Another year in stoats

Subtitled As the days of my life are but grains of sand.

I’ve tried to not-choose the knockabout stuff, which is all great fun, but ephemeral. But some months were thin and I had little choice.

* Jan: On happiness
* Feb: The sleepwalkers
* Mar: Man slumped after hitting wall (see-also)
* Apr: North Korea ‘may not be performance art’, say experts
* May: Syria: the West makes the usual mistake – which I drag out not because its brilliant, nor because time has proved me wrong.
* Jun: Saturn’s hexagon. See-also Earth from Saturn.
* Jul: Up three to nine. See-also Happy Birthday to Watts’ paper!, an event none of us would wish to fail to mark (I look forward to its second unbirthday too; speaking of which, don’t forget Climategate 3.0 – well, how could you?)
* Aug: This year’s sea ice considered unexciting
* Sep: AR5: cursory review of chapter 4 (cryosphere) mass balance of Antarctica
* Oct: Wyatt and Curry part II: not waving but drowning
* Nov: Thrust
* Dec: Climate science is interesting and fun

Overall, a fairly thin year I’d say. Which was part of the reason for writing this.

Downtime / Uptime

Dscn1358-w-umbrella [Update: and we’re back]

ScienceBlogs is migrating to a new server / service, so I’m told. This will occur on “Wednesday”.

Please look on the main ScienceBlogs page for more details. You should avoid posting any comments that you care deeply about until then; or at least, make sure you take a backup.

I’ve noticed recently that I don’t always get emails about comments received; hopefully the move will resolve that.


1461082_10151973458857350_1113137741_n An advert in the Economist, and here’s the M$ puff online. M$ are trying to persuade the world that Evil Google is invading your privacy by auto-scanning emails to target ads. I can’t get exciting by this. Google, and Gmail, are supported by ads (aside: I’m astonished to discover just how much money their is in ads; only with Google did it become clear how much of such useful infrastructure they could support) and I’d rather they read my mail in order to send me useful and/or interesting ads (like this rather tasteful one I’ve inlined; I got that for searching for same) than spamming me with irrelevance like Facebook does.

And amusingly, the M$ page I ref comes up with: By using this site you agree to the use of cookies for analytics, personalised content and ads.

The Anti-MOOC Panic

I’m not desperately interested in the “MOOC” on-line course thing, though I can see that I might be in future. I don’t have a lot of spare time; for example the 2 hours I had free last night I spent running + recovering, not learning. But others do, and CIP has been talking to “the enemy” – i.e. the tenured professors in minor universities who have the most to lose. John Boy is even more in favour than CIP. However, I don’t want to debate their virtues but do want to note CIP’s:

The flood waters in Colorado seem to have washed away my comments on yet another blog by a historian at a school (CSU Pueblo) I had never previously heard of. One thing these guys can’t stand is dissent, even politely expressed. I can’t really blame them. They are trying so hard to convince themselves that MOOCs can’t do anything right that any contrary message excites pure panic. They, the tenured profs, have a pretty good deal, even if they aren’t exactly teaching at Harvard, and they have worked hard to get it. Of course that keeps them from understanding the real weaknesses of the MOOC or guessing the shape of education a decade or so from now.

What interests me about that is that its exactly the same reaction as the GW denialists. They, too, have nothing interesting to say about their area of interest, because they are scared of phantoms. They don’t know what the weaknesses of GW are, because they are incapable of studying it. Which brings me on to my alternative post title…

On not speaking

Posting here has been thin recently. You can’t see the numerous posts I started in a brief flash of enthusiasm but realised, meh, its either just knocking back a bit more denialism, or, meh, I’m just another voice spouting off. There are plenty of people out there telling you about Syria, or why so many people are clueless about the tax system, or why so many people are scared of free markets. So this is the “misc” post.


End of an era

I’ve been rowing again. I knew you’d want to know.

Real science

Human and natural influences on the changing thermal structure of the atmosphere by Santer et al. in PNAS looks to be worth a read. Though to be honest I haven’t actually bothered to do so 🙂

Judith Curry’s understanding of climate is not helped much by climate models

Or so she says. Personally, I find that my understanding of the deeper aspects of General Relativity isn’t helped by me not taking the time to concentrate on the maths. But at least I’m able to realise that’s a flaw in me, not GR.

Mind you, Curry’s comment does help explain why some of her papers are crap – if you write a paper in which “the model simulations … were the main source of data used in the analysis” and yet you don’t think the models help, you’re not really going to write anything sane.

Tell me something I didn’t know

The NIPCC is drivel. Oh, that wasn’t news? Never mind. Like everyone else, I’ll read a little bit (thanks to Sou there’s a copy here) then get bored. I got to:

IPCC Claim #1: A doubling of atmospheric CO2 would cause warming between 3°C and 6°C.

and thought “that doesn’t sound right”. Then I looked about – because the report, you see, is all sciencey, its got references and everything, its like a dog walking on its hind legs – and thought “hold on, Shirely you’ve referenced that” because otherwise all your stuff is just voodoo. But no, they haven’t. So much so that its not even possible to know what they mean by this – do the mean the climate sensitivity? The equilibrium one? Anyway, rather than trying to interpret denialist junk you’re better off reading the IPCC AR4 which says:

The equilibrium climate sensitivity is a measure of the climate system response to sustained radiative forcing. It is not a projection but is defined as the global average surface warming following a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations. It is likely to be in the range 2°C to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C. Values substantially higher than 4.5°C cannot be excluded, but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those values. Water vapour changes represent the largest feedback affecting climate sensitivity and are now better understood than in the TAR. Cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty. {8.6, 9.6, Box 10.2}

So its pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that the NIPCC is simply and blatantly lying. Can you think of a way to avoid this conclusion, other than by not thinking?

Bad beekeepin’, good houseleekin’, loadsasnowin’

I go away for a week and the bees go mad.


I don’t mean so mad that they put their honey in a pot for me – only that they seem to have filled up the hive to the top, probably with rape. And this despite them being a new swarm, in place only since late May. That’s 13 kg of honey (err, with wax mixed in of course, since the frames in the top super were foundationless, because I was in a hurry. They did not put their own comb neatly in rows).

Also while we were away the houseleeks have come out into full flower, even better than last year.


That one is unadjusted, but not really true colour. This one is adjusted and closer to eye.

And lastly, we were in the Stubai again. Sulzenauhutte to Innsbrucker Hutte this time. Some decent days but an awful lot of snow. Here’s the view down to the Blau Lacke and beyond the Sulzenauhutte (just visible nearly center) from half way up the so-called “Aperer Freiger”, “aperer” being a name sometimes given to the lower peaks off main summits (the main summit in this group being the Wilder Freiger). I’d assumed, in previous years, that it meant “lower” but it turns out to mean “snow free”, which fits with being lower of course.


Bad Science

VV has a thoughtful post about the value of peer review, looked at mostly through the lens of a couple of recent poor papers. Peer review (or whatever system you choose for choosing which papers will see the light) has to balance weeding out dross with not suppressing the unusual but good. It is primarily intended to do this for scientists; its not so great at handling the recent (?) phenomenon of septics deliberately gaming journals in order to publish their drivel. But I think I care about that less than I used to. Probably the greatest problem it faces is the vast mass of publish-or-perish “meh” papers that are neither dross nor good, just mediocre. But until academics get judged by competent people based on quality not paper count, that won’t go away.

Sirocko et al.:Solar influence on winter severity in central Europe

Most of what you want to know about that is at Claim of solar influence is on thin ice: are 11-year cycle solar minima associated with severe winters in Europe? Although the idea itself isn’t totally wacky; Are cold winters in Europe associated with low solar activity? by Lockwood et al. comes to similar conclusions to Sirocko. Andy Extance (who he? I’m sure I know the name) doesn’t like it either.

[Update: Richard Telford; part of a series.]

GMO labelling

I liked KK channelling Ramez Naam on Why GMO Supporters Should Embrace Labels.

Climate and conflict

I’ve largely ignored this area. Perhaps What is the debate over climate and conflict about? is a good intro.

Climate sensitivity

Seems to becoming interesting again. JA has a post on a recent multi-author study that finds lower values that those from the good olde dayes when I paid attention. SS didn’t much like Lewis’s J. Clim. paper but those I’ve asked think it sane, and Lewis. Though it would be nice if he learnt not to associate too closely with the non-sane.

[Update: Da Plot Thickens. Such fun!


Pols in Dixie seem even more dysfunctional that anywhere else. BB senses some signs of hope in National Journal: The Coming GOP Civil War Over Climate Change; but from a very low base.


Last month’s thrill was Marcott et al.; but a question I alluded to briefly was: “is he notable”? The answer is No or in more detail:

2013-05-16T00:16:42 Legoktm (talk | contribs) deleted page Shaun Marcott (Expired PROD, concern was: he is only postdoc with a nature publication)

which seems fair enough.


Blacklight retribution, rowing, work and the garden all mean I’m fairly busy now.


* Political failure modes and the beige dictatorship. Its not quite right, but I struggle to say what I mean in that area.
* Don’t make fun of renowned Dan Brown.
* mt also likes VV and adds a couple of nice extra points.
* Agnotology: learning from mistakes – Benestad et al..

Frolic and detour

It’s the law, it seems. And a suitable title for a misc post.

I’ve been busy, which accounts for my pathetic lack of posts recently.

* I ran the Brighton marathon (3:46).
* We entered the Town Bumps at Oxford, in IVs!
* I ran the Head of the Cam again.
* I’ve discovered that Yahoo and Flickr are fuckwits. Mind you, scienceblogs is unimpressing me at the moment with its more than glacial slowness.
* Some folks at work pointed out that my posts are incomprehensible. Such is life, but I do have a glossary. I just added CAGW, in case you were wondering what that was. The ScienceBlogs Great March onwards to the WordPress platform broke most of the old links. Sorry about that.

But enough about me. On with the misc.

Early Warning points out that global crop yields continue their inexorable rise; anyone claiming *current* crop disaster from GW needs to examine that pic carefully.

Richard Dawkins and God to star in 70s-style sitcom it seems:

“In the first episode, God manifests in a burning bush in the front garden and asks Mrs Dawkins in a booming voice if she needs anything from Asda. Richard comes out and she’s forced to invent an unlikely explanation involving a pack of confused Welsh nationalists and a political canvasser with a malfunctioning tannoy.

I’ve pretty well given up reading WUWT – it used to be fun, but it seems to me that the quality of rant has declined. Or maybe I’m just getting jaded. There have even been posts by the Looney Lord recently (see, I still read the snippets in the not-quite-late but lamented google reader). HotWhopper now does the job of reading the few that are interesting enough to be worth working out what is wrong with.

North Korea ‘may not be performance art’, say experts

python-spanish-inq A classic from the Daily Mash:

NORTH Korea is not an elaborate modern art installation, as previously suspected. As the tiny nation seemed to be genuinely threatening the United States with a nuclear strike, experts said it was now likely that Kim Jong Un and his late father are not ground-breaking surrealists in the mould of Salvador Dali, Luis Bunuel and Anne Widdecombe.

Well, I liked it. Since I’m here: I haven’t written on the Lewandowsky stuff before (I just copied someone else, mainly because I liked the cartoon) but it seems to have been getting sillier. mt seems to have it about right.

Continuing with the misc: Tamino demonstrates almost convincingly that we would have seen a 20th-century-a-like spike, had their been such a spike, in the dim and distant past in the Marcott et al. proxy reconstruction. I don’t think its done quite right but its right enough to get the conclusion right. And, as usual, it exposes the idiots who assert the reverse based on no evidence at all.

And to end, I’ll slavishly copy mt by slavishly pointing to KK on nukes.


* Iran Kicks America In The Nuts
* (Black) cat’s entertainment
* History Licking Its Chops To Judge George W. Bush (h/t Eli)