Another one bites the dust

Or nearly does, at least. It seems that the Wilkins ice shelf is hanging by a thread and bits are falling off. You’ll have to forgive me for being late with this news, as I’ve been off in the Real World for a week or so, with only intermittent internet connections. The paper world seems to have ignored the story, which will have annoyed BAS’s PR department. But there isn’t all that much to it.
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All quiet on the climate front

Whether its post-IPCC-AR4 fatigue, or a foolish Michaelson-like assumption that we just about know whats going on, but things seem to be rather quiet on the climate front, in terms of real news and results.

Which leaves people footling around for something to talk about, and temperature trends over the past decade, or since 2001 seem to have become a favourite. Climate refuses to behave itself, and insists on having natural variability imposing on longer term trends, which means you can get almost any result you like if you pick your time period. Atmoz has looked at this a bit, but if you prefer pointless statistics without physical understanding you want Lucia, or Prometheus. Lucia asks “is the recent flat trend statistically significant?” and decides it is. Its a fair question, and quite likely her (statistical) analysis is correct. But it doesn’t tell you much about what is going on. Analogy: roll a fair dice a large number of times. Sometimes you’ll get the sequence 6-5-4-3-2-1. Does that mean the next number is zero? Well, of course not. You know the statistics: the next number is one of 1..6, with a 1/6 probability for each of them. In climate, the difference is that we don’t know the statistics: we’re trying to work them out from observations, theory and models. What heppened over the past decade is only part of that.
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My scientific swansong is a paper with Tom Peterson and John Fleck about the famous 70’s cooling myth. John and I wrote up a post for this on RC as the global cooling mole, and its now been added to wiki so it must be true :-).

Someone there has found but not fully ref’d two Science articles from the 50’s that maybe predicted cooling, so there may be further to take this story. And of course, a full analysis of the old media coverage would be interesting.

Vulture funding?

Nature sez “Royal Society to fund carbon capture and renewables ventures”. Which seemed a bit odd to me – why pick just those? But Nature seems to have misread the RS, who themselves say something rather different: “Criteria for the projects will have an emphasis on non-medical research although interdisciplinary research that may overlap into medical applications will be considered” as the only hint of what they will invest in.
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Mountain unicycling and fluid dynamics

At the “lookout” in Bracknell. Bracknell gets a bad press, and the center is indeed horrible, but it has nice paths for walkers and quite a decent bit of woodland. Where I saw my first ever mountain-bike unicycle. I didn’t see anyone riding it, but they did have a lot of pads.

Inside, they had this rather nice fluid-dynamics toy: a perspex cylinder about 1/2m wide and 2m high, with a circulation about the vertical axis imposed by the water flowing in at the top. And a valve you could turn, that did something slightly unspecified, but which we’re fairly sure was to change the speed of outflow from an approx 1″ dia plughole in the center at the bottom. Which lead to the effect you see in the pic, of a very long thin tube of air reaching down to the bottom, much like a tornado. Note the interesting corkscrew patterns imposed on the sidewalls of the tube; those were quite stable, and didn’t turn. A coriolis effect thing; but of course they didn’t explain it.

Here’s a small random girl admiring it. Or is she admiring her reflection?

It takes more than good intentions / And a big bloke on the door / And though it’s never the same after the first time / That doesn’t stop them coming back for more