

The all important rates of progression to severe cases is spread from zero to 15%

Adjusted for the eight day delay in progression to severe symptoms, the number that keeps coming back is  strangely split at close to zero, or an unappealing 14% — Singapore has 4 severe cases out of the 28 it had on Feb 11th. (14%) Hong Kong had 49 cases on Feb 11th, and 7 have progressed to severe or critical. 14%. In Japan there were about 28 cases a week ago, and 4 of those are severe. (14%).  The Diamond Princess cases: 15%  severe (see below).

But in many places the news is good. South Korea is interesting, with 46 cases and still none classed as “severe”. Fifteen of those cases are only one day old, so don’t count, but 28 of those cases are eight days or more after diagnosis. This is encouraging. As is the lack of any “severe” progression in Australia (only five active cases left) and in the US, Germany, and France (apart from one death of a Chinese man, ten of the other cases are now at least ten days old and haven’t progressed.) Taiwan, likewise, had 18 cases a week ago, and apart from one death, none of the others have progressed to severe.

Why the disparity? Statistical fluke perhaps (South Korea only needs 4 severe cases to put it in the same category as Singapore et al)? Otherwise, genes, culture, diet, weather, hospitals and medical systems? Or possibly some strains of the virus may be evolved to be nicer already.

The Diamond Princess: — it ain’t over yet:

On Feb 11th there were 135 cases. Today there are 542, with 20 being severe. So about 15% of cases progress to serious (20/135).  We don’t know the ethnic or genetic breakdown, though we can guess the rates are higher because of the demographic spread. Cruise ships probably have few people from 0 – 40 years old.

Since there were another 88 new cases today that tested positive, clearly Cruise-ship-quarantine is a bad plan. There are fears that the Diamond Princess may yet spark a global spread:

 With people aboard hailing from more than 50 countries, the end of the quarantine raises worries the vessel could become the source of a fresh wave of global infections.

Undoubtedly these 88 new cases will not be the last new cases, and though the US, Australia, Canada, South Korea and other nations are wisely insisting on a further two weeks of proper quarantine, but Japan is not, and the Netherlands didn’t either. With 76 cases already inside Japan (presumably not former passengers of the cruise) they have apparently given up containment.

One expert in Hong Kong, who ought to know what’s going on, advised that even people who test negative today could test positive in a few days. Keiji Fukuda, the director of the School of Public Health at Hong Kong University thinks more quarantine is needed. Meanwhile another expert in Japan, who ought to know too, says the opposite:

An expert on infectious diseases said Japan has focused on preventing the virus from causing more fatalities. “My view is that Japan’s effort will be evaluated later not on the level of expansion of the spread, but on the rate of mortality,” said Shigeru Omi, a former WHO official who now sits on the Japanese government’s expert panel on the coronavirus. “That’s why our focus is now on community prevention control so that we can reduce mortality rate and lower the speed of expansion,” he said. “It’s impossible to stop transmission.”

So Japan is going to hope those who test negative and have no symptoms can wander around the nation and not infect too many others. Hope that works out for them. It doesn’t seem like a good strategy when their early rates show that 15% in Japan may suffer the severe form.

The world may become split between the no-virus states and the infected ones — call me an optimist — all clean countries need a two week mandatory quarantine as a barrier. Or we may (cheery thought) be in the early stages of a pandemic.

What to do if you are an 80 year old — especially with a high risk condition?

Time to think about improving preexisting conditions (make those doc appointments, fill those scripts, do that exercise, consider eating better). Think about the options if the virus starts to spread locally. Hopefully it wont. But there may come a point where having a stash of things at home and cutting back on shopping trips, parties and nightclubs will improve the odds. Buying up things that will be used anyway in the next few months seems like a low cost form of insurance, as long as they are stored well.


Best case: West contains the spread

The Optimistic Mantra (repeated):  Covid 19 will likely be less severe outside China due to cleaner air, healthier lungs, better diets, lower population density, possibly genes (ACE2 receptor), cultural habits, more sun, better nutrition, lower rates of smoking, and better medical systems.  We also got a head-start and, if we are not totally stupid, we might use that to our advantage. We hope we can stay above all this and help the poor sods stuck in China, and probably Africa, and possibly Indonesia, India, etc. We won’t be much use to them if we lose control ourselves. We really really don’t want to get on the wrong side of that exponential growth curve.

If countries manage to avoid the hospital meltdown the big impact from Covid 19 might be the economic fallout. Think about what you might need that is made in China, or rather, used to be made in China. Shelves may get quite empty of a few things in the next two months.

There are hints that the draconian Chinese lock downs might be slowing the spread. But even if that is the case there are many weeks yet of this to play out.

Keep reading  →

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SA renewable electricity market mayhem as frequency stabilizing costs hit record breaking $90 million

Since SA was islanded the costs just to keep the frequency stable are as much as the energy itself

Two weeks ago the Australian grid had a major near miss, and South Australia has been isolated from the rest of the nation ever since. It was supposed to be connected again in two weeks, but repairs to the 6 high voltage towers that fell over, evidently will be longer. Strangely, apparently no news outlet has mentioned this in the last two weeks.

While SA has been the renewables star of the world for two weeks, there’s been mayhem in the market. Instead of cheap electricity with 50% renewables it’s chaos. Allan O’Neill explains that the cost of stabilizing the grid has gone through the roof. It’s so bad, and generators have to contribute to balance their output, that solar and wind power are holding back from supply because they can’t afford to pay the costs to cover their share of frequency stability.

But when South Australia became islanded by the transmission line collapse, FCAS requirements for that region could only be supplied from local providers – and there is only a small subset of participants in South Australia who have chosen to offer in the FCAS markets. With a suddenly reduced group of providers, the price of all FCAS products in South Australia leapt from a pre-event range between few cents and roughly $30/MWh (some higher levels on 30 Jan, driven by the very high energy price averaging over $770/MWh on that day), rising to daily average levels mostly over $100/MWh and in a few cases approaching $3,000/MWh after the separation event – remember, these numbers are daily averages!

Johnathon Dyson estimates it’s added up to $90m. He calculates that some solar panel providers are paying as much as 15% of their revenue (in a normal week) on FCAS, far higher than the 1% they would have estimated when they built their projects.

To put that in perspective, five years ago the entire FCAS cost for the whole nation was about $20m, for the whole year.! (FCAS means Frequency Control Ancilliary Service).

The ever rising costs of frequency stability on the Australian grid for the next quarter are about to go “off the scale” in this graph by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER):

FCAS Costs

The $90m FCAS cost in SA is higher than any single quarter on the whole national grid. | AER

Years ago frequency stability was just a happy byproduct of the large coal fired turbines. The giant 200 plus ton turbines would spin at 3,000 rpm — exactly in synchrony with the 50 Hz grid. They would absorb the ups and downs and keep the frequency tight within safe bounds.

It’s another hidden cost. Imagine the fun if the whole nation was trying to run on “50% renewable”?

If only SA had kept the coal plants running, says Ian Waters:

The Heywood interconnector can normally carry 650Mw of reliable brown coal fired power from Victoria and regularly stops blackouts in S.A. when the renewables are found wanting. The AEMO has been forced to take extraordinary steps to keep the lights on in S.A. and are ready to force shutdowns of solar, wind and gas units if the demand drops.  They have taken control of the 3 batteries in S.A. in desperation.  It is an !unprecedented! disasterand the whole state is on the edge.  Please look at AEMO market notices 73830, 73832, 73838, 73857 and 73858 and you will recognise how desperate they are and how they are running around in blind panic.

Now here is the first point: If Weatherill, Turnbull and the AEMO had kept the Northern coal fired power-station running, most of these problems would not occur, the price would be much lower, the State would have sufficient system strength and S.A. would not be minutes or hours away from the next blackout!

 It’s all just another reminder of how fragile our “renewable” grids are now. Despite having nearly twice as much infrastructure to make the same amount of electricity, SA can’t keep itself going without help and a lot of extra money. It’s more prone to price swings, spikes and squeezes that serve Big Corporate profiteers very well.

Someone is making a lot of money out of this. It’s a bit of a short squeeze with few frequency stabilizers able to help. And spikes can reach the same cap as energy charges — $14,700

Allan O”Neill:

Historically, FCAS capabilities have been provided mostly by generators as by-products of their main game, energy production, although batteries and certain loads with appropriate controls can also provide some or all forms of FCAS. In an analogous way to energy prices, market FCAS prices are set via bidding and clearing processes, which are fully enmeshed – coöptimised – with the NEM’s dispatch process for energy.

The quantities of FCAS services required are much smaller than the volumes of energy traded through the NEM (like energy, these volumes are measured in MW and MWh).

Usually other states keep SA stable:

The striking feature here is that the relationship between energy and FCAS prices was turned on its head by the separation event. That’s largely because under normal conditions, FCAS can often be supplied from anywhere in the NEM, so the cheapest offers from generators, batteries, or loads in any region can be used to meet AEMO’s requirements. Not all generators are able or choose to supply FCAS (until recently none of the NEM’s large scale renewable generators did so – however that is changing, and this post may show why that’s long overdue). But with a NEM-wide pool of potential suppliers, FCAS prices have tended to be lower – often much much lower – than energy prices.

But when South Australia became islanded by the transmission line collapse, FCAS requirements for that region could only be supplied from local providers – and there is only a small subset of participants in South Australia who have chosen to offer in the FCAS markets. With a suddenly reduced group of providers, the price of all FCAS products in South Australia leapt from a pre-event range between few cents and roughly $30/MWh (some higher levels on 30 Jan, driven by the very high energy price averaging over $770/MWh on that day), rising to daily average levels mostly over $100/MWh and in a few cases approaching $3,000/MWh after the separation event – remember, these numbers are daily averages!

This graph shows just how chaotic it has been in SA — but notice the prices — it’s a log scale!

Note also the prices hit a automated-cap on Feb 1st (hence the flat line keeping them at $300/MWh).

FCAS charges Electricity SA, 2020, Graph.

five minute FCAS prices over Friday 31 Jan and Saturday 1 Feb.  WattClarity

This next graph is the exact same graph, but without the automatic cap added. So we can see what the prices would have been. Shocking!

This shows prices for many FCAS products jumping about wildly after separation, with extended periods at $14,700/MWh for a couple of products (the “Raise 6 second” and “Lower 60 second” services


FCAS charges Electricity SA, 2020, Graph.

FCAS charges Electricity SA, 2020, Graph.              WattClarity


No doubt the whole drama will be used as a reason to build more giant interconnectors. Never waste a crisis!


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Tuesday Open Thread

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Petition: Alan Kohler wants a Royal Commission into Climate Science (to convince the skeptics)

Australian Parliamentary Brass Door seal, Photo, JoNova

Alan Kohler (ABC economics guru) thinks there is so much overwhelming evidence that a Royal Commission would persuade the skeptics. Skeptics say, yes please, lets do the due diligence that’s never been done. Go on convince us.

Over 50% of Australians are skeptical of the IPCC explanations (think that’s changed? See the last election results). Over 60% don’t want to pay even $10 a month. So lay it out. We want a Royal Commission, some kind of public debate, based on scientific evidence, not “scientific opinion”. It’s not enough to show the climate’s changed, we expect to see evidence about cause and effect. Let’s get all the uncertainties laid bare, not buried behind models and hidden by indignant namecalling. What are they afraid of?

If you worry, like I do — that any institutionalized forum can be another waste of money — captured by the swamp — then view this as a play in the only court that matters, the court of public opinion. Let Alan Kohler know there are lots of skeptics and we want a debate.  Ask why the ABC won’t tell the world that there are tens of thousands of scientists and engineers, including NASA stars, meteorologists, Nobel Prize winners, and men who went to the moon, and they are willing to speak out even though the ABC likens them to pedophiles and tobacco profiteers and calls them denier scum.

If the science were settled the ABC wouldn’t be so afraid of phoning up Buzz Aldrin or Harrison Schmitt to ask politely “Why are you a skeptic?”

– Jo Nova

Sign Parliamentary Petition EN1231

Don A reminds Australians who sign the petition that they MUST confirm they’re not a robot, and tick the relevant boxes AND respond to a subsequent email. Make it count!


Parliamentary crest, Australia, Photo, JoNova



Cool Futures Funds Management
Climate and Energy Policies – Due Diligence Initiative

We support Alan Kohler’s call for an Australian Royal Commission and the related House of Representatives e-Petition EN1231 to review the evidence on our Climate and Energy Policies.

If the Government is genuinely interested in dispassionately resolving the polarized climate and energy debate, it should welcome this Royal Commission.

No one among the public, the policy-making ministers, the bureaucrats, the corporate and management class, the public intellectuals, or indeed our journalists, has ever seen or understood the empirical evidence in support of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW). Why do the climate scientists believe in CAGW? Is there any empirical evidence? Can we see this evidence? What due diligence has been done so far?

This Royal Commission, as Alan Kohler suggests, will fill a critical need.

“… a review of the evidence on (climate change and energy) in which everyone is required (under oath) to tell the truth.”

The Australian Sept 21, 2019

Alan is alluding to those who are sceptical of CAGW. He wants to convince everyone the evidence on ‘climate change’ demands a ‘carbon’ emissions drop. Policies are supposed to be “science based” and “evidence based,” so we all need to know precisely what the relevant terms mean and what the evidence is. The public only ever hear or see people, including scientists, giving their opinions on climate change. But opinions are not evidence.

Climate & energy policy due diligence – not only has to be done – but has to be seen to be done.

Keep reading  →

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Outside China 5% of cases are severe; Singapore may be three months away from running out of hospital beds

In short:

  • Outside China, 2% of cases have progressed to “severe”. But if the lag is eight days then progression to severe is more like 5%.
  • In China about 1/5th of severe cases are “Critical”
  • If that rate occurs in the West, hospitals will be overwhelmed if just 1% of the population gets infected.
  • In Singapore, the doubling period for confirmed cases is about nine days.
  • Currently the spread is not exponential outside China (most days)

News today: First victim in Europe — an 80 year old Chinese tourist.

Stats:           Total cases outside China: 787            Deaths: 4           Severe cases: 18 (2%)

Early days of “outside China” data

The 2% rate of severe cases is an underestimate above. There is an eight day lag from diagnosis to “severe,” and then a longer lag to death. Total cases outside China on Feb 8th was 354. So a more realistic estimate is that about 5% of confirmed cases outside China have now progressed to “severe” (i.e. 18/354).

What does severe mean? It appears “severe” means hospitalized but not necessarily in ICU. In China, the rates issued in a Feb 7 press release were 82% mild, 15% severe, and 3% critical. From that, we might assume that only a fifth* of “severe” cases are critical and therefore in need ICU care, so outside China that might be 1% of all recorded infections. (Remember the Chinese statistics are all from hospitalized people, outside that in the whole population it probably is much lower, because many people apparently get a cold and stay home and aren’t included. Though there are some who stay home and die at home and they aren’t included either. Twitter shows vans visiting apartment complexes, and being loaded with bodies. How many? Who knows. This is why statistics outside China are the only ones that count.)

*Technically one sixth (3/15+3 — the accumulated severe plus critical total)

Singapore cases graph coronavirus

Graph source: CNA

Estimating when trouble may really start in Singapore

So, with Western hospitals,  perhaps only  5%  of confirmed cases become “severe”, and only 1% of confirmed cases need an ICU. Current ICU bed availability in the West is typically about 1 bed per 12,000 of population (and there are even fewer of the proper “negative pressure ICU” rooms we need for best quarantine of an aerosolized disease**). Once the the infection has reached 1% of the total population in a Western nation, about 120 out of 12,000 people have a confirmed case, and about 1% of them — or 1.2 patients — will need an ICU bed. At that point, all the ICU beds are in use, and we have run out of ICU places — even if none are required for other uses. Not happy days in hospital-land.

Obviously we need to slow the spread of the virus urgently, aggressively, so that hospitals don’t have to send people home with an oxygen tank, a how-to-guide and good wishes. Even being optimistic and if the rate of progression to “severe” is only one fifth as common in the West as it is in China (there are reasons to take an optimistic stab), our current medical system stops being able to cope when about 5% of the population gets infected. All numbers are loose — the 5% rate of severe cases assumed in Singapore above might be too low –  in Singapore the exact current rate is 8% in HK it is 13%. Sorry about all these numbers.

**Aerosol or not? There is a lot of disagreement over whether it is or isn’t?

The exponential curve we don’t want

The exponential growth of infections in China meant that hospital system was always going to get overwhelmed. It took just two months. The Lancet reported on January 24th that, of the first 41 patients admitted in Wuhan (by Jan 2nd), 32% ended up in the ICU and 15% died. In the Wang study the news was better:  26% of 138 patients needed ICU and only 4% died. But one month after the first study, by Feb 5th, Wuhan hospitals were overwhelmed and turning away all but the most severe cases.

As I said on my first post two long weeks ago, human brains don’t seem well adapted to planning for exponential curves.  The doubling period inside China was six days in January. Outside China it is about eight days so far, though that is mostly dominated by the unfortunate cruise ship, which is in lock-down off Japan. Ominously, the doubling period in Singapore — which has dedicated advanced infection tracking — is about nine days (40 infections on Feb 8, and 72 today).

Singapore bad case: assume 10 day doubling, 5% progress to severe, 1% progress to ICU

To give some idea of how rapidly this might go, ponder that those 72 cases in Singapore could become 73,000 with ten doublings — which is only three months away. Of that, there may be around 3,500 severe cases and 700 ICU cases. There are probably around 12,000 total beds in Singapore hospitals.  Occupancy rates already peak at 85% in March. That’s not a happy set of numbers.

To extrapolate (just to make a point), in less than six months the entire population of six million Singaporeans could theoretically have been exposed — except that sometime around four months the growth curve would slow, because a large section of the population will already be immune (we hope) and the most vulnerable will already have caught it. I expect things will be slower as we learn more how best to help those with it, and how to quarantine. But we can see why Singapore’s health officials are sweating and working so hard to track and trace and hunt down every last case (which they haven’t been fully successful at). What they are not announcing publicly is that without any effort to slow this, or any anti-viral or vaccine, and without entirely shutting schools, factories and enforcing a mass home quarantine, Singapore is only a few months away from hospitals reaching full capacity. We can all see why they don’t want to dwell on worst case possibilities in public. Beyond a few months, without a slowing, the unthinkable, potential pandemonium and mayhem unfolds. We hope that doesn’t even come close. But keep those worst case numbers in mind. Anyone who says “it’s like the flu” hasn’t run the numbers. This is nothing like the flu.

As hospitals fill, manufacturing systems and supply chains will decay. The system will be far beyond the normal epidemiological curves. It will be hard and then impossible to get enough masks, consumables, or even medicine (especially if it’s made in China). If things hit that point, it’s a “black swan”. China is deep inside that.

Best case: West contains the spread

As always, let’s repeat the optimistic caveats: Covid 19 will likely be less severe outside China due to cleaner air, healthier lungs, better diets, lower population density, possibly genes (ACE2 receptor), cultural habits, more sun, better nutrition, lower rates of smoking, and better medical systems.  We also got a head-start and, if we are not totally stupid, we might use that to our advantage. We hope we can stay above all this and help the poor sods stuck in China, and probably Africa, and possibly Indonesia, India, etc. We won’t be much use to them if we lose control ourselves. The point of this post is to raise awareness that Singapore is walking on a ridge between control and a deep abyss, and it’s not out of the question that the West may follow. We really really don’t want to get on the wrong side of that exponential growth curve.

Perhaps we are seeing the awful result of malnutrition in China?

I’m astonished to note in the Wang et al study that two thirds of those in the ICU are listed as having “anorexia,” whereas that one third that didn’t need an ICU were listed the same way.  I am baffled that there is not more discussion of this. Does it mean malnutrition? Is it a bad translation?  (Anoxia is spelt like anorexia?)

Patients treated in the ICU (n = 36), compared with patients not treated in the ICU (n = 102), were older (median age, 66 years vs 51 years), were more likely to have underlying comorbidities (26 [72.2%] vs 38 [37.3%]), and were more likely to have dyspnea (23 [63.9%] vs 20 [19.6%]), and anorexia (24 [66.7%] vs 31 [30.4%]).

Perhaps some medico’s can help out — it simply makes no sense that most elderly Chinese would be anorexic in the same sense as the term is used in the West.

As for dyspnea — it means means “shortage of breath”.

The good news: Outside China things are not exponential

Not yet anyway.

Cases outside China

Coronavirus Cases outside China | Worldometer

Obviously it could go exponential, and probably will if the virus takes hold in places like Africa (which has just reported it’s first case). But Africa hasn’t done much testing, and has a large fly-in-fly-out (FIFO) population of Chinese workers. If things take off in Africa, we will need a new category of graph “Cases in The West”.


Daily growth outside China



Still noisy early data, and we can’t tell at this point whether the West will keep control or lose it.

As long as the growth factor is below one (in the growth of daily cases below), the growth is not exponential. However, be aware that at some point our ability to slow the linear growth and keep it under “1″ will be overwhelmed. It is simply not possible to do exhaustive tracking of each new case, tracing back to find the source and isolating all the other contacts.  At 50 cases Singapore had one unexplained source. Is that the point nations lose control? We don’t know. Singapore might get lucky. They will be tracking hundreds of people.

Cruise boats aside I hope this is a pattern that stays under 1. But there is that nagging concern about untested cases and the superspreader wildcard. Perhaps Singapore was just unlucky and got one, or perhaps even the strain of virus there may be different. Mutations are high in single stranded RNA viruses so there is possibly a cloud of different ones spreading right now. The most infectious strains will win that race, we just hope they are also less nasty.


Coronavirus, daily growth, Worldometer graph.

Daily growth curve outside China. The red line is “1″. Above that is exponential growth.  |  Worldometer.


There are new hints today that the virus may weaken hearts and that those recovered may still not be out of the woods. I need to follow that. There were reports like that a few weeks ago, but those referred to the first week of infection. People were sent home, then had to come back.

I’ve heard that China has very stringent tests before people are declared recovered, which is why it takes a month to get on that list. But of course, if the experience of fighting Covid 19 leaves long term damage in some tissues there is probably no data on that yet.

A historic event. Let’s hope it gets boring soon.



Huang et al (2020) Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China, Lancet.

Wang et al (2020): Clinical Characteristics of 138 Hospitalized Patients With 2019 Novel Coronavirus–Infected Pneumonia in Wuhan, China – JAMA, February 7, 2020

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Weekend Unthreaded

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Let the Coronavirus disruption begin: planes held in London and prof warns “this is virus he fears most”

Partial post hoc reactive quarantine holds seven planes at London airport– seriously?

Madness. Eight planes have been held up for hours in London airports as they land with people with coughs and colds and try to check suspected cases. By the time people are symptomatic, its too late. Temperature checks may catch the most contagious people but now one person with a unrelated common cold can also cause a major and unnecessary disruption while other infective people can freely fly in and walk straight through.

Asymptomatic people can potentially infect 2 to 3 random people (or 10) who may then also infect 2 – 3 random people each before the Epidemiology SWAT Team realizes and starts testing and tracking. We play an impossible game of catch up in a race to isolate all possible contacts.

HOURS of misery in coronavirus lockdown at Heathrow:

DailyMail UK

Passengers endured hours of misery at Heathrow Airport this morning when up to eight planes were put on lockdown over coronavirus fears after passengers on board complained of symptoms of the deadly virus.

MailOnline understands a British Airways flight from Kuala Lumpur was held up on the tarmac for two hours when it landed at 6.45am after cabin crew grew concerned a Malaysian family ‘of around eight’ might have the contagious infection, now named SARS-CoV-2.

One passenger on the plane said that health workers in protective gowns and face masks came on board the BA34 flight and set up a screen around the family before evacuating everyone off the plane row by row.

The first confirmed case in London was only Wednesday. The phase transition from low-risk to hours-of-disruption is quick, eh? Last week this was “low risk” now the shops of chinatown are empty. A strict quarantine is the only thing that can save businesses like this.

The West has a choice here: Build hospitals or holiday cabins

We could start building emergency hospital ICU rooms like China has, or we could start building quarantine cabins which are infinitely cheaper and ask all entrants from countries with uncontrolled cases of Covid 19* (or SARS CoV 2, whatever it is called) to go through a two week quarantine. This will limit traffic drastically, affecting weddings, conferences, holidays and all kinds of business. It will be costly and inconvenient, but it will possibly save people and quite a lot of money. (ICU care is $5000 a day). Separated families can still be reunited after the two week delay. Am I mad, stopping all flights to nations at risk seems like the cheap conservative option?

Our hospital system is designed to cope with the annual flu load, even if this only doubles it, it will be onerous, hard choices are coming. If 10% of cases need major hospital help (as we see in the cases in Hong Kong and Singapore) the system will be overwhelmed.

I repeat, now that we know this is very infectious the best case scenario is that the virus causes thousands of undetected low grade infections, and that for some reason it is not as severe in the West (genes, pollution, medical care, lower population density, summer, past infection immunity, etc). Perhaps it blows over and we can look back and say “hyped”. We’ll know a lot more in a few weeks time. Are three weeks worth of weddings and conferences really worth the risk?

The disruption of closing borders is nothing compared to the disruption of post hoc late quarantine. Once the virus gains a foothold schools will have to close, businesses and factories will shut. People will need to stay home.

On the Diamond Princess — when will we get those people off that boat and put them in proper quarantine — one where they are not breathing the same presumably unfiltered air? Perhaps these cross infections are due to food handling, the walks to the deck or some other route. Where is this being discussed?


This is the virus I fear the most’: British scientist

By Danyal Hussain and Ryan Fahey For Mailonline

Professor Neil Ferguson, of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, revealed that ‘this is the one I’m scared of’ when asked about the killer coronavirus, which is causing increasing alarm all over the country.

However, he insisted he was not predicting 400,000 deaths, but was warning that the figure ‘is possible’. He said he would rather and adding that he’d ‘prefer to be accused of overreacting than under reacting’.

Research indicates that 60 per cent of Britons could be affected by the virus, formally known as COVID-19.

 Which is more scary, a half a degree temperature rise in 50 years or a flu that kills 1% in coming months?

Latest tally: John Hopkins CSSE  and Worldometer

h/t Bill in Oz

*Sadly, we probably need to include countries with no cases but inadequate testing. This will increase pressure for nations to control their cases — a big added incentive to manage their health (perhaps with as much help as we can give).

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#Walkaway from the hate — a democrat voter joins a Trump rally and realizes that’s where happy normal America is

What an excellent piece of writing.

US Flag, Flying.Karlyn Borysenko didn’t like what she was seeing in the world of knitting — it’s hard to believe, but even there the Social Justice Warriors were mobbing people for innocuous offenses. Watching the anxiety and pain inspired her to get out of the echo chamber in an attempt to understand the deplorable Trump supporters. But in attending a Trump rally she discovered how toxic and out of touch the Democrats were.

These are just snippets — read the whole piece. This awakening and others like it could feed a deadly meme for Democrats. If the idea of attending both kinds of rallies catches on it’s a major breach in the wall.  The idea of bridging the divide by listening to the unspeakables, by meeting them, threatens the whole freeloader elitist cult. Apostates face harsh punishments. Borysenko may need some support.

The parallels in the climate world are obvious. As I said ten years ago, it’s the overdone hate and namecalling that drives fencesitters to come seeking answers from skeptics…

As that hate invades every corner of life the Empty Left sows it’s own undoing.

h/t David E

 After Attending a Trump Rally, I Realized Democrats Are Not Ready For 2020

Karlyn Borysenko:

I’m an organizational psychologist and mindfulness expert…

…I started to question everything. How many stories had I been sold that weren’t true? What if my perception of the other side is wrong? How is it possible that half the country is overtly racist? Is it possible that Trump derangement syndrome is a real thing, and had I been suffering from it for the past three years?

And the biggest question of all was this: Did I hate Trump so much that I wanted to see my country fail just to spite him and everyone who voted for him?

Fast-forward to the New Hampshire primary, and we have all the politicians running around the state making their case. I’ve seen almost every Democratic candidate in person and noticed that their messages were almost universally one of doom and gloom, not only focusing on the obvious disagreements with Donald Trump, but also making sure to emphasize that the country is a horribly racist place.

It took some bravery to visit the enemy territory. Everyone said it was risky…

I’m not going to say it didn’t get to me a bit. When everyone around you is nervous for your safety, it’s hard not to question if they have a point. But it also made me more determined to see it through, because it was a stark reminder that both sides view each other exactly the same way. They are both afraid of the other side and what they are capable of. I couldn’t help but think that if they could just see the world through the lens of the other for a moment or two, it would be a stark revelation that they don’t know as much as they think they do.

Waiting in lines with four hours to go:

As I waited, I chatted with the folks around me. And contrary to all the fears expressed, they were so nice. I was not harassed or intimidated, and I was never in fear of my safety even for a moment. These were average, everyday people. They were veterans, schoolteachers, and small business owners who had come from all over the place for the thrill of attending this rally. They were upbeat and excited. In chatting, I even let it slip that I was a Democrat. The reaction: “Good for you! Welcome!”

Democrats are full of doom and gloom. The Trump rally was full of jubilant excited people:

Once we got inside, the atmosphere was jubilant. It was more like attending a rock concert than a political rally.

I had attended an event with all the Democratic contenders just two days prior in exactly the same arena, and the contrast was stark. First, Trump completely filled the arena all the way up to the top. Even with every major Democratic candidate in attendance the other night, and the campaigns giving away free tickets, the Democrats did not do that. With Trump, every single person was unified around a singular goal. With the Democrats, the audience booed over candidates they didn’t like and got into literal shouting matches with each other. With Trump, there was a genuinely optimistic view of the future. With the Democrats, it was doom and gloom. With Trump, there was a genuine feeling of pride of being an American. With the Democrats, they emphasized that the country was a racist place from top to bottom.

People in cults don’t question their leader:

Some people say, “Well, obviously they’re having a great time. They’re in a cult.” I don’t think that’s true. The reality is that many people I spoke to do disagree with Trump on things. They don’t always like his attitude. They wish he wouldn’t tweet so much. People who are in cults don’t question their leaders. The people I spoke with did, but the pros in their eyes far outweighed the cons. They don’t love him because they think he’s perfect. They love him despite his flaws, because they believe he has their back.

As I left the rally—walking past thousands of people who were watching it on a giant monitor outside the arena because they couldn’t get in—I knew there was no way Trump would lose in November. Absolutely no way.

I refuse to be a part of the divisiveness any longer. I refuse to hate people I don’t know simply because they choose to vote for someone else…

read it all

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Coronavirus — early rates of severe cases in Hong kong and Singapore are over 10%

Global Markets were shaken by the sudden rise in numbers out of China yesterday. But the increase was not a surprise for anyone who has been watching social media and the measures being taken in China. That China is now allowing the WHO in may be an admission that they really do need help.  The explanation for the jump is that China changed the definitions.  They are also admitting that there may be many cases of people with low grade infections, but also unattributed deaths as well. For days the ratio of cases to deaths was suspiciously 2.1%, 2.1%, 2.1% …  Now perhaps it’s a tiny bit closer to the truth.

The tally outside China continues to rise: there now 587 cases, with 3 deaths (1 new one in Japan) and 24 people classified as “serious critical”.  These are the key figures to watch. We expected the number of cases that were severe to rise as the five to eight day lag unfolds from the first symptoms to the onset of breathing trouble. So at the moment 4% of cases outside China are headed for hospital intervention, perhaps ICU (does anyone know the definition of “Serious Critical”?). That will keep rising. We need to see that leveling off so we know what kind of load to plan for with ICU units. The early days rates of serious cases in Hong Kong (11%), Singapore (14%) and Japan (2%) are a concern. Unless there is a genetic factor or other localized risk the current low levels elsewhere will presumably trend up to match. I’ll write more on that soon, but “hoping” those rates will be lower is not much of a strategy, though if we are lucky, rates may be lower.

Germany has 16 cases, none of which has progressed to severe. The first five cases were all diagnosed by Jan 28th, but how many cases were there in Germany on 4th Feb? The lag in case progression means only these early cases would be expected to have become “severe”. Oh for more data…  Also bearing in mind about 32,000 in Germany – are currently suffering from flu.

Let’s stress these rates of severe cases are very early and small caseloads and the numbers are highly variable. It’s still possible that Covid 19 is widely spread and with a low grade infection, and all the rates are therefore overestimates among the population as a whole. We hope.

About 14% of patients have recovered but it can take a month so there is a long lag there too.

First lock down outside China occurs

At this point, even to limit the load to a manageable level we ought be stopping more flights from at risk countries. Vietnam has only 15 cases but has locked down a small village  of 10,000 in the north.It’s only 40km from Hanoi.

The locking down of Son Loi, about 40 kilometres from Hanoi, is the first mass quarantine outside of China since the virus emerged from a central Chinese city late last year. “As of February 13, 2020, we will urgently implement the task of isolation and quarantine of the epidemic area in Son Loi commune,” said a health ministry statement. “The timeline… is for 20 days”. The health ministry previously said five people in Son Loi had been infected with the virus, and on Thursday reported a sixth case.

The hunt is on for the single case source in Singapore that has not yet been identified. This story is worth reading if you want to understand the burden of tracking cases to limit infections. That single case source may well be fine now, and not shedding, but what are the odds that they didn’t unknowingly infect just one other person who is now “at loose”?

Three weeks later, global health authorities are still scrambling to work out who carried the disease into the mundane meeting of a firm selling gas meters, which then spread to five countries from South Korea to Spain, infecting more than a dozen people.

The firm said it immediately adopted “extensive measures” to contain the virus and protect employees and the wider community. Those included self-isolation for all 109 attendees, of whom 94 were from overseas and had left Singapore.

But the virus kept spreading.

Two South Korean delegates fell sick after sharing a buffet meal with the Malaysian, who also passed the infection to his sister and mother-in-law. Three of the firm’s Singapore attendees also tested positive.

Then cases started appearing in Europe.

 While quarantine is very expensive, if these numbers are correct and the virus is easily spread with many low grade infections it is still probably cheaper to limit and contain now, rather than have to close schools and factories in a months time. With winter coming in three months in Australia it would be a huge advantage to stop the virus getting hold before the weather turns cooler.

Added up from the Worldometer page with an extra column from me to the right and below:

Keep reading  →

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Unprecedented panic: For the first time ever, half of life on Earth will be wiped out by tiny 0.5C rise

Life on Earth mostly made it through 500 million years of asteroids and supervolcanoes only to be wiped out by a half a degree temperature rise. This really will be unprecedented.

Climate change could destroy half of Earth’s animal and plant species in the next 50 years, disturbing study says

Despite animals surviving temperature rises of 20 degrees every day, a half a degree of warming in 50 years will kill off half the species on Earth.

A disturbing new study suggests that climate change could wipe out half of the planet’s animal and plant species by 2070.

The research notes that if temperatures rise 0.5 degrees Celsius around the globe, approximately half of the world’s species would become locally extinct. If temperatures were to rise 2.9 degrees Celsius, 95 percent of the species would become locally extinct.

Note the scale on the graph of the last 500 million years.  I marked half a degree in the red box.

Pleistoscene, holocene, Pleioscene, miocene, graph. Temps

 Image by Glen Fergus Wikimedia.

I’m not too concerned about life on Earth surviving the next 50 years. But at this rate of decay, science is cactus.

These researchers think Earth is a simulation:

“By analyzing the change in 19 climatic variables at each site, we could determine which variables drive local extinctions and how much change a population can tolerate without going extinct,” study co-author Cristian Román-Palacios added.

No meaningless study is complete without overly detailed meaningless numbers. Let’s take that ten year trend and run with it:

Wiens and the other researchers looked at data from 538 species in 581 different parts of the globe. The focus was on “plant and animal species that were surveyed at the same sites over time, at least 10 years apart,” the statement said, adding that 44 percent of the 538 species had already gone extinct at one or more of the sites.

“Surprisingly, extinctions occurred at sites with smaller changes in mean annual temperatures but larger increases in hottest yearly temperatures,” the study’s authors wrote.

And here was me thinking the only mammal extinction due to climate change was a brown rat that accidentally lived on a sand dune in the coral sea.

One down, and 3,199 to go.


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