Volcano from space


I like this one. It is from NASA though I’ve heavily hacked it around (I saw it today in a copy of Wired at Mr Polito’s; oh yes, it is online too: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/gallery_volcanoes/3/, but I don’t recommend visiting, the site is mindbogglingly slow, lord knows how much Javash*t they load up). Anyway, it’s the Sarychev volcano (Russia’s Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. I’m not entirely sure what I’m seeing here – real Met Men should comment – or how tall the plume is. Is it hitting the stratosphere?

[Sorry folks -forgot the title :-(]

Whom should I attack?

I’m not a mass-media-audience type of blog, so I excuse myself from having to be kind to “my side”; I don’t think I need to avoid worrying Joe Public about dissent in the “we believe in GW” side of the blogosphere, because I don’t think JP reads me. And it is far more fun trying to pick holes in the relatively minor errors of “my side” than it is to point out the gross stupidity of The Dark Side.

Which brings me on to Terms of Engagement by Keith Kloor who points to Shellenberger and Nordhaus explaining why they don’t take on the other side: The work of holding Republican obstructionists, anti-government extremists, and right-wing conspiracy mongers to task is work for principled conservatives, not liberals… And now I think of it, this makes sense (Kloor thinks this is too restrictive, and I agree, taken as an absolute restriction it is bad). It is rather like the Tories being the ones to cut the Army. Your own side knows you better and knows (or at least ought to know) that you are “on their side” and ought to be able to take the criticism in that light. The Dark Side, however, will just react to criticism from an enemy.

[Aside: you may like: http://www.badscience.net/2009/11/wtf/%5D

What we learn from the APS revision

Having just read Eli being unhappy on the APS I’m struck by a thought, which is that no-one at all seems to think they might learn anything useful about actual climate change from the APS statement or its revised version. All anyone is doing is picking over it to see whether the miscellaneous physicists have managed to understand the research. So: why do these people bother have a statement at all? Would they have felt left out of the party otherwise? Its just the tedious old physcis arrogance again.


* http://physicsfrontline.aps.org/2009/11/10/aps-council-overwhelmingly-rejects-proposal-to-replace-societys-current-climate-change-statement/
* http://www.aps.org/policy/statements/07_1.cfm

Revisionism with Romm

The color of solar cells — and their short energy payback — are trivial factors when considering the huge climate benefit they provide in avoiding the release of CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels. That was a central point I made when I broke the story on the error-riddled book Superfreakonomics…

Really? No: what JR actually said was:

“Here are the howlers in that paragraph for the record::

1. they aren’t bloack, they are blue,
2. their efficiency may be higher than 12%,
3. The biggest howler… What was the absorbtivity or emissivity of the material that the panel covered up,
4. Unparseable. Read it yourself.”

He later posted an update, after John O’Donnell pointed out that the major error is CO2. RC also made the same point. I’m not sure what the exciting “exclusive new analysis” is supposed to be, either. It looks like it covers the same ground as the RC post. But the factors that Romm has now, correctly, realised are trivial are the very ones he was promoting as major errors before.

[Update: JR is somewhat offended by my charge of revisionism and says there was no intention on my part to revise history and the current version is what I was trying to say all along. I’m not entirely sure what the differences are between the current and the original version – anybody keep a copy of the original? I’ve asked JR but no reply so far on that point – because the current version seems equally open to the criticism I first made.

His post now has a footnote NOTE: I have updated this post slightly for absolute clarity since some people might not read the first debunking post that I linked to above (click here), which lays out the timeline of how I came to include this factor of 100,000.; the footnote itself has been updated; originally it said … for absolute clarity since some blogger out in the ether failed to read my first debunking post that I linked to above (again, click here, it isn’t hard folks)… I was that “some blogger”.]

India ‘arrogant’ to deny global warming link to melting glaciers?

Says the Grauniad. Their not-very-useful article is about a Discussion Paper (as it calls itself) of Himalayan Glaciers, A State-of-Art Review of Glacial Studies, Glacial Retreat and Climate Change by V.K.Raina, Ex. Deputy Director General, Geological Survey of India.

The Telegraph of India has an opinion. No idea if it is at all representative. Maribo has a lot of sense about the report; go read that and come back here if you need any more.

Back? OK then.

0) For the science, they say (I presume correctly) All the glaciers under observation, during the last three decades of 20th century have shown cumulative negative mass balance and although there is a lot more text in the report, there isn’t really any more than that to interest the wide world outside the glacio community. Or another quote, if you like: Glaciers in the Himalayas, barring a few exceptions, here and there, have been reported to be in constant retreat, since when the observations started in midnineteenth century. There are no two views about it. It is an established fact. You could compare this the the std.IPCC view: Whereas glaciers in the Asian high mountains have generally shrunk at varying rates (Su and Shi, 2002; Ren et al., 2004; Solomina et al., 2004; Dyurgerov and Meier, 2005), several high glaciers in the central Karakoram are reported to have advanced and/or thickened at their tongues (Hewitt, 2005), probably due to enhanced precipitation.

1) Having skimmed the thing, it has the look of a whole pile of studies just thrown together without much attempt at synthesis.

2) The exec summary begins Almost a century ago, fears began to be expressed about the possible impact of the rise in atmospheric temperature on mountain glaciers. The fears led to the initiation of concerted scientifi c efforts to identify and examine the fl uctuations along the front-snout of glaciers. It was believed that such studies, over the next century or so, would enable scientists to establish the relationship between the climate change and the glacier fluctuations. That seems wrong to me, and contradicts what I thought I knew of the timeline of climate change concern.

3) The constant emphasis on the “glacier-snout” stuff reads oddly to me; I suspect this is a reflection of battles fought in the glacio community in the 50’s and being re-hashed here to an uncomprehending audience.

4) It is all observations. Observations are very nice – indeed, essential – but unless synthesised by some kind of theory they are hard to make sense of. Hence the rather plaintive text in the final “review” chapter 8 While one may not doubt the fact that the climate, by and large, does appear to be getting warmer; what, however, does tax the mind is the attempted linkage of the glacier retreat in the Himalayas to the global warming. This chap has, as it says in the intro, made epic efforts, which involved several long expeditions to remote glaciers, in trying circumstances and with limited resources, and he knows a lot about Indian glaciers, but unfortunately he hasn’t studied climate change so really he has nothing to say on the subject that everyone is keen to hear about.

5) The Grauniad reports that Jairam Ramesh, India’s environment minister, released the controversial report in Delhi, saying it would “challenge the conventional wisdom… “My concern is that this comes from western scientists … it is high time India makes an investment in understanding what is happening in the Himalayan ecosystem,” so this may be just yet more tedious nationalism; “western” science isn’t good enough, Indian glaciers must be studied with “Indian” science (you have to read the book for the link).

6) Perhaps following on for that, as an afterthought, I notice that the report is remarkably insular. It doesn’t mention IPCC even once, which is odd for a “state of the art” review (probably they were a bit pissed off with IPCC for having such a short section on Indian glaciers; the quote I gave above is just about it). The list of papers at the back looks very “Indian”, too: westerners only get a brief look-in in the early days (what happened to the likes of “Walker, H. and Pascoe, Sir, E.H. (1907): Notes on certain glaciers in Lahaul”?).

And just like that, without even a hint of a conclusion, the post was over.

[Update: oh no it wasn’t. But late to the party, and with nothing new to say, Nurture appear to have decided to waste their readers time by telling them about it. Odd]