Monday, November 26, 2007

A closing salvo in the 2007 hurricane wars

As pointed out by an anonymouse troublemaker (ain't we all) Mann and Co have fired a late salvo at the end of the 2008 hurricane season in GRL

We obtain new insights into the reliability of long-term historical Atlantic tropical cyclone (‘TC’) counts through the use of a statistical model that relates variations in annual Atlantic TC counts to climate state variables. We find that the existence of a substantial undercount bias in late 19th through mid 20th century TC counts is inconsistent with the statistical relationship between TC counts and climate.
Mann, Sabetelli and Neu find that the undercount is one (1.2 to be precise) by comparing the observed number of Atlantic tropical cyclones to that predicted using three proxys: sea surface temperature, El Nino and NAO indicies. The undercount bias is adjusted to give the best fit.

UPDATE: In the comments Henry Anonymouse asked for the full Fig. 1. (see below). By eyeball, it is pretty clear that the sea surface temperature is the driver, with El Nino and the NAO serving as modulating factors.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hitting ourselves with a rake

Eli was reading Andrew Dessler's blog over at Gristmill. Andrew, conscientious and fair minded lad that he is, has been looking for a denialist that would come to his class and debate climate change. He thought that Steve Milloy might have a stable of such available for guest appearances, but alas, when he wrote Steve at Milloy wrote back that there was no one available.

Andrew points out that what we are seeing is a few of the usual quacking heads recycled endlessly. Now this bears on issues that Eli has been thinking about but has not been able to quite verbalize, hence the recent ennui over here.

First, scientists are as bad as journalists about understanding the public and providing needed and useful information for others. The seeds of this are different, but the results the same. As we know journalists would much rather write about the controversy than the issue. Thus someone like Andrew Revkin will take a complex issue like climate change, project the multidimensional problem onto a line, seek the extremes, say Greenpeace and our beloved S. Fred's SEPP, and then find ignorant posers like Newt Gingrich and Bjorn Lomborg in the middle. Michael Tobis nails this, follow the links.

UPDATE: Michael prefers you start at the bottom, Reply to Revkin, not at the top, but Eli did provide instructions to follow the links, he can't help it if no one listens.

Scientists, on the other hand, are pretty much fixed not on what they know, which since they know it for more than ten minutes, is already boring, but what they don't and are excellent in telling people that they don't know everything. The average person hears that everything is up in the air, something that pro denialists are quite happy to chant in chorus. Stoat often provides excellent illustrations of this.

Consider what Andrew has discovered. The Overton window has moved. Pat Michaels, Richard Lindzen and the rest of the emeriti might as well move into the old scientists home with Frederick, S. Fred and Co.

Now is NOT the time to bring them back for a nostalgia tour. What Andrew needs to do is find people like, for example, James Annan, Gerald North and others (Eli is prepared to be corrected on the choice of protagonists) who form the more conservative wing of the IPCC consensus, to debate the radical wing, the Hansenites as it were.

Andrew's job is to offer his class real choices based on real science, rather than the delusional drivel offered by the loony .

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Eli is a bit burnt out

Things have been frantic the last few weeks at Rabett Labs, and Eli is a bit frazzled. Don't look for anything until Monday. A happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the US.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How decisions are made elsewhere

Without comment, but part of Eli's series on extraterrestrials, from Science this week:

Robotics offer new possibilities for studying and modulating animal behavior. Halloy et al. (p. 1155; see the news story by Pennisi) observed collective decision-making by mixed groups of cockroaches and autonomous minirobots. The robots, similar in size (though not in shape) to the cockroaches, were coated in a blend of cuticular hydrocarbons that mimic the natural cockroach cuticle. The robots and the insects made shared decisions regarding choice of shelter, and the robots could modulate the collective decision-making process and produce a behavior pattern--choice of an inappropriate shelter--not observed in groups of cockroaches alone. Thus, a small number of robots can change the global pattern by altering feedbacks between individuals in the system.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Think globally, act locally, save moneyOne of the simplest ways to save energy and money is to have a light colored roof. It the summer a black or dark roof absorbs the suns rays and heats up, a lighter colored roof reflects much of the light. In the winter the darker roof is a much more efficient radiator of solar energy than a lighter one. A few days ago, Eli was up pretty high in a building that overlooked a bunch of row houses in a seedy to improving neighborhood, and he saw that most of the roofs were light, even on the houses that had not been tarted up. So he decided to use Google maps to take a look at the area he lives in. There are very few dark roofs left. Eli suspects that progress has falsified what the EPA says

Over 90% of the roofs in the United States are dark-colored.
Take a look at your neighborhood. The web page continues about dark roofs

These low-reflectance surfaces reach temperatures of 150 to 190°F (66 to 88°C) and contribute to:

  • Increased cooling energy use and higher utility bills;
  • Higher peak electricity demand, raised electricity production costs, and a potentially overburdened power grid;
  • Reduced indoor comfort;
  • Increased air pollution due to the intensification of the "heat island effect"; and
  • Accelerated deterioration of roofing materials, increased roof maintenance costs, and high levels of roofing waste sent to landfills.

In contrast, cool roof systems with high reflectance and emittance stay up to 70°F (39°C) cooler than traditional materials during peak summer weather. Benefits of cool roofs include reduced building heat-gain and saving on summertime air conditioning expenditures. By minimizing energy use, cool roofs do more than save money – they reduce the demand for electric power and resulting air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Why it was the European Warm Period
and the Very Little Ice Age

Recently, Eli got tangled in a toodo at Tamino's (where are the bouncers when you need them) with one Leif Svalgaard, who looks at solar insolation for a living. Eli played but a small role in the proceeding. To make the story very short (and indeed it went on more and more and more and almost lead the mild mannered T to close up the comments)

Svalgaard propounds (go read Tamino) that there is no difference in solar insolation between solar cycle minima extending back to the year dot, and the year dot includes our beloved Maunder minima. Eli went and RTF AR4 on this, and indeed the solar gang has changed its tune, not as far as Svalgaard, but certainly a major change from the TAR.

The magnitude of the long-term trend in solar irradiance remains uncertain. A reassessment of the stellar data (Hall and Lockwood, 2004) has been unable to confirm or refute the analysis by Baliunas and Jastrow (1990) that implied significant long-term solar irradiance changes, and also underpinned some of the earlier reconstructions (see Section 2.7). Several new studies (Lean et al., 2002; Foster, 2004; Foukal et al., 2004; Y.M. Wang et al., 2005) suggest that long-term irradiance changes were notably less than in earlier reconstructions (Hoyt and Schatten, 1993; Lean et al., 1995; Lockwood and Stamper, 1999; Bard et al., 2000; Fligge and Solanki, 2000; Lean, 2000) that were employed in a number of TAR climate change simulations and in many of the simulations shown in Figure 6.13d.

In the previous reconstructions, the 17th-century ‘Maunder Minimum’ total irradiance was 0.15 to 0.65% (irradiance change about 2.0 to 8.7 W/m^2; radiative forcing about 0.36 to 1.55 W/m^2) below the present-day mean (Figure 6.13b). Most of the recent studies (with the exception of Solanki and Krivova, 2003) calculate a reduction of only around 0.1% (irradiance change of the order of –1 W/m^2, radiative forcing of –0.2 W/m^2; section 2.7). Following these results, the magnitude of the radiative forcing used in Chapter 9 for the Maunder Minimum period is relatively small (–0.2 W/m^2 relative to today).
Which if true (and this is going to be very short) leads one to the conclusion that the little ice age was very little and very local and may have had a lot more to do with volcanic activity then much else. Leaving us with the European Warm Period. There they won't even go out on a large tree trunk (Section 2.7 of WGI)
Prior to direct telescopic measurements of sunspots, which commenced around 1610, knowledge of solar activity is inferred indirectly from the 14C and 10Be cosmogenic isotope record in tree rings and ice cores, respectively, which exhibit solar related cycles near 90, 200 and 2,300 years. Some studies of cosmogenic isotopes (Jirikowic and Damon, 1994) and spectral analysis of the sunspot record (Rigozo et al., 2001) suggest that solar activity during the 12th-century Medieval Solar Maximum was comparable to the present Modern Solar Maximum. Recent work attempts to account for the chain of physical processes in which solar magnetic fi elds modulate the heliosphere, in turn altering the penetration of the galactic cosmic rays, the flux of which produces the cosmogenic isotopes that are subsequently deposited in the terrestrial system following additional transport and chemical processes. An initial effort reported exceptionally high levels of solar activity in the past 70 years, relative to the preceding 8,000 years (Solanki et al., 2004). In contrast, when differences among isotopes records are taken into account and the 14C record corrected for fossil fuel burning, current levels of solar activity are found to be historically high, but not exceptionally so (Muscheler et al., 2007).
Which leaves us precisely here

Friday, November 09, 2007

Who framed Roger? Rabett

Let Roger Revelle Speak for Himself
Blame the Lab Lemming for the title change (see comments)

Stoat has stumbled back across the S. Fred Singer malloying of Roger Revelle and the associated SLAPP suit against Justin Lancaster by Singer. What we have to add to the tale is a link to the letter that Revelle's collaborator Walter Munk and the director of Scripps sent to the Oceanographic Society, Edward Frieman commented on Singer's Cosmos club article and the attaching of Revelle's name to it. After Revelle's death, Munk and Frieman write

"One year later, in a discussion of Senator Gore's book Earth In Balance, Gregg Easterbrook notes that Senator Gore failed to mention that "'before his death last year, Revelle published a paper that concludes, 'The scientific basis for greenhouse warming is too uncertain to justify drastic' action at this time.' "
from which Easterbrook concluded that CO2 emissions were "far less hazardous than originally feared". As usual, you can RTFR, but for the link shy, they point out
The key is the use of the word drastic. Roger's last written statement on the subject was "What Can We Do About Climate." presented at the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) session, Climate Change: Scientific Uncertainties and Policy Responses in New Orleans on 16 February 1990. It outlines a possible set of actions designed to mitigate or delay climatic warming. It includes attempts to modify society's use and mix of fuels. While these may not be viewed as drastic, there is also no evidence that he believed that "emissions... are far less hazardous than initially feared."
We have already blogged on Revelle's non drastic recommendations in Roger and Jim, pointing out that they were not so far from what Jim Hansen is recommending today. Thus it is revealing that Singer, in a letter to Lancaster wrote:
P.S. The editor of Cosmos has kindly sent me a copy of a short note received from Walter Munk and Ed Frieman. Apparently, they are concerned that an article written by Newsweek journalist Gregg Easterbrook, distors some of Roger's views, and I believe they wish to put their concerns on the record. We do not defend Easterbrook's interpretations or extrapolations, and frankly we feel that theirs [Munk and Frieman] would be a much more positive step than the one you [Easterbrook] suggest.
Which, if Singer is to be believed (don't bet on this), means that he accepted Revelle's 6 points.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Specific Examples of Dysfunctional Decision-Making in Psychotic Populations

Does this description taken from an article by Martin Paulus in the recent Science issue on decision making remind you of some?

Substance-use disorders. Various deficits in decision-making have been reported in people with substance-use disorders (24). Specifically, these individuals do not appropriately take into account outcomes that occur sometime in the future versus those that occur now, and they therefore discount delayed rewards at significantly higher rates than do comparison subjects (2527). Some have argued that this behavior occurs because of an underlying disposition of impulsivity rather than a substance-induced problem (28). This presumes a discounting model of impulsiveness (29) (impulsivity is a direct consequence of an increased attenuation of rewards as a function of delay), which is supported by the finding that the degree of temporal discounting is correlated with ratings of impulsivity (30). Thus, altered discounting may be a predisposing characteristic but not a consequence of years of substance use, because individuals reporting illicit drug use at a younger age tend to discount the value of future hypothetical rewards more steeply than do their peers (31).

Individuals with substance-related problems, irrespective of the substance used, perform poorly on the Iowa gambling task (IGT) (3236), which measures the degree to which individuals select small immediate gains associated with long-term gains (advantageous option) over large immediate gains associated with long-term losses (disadvantageous option). These decision-making problems occur with and without concomitant working memory or executive-functioning problems, suggesting that decision-making is not simply a result of impairments in executive functioning. . . .

Addicted individuals either show attenuated learning of selecting advantageous options or do not choose preferentially advantageous options over disadvantageous ones. It is not clear which behavioral processes or neural systems are responsible for this deficit. . . . However, it is not clear whether these deficits are related to abnormal orbitofrontal functioning, a consequence of years of fossil fuel use, related to poorer outcomes, or even generalizable to other decision-making situations. . . .

Taken together, there is substantial evidence for altered behavioral decision-making in substance-using individuals, irrespective of the behavioral probe that was used. These dysfunctions include altered processing of future outcomes, reduced ability to adapt to short- versus long-term gains, selection of suboptimal choices based on probability, and/or reduced ability to incorporate outcomes into altering the preference structure of available options. Nevertheless, it is not yet clear whether these dysfunctions are due to primary differences in establishing the preference structure of the available options or, alternatively, represent an attempt to generate a preference structure that is optimal for an individual with an altered homeostasis.
A word or two altered, but not very many.

Noel, Noel, a bit early a bit late

From Reuters

MIAMI (Reuters) - Tropical Storm Noel, whose rains have killed at least 108 people in the Caribbean, strengthened into a hurricane in the Atlantic on Thursday as it moved away from the Bahamas toward Bermuda, U.S. forecasters said.

The center of Noel was about 1,300 km west-southwest of Bermuda by 8 p.m. (0000 GMT) and its maximum sustained winds had reached near 120 kph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Noel is now a Category 1 hurricane, the lowest level on the Saffir/Simpson scale.

And an update on the number of named storms this season. Should end up right on the forecast.