"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Open Thread Number Two

Everything is on topic, including Gore and Hansen. Open season on Grackles.

clipping at left from Wikipedia;
photo: me and my iPhone; Austin TX at Oltorf and Congress, Feb 2009


Michael Tobis said...

Why are there so many damned grackles? In fact, why are there so many wires to hold them up? Are we trying to have a shit storm?

Raven said...

Your blog your rules.

Sorry about derailing the other thread with the stuff on you-know-who. I should ignored Bi's comments on rich people.

That said, I do not understand why you insist on refering to me as troll simply because I express some opinions that people here may not agree with. I try to be polite and stick to the topic (last thread was an exception).

Michael Tobis said...

(Walk down the corridor)
M: (Knock)
A: Come in.
M: Ah, Is this the right room for an argument?
A: I told you once.
M: No you haven't.
A: Yes I have.
M: When?
A: Just now.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: You didn't
A: I did!
M: You didn't!
A: I'm telling you I did!
M: You did not!!
A: Oh, I'm sorry, just one moment. Is this a five minute argument or the full half hour?
M: Oh, just the five minutes.
A: Ah, thank you. Anyway, I did.
M: You most certainly did not.
A: Look, let's get this thing clear; I quite definitely told you.
M: No you did not.
A: Yes I did.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: No you didn't.
A: Yes I did.
M: You didn't.
A: Did.
M: Oh look, this isn't an argument.
A: Yes it is.
M: No it isn't. It's just contradiction.
A: No it isn't.
M: It is!
A: It is not.
M: Look, you just contradicted me.
A: I did not.
M: Oh you did!!
A: No, no, no.
M: You did just then.
A: Nonsense!
M: Oh, this is futile!
A: No it isn't.
M: I came here for a good argument.
A: No you didn't; no, you came here for an argument.
M: An argument isn't just contradiction.
A: It can be.
M: No it can't. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
A: No it isn't.
M: Yes it is! It's not just contradiction.
A: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
M: Yes, but that's not just saying 'No it isn't.'
A: Yes it is!
M: No it isn't!

A: Yes it is!
M: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.
(short pause)
A: No it isn't.
M: It is.
A: Not at all.
M: Now look.
A: (Rings bell) Good Morning.
M: What?
A: That's it. Good morning.
M: I was just getting interested.
A: Sorry, the five minutes is up.
M: That was never five minutes!
A: I'm afraid it was.
M: It wasn't.
A: I'm sorry, but I'm not allowed to argue anymore.
M: What?!
A: If you want me to go on arguing, you'll have to pay for another five minutes.
M: Yes, but that was never five minutes, just now. Oh come on!
A: (Hums)
M: Look, this is ridiculous.
A: I'm sorry, but I'm not allowed to argue unless you've paid!
M: Oh, all right.
(pays money)
A: Thank you.
short pause
M: Well?
A: Well what?
M: That wasn't really five minutes, just now.
A: I told you, I'm not allowed to argue unless you've paid.
M: I just paid!
A: No you didn't.
A: No you didn't.
M: Look, I don't want to argue about that.
A: Well, you didn't pay.
M: Aha. If I didn't pay, why are you arguing? I Got you!
A: No you haven't.
M: Yes I have. If you're arguing, I must have paid.
A: Not necessarily. I could be arguing in my spare time.
M: Oh I've had enough of this.
A: No you haven't.
M: Oh Shut up.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

OK... my bad.

Maybe I should start by talking about how "Válav" is really pronounced /va:tslaf/ (and not, well, whatever the Heartland Institute folks rendered it as). Also, I haven't quite figured out how to pronounce "Pielke".


"why are there so many wires to hold them up? Are we trying to have a shit storm?"

I read that and I think of the International Climate Science Coalition. Wait, I think I know why.

-- bi

Michael Tobis said...

The above is a Monty Python skit, and was also my farewell to the lamented, once excellent usenet group sci.environment.

I regret not having much intelligent opposition, but one hopes that the opposition is actually trying to make a coherent case for something. The celebrated Dr. Dyson, for instance, isn't. Are you?

You showed up arguing that carbon sensitivity might be low. I and others argued that it doesn't matter that it *might* be low as much as it matters that it *might* be high. You allowed as it might be high and then continued to argue that it might be low.

That seems to be argument of the polemical sort, not discussion of ideas and their implications.

I spend way too much time on this blog and yet you seem willing to spend more. Two weeks ago I never heard of who still has shown not a shred of an explanation of who you might be under the pseudonym. (I do have the same frustration for Things Break, though I suspect he or she may have something to lose.)

I don't really fancy becoming the Raven show even if you are retired or hospitalized or, as I suspect, are actually employed to do what you are doing, and have nothing at all else to do.

Arguing with John McCarthy was interesting. New ideas would come up. Alliances would occasionally shift.

Arguing with someone less intelligent (don't take that too hard, there aren't a lot of people smarter than John McCarthy) who has already made their mind up is rather duller, especially if they keep showing up.

But arguing with someone who actually holds no position other than encouraging confusion in others is simply a losing proposition.

Such an opponent is perhaps the most sophisticated type of troll but a troll nonetheless.

The troll's purpose is to prolong the argument. The politician's purpose is to win the argument. Neither is welcome here.

The scientist's purpose is to resolve the argument. That is the type of discourse we need to promote, to model, and indeed to achieve.

Sometimes when there is a large opinion gap it is hard to tell when the opposition is being honest. A large competence gap may also be a problem. This can cut both ways: many opponents of vigorous climate policy sorely underestimate the competence of physical climatology and misunderstand its nature.

I myself have great doubts about the competence of macroeconomics. This means that some of the most important discussions, between myself as a representative of climatology and economists, is very problematic. But I don't believe economists know NOTHING and I try hard to get to some coherent set of ideas underlying what they say.

If that's your goal here, you are welcome. As Itzhak Rabin said, "You don't make a peace treaty with your friends". But if you're just here to stir up trouble, not so much.

Proposed topic: I have long argued that: if the sensitivity of global mean surface temperature to carbon is less well constrained than IPCC claims, that is a factor supporting more rather than less vigorous restraint on greenhouse gas emissions.

I don't think the sensitivity number is interesting as other than an academic matter. I think constraining the high sensitivity tail is relatively more interesting, and I think Annan and Hargreaves is the state of the art on this point.

Arguing against James on a matter where he has expertise is not, in my opinion, a promising proposition, but it's also a peculiar stance for you to take. A&H claim a much smaller tail than many others do.

So, where does that leave you?

Raven said...

I posted here because I happen to think this topic is perhaps the most important questionsthat we face this century and a lot depends making the right decisions. I do get a bit carried away when I get involved in a new discussion but I balance that out over time.

I use a psuedonym because I don't want my name to turn up a bunch of climate related hits with google along with the other engineering work I do.

I was surprised to see you dismiss the recent cooling trends as evidence of low sensitivity. I thought that was self evident. I came here to learn and that is one thing I learnt.

I am playing with the math to better quantify how the cooling trend could constrain the upper bound for sensitivity. My feeling the recent data makes higher sensitivities extremely implausible. I need to spend more time with A&H.

Steve Bloom said...

Sometimes it's interesting to hear what the small corvids say while in their natural environment:

"(...) I never had any reason to question the science on CFCs until I realized how shoddy the science on CO2 was. Those problems make it hard to accept any computer model based analysis of the earth’s atmosphere.

"I have felt for a long time that AGW promoters are doing serious damage to the reputations of scientists in society. Once it becomes clear that AGW has been exaggerated I expect scientists to join journalists and lawyers as professions perceived by the publish to be untrustworthy and self serving."

So good luck with your bird-watching project, Michael. IMHO discussing the science with such people is useless since the roots of their misunderstandings lie elsewhere.

Steve Bloom said...

This explains a lot:

'A brain-scanning study of people making financial choices suggests that when given expert advice, the decision-making parts of our brains often shut down.

'A new study of people making financial choices suggests that the decision-making parts of our brains often shut down when we're given expert advice. The problem with this, of course, is that the advice may not be good.

'"When the expert's advice made the least sense, that's where we could see the behavioral effect," said study co-author Greg Berns, an Emory University neuroscientist. "It's as if people weren't using their own internal value mechanisms."'

Combine this with Sterman et al's results and it becomes hard to find a silver lining.

On the plus side, Michael, this is great ammunition to use against the economists.

Michael Tobis said...

Despite the similarity in appearance and behavior, the grackle is not a corvid. I appreciate Wikipedia's classification of the grackle as a species of "least concern" insofar as conservation is concerned. This is confirmed by my occasional sightings as well (see picture).

I intend to continue confusing grackles and corvidae for rhetorical purposes.

Steve, I'm aware that our Grackle has followed me here from Lucia's peculiar lair where I seem to be something of a minor celebrity.

Perhaps Grackle will see that the quality of the conversation is relatively high here. Perhaps Grackle will reconsider.

I am slow to distrust as a matter of policy. It does backfire on occasion, sometimes spectacularly.

Steve Bloom said...

Re the taxonomy of grackles, I guess I'll just have to... eat crow. :)

Steve Bloom said...

Here's some unalloyed good news:

'"US President Barack Obama has invited figures from the world's 16 major economies to Washington for a meeting on climate change at the end of April.

'The event will be the first meeting of what the White House styles "the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate".

'It will focus on increasing the supply of clean energy and cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the White House said.

'It was announced as millions worldwide observed Earth Hour, turning off lights in a protest against climate change.

'The Washington meeting is scheduled to take place on 27-28 April and the sessions will culminate in a July meeting in Italy.'

Talk about not farting around. It seems unlikely that Obama would be proceeding on such a course without first having gotten buy-in from the Chinese and probably the Indians.

Michael Tobis said...

Grackle: "I was surprised to see you dismiss the recent cooling trends as evidence of low sensitivity. I thought that was self evident. I came here to learn and that is one thing I learnt."

What recent cooling trend are you talking about? You claim to be an engineer. Do you understand about modes?

The dominant mode of climate variability is the El Nino Southern Oscillation, which frequently causes large excursions from the trend line lasting a year or occasionally two.

The best way to look at the trend is to low pass filter out the ENSO frequency. There is very little change in the trend once you do that.

The worst way to look at the trend is to pick a window starting with a warm anomaly and ending with a cool anomaly and call it the trend. This will of course cause all sorts of excitement among people who don't want to take the facts seriously, so it may be politically advantageous. But there is no science to cherry picking your start and end points.

This has been all over the serious climate science blogs. RC has had it, Stoat has looked at it, Tamino has looked at it. We aren't concerned about it outside the political sphere because it simply isn't serious.

If the 2008 cold anomaly persists into 2010, (note, it's only cold compared to the trend, it's still a very warm year compared to the baseline) come back and we'll talk.

As I understand it, that does not appear to be the case. This is quite unsurprising.

ENSO, by the way, is an interesting phenomenon in itself. Looking at its intellectual history can illustrate how climatology functions on matters where the subject is interesting but not politically fraught.

I haven't seen great armies of people nitpicking at that material.

Anonymous said...

Raven's been posting links to Piekle (spelling?) saying that there is no radiative imabalance because the oceans have stopped warming and about a recent albedo increase. So I don't think the alledged "cooling trend" is supposed to be ENSO-driven.

Michael Tobis said...

A treasure trove of climate denialism: http://is.gd/pwWh.

I feel like the walrus and the carpenter contemplating sweeping sand off the beach.

Grackle said...


Lucia has spent a lot of time developing statistical tests which can be used to determine whether the recent trends are significant or not. She has refined the tests based on the various objections raised by RC, Tamino and others. What is surprising is no matter what test she uses the answer is always the same. The current trends are too large to be dismissed as short term 'noise'.

Now Lucia's tests always have carefully stated caveats that must not be ignored but even with these caveats there is still reason to doubt the reliability of the models.

It is also worth noting that the scientific professionalism demonstrated by Lucia as she develops and explains her methods is quite impressive and puts RC to shame (Tamino is better on this front but he, unlike Lucia, makes no effort to refine his methods to address the concerns of his critics - his attitude is here is my method. If you don't like it you are an idiot).

That said, I realize that all of this could be spurious and it will disappear over the next few years. The only difference between me and you on that point is I feel that even if warming resumes rapidly over the next few years this period of cooling is significant enough to make higher CO2 sensitivities much less plausible.

Raven said...


Thanks for pointing that out.

The OHC is very important because if the raditive imbalance caused by GHGs is causing energy to accumulate then we must be able to measure its accumulation somewhere. We don't see it in the air and we don't see it in the ocean so where is it?

This also relates to the CO2 sensitivity issue because the higher the sensitivity the larger the expected accumulation which makes it harder to dismiss a few years of flat or declining OHC.

Of course one can always play with time constants and come up with some way to explain the observations even if the CO2 sensitivity is high. But the real question would is whether such claims are more plausible than the claim that the real sensitivity is on the low side of the IPCC range.

Michael Tobis said...

There are right and wrong ways to go about these things.

One doesn't adjust one's methods to be polite to critics who are wrong. Mathematics doesn't work that way.

This is not to say that's the case with Tamino vs Lucia. I myself am unfamiliar with the incident to which you refer. It is only to say that the fact that Tamino paid no mind to his critics is not in itself a cause for concern.

When there are more grackles than folk, it's really impossible to get into a debate with every grackle. One gets the sense they aren't listening anyway.

sidd said...


the Levitus paper at

has a graph of OHC with the latest corrections. Still going up.

Anonymous said...

So what?

The real issue here is not the revisions or statistical significance but what a fall in these OHC numbers (they are for 0-700m only by the way) would mean.
These numbers have fallen before. There's also been a long period (about 78-93) without much of a trend.
So why would it be significant if this number didn't increase for a while? Would you concede Raven's point then?

What's the point of focusing on a few years' worth of unreliable data with very poor coverage?

Steve Bloom said...

Lucia has a PhD in mechanical engineering, a field without a lot of need for statistics. To her credit, she readily admitted at the start of her blog (not that long ago) that she and statistics were pretty much meeting for the first time. Now, Lucia is very skilled at sounding smart for her willing audience, and probably is somewhat smart, but I just don't see the evidence for the surpassing brilliance that would get her into the league of someone like Tamino (a math PhD with many years of time series analysis experience) in such a short period of time.

Tamino points out that a finely-tuned grasp of statistics is of limited value unless it's accompanied by a firm grasp of how the climate system works, for which he therefore relies on climate scientists. Lucia appears to prefer to rely on wannabe corvids. Caveat lector.

Steve Bloom said...

Let's assume for the sake of argument that transient sensitivity is low. Then let's consider the nature and extent of the changes that have already taken place. It's a sufficiently long and worrying list to justify a precipitous reduction in GHG emissions. So why spend time arguing about transient sensitivity?

Michael Tobis said...

I wish anonymous posters would at least leave some sort of pseudonym. If they don't leave us a hook as to who they are there's little point in engaging them in conversation.

I don't think there is much point to any of the obsessions of the delayers. Cherry pick some data, if necessary massage it, overinterpret it, try to make it look like there's something substantive to debate, and then make a vast leap to "nothing to worry about yet" somehow.

It's awfully tedious. Not one of them has a clue about how the system works.

Anonymous said...

What makes you think there is more than one anyonymous poster?

Michael Tobis said...

What makes you think I have an obligation to guess?

Michael Tobis said...

Hmm, too strong. I have to watch what I say in the comments!

Not one of them except Lindzen has any idea how the climate system works. Anyway, none that I know of.

What makes Lindzen do what he does, I have no idea.

David B. Benson said...

MT --- I believe there is a switch you can set which disallows anonymous posting.

Michael Tobis said...

David, thanks. I had it set for a while. It seemed to cause some problems for some OpenID folk. Maybe best to turn it on again.

Steve Bloom said...

Given the way Lindzen ignores paleoclimate, I'm not sure I'd give him that much credit.

Michael Tobis said...

Check this out: this is how a real Grackler bags his prey:


Michael Tobis said...

on Grackles

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

Seriously, how does one pronounce the name "Pielke"?

Steve Bloom said...

An aid to remembering the pronunciation:

Horse(pill) (qui)che does not go down well.


jg said...

I have a few questions that I hope are appropriate for your open thread:
1. Does your climate modelling work involve long-term changes in Earth's orbit or do you model processes at much shorter and recent time scales?
2. Do you know the speed at which the orientation of Earth's orbit changes (e.g., the longitude of perihelion)?
3. And, related to 2, do you know the direction that the longtitude of perihelion moves, prograde or retrograde?


Michael Tobis said...

jg, perfectly reasonable questions. I don't in fact know the answers.

My work in the past has been on ocean dynamics. At present it is on cloud parameterizations.

I've tried to understand the relevant theory of orbital dynamics a couple of times without success. I'm sure it's pretty solid; this is pure physics after all. I've never found an accessible tutorial and would be appreciative if someone pointed to one.

There are knobs in CAM/CCSM to set solar and orbital parameters. I have not played with them. As far as I know all GCMs use fixed values for these quantities per run.

Steve Bloom said...

jg, that's astronomy material. It exists on-line, but I couldn't tell you where. The Wikipedia article on Milankovitch cycles is where I'd start, though. It will also explain their key role in long-term climate. Also try searching Wikipedia for specifics you're interested in (such as "longitude of perihelion").

I assume Michael is talking about a more technical tutorial, and I haven't seen one either.

jg said...

Thank you, Michael and Steve for addressing my question. I've looked through wikipedia and haven't found the specific answer I'm looking for. I suspect the information on how to calculate this motion is there, but I don't know enough math to do that. I have found an article in Space Science Reviews (The climate response to the astronomical forcing, by Crucifix, Loutre and Berger (2006) 125:213-226) that says "the rotation of the elliptical figure of the Earth's orbit relative to the stars [is] 100kyr." Such a round number worries me, especially that it is the same as the general period I hear of for eccentricity. And they didn't say which direction. Crucifix et al goes on to say eccentricity periods are 404, 95, 124, 99, and 131 kyr.
My goal is to create an animated planisphere of orbital changes that will be an entertaining way of introducing climatology in presentations I give on amateur astronomy.
john garrett

David B. Benson said...

john garrett --- There is a thread at Tamino's Open Mind about orbital forcings. There, or in the following comments, there may be a reference to the more technical matters that you require.

jg said...

Thank you. Are you referring to Tamino's posts on Wobbles 1 and 2?
(e.g., http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/12/02/wobbles-part-2/)

Great posts, but I didn't find anything leading to an explanation of changing orbital figure, but I'm enjoying the search. You have previously recommended Bill Ruddiman's text book and David Archer's The Long Thaw to me. The textbook was too pricey for now, but the Long Thaw is next on my list.

John Garrett

Michael Tobis said...

Ruddiman's may not be in softcover but it isn't a textbook; more pop science. It's probably worth saying that while there's much of interest and of value there, the conclusions it reaches are a minority position within climate science.

I found Ruddiman's naivetee about climate politics striking and endearing, by the way. See this posting.

Michael Tobis said...

Wow. John G does beautiful work!

Spectacular. That is way beyond hobby level. How do you do it? Where did you pick up the skills?

Oliver said...

jg, I am not sure if that is what you are looking for, but you can find data of orbital variations at http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/forcing.html and when you follow the links thee. You can find a Fortyran programm by Laskar et al., 2004 at http://www.imcce.fr/Equipes/ASD/insola/earth/earth.html . I managed to compile that and calculate insulation data some time ago.

jg said...

Thank you Oliver for the links. The first was one I had found before but failed to bookmark it, so it is very helpful to find the source again.

Thanks Michael for your kind compliment. To answer your question my current work as a technical illustrator was made possible by our capitalist system, specifically, venture capital. I worked for two venture-capital-funded companies and as each began to fail, artists and illustrators were the first severed from the business plan. So, I had to pick up the skills to fill the gaps. I work with Adobe Illustrator and Flash. The more work I put into the former, the less compatible it is with the later, so I'm always trying to balance the two.

If you ever need an illustration for your projects, please ask.