Icebergs on the Starboard Bow . . . – Alma Boykin

Icebergs on the Starboard Bow . . . – Alma Boykin

And port, and behind us, and where on Earth is that global warming they promised us? And what’s with all the jokes about trees in Siberia, anyway?

People have been complaining about the weather, and noting that no one in the village/court/monastery can remember the last time X happened or it being as cold/hot/wet/dry as it is today, since the ninth day of Creation. But it was not really until the 1700s that we had the tools and resources to keep track of weather events and slowly, gradually, start compiling a picture of larger patterns, if there were any. We had stores of knowledge about local conditions and now-casting built into catches such as “wind before rain/sun shines again;/ rain before wind/the topsails take in,” and “a ring around the moon means rain,” or “red skies at morning, sailors take warning;/ red sky at night, sailors’ delight” (some places use shepherds instead of sailors.) Out where I live, we have rules such as never plant tomatoes until the mesquite blooms (because then you are safe from frost) and that if the wind goes calm during the day it signifies a major wind shift is about to occur. But these kinds of observations are not good for looking at climate, just local short-term weather.

The advent of the telegraph made some longer term forecasting possible, at least in the US. People noted that if Philadelphia reported a weather change, the next day New York City and Boston would probably have a weather change as well. But it was only after WWI, when Vilhelm Bjerknes began collecting large amount of observation that he discovered the large scale, hemispheric cold-meets-warm weather makers, which he called fronts, after the long lines of colliding soldiers in France and Belgium. Weather forecasting had stepped into the next phase. Climate forecasting remained a way off, as did climate reconstruction.

Archaeology and the Annals School of History combined to bring us climate history. Louis Agassiz, a Swiss geographer, had broached the idea of an Ice Age in the 1840s, theorizing that the galloping glaciers of the late 1700s-early 1800s had advanced and retreated before. But geologists and others had downplayed his ideas for various reasons, including differing interpretations of the evidence he presented. Eventually a few historians and archaeologists began looking at evidence of past human activities and observed that the weather had to have been different, and that perhaps people had responded differently. In the late 1800s George Perkins Marsh, a US ambassador to [country] had looked at the “modern” Mediterranean, looked at his classical history texts, and produced the book Man and Nature, a study of the effects of farming and other human activities on the Mediterranean Basin. He is considered the father of environmental history. However, he could not include any information about if the weather patterns had been different back then, because he had no way of obtaining the data. That came in the 1940s-1960s.

It was not until historians, working with multiple small-scale regional studies like those pioneered by the Annales School in France (including Emmanuel le Roi Ladurie), in North America, the Low Countries, China, Scandinavia, and archaeologists and astronomers combined their data that we realized a pattern did exist, and that the climate had changed in very major ways, although not on a strictly repeating schedule (although some hold that a 1500-year cycle does exist.) The Roman Warm Period encouraged population growth and expansion into areas that became marginal when the cold phase of the “Dark Ages” (roughly 500-850) kicked in and kicked off the Volkerwanderung, possibly the Plague of Justinian, the loss of North Sea coastal settlements, and terminated the vineyards of England (and may be remembered in the folk tales that became the Mabinogion).

The Medieval Climate Optimum encouraged a return to the uplands. Combined with the development of the heavy plow and three-field rotations, food became relatively abundant again, and the mild weather helped make major trade and building projects possible. This is the age of Chartres Cathedral, the great Champaigne Fairs, and the Germanic expansion east into the Polish and Lithuanian Marches. This is also the time of the troubadours and the Angevian Empire. But decreasing solar energy output encouraged cooler temperatures and wetter weather in Europe, ending the Medieval Warm Period and ushering in the Little Ice Age in the early 1300s. People weakened by cold and hunger succumbed easily to the Black Death, and Europe saw on aggregate a 25% population loss, with some areas suffering complete devastation and abandonment. The Four Horsemen rode over the Northern Hemisphere, and parts of the Southern Hemisphere as well, with “low” points between 1600-1650 and in the late 1700s. We are (or were) currently in a warm phase again, one that will perhaps be called the 20th Century Warm Period.

All of this would be only of interest to historians, archaeologists, and weather nerds, except that climate and energy consumption became a big political deal, with lots of money available for (the right kind of) research starting in the 1960s. The 1970s were also a time of cooling weather, which led to cries that we were all going to “freeze to death in the dark” if we were not crushed under galloping glaciers or irradiated out of existence then frozen by a nuclear winter (late 70s – early 80s version). Calls for population limits, government energy rationing, and other checks on the western economies alternated with pleas to save the whales/rainforests/black-footed ferret, and to give a hoot and don’t pollute resounded, and Earth Day (also Lenin’s birthday) became “a thing.”

Then solar energy increased, the weather grew warmer for a while, and Global Warming!!!!!! became the crisis. The Greenhouse Effect was going to turn Earth into another Venus as CO2, methane, water vapor, CO2 and the ozone hole baked us to death. That CO2 lags behind oceanic warming because as the oceans warm, they release CO2 just like warm pop gets rid of its fizz was ignored. Research funds went towards proving Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). And into this hot-house atmosphere came Dr. Michael Mann, then of UNC, later of the U of Pennsylvania, and Hansen of NOAA with a hockey-stick shaped graph demonstrating how global temperatures had abruptly started increasing around the time of the Industrial Revolution. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) picked up on Dr. Mann’s models and produced reports.

Except the climate shift shown in Dr. Mann’s research contained a few problems. I won’t go into them, in part because there is a lawsuit underway involving Dr. Mann, but among other things a number of people questioned the emphasis put on tree rings from a particular tree-ring sample from Yamal, Siberia. And the graph eliminated the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods, which were warmer than the modern warm period.

And to make things worse, the climate stopped warming in 1998. When “corrections” and urban heat island effects are removed, the global climate has actually begun cooling, in part due to declining solar radiation. The last sunspot cycle wasn’t, once you get down to cases. CO2 production globally has decreased (aside from China and India, and China has a whole lot of other environmental problems. Communism and environmentalism only go together in the West, not in the USSR or the PRC). We are likely in a cool phase that will extend into the 2030s and a little beyond, just as the US, UK, and Europe are cutting back on energy production and raising prices in order to “save the planet.”

And fluctuations in solar energy are not humanity’s fault.

The climate changes, it always has, for various reasons. It seems probable that a massive volcanic eruption in what is now the Sunda Strait ended the Roman Warm period. The sunspot lows of the Maunder and Dalton minima wreaked havoc on a global scale by causing crop losses, droughts, flooding and thus contributing a few elements to human political and social upheaval. Not that humans need an excuse to behave badly, but famine and pestilence exacerbate our tendency to mess with each other. Going even farther back, the Altithermal/ Atlantic Climate Phase that peaked roughly 7,000 years ago dried parts of the Great and High Plains out so much that even the buffalo headed off to greener pastures – literally – for decades and possibly even centuries.

If there is a lesson from all this it is: beware of science chasing political money. And be aware that the climate has changed since this planet first developed an atmosphere, and will continue changing until the Sun starts to die and burns off that atmosphere.


Shameless author plug – if you want to read something lighter, try my books at Amazon, B&N, and Kobo! And buy Sarah’s stuff, too. Lots of Sarah’s stuff.

130 responses to “Icebergs on the Starboard Bow . . . – Alma Boykin

  1. c4c

  2. And their incredibly expensive, ‘detailed’ computer models, apparently assume that solar activity is a constant. Well, not a constant, but that the 12-year sunspot cycle is the only variation therein.

    • Rob Crawford

      Their “models” assume CO2 is increasing, is the primary greenhouse gas, and there are no other factors. The models assume what we’re supposed to believe they prove.

      • William O. B'Livion

        “CO2…is the primary greenhouse gas”

        Most of them do not assume that CO2 is the primary GHG. Most of them assume that water vapor is the primary GHG, but that slight increases in CO2 will lead to larger increases in H2O vapor through positive feedback mechanisms (and that there are no, or minimal negative feedback mechanisms).

        CO2 *is* a relatively mild GHG, and it’s primary heat holding ability and limits are both well known and relatively uncontroversial, it’s the feedback loops (aka “Computer Models”) that, uh, don’t line up with the universe we’re living in.

        • If the feedback loops (aka “Computer Models”) don’t line up with the universe we’re living in, we must be living in the wrong universe. We need scads of lots of mountains of copious government funding, without delay, to fund a project to restore us to our proper place in the space/time continuum. We also need start-up funds for liquor research to determine which that proper continuum might be.

    • The models, when fed any set of data whatever, always show warming. The original code for the modeling programs was inconveniently lost before any outsider asked to see it. How convenient.

      Oh, and the original temperature data is now being retroactively adjusted.

      The amazing part is that anybody still believes them.

      I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This morning I read a story that said the US economy only grew .2% last quarter, far below government estimates. Their solution is to revise how they measure growth to make the numbers look better.

      Good news, citizens! The chocolate ration has been raised to 20 grams!

      • Imagine a nerd tries modeling female behavior in a multi-million dollar game project. The modeler becomes a master lothario in the game. Would anybody believe that he totally understood women? Would he call the people laughing at him “science deniers?”

        Climate models are science porn. The modelers are mental masturbaters.

      • Patrick Chester

        The models, when fed any set of data whatever, always show warming. The original code for the modeling programs was inconveniently lost before any outsider asked to see it. How convenient.

        So why hasn’t anyone demanded that they start over from scratch and save the code this time?

        • Because the only people who could are happy with the results, and the rest of us don’t matter.

      • I had understood that they (Steve McIntyre and someone else?) were able to force Mann to produce the code, via FOIA request, which was how they found that even if you feed in data that should produce a completely flat graph, you still get a hockey stick.

        • Michael Mann’s model reminds me of a tale i learned at summer camp:

          Whatever data goes in, sausage invariably comes out.

        • They still have the program. Just not the base code that the program was compiled from. Even when they’ve tried, they haven’t been able to recreate or even explain the coding.

          • snelson134

            Yeah, without the source code, you can only do black box testing: feed in the data and see what comes out. With the source code, you can do white box testing and see how the input produced the output.

            • That’s not entirely true. Someone could always take the binary, and then convert it to machine code. There won’t be any comments, so it will be “fun” figuring out what all those instructions are supposed to do (and you can only guess at the rationale that might have produced such things), but it’s nonetheless possible….

              It would be interesting to hear if anyone has tried to do such reverse-engineering.

              • snelson134

                I know it was tried with East Anglia, and the people exploring it basically said it was more spaghetti than Mama Luigi’s. They couldn’t figure out anything.

                Personally, I wouldn’t take that route on a bet.

          • Object code, not source code.

            Which means that the logic is impenetrable.

        • snelson134

          It’s also possible we’re conflating Mann with East Anglia meteorology over in England, which was exposed in similar fashion just prior to Mann.

          • No. The CRU (East Anglia) mess is about an e-mail trail that showed collusion and falsification. The problem with Dr. Mann is the so-called (by everyone else) “hockey-stick” model that S. McIntire and McKittrick showed was inherently flawed, Dr. Mann’s refusal to release raw data and codes, and his insistence that the data of one tree in Siberia could serve as a proxy data set for all of eastern Asia. And who is currently in a lawsuit with National Review and someone who is as tenacious as a terrier. The “hockey-stick” (so-called because of the plot trace) predates CRU-gate by several years.

    • “Show me your code.”

      And then I’ll see about validating your input data…

  3. I assume you mean the Cat and Dragon books as ‘something lighter’? The Colplatschki series is outstanding, well written, imaginative, suspenseful ;however, ‘light’ is not one of the many adjectives I would use.

    Frivolous Lawsuit by (witch)Doctor Mann is a more apt description. It is hard to slander the credibility of a person who has none.
    My understanding of the Siberian tree (yes, it is only one) is that the tree-ring growth is used as a proxy for temperature; however, forestry people suggest that in old-growth forests, the dying of a nearby tree has a larger impact on growth than temperature. What I have always found strange is:
    Medieval Warm Period, Little Ice Age – we can not ‘assume’ that historical weather records and inferences about Europe apply to the globe as a whole. (A somewhat reasonable argument); however, we can assume that trees in Siberia provide an inference to the entire planet.
    Changes in solar activity in and of themselves can only represent about 1/4th the climate variation; however, reduction in solar activity results in a weakened solar magnetosphere, which allows more cosmic rays to strike the Earth’s upper atmosphere, causing increased cloud formation, representing about 3/4th of the climate variation.

    There are additional points to make; however, since ‘the science is settled’ is the only answer you will receive, asking the questions only increases the atmospheric CO2. Some ‘computer models’ are outstanding predictors. Amazon’s recommended for you and Wal-Mart’s just in time inventory system come to mind. USPS ‘tracking’ and ‘global warming’ and anything to do with Government spending and ‘the Economy’ all come to mind as computer models with very flawed assumptions.

    Fall of Communism and Rise of Anthropomorphic Global Warming occur in a suspiciously interconnected time frame. I wonder why?

    • Um, yeah, I do have a problem with trying to write light and fluffy, don’t I? I was thinking lighter a in “not trying to compress ten years of research into 1200 words” lighter.

    • Dr. Mann’s lawsuit is the scientific/legal equivalent of a sock filled with sand, and employed for essentially the same purpose.

      Proper scientific method would be to publish the raw data and the premises for the models used to project his results, challenging all comers to come up with a better solution.

      Not. Going to. Happen.

      • I always assumed it was a sock filled with a large rock, although I understand that a sock with a big bar of Ivory soap is effective and leaves no annoying marks.

      • Mann has publicly admitted he refuses to release his raw data because he doesn’t want people using it to attack his “findings”. Science hint: If your raw data attacks your “findings”, your “findings” are wrong…

        • Mann has drunk his own Kool-Aid. By suing for libel, he has opened himself and all his data up to discovery (the legal term). I suspect that when the lawsuit is over, the result is going to be that truth is an absolute defense against libel (in this country, but not in the UK (he should have sued there.)).

          • The lawsuit was filed in D.C. even though no one involved is from that jurisdiction. He shopped around for a friendly court.

        • Very much this. Conclusions should explain the data not the data the conclusion. And ANY good set of ‘findings’ should have potential flaws and potential other areas of study and refinement outlined if only to prove you know the limits of your data.

          • No, no, no, no, no!!!!! The Science is settled*!!

            *Settled to the bottom, like the grounds in a pot of coffee, where none of it will get sucked up in somebody’s drink.

            • This is why we have filters… Though I think reading tea-leaves is an apt analogy for those trying to predict climate beyond ‘yup hang around for a bit and you’ll get somethin’ different.’

              • It’s all an excuse for two demands:
                1. give us money
                2. give us power
                a.complete power over you and everyone else because if you don’t the world is going to end.
                b. we know best how to run the world.

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      All models are wrong, but some are useful.

      The real world is too complicated to perfectly fit a human solvable model to it. So we have to follow certain steps making a wrong model if we hope to have it be useful.

      1. Define the problem.
      2. From real world phenomena, make simplifying assumptions that are appropriate to the problem you are trying to solve.
      3. Make models
      4. Test the models. Again, this depends on the problem you are trying to solve.

      Humans are much smaller than the Earth. A model that captures human impact is necessarily going to need to be very finely detailed. As would a boiler model deeply concerned about a thin layer of rust on the outer surface, if perhaps to a lesser degree. Fine detail has two issues. One, an intricate model can very easily go to crazyland without the modeler noticing. Two, you have to collect finely detailed data. The later is a concern for anthropogenic climate change, it might not yet be technically possible to have appropriate finely detailed information. It is a problem where data needs to be collected over time, geologic time is long, and I estimate we have only had the tech to do the measurements over area or volume for 1d6 + 1 decades.

      In addition, useful for science (asking questions) is not exactly the same as useful for engineering (solving problems with impact on human welfare).

      • You forgot:
        5. Tweak model until it produces desired results.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          That is a model being useful in the political sense, which is outside of the scope of that rant. I was only speaking to useful in the scientific or engineering sense.

          • Not at all. It gets more funding which is currently the only thing which is useful in a scientific sense. Among other things, look at the number of papers in all fields that are withdrawn as soon as someone attempts the (rather rare) feat of duplicating the experiment.

          • No, not necessarily. Depends on what results you desire. You CAN — it’s not actually possible to stop you from it — desire results that will accurately predict the future.

      • “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

        If Kate Upton is wrong, I don’t want to be right!

  4. I await the cries from the AGW crowd as they shift to blaming humanity for the cooling, or if they keep pushing that the Earth is warming and ignore the reality around them. I just don’t know which it will be.

    I also am very curious if we will see a major war erupt in the near future as it begins to cool, crops grow smaller, and nations start to get hungry.

    I do hope that we are making it warmer on this planet, so just maybe we can offset the cooling that is taking place and that will continue as Sol slips into a Grand Solar Minimum.

    • It is notable that whatever they consider the problem their solution is consistent: let them run things.

      That these people would obviously lose money running a lemonade stand in a desert is beside the point.

      Well, either you’re closing your eyes
      To a situation you do now wish to acknowledge
      Or you are not aware of the caliber of disaster indicated
      By the presence of climate change in the global community.
      Ya got trouble, my friend, right here,
      I say, trouble right here in Capitalist City.
      Why sure I’m a weather watcher,
      Certainly mighty proud I say
      I’m always mighty proud to say it.
      I consider that the hours I spend
      With barometer in hand are golden.
      Help you cultivate horse sense
      And a cool head and a keen eye.
      – – –
      Trouble, oh we got trouble,
      Right here in Capitalist City!
      With a capital “T”
      That rhymes with “C”
      And that stands for Climate,
      That stands for climate.
      We’ve surely got trouble!
      Right here in Capitalist City,
      Right here!
      Gotta figger out a way
      To keep the economy moral after school!
      Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble….

  5. George Perkins Marsh was the US ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and spent some time in Greece, which is what led to his ideas about what we now call “anthropogenic environmental change”. Forgot to triple check that before I sent Sarah the piece, sorry.

    • My understanding is the same for Italy. The deforestation of Italy by the Romans changed the standard climate to hotter and more arid than its location’s latitude would suggest. Likewise Greenland ice cores show elevated levels of atmospheric lead during Roman times.

      • Deforestation changes ecology, but the sort of deforestation to effect climate would probably take more forests than were in all of Europe.
        Deforestation does change local microclimates in that trees block and reflect the sun, and retain humidity, but the main change is with water run-off and erosion in land that has been cut over and turned into pasture and field.

  6. Excellent overview article! Thank you for doing this, I keep seeing the need for it, but knew that the research needed to boil it all down was beyond my limited time resources. I’d love to see some other sources for more in-depth if you have them? Without plunging all the way down that rabbit hole. I do have a novel to write.

    And for the other comment-readers, I wholly endorse the Colplatschki series. Much enjoyment; dense chewy reads. I really need to pick up more of the Cat books, though.

    • Cedar, I recommend Brian Fagan’s books _The Little Ice Age_, _The Long Summer_, and _The Great Warming_. (Heck, almost anything by Fagan’s good, but these are about climate). Ladurie’s _Times of Feast, Times of Famine_ is a classic for good reasons, although he and the translator use some terms that are a little particular and the book focuses on a limited area and time duration. _El Niño in History: Storming Through the Ages_ is a very good book about that aspect of climatology. _Catastrophy_ by David Keys is a study of what went wrong (so-to-speak) in Late Antiquity and why, tracking back to a volcanic eruption. I also recommend Singer and Avery’s _Unstoppable Global Warming (Every 1500 Years)_ which has an updated and expanded edition as well as the original. All are relatively short (OK, Ladurie is fat but he was the first and had to present all of his data and I do mean ALL) and easy to read, but with excellent sources and notes. From there you can mine footnotes for the academic papers and theses if you are so inclined.

  7. Christopher M. Chupik

    Obama is preparing for a war on climate change. The Finns are planning for war with Russia.

    I know which one I’m paying more attention to.

    • The question is, which has the ability to do more direct damage to the American economy? Because measures taken to prevent climate change usually take the form of anti-science ranting, investment in ‘green’ energy scams (I assume the ‘green’ in ‘green energy’ means money), and regulations that hamper industry and cost companies money while lowering productivity.

      • “Under my plan, energy prices will naturally skyrocket.”
        War on coal.
        War on oil. (All the new production is on private land, using permits issued by the Bush administration.)
        Rolling brownouts/blackouts.
        ‘Smart’ energy meters which can cut off your home from the grid, or throttle your consumption. And which can be hacked by China. (Already been demonstrated.)
        ‘Witch hunts’ against ‘deniers’. (They’ve already called for death to the infidels, I mean deniers, I mean anybody who disagrees with their nutty ideas.)

        • And then that constant obfuscation over the Keystone pipeline right of way. Canada is rightly pissed off, and about a heartbeat away from selling all that shale oil to China. So instead of sending the oil to American refineries where it would be processed under our strict environmental controls it will be piped or worse yet train cared to the coast, loaded on tanker ships, then processed in China with little if any restriction.
          So, hurt the US, check.
          Hurt the environment, check.
          Do a favor for the major campaign contributor who owns the rail tanker cars and probably the tanker ships as well, check.
          Bragging rights with ignorant clueless greens, slam dunk.

    • No, Obama has opened a climate change front in his war on America.

      • Astute observation.
        Listen to the man’s words, or read them in “his” books. His claim is that he does not believe in American exceptionalism. I believe this to be a deception. In truth I think he very much believes in the uniqueness of this country and desperately wants to destroy it.
        His every effort while in office has been to bring the US more in line with his true idols, the nations of Europe. Of course he somehow fails to comprehend that without a strong America Europe would quickly descend back into its traditional historical state of internecine warfare.

    • I remember Nixon’s War on Cancer.

      Cancer won.

      I wouldn’t bet on our chances in a War on Climate.

      But, hey, war is the one thing that justifies setting aside the Constitution, right? Inter arma enim silent leges, what? Conservatives, if they accept this claim, regard it as a very unfortunate aspect of war.

      I’m thinking that some liberals consider it one of the more attractive features.

  8. When politics coopts science, the results are always bad. See Mengele, Lysenko, etc.

    • As they told Copernicus, Galileo, Pasteur and Einstein: The Effin’ Science Is Settled!!!!!

      • Ironically enough, with Galileo he was pulling something more like the climate scientists today– make a theory, insist on teaching it as fact when you don’t have supporting evidence, and use rhetoric to promote it.

        Details if desired:

        • Probably the most important part, though even this is only the second half of a bullet point starting with 1651. Riccioli publishes his masterwork Almagestum novum.

          The “key arguments against which the Copernicans had no good response” are the lack of parallax and Coriolis effects. Graney states, “Today, a new theory which predicts observable effects that are not observed, while requiring the ad hoc creation of an unprecedented new type of object [gigantic stars], would have limited appeal, even were it mathematically elegant.” The Tychonic model fit the data better. It predicted all the same phenomena as the Copernican, plus it explained why there was no visible parallax or Coriolis.

          Unlike Galileo’s Dialogue, which was a polemic written for the public, and like Scheiner’s Rosa Ursina, Riccioli’s New Almagest was a dense, scientific and mathematical tome written for scientists. It remained a standard text into the 18th century. In it, Riccioli also reports the value of g for gravitational acceleration, gives the geography of the moon*, shows that bodies do not fall at the same rate,** et al. He gave detailed descriptions of the experiments so that anyone who wished could duplicate them.
          (*) geography of the moon. The New Almagest has the first detailed lunar map, with the sea and crater names that we still use. Riccioli named craters for Copernicus and his followers and for Tycho and Ptolemy and their followers, acknowledging in this offhand manner the collegial and cumulative nature of science.
          (**) do not fall at the same rate. If two heavy objects of differing weight are dropped simultaneously from the same height, the heavier one descends more quickly provided it is of equal or greater density. If both bodies are of equal weight, the denser one drops more quickly. Air resistance does matter.

        • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

          Worse, Galileo promoted other theories that we know to be false and other people published papers *then* that showed Galileo was wrong.

          At least one of these people promoted a theory that is held today to be correct.

          Galileo was very nasty toward people who attempt to dispute his (later found incorrect) ideas.

          Not only was Galileo a jerk, he was often wrong in his science.

    • It isn’t remotely possible to separate the two. Science is affected by politics is affected by art is affected by agriculture, etc, etc, etc.

      That said, a lot of the biggest screw-ups came about because some politician took a “science” meme from a Sunday Living Section article, where a reporter mangled the misinformation he took away from a dozen hash interviews, and ran with it.

      • And just why would a politician do such a thing? To help the constituents what elected them? Hardly. It always turns out to be a cause that can be used as leverage to acquire greater political power.
        Funny, and sad, how a servant of the people’s first duty always seems to be to protect their cushy jobs.

        • Almost worse are the ones who genuinely believe they have a stranglehold on The Truth, and are of to the Crusades.

          And the. We have the LIRPs, who manage to be BOTH.

        • I thought their first duty was to steal our money, and their second duty to protect their cushy jobs. Exactly did Harry Reid become a millionaire on that tiny salary he receives? (It must be tiny, because they always want to have it raised.)

  9. A key point in Simon Winchester’s excellent book, Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883, that eruption is the first time we had the capacity, instrumentation and communications network to observe such a phenomenon as a global event.

    It is important to keep in mind that simply because an event has never before been observed does not mean it has never previously occurred.

    Besides, human induced climate change is a trifle compared to what will happen when the next (rather overdue) eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera occurs. Worrying about Climate Change in the face of that explosion is the global equivalent of fixing a hole in the roof while the gas-line corrodes.

    • There is of course the Tambora eruption of 1815 which put far more material into the upper atmosphere than Krakatoa did. And Tambora is commonly believed to be the reason that European and North American history books call 1816 The Year Without A Summer.
      As for Yellowstone, there’s one to keep you up at night. A major eruption of that caldera could easily turn everything east of it all the way to the Anlantic ocean a dead zone.

      • Take heart; there’s no current indicators that anything is likely to happen. Besides, “active” is a good thing when it’s reducing stressors, so bubbling mud pots, thermal springs, and various and sundry things are much better than if, say, the geysers stopped.

      • If Yellowstone is keeping you up at night, move. Otherwise, make your peace with it. Sometime soon (in geological terms) Yellowstone is going to go.
        I live just barely south (like, oh, a couple miles) of the flows from a previous eruption of the hotspot that is now Yellowstone, which puts me slightly south and west of the current location. Yellowstone is one of those disasters one can’t adequately prep for. I’ve seen indications that it might be responsible for the homogeneity of humanity’s genetics.

        • On the one hand, I don’t think suggesting we move is going to be all that helpful: when Yellowstone goes, it will likely affect the world in all sorts of nasty ways.

          On the other hand, I’m working on moving, sort-of, assuming I can find the time. Anyone interested in settling Mars? Venus? I have plans in my head that I’d like to get into a computer for further analysis, and I’ll happily take funding to help expedite the process!

          • (I should add: even if I can’t get these plans into a computer, I’m at least toying with the idea of getting them into some sort of story. Since I’ve noticed an apparent dearth of Science Fiction on the level of “Box Car Children” and “Nancy Drew Jr” books (admittedly, I might not have looked hard enough), I’m going to try my hand at writing such a book.)

            (Technically, I know it can be just as hard, if not harder, to write for children than it is to write for adults, but I’m attracted to it…perhaps it’s because I have little children…and perhaps it’s because, as a Mathematician, I have a touch of “Lewis Carol” in my blood as well…)

          • Now that we’re on the topic of Venus, one of the things that someone pointed out about CO2 being a greenhouse gas: Venus has an atmosphere of about 94% CO2, if I recall correctly…yet, where the atmosphere is at about 1 Atmospheric Pressure (ie, Earth at Sea Level), it’s about as balmy you’d expect at Earth! Apparently, the intense heat is caused by the fact that the Venus atmosphere is something like 60 Atmospheric Pressures on the surface, which changes the greenhouse attributes of its various gases tremendously.

            (Incidentally, it is my understanding that Earth’s atmosphere will float in Venus’s at about the level that’s humanly habitable, hence the comments about settling Venus…)

      • Science fiction readers of all people ought to be familiar with Tambora and the effects of a single eruption on world climate.

      • On the Atlantic side people should worry more about a landslide on La Palma Island. The resulting tsunami would be bad news. OTOH, the government of Canary Islands claims such a disaster is hyped, and couldn’t really happen…

      • Eh, You want something to keep you up at night, study Mt. Renier…

        Also a note ‘overdue’ in geologic terms is something of a wiffly wobbly term. Take, for example, the ‘over due’ changes in polar orientation (north to south being the way it is now or inverted). Average time in a position is very roughly 50k years. Longest time in a position 2 million years. (right around the KT boundary.) There are several 100k plus year intervals in the bits of record we have. So take ‘over due’ with a lot of salt and realize just how much fudge room there is. Wikipedia actually has a pretty good graphic for how varied it is and how there is really no pattern. There are a lot of things in geology like that. There isn’t a set ‘period’ they go when they go.

  10. “Communism and environmentalism only go together in the West, not in the USSR or the PRC”

    I would say, rather, that Environmentalism is, at base, a trojan horse for “give us control”, just as Christian Charity often was in the 19th Century. And Communism/Fascism is the natural result of “give us control”; the State accumulates all authority until it attracts a Stalin, who promptly liquidates all the Intellectuals and Revolutionaries who might give him trouble, and settles is for the long haul.

    It’s cold comfort, but if the Environmentalist pillocks ever do succeed in gaining control, their triumph will be short lived and their fall from power humiliating and terminal.

    But we would much better simply ignore the little idiots.

    • That was supposed to be “consumerism and environmentalism”. Apparently spell-check liked communism better. Sorry for not catching that before I sent it to Sarah.

      • But either way it does work.

      • I understand that those nifty ‘save the planet’ fabric tote bags for groceries (usually made in China with questionable environmental practices), require a 7 year usage to ‘pay back’ environmental costs of using plastic bags. The plastic in the bags is one of the most successful recycling economies going.
        Of course, there is much more snob appeal in your grow-hemp-instead-of-food almost-slave-labor tote bag.
        You mean that kind of consumerism?
        Oh, not to mention the toxic poisons of lithium batteries for your electric car powered by coal-fired electric plants.

        • And you are lucky if they don’t fall apart within a month.

          • The flimsy ones are total junk, yeah, but I’ve actually got a couple of some nice insulated model that come in really handy because they’re about the size of a good paper bag but sturdier.

            • Paper bags are subject to infestation (apparently roaches love to lay their eggs in them) plastic bags are environmentally destructive, reusable bags require frequent (and environmentally harmful washing) to maintain them free of toxic microbes … you might as well just graze in the stores.

        • or the toxic poisons produced by manufacturing solar cells…

        • The ones I love have the Earth on it, with the slogan, “Help keep it going around.”

          As if the total extermination of life on Earth would influence its rotation at all.

          • Perhaps you should suggest the best way to keep it going is to blow up the Moon. The tidal pulls slows our rotation.

            • While Seven Eves made for decent SF, I don’t want to live through that story and I am less sanguine about humanity’s chances.

        • I’ve been known to use the term “ecosturbation” about these practices.

        • How much longer is the ‘pay back’ period if you wash the things occasionally? (Incremental environmental effect of more soap in the sewage stream…) My impression is that the payback becomes negative if you wash them often enough to keep them food-safe clean.

    • The epithet “watermelon” is often tossed around to describe the Green-on-the-outside Communists.

  11. Oh, and;

    In the 1980’s I was living in the Baltimore Washington corridor and could subscribe to the Washington Times, which was just getting started. One weekend they ran an interview with a PhD in Meteorology at Georgetown. The point of the article was that he had published a paper on the famine in Ethiopia, pointing out that the North African Desert expands and contracts on a 200 year cycle, and the last time it moved South the people could just pick up and move elsewhere, because there were no international borders in the way. But he also mentioned something else that caught my interest.

    He said that we were, at the time, emerging from a long period of historically unusually STABLE weather patterns, stretching back to the beginning of Victoria’s reign. Accounts of weather from primary sources before then talk of much more varied and unpredictable seasons, but in the early Victorian era the weather settled down to the predictable cycle of cold in winter, warming in spring, hot in summer, and cooling in fall that we take to be “Normal”.

    He said that any and all climate predictions and alarmism should be interpreted through that information. That we were going to experience weather that was outside of what we considered “normal”, and look for causes, but that historically speaking, what we were accustomed to was abnormal.

    As the Climate Change medicine show has rolled along, I have often wished I had saved that newspaper.

  12. Possibly the most balanced of the various climate blogs:

    He’s an actual for-really climate scientist.

    • Judith Curry (a climate prof at Georgia Tech) has gotten a lot of flak for being at least willing to engage the “deniers”, “skeptics”, and “lukewarmers” (I prefer the term “climate realists”) in constructive debate rather than demonize them.

  13. Back in 1978, Barbara Tuchman’s “A Distant Mirror” was mostly about… climate change. In the 14th century the climate suddenly got much colder, shortening the growing season and causing widespread starvation in Europe. It’s still not at warm as it was before then.

    • Actually, this is also when the initial Viking settlement on Greenland died out. There is a rather poignant chapter on this in Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” — Diamond is a CAGW believer, but (unlike some climate modelers) he knows better than to try and airbrush away past major climate changes.

  14. What I fear more than climate facists is what may happen when we develope the technology to actually, directly and intentionally, change the climate. Imagine millions and millions of machines grabbing carbon atoms out of the air and fixing them into bits of artificial coal or diamond. Once such a technology is feasable, and if the Green movement is still a going concern, they will demand that the things be used to “fix” the climate.

    Like a spastic child left alone with a recording studio’s sound board, they will immediately begin twisting knobs and flipping switches, convinced that they can make the music better. Like that sound board our climate is made up of countless factors, each knob and dial having to be just so to give us the weather we have. The self righteous do-gooders will screw it up and then, when things go side ways, screw it all up in the other directions trying to fix what they broke trying to fix it. God only knows how long it will take for things to go back to normal after they’re made to stop meddling.

  15. And let us not forget the lessons learned over a hundred years ago, when scientists were researching green houses to see how they worked. CO2 was an early suspect, so it was pumped in in massive amounts. It made the plants grow faster, using less water. What it didn’t do was make the greenhouse any warmer.

    It turns out that the law of diminishing returns kicks in when CO2 rises above around 50ppm, and drops to negligible increases above 100ppm.

  16. I was so startled by the comment that Earth Day is also Lenin’s birthday that I felt obligated to look it up and be sure. Pardon my skepticism. Really, it’s not so much that I disbelieved as that something so juicy needs to be double-checked before I add it to my rhetorical arsenal.

    I’m sure it’s 100% coincidence. [/sarc]

    • It must be pure coincidence. Wikipedia says so.


    • There was a time, long decades ago, when the counter-culture (as they describe themselves) had a sense of humor. I think that is an example of it. Sadly, rather like Gary Trudeau, they started to take themselves more and more seriously, until what they think of as their sense of humor is merely a talent for being irritating.

  17. And don’t forget the fact that the oceans have been locking away more and more carbon for eons now. The stuff has been on the decline since forever. Given how low C02 is now compared to the days of the dinosaurs, I say the best thing we can do is to dig it up, burn it off, and throw it back into the air where it can do plants some good. Ya know, to support greater bio-diversity. You DO want to save the ecosystem dontcha?

    • Studies suggest that as more CO2 enters the atmosphere, the pores on the underside of leaves that allow CO2 to enter will be smaller, reducing the water loss of the plant. Much more efficient all around.

  18. Feather Blade

    Extra information source for local temperature data that I’m not sure anyone considers: look at the clothes.

    What were people wearing, and how much were they wearing?

    • One problem is that we don’t know exactly how different textile weights were. In the book _Living like a Victorian_ the author points out that she couldn’t really make exact reproductions of certain clothes because the fabrics are no longer made, and no one knows what the exact density and weight were. She’s pretty certain that they were heavier weight than what we have today, but couldn’t duplicate them. Go back a few hundred years and it gets worse.

    • I should add, people have used paintings, especially those of Pieter Breugel the Elder and the Dutch landscape painters, for information about weather and climate.

      • I worked on a bunch of classic costuming dictionaries for my old job; people dressed in fabrics that we would use for upholstery these days.

        • Depends on money and circumstance – there were some fine, sheer fabrics as well… the sort of thing you marvel to think were hand-made. But yeah, I think everyday stuff was, if not upholstery weight, mostly at least what modern sempsters would consider “bottom weight” or a little more. (We play in SCA, search out appropriate natural-fiber fabrics, and wear them enough to get a sense of garment weight & warmth.)

  19. The Farmer’s Almanac, published since 1818 and the Old Farmer’s Almanac, published since 1792, would like a word with the author about the history of weather forecasting.

    • I didn’t say people have not been trying to forecast the weather, with various degrees of success. I said that we didn’t begin to have the tools for modern large area forecasting and climate reconstruction until the 1850s or so.

  20. I do computational models for a living — on vastly simpler problems — and know how bl**dy hard it is to get things right even for those. Everything about CAGW reeks of modeler hubris to me.

  21. Reblogged this on Mick On Everything and commented:
    The author conveniently ignores the incalculable influence of manbearpig.

  22. There are actually two things that bother me about this climate change issue.

    First, we are studying a dynamic, non-linear system that is chaotic–any attempt to model this is going to vary considerably with the slightest change of inputs. Combine this with our data–we have, what, 50 years of satellite data, a couple of centuries of thermometer data, and about 1,000 years worth of “proxy” data–and we’re supposed to extrapolate this data into the next 100 years with reasonable accuracy? And when we do, the predictions are well within the bounds of reasonable statistical variation…

    AND, when we live on a planet that’s 4.5 billion years old, we’re supposed to believe that the climate of 50 years ago is what the Earth is supposed to be stuck at, forever…

    Second, once we are blamed for this change, we’re supposed to fix this by altering another dynamic, non-linear system: human societal economics. We’re supposed to tax, cap-and-trade, and carbon-credit our way out of this mess. Never mind the fact that even the smallest change here is *also* going to have unpredictable effects!

    Now that I think about it, we always hear about computer models for world climate, but we never hear about computer models for how humans might respond to certain incentives for reducing carbon. Why is that? Why do we automatically assume that something like “carbon credits” is going to work, without modeling it first in a computer?

    Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the European Carbon Credit Market…which crashed a few years after it was implemented, because all the carbon-heavy industries moved into countries without credits, and then imported their products back into Europe. Thus, the carbon-heavy stuff still got made, but instead of shipping it from a somewhat local place, it’s shipped in from a different continent, causing a net *increase* in carbon use.

    Sure, this is easy to see in hindsight. It may even be predictable, if you are good at looking at all the possible outcomes. Heh, a computer possibly could have modeled it, assuming that the modelers could have gotten their assumptions just right!

    But none of that changes the fact that we’re trying to herd butterflies in Europe, with the hope that they’ll affect the butterflies in China, to try to prevent that hurricane in Florida from occurring. Yeah, that’s sure to work well!