JoNova

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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Weekend Unthreaded

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More beach holidays. Apologies to Northern Hemisphere readers. We’ve had three beach holidays in two weeks with various friends and relatives. January in Australia is tough.

I love the colors of the Western Australian coast. The sky really is that intense blue, and the water is that clear. We fed stingrays at Hamelin Bay at sunset too. This is a seven year old boy hand-feeding a tame eagle ray which must have weighed twice as much as him. That one had no tail, but others did. Remarkable. Click to enlarge shots.

Volatility from Vega – Why math models can’t predict the future

Guest post by Eric Worrall

How can we predict the climate, when we can’t even predict financial markets?

US Subprime House Price Crash

Financial markets are a high stakes battle between teams of skilled traders, armed with powerful computers. [In a perfect market] The factors that affect market prices are well known, and for mathematicians, surprisingly simple to describe. Yet with all this underlying simplicity, traders don’t attempt to predict the future, because they know from bitter experience that predicting the future is futile. Instead, they use their models to gain a deeper understanding of the present.

Say you are trading financial options. Options are a right to buy or sell an underlying commodity (gold, shares in a company, tons of beef, whatever) at a future point in time, for an agreed price. The exact rules vary in different places, but essentially – your option gives you the right to buy an ounce of gold in one month, say,  for $1000.

If so, and the price of gold is $1,200 per ounce, then your option is worth $200, right?

Wrong. In one month, the price of gold might be $800, in which case your option is worthless – [...]

2014, NOAA NASA produce weakest science on hottest fantasy in modern record

The Art of Lying by Omission

Back in the old days, when scientists had standards, they would never get excited over one hot year and certainly not over one meaningless hundredth of a degree.

The NOAA and NASA spinmeisters are parsing their press releases carefully, using vagueness to speak in half-truth-tongues. They utter no outright lie, yet misinform the crowd with lies by omission.

NOAA and NASA don’t say their models still don’t work, that the world was supposed to be a lot warmer and the “pause” continues. Nor do they admit that it has been warmer before many times in history. They don’t say the warming trend started long before we pumped out CO2. They don’t mention how tiny the “record” is, so tiny it could, and probably will, disappear with the next man-made adjustment. They don’t mention that the record depends entirely on which dataset you pick, and better instruments, satellites, show it wasn’t a record. NASA may launch satellites, but they prefer a thermometer in a carpark or beside a runway for measuring temperatures.

All major global datasets, up to date. The pause is clear enough. The lower two lines are from satellites. Jan 2015 | [...]

Forgotten extreme heat, El Nino of 1878 — when miners would “knock off” at 44.4C!

What really happened in 1878?

The raw data at Nobby’s near Newcastle (graphed below) shows monster heat in 1878, 1879, and 1883 — far hotter than modern times. Its unlikely that it was recorded with modern equipment, so it’s hard to compare. Was it really hotter? We don’t know when the Stevenson screen was installed. I went hunting through our wonderful historic Trove archive of old newspaper records. It doesn’t help us make any accurate comparisons, or even tell us about annual averages, but there is a remarkable story of exceptional heat and dryness in January 1877 that few Australians know. Let’s revisit the times of forgotten people who lived when CO2 was perfect and the climate was ideal.

How hot were the 1800s in Australia? My favorite quote is about the miners near Braidwood (in the mountains between Canberra and the coast). It reached 108F but look at the cultural norms:

“Years ago in the valley the miners always ‘knocked off’ if the thermometer registered 112 degrees (44.4C) in the shade, but times and wages are changed now, and the poor men are willing, to work on days like last Friday 18.1.78″ (see the Freeman’s Journal link [...]

Sea level rise was less than thought (skeptics were right)

Skeptics, and particularly Nils-Axel Mörner have been saying that sea level rise, as recorded by tide gauges has been much slower than widely advertised. They’ve also pointed out how the rates of sea-level rise have either stayed the same or slowed down. There’s been no sign of the acceleration needed for the wildly speculative  hypothesis that your SUV, and China’s coal plants are warming the ocean.

This week a new Nature paper (Hay et al) shows the skeptics were right  — but did that view make it to any news broadcast?

Watch the sea-level scare mutate

Even in The Australian the spin from the propaganda machine gets a running, and the previous slow rise is used to pump the scare that the modern “acceleration” is even scarier. What the Australian (and selected sea level “experts”) don’t mention is that the tide-gauges don’t show any acceleration, and nor did the raw recordings from satellites. The 3mm rising sea claims apparently come from satellites that were calibrated to one subsiding tide gauge in Hong Kong.

It’s cherry picking par excellence. We might finally accept tide gauges up to 1990, but after that the tide gauges don’t count — bring in the “adjusted” [...]

The Sun and solar physicists go quiet

Sometime around 2007 or 2008 the sun’s magnetic field should’ve become more active again as part of the cycle it had been roughly following for at least 80 years. Instead it fell. The current solar cycle is not like all the other ones…

David Archibald has drawn my attention to the Ap Index and just how remarkably different the current solar cycle is. He also points out that solar physicists were cranking out predictions about this cycle during the last cycle, but now hardly anyone wants to stake a claim on what the sun will do in the next cycle.

Ap Index 1932 – 2014 | Click to enlarge

From David Archibald

The Ap Index is a measure of geomagnetic activity from eight stations around the planet and reflects disturbances in the horizontal component of the Earth’s magnetic field. Activity for the current solar cycle has peaked at about the floor activity for the prior solar cycles back to early 1930s.

David Archibald writes that solar physicists have hit a quiet cycle too.

“The solar physics community has gone very quiet.  There are almost no predictions of Solar Cycle 25 maximum.

ABC got it wrong, BOM not concerned with Australian public being misinformed

In a followup to the post If the BOM was incompetent, the ABC would be the last to find out, Ken Stewart has a reply from the BOM.

The news story run by the ABC said the current Queensland drought was the worst in 80 years. When Ken pointed out that the BOM’s own graphs showed that the drought in 2003 was even worse, and the conditions were not that unusual, the ABC effectively said they were parroting BOM statements which, ahem, is all any public broadcaster could be expected to do, right? It’s not like we pay the 1.1 billion-dollar-ABC to ask our bureaucrats hard questions, is it?

Ken wrote to the BOM, who have now replied, and he’s posted it: “How not to admit a mistake”. The BOM blandly point him at their official drought statement which contradicts what their spokesman said:

The current drought in Queensland is comparable to the 2002–2003 drought, which was perhaps more severe in terms of rainfall deficiencies that occurred at times over a very large area. Historical data shows that the current drought is perhaps a one in ten or twenty year event over a significant part of inland eastern Australia [...]

Those Green Australians! Our emissions per person fell 28% since 1990

Get ready for the startling news that Australians have been great corporate “green” citizens — on a per capita basis, all of us are so much more carbon-efficient (sic) than we were 25 years ago. Back then, in those dark days, people frivolously heated and cooled their homes without a thought to how many sinful cyclones they were creating in the Philippines. They drove recklessly in fossil fueled cars, and windmills were used to pump water a mere 10 metres, not to stop floods in Pakistan.

The amazing thing is that Australia’s population has grown by a whopping 38% since 1990. And our emission have grown with that, but the emissions per person has declined by 28% per person. Why aren’t the Greens more excited?

As with all these statistics, watch the pea for the real story.  Most of that decline is not due to solar panels, pink batts, bird blending wind towers, energy efficiency, or even economic trends — it is predominantly due to cutting down fewer trees. The “improvements” are in the “land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF)” sector, of which the “LUCF” basically means deforestation, afforestation and reforestation. The decline is mostly thanks to farmers like [...]

Solar cycle affects human fertility and lifespan

David Archibald points at a very interesting paper that suggests that children conceived during solar activity peaks were less likely to survive and had a whopping 5 year deduction from their lifespan. But don’t panic if you were a peak baby, the affected people were born to poorer women in Scandinavia in the 18th and 19th century. Mortality was 8% in the first year. One in twelve babies didn’t make it. Things were different then. Richer women were somehow able to compensate, or repair the damage. The authors seem fairly sure it has something to do with UV, but I’m not convinced. Solar effects include magnetic effects, solar wind, neutron bombardment, and cosmic rays. There are plenty of things to choose from. Lots more papers to come on this.

Marvel that the sun might influence our lifespan and fertility, but not “do much” to the climate. ;- )

There is much to discuss in comments — many of us wondered if there is a dietary connection, but this effect does not seem to be due to famine, or less food (wheat was cheaper at solar maxes).

– Jo

Guest Post by David Archibald

Solar Activity At Birth

It is now [...]

Lewandowsky peer reviewed study includes someone 32,757 years old

The worst paper ever published has competition. I was going to mock this, but it has all rather slipped beyond the Plains of Derision and sunk in a parallel universe. Researcher Jose Duarte is flummoxed, he simply can’t explain why a paper so weak was written, but moreso why it was ever published, and why everyone associated with it is not running for cover.  It’s not so much about the predictable flaws, biased questions, and mindless results, it’s now about why UWA, The Uni of Bristol, PLOS, and the Royal Society are willing to wear any of the reputational damage that goes with it.

Lewandowsky, Gignac and Oberauer put out a paper in 2013 which was used to generate headlines like “Climate sceptics more likely to be conspiracy theorists”. The data sample is not large, but despite that, it includes the potential Neanderthal, as well as a precocious five year old and some underage teenagers too. The error was reported on Lewandowsky’s blog over a year ago by Brandon Shollenberger, then again by Jose Duarte in August 2014. Nothing has been corrected. The ages are not just typos, they were used in the calculations, correlations and conclusions. The median age [...]

Weekend Unthreaded

We had a an excellent few days holiday this week in the South West of Australia. What still surprises me is how these giant trees seem to sneak up on you. One minute you’re driving through normal forest and  the trees don’t seem to “get big” but you suddenly notice the scale of everything has changed. Like the car and road shrank instead.

Karri trees are some of the tallest trees in the world. See the trunk girth of a medium specimen. Try to imagine this tree in your yard.

Karri Forest, Caves Road, Western Australia

They must be the most beautiful.

Karri Forest, Caves Road, Western Australia | Click to enlarge.

If the BOM was incompetent, the ABC would be the last to find out

According to the ABC  the Bureau of Met tells us that Queensland has experienced “the worst drought in 80 years” and that “37.3% of the state was covered by the lowest rainfall on record”. (Watch it on iview if you can bear to).

These exacting facts are easy to check, and Ken Stewart did, but the 1.1-billion-dollar ABC did not.

Ken used the BOM’s own websites (Climate Maps and Climate Change and Variability) and shows that the current drought is the worst in 9 years, not 80, and even if it is very bad (heartbreaking for some) it’s not unusual.

Current low rain is not unusual.

The current drought is bad (see red blobs in Queensland):

NW Queensland has missed two wet seasons in a row

The Federation Drought, circa 1900, was much much worse:

(Federation Drought graphed only 1900 – 1902)

Ken wrote to the ABC, and Genevieve Hussey replied immediately — effectively saying the ABC repeat all BOM claims, no matter how hyperbolic, extraordinary, or repetitive they sound.

The information in our report was based on an interview with climatologist Mr Jeff Sabburg from the Bureau of Meteorology. He was also interviewed by [...]

Does ocean pH shift with the PDO cycle?

The man who uncovered the 80 years of missing empirical data on ocean pH is Mike Wallace. That hidden data suggested the ocean had been getting slightly more alkaline in the 20th Century –the opposite of the man-made acidification theory — but that pH change hasn’t been a linear shift. The pH has been cycling up and down, and on his blog back in February Wallace suggested that the pH of the ocean was varying naturally as the PDO cycled*.

It’s an interesting theory. He’s used the PDO index and his global ocean pelagic zone pH time series chart that was based on 1.5 million pH readings.

It’s nice to watch a real scientist at work. His blog is worth a look.

..

 

*PDO means Pacific Decadal Oscillation – the 15 – 30 year long cycles of warmer or cooler sea surface temperatures in the northern Pacific. In a positive phase the western side is cool and the east is warmer, it rains more in California and less in Australia. The negative phase is the opposite.

Skin in the game

Skin In the Game

Guest post by Rereke Whakaaro.

It has jokingly been said, that people can be classified into two groups. Those who classify people into groups, and those who do not.

On the subject of Catastrophic Climate Change, almost everybody ends up being classified, in one way or another, and such classification seems to be unavoidable. You are either a Believer or a Denier, and that is it.

Or is it?

Are there no other classifications that could be considered? It seems that there are.

Take for example, the group of people who belong to professions that make pronouncements on Climate Change, but who in reality have no “skin in the game”. These are people who will utter dire predictions and make forecasts, but are not held to account when their prognostications do not come to pass.

I am, of course, talking about journalists, who are paid to watch the world go by; and career academics, who are paid to explain how the world goes by; and the career bureaucrats, and other Government employees, who are paid to keep an eye on the intellectuals, and to implement the policies they recommend. Do these people have [...]

25 years of unscientific “action” against carbon. Don’t wait for the science…

In 1988, way back before the data was in, the CSIRO was already push-pumping the public awareness campaign against carbon dioxide. There was never a debate about the science. Nobody checked the things that matter first, they just stepped straight into pointless action. (Why?) Twenty five years later, nothing has changed. There is still no one paid to make sure the science is right, too make sure Australians are not being taken advantage of. When will conservative governments recognise that they can’t leave this vital area to unpaid volunteers without staff, funding, access to scientific libraries and full government data?

BOM and CSIRO research that suggests billion-dollar policies must be checked and replicated independently by a group with no interest but finding holes in it. In a law court, there is a defense whose job is to poke holes in the prosecutor’s case, but in science and public policy it’s like being back in the Middle Ages with only the prosecution’s accusations getting a hearing. Only with a proper science defense will the Australian taxpayers and the environment be served.

The Australian, Graham Lloyd

“…the CSIRO and the Commission for the Future were at the forefront of international [...]