Friday, January 16, 2009

Hansen comes clean at last?

Maybe the attack on his numbers by Lubos Motl and others was the last straw. I am advised by email that NASA's Hansen has at last released his "data adjustment" computer code to Steve McIntyre -- after a lot of pressure from Steve to do just that. I assume it is FORTRAN code -- a la Michael Mann. It would be a lot simpler if Hansen had just released his algorithms but the FORTRAN code should eventually reveal what they were/are. As I know from experience, backtracking through someone else's FORTRAN code is very difficult at any time, however, and I hear that Hansen's code is far from elegant, so it will be some time before we know much.

I think there is a strong possibility that Hansen has simply adjusted his code from time to time in an ad hoc way rather than setting up a systematic theory first -- and there is much potential for cumulative errors in doing that. I don't envy Steve his disentangling task. Hansen may be relying on it being impossible.

The one who has not released his methods is Phil Jones of CRU.

Goodies for Australian scientists with flexible ethics

Research grants are a very powerful argument in favour of doing and saying whatever is expected. The grants below are for "coping" research but they assume that there is something to be coped with. And the temperature record since 1998 makes that a dubious peg to hang your research on

One of the world's largest research grant pools for climate change adaptation, about $30million, is expected to be allocated over the next two years, the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility announced yesterday. The $50 million NCCARF, set up in contentious circumstances by former environment minister Malcolm Turnbull during the 2007 election campaign, is preparing to take research application grants across eight priority areas.

Based at Griffith University, NCCARF recently published the first three of eight draft research priority plans: for health, disaster and emergency management; marine biodiversity; and resources. Research adaptation plans for terrestrial biodiversity, primary industries, water resources, human settlements and social, economic and institutional dimensions will follow this year. Last year Griffith and James Cook University signed a research deal aimed at positioning themselves ahead of the proposed new national research priorities of tropical science and climate change adaptation.

In what appears to signal the emergence of the first university research hub, Griffith and NCCARF will host a series of seven university-based research networks on climate change adaptation. This will include three of the Group of Eight research-intensive universities. Under the JCU- Griffith deal, the universities will do joint research and supervise each other's postgraduates to position themselves as research leaders in tropical science and climate adaptation for the Asia-Pacific.

JCU deputy vice-chancellor, research, and leading UN climate change author Chris Cocklin told the HES the alliance had been formed in response to the Rudd Government's proposed new national research priorities. "Both universities want to consolidate our research on tropical knowledge, and it's also no secret that it's a direct response to (Innovation) Minister Kim Carr's policy to build capacity (hubs) in areas of national priority," he said. "Tropical solutions", especially their subset issues of technology transfer to Australia's neighbours, is one of nine priorities in the Cutler innovation review released last September.

NCCARF director and former Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change impact and adaptation author Jean Palutikof told the HES that the field of adaptation research was not well advanced and the emphasis would be on developing resilience. "We are hopeful about making a (research application) call over the next few months for the first three plans, and the other five as soon as possible thereafter," she said yesterday. Professor Palutikof said a fellow IPCC author, British-based Neil Adger, had described the $30million as "one of the biggest pots of money ever put up for adaptation research; it's a significant investment internationally".

She said the extent to which Australia, already challenged by climate extremes such as drought and tropical storms, could adapt to climate change was restricted by the lack of precise predictions of changes at the local level, especially for rainfall. "Even under such uncertainties, we can plan for the future. Adaptation will be easier for resilient systems, and research is needed into what makes systems and institutions resilient and what actions we can take to enhance resilience," she said. Heat extremes, extreme weather, vector-borne disease, mental health and healthcare systems and infrastructure are among the research priorities identified in the health plan.

Last October, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong announced a $10 million grant under which Griffith and its NCCARF would host a series of mainly university-based research networks. NCCARF expects to allocate about $20 million this year and the remaining $30 million in 2010, Professor Palutikof said.


Obama climate czar has socialist ties

Group sees 'global governance' as solution

Until last week, Carol M. Browner, President-elect Barack Obama's pick as global warming czar, was listed as one of 14 leaders of a socialist group's Commission for a Sustainable World Society, which calls for "global governance" and says rich countries must shrink their economies to address climate change. By Thursday, Mrs. Browner's name and biography had been removed from Socialist International's Web page, though a photo of her speaking June 30 to the group's congress in Greece was still available.

Socialist International, an umbrella group for many of the world's social democratic political parties such as Britain's Labor Party, says it supports socialism and is harshly critical of U.S. policies. The group's Commission for a Sustainable World Society, the organization's action arm on climate change, says the developed world must reduce consumption and commit to binding and punitive limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Obama, who has said action on climate change would be a priority in his administration, tapped Mrs. Browner last month to fill a new position as White House coordinator of climate and energy policies. The appointment does not need Senate confirmation.

Mr. Obama's transition team said Mrs. Browner's membership in the organization is not a problem and that it brings experience in U.S. policymaking to her new role. "The Commission for a Sustainable World Society includes world leaders from a variety of political parties, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who succeeded Tony Blair, in serving as vice president of the convening organization," Obama transition spokesman Nick Shapiro said. "Carol Browner was chosen to help the president-elect coordinate energy and climate policy because she understands that our efforts to create jobs, achieve energy security and combat climate change demand integration among different agencies; cooperation between federal, state and local governments; and partnership with the private sector," Mr. Shapiro said in an e-mail.

Mrs. Browner ran the Environmental Protection Agency under President Clinton. Until she was tapped for the Obama administration, she was on the board of directors for the National Audubon Society, the League of Conservation Voters, the Center for American Progress and former Vice President Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. Her name has been removed from the Gore organization's Web site list of directors, and the Audubon Society issued a press release about her departure from that organization.


In a mad world of their own

Comment from Prof. Brignell in Britain

EU chemophobia knows no bounds. It has already destroyed minor industries and severely hampered major ones by the reckless banning of elements and compounds with little consideration of the possible effects. Now from West Country MEP Neil Parish we have this announcement:
Strasbourg, 13th January 2009 - The European Parliament has voted to ban a large number of the plant protection products available to British producers, despite a concerted effort by Conservative MEPs to restore some balance and proportionality to the plans.

West Country MEP, Neil Parish, the Chairman of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee has warned the parliament's overzealous approach will take a vast number of products off the market. The ban will reduce yields of a number of foods including carrots, cereals, potatoes, onions and parsnips, whilst pushing up prices for consumers.

Conservative efforts to reject a deal agreed by the parliament and the council of ministers did not achieve the 393 votes required. Yesterday, a Conservative amendment calling for a full impact assessment on the plans was rejected by the parliament's services. Now, the plans could only be stopped by a last-ditch effort by the British government, although over the last several months they have failed to back up their opposition with action.

"This law will drive up the cost of the weekly food shop at the worst time for British families. "We do need strong restrictions on pesticide use but it should be based on sound science, rather than on the whim of politicians. There has been no balance whatsoever in the parliament's position. MEPs have failed to see pesticides as necessary tools in maintaining our crops.

"Many of the products on the market today are safe when used correctly, and have been around for years. Without crop protection products, our food supplies will be volatile at a time when food security is rising up the political agenda.

"The Labour government has expressed concern about this directive, but it has failed to put the case nearly as strongly as it should have. "It is ludicrous that such a plan would be brought into law without an impact assessment to gauge its consequences. The only hope we have is for a last-ditch effort by the government to demand we finally get an overall picture of how food production will be affected across the EU."

Parish makes a good case but rather understates it. Yes there will be a process of attrition, which will greatly reduce the competitiveness of European farming and cause food shortages.

The real worry, however, is the new risk of a serious explosion of one particular pest, as yet unidentifiable, that will sweep through the continent destroying all before it. The greens who dominate the EU have this dream of returning mankind to an imagined past paradise, but the world has changed. People are crowded into cities and depend on intensive, mechanised farming to feed them. A new strain of, say, influenza can move round the world in a matter of days; while some human diseases, once regarded as belonging to the past, such as TB, are making a comeback in resistant forms. So it is with plant pests and diseases.

The great Irish famine of the 1840s, a tragic event that did much to change world history, was precipitated by common potato blight (and worsened by bureaucratic inefficiency). Your bending author's tomato crop was wiped out last year by the same disease. Amateur growers have already been seriously hampered by EU restrictions on chemicals, some of which have been used safely for years, and have been obliged to abandon some types of crop. The Colorado potato beetle caused panic in wartime and post-war Britain, even once being considered as a potential weapon.

Such practicalities do not cause concern in the rarefied atmosphere of Brussels. There is little consultation other than with blinkered green pressure groups. Science and its methods are regarded a pass‚. Such a process of wilful neglect, as we have seen in the financial world, must inevitably lead to a catastrophe. Those of us who warned about the foreseeable result of the activities of the debt pushers were ignored. We are now warning about another avoidable catastrophe and will no doubt be ignored again.

It is a strange world in which an imaginary threat such as the carbon scare can cause the wasteful expenditure of billions, yet in the face of real threats we simply throw down our weapons of defence, but that is Greenery for you.


Chicago has most consecutive days of snowfall since records began in 1884

A new record was set Wednesday when Chicago had its ninth consecutive day of measurable snowfall, according to the National Weather Service. The previous record was eight consecutive days set from Dec. 13 to 20, 1973. Snowfall records in Chicago date back to 1884.

A wind chill warning has been issued as temperatures as tsmperartures will not reach single digits until Friday. The forecast for Thursday is: Sunny and cold, with a high near -3. Wind chill values as low as -33. West northwest wind between 10 and 15 mph.


Global cooling better for violins?

The BBC has a more extended comment than that below, noting even that the climate change concerned was sun-driven

Astounding as it may sound, scientists are not ruling out the possibility that climate change may have affected the sound of wooden musical instruments in the face of the changing 'characteristic' of the wood due to global warming. Several attempts have been made to make a violin that generates the same kind of sound as it did in the 17th century, but to no avail," Dr T Ramaswami, Secretary in the Department of Science and Technology.

"Several questions have been asked as to why today's violin cannot match the phenomenal outcome of the original violin. Though it is still a theory, many (experts) have opined that during the 17th century, the earth was passing through a little ice age. The world was cool. The maple tree from which the violin is made was also softer than it is today," he said.

Ramaswami, also a noted leather technologist, said though it was yet to be confirmed, it could be because of the softness of the maple tree in the 17th century that the musical outcome of the violin was so 'phenomenonal'. He said it was possible that the molecular structure of the trees might have transformed over the years due to global warming, thus changing the final outcome of the wooden instruments.


Explanatory comment from a correspondent:

Physical properties of wood vary substantially, depending, among other things, on the growth rate of the tree, which determines the width of the annual ring and the density of the wood. Stressed trees (i.e., growing under severe conditions) have closely spaced annual rings and the physical properties of the wood are not the same as trees that grow rapidly and develop wide rings.

For example, old-growth trees that are 500-1000 years old have narrow rings and very straight grain that makes them ideal for various uses as lumber. If you cut down the old-growth trees, the next generation of trees grows very rapidly and typically has wide rings with very irregular grain, making the wood less desirable.

Thus, wood used for making violins could have rather different qualities depending on the growing conditions of the trees. During the Little Ice Age, trees were stressed and growth rings tend to be narrower and probably different in density than trees that grew later under more optimal conditions. So the wood used to make violins during the Little Ice Age could well have different physical properties than younger wood.


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Graham Dawson (Archonix) said...

On the subject of violins, I remember reading stories like this over a decade ago. From the BBC no less. It's hardly news, so why are they reporting it again now?

John A said...

So, NCCARF will look into "climate change adaptation" eh?

I somehow doubt that the ideas of Professor Bjorn Lormberg will get much of a hearing vs "carbon tax" and cap and trade etc. Even though the good professor has not "denied" AGW vs more "natural" warming/cooling causes.

No, we'll hear more blather and unfortunately get guidelines, rules, regulations, and laws in the next few years which will be difficult (to say the least) to get rid of if cooling prevails over warming.

Case in point: "sustainability" was used to promote wood-burning for heating. Enough that new companies formed to make things like the Franklin Stove. After all, wood is a "renewable/sustainable" resource (Except when it is used for paper or construction). Worked qute well, didn't it Well enough that small governments all over the place are not passing laws against stoves and fireplaces...