Seriously. For your own good.
Every time you make a move you seem to create your own pile of dog do and step in it. The latest own-goal for those who deny climate science was scored after an unreasonable and obnoxious attack on Professor Lawrence Torcello, of RIT. Details here and here.
Those mentioned above, and others such as the Drudge and Infowars, lied. They lied knowingly, blatantly, obnoxiously. They willfully misconstrued Lawrence Torcello’s word and his research in order to make climate scientists look like Hitler. This is not a new tactic and it didn’t work before.
And now, the Rochester Institute of Technology has issued a statement in direct response to these unwarranted and inappropriate attacks on Professor Torcello. Here is the statement:
The search for truth is the animating force of a university, and it behooves those who support open and respectful discussion of controversial issues to get the facts right. Recently the views expressed by a member of our community, Professor Lawrence Torcello, have been misrepresented by some in the media. The misrepresentation follows a pattern similar to other incidents of misrepresentation involving academics that work on topics related to climate change. We encourage people to carefully read Professor Torcello’s article itself rather than rely on distortions of its contents circulating on the web.
The Institute wishes to acknowledge, with Professor Torcello, that a strong scientific consensus exists in support of anthropogenic global warming. Otherwise, RIT takes no official position on the views independently expressed by its faculty members in the course of their research. Faculty members speak for themselves, not for the institution or the institution’s leadership. The university does endorse our faculty members’ rights to free speech and recognizes our faculty’s academic freedom to express their views.
“Colleges and universities, of all organizations, must remain forums for open and respected discussion of controversial issues,” said RIT President Bill Destler. “We are part of a learning community, and much of our learning comes from each other. Respect for the opinions of others, even when we strongly disagree with them, must be a cornerstone of our campus community.”
This is to my knowledge the first time that a major university has ever issued a statement acknowledging the consensus on climate change. I am more than willing to be corrected on that, please supply any other cases in the comments. But in any event, this can’t be common.
But it is a direct result of the nefarious efforts of the denialists. Nice going, guys.
I’m going to update this graph every now and then.
There are 12 lines on this graph.
The colorful squiggles up along the top are the first ten years of Arctic Sea ice extent for the period for which we have really good data. So this is 1979 – 1988. There is reason to believe that this is the “normal” sea ice extent track over the year from which we have seen significant deviation over recent decades.
The dark thick line is the average of all of the years from 1979 to 2010. Notice that the first ten years are all above the average except for a few little bits.
The partial line below all of the other lines is the current year, ticking along. I think this graphic provides a good perspective on Arctic Sea ice because we can watch the current state of the ice in comparison to what is reasonably described as “normal.” (I discuss this more here.)
I’ll replace this graphic now and then and re-tweet and re-facebook the post so it all stays in one place. If I’ve not done that in a while and you want me to do it, just let me know.
Data and graphic are from here.
Salamanders can be a proxyindicator for climate change. Changes in salamanders have been linked to climate changes during ancient times, and in a very recent study, salamanders in the US Appalachians seem to have changed in relation to anthropogenic global warming. In fact, the changes observed in these Appalachian salamanders is quite large, very rapid, and thus, alarming. I’m going to describe this study in some detail, and as a bonus for sticking with me on this, I’ll throw in some entertaining Climate Science Denialism near the end. As an additional bonus prize, you’ll get a nice new shiny Internet Meme to print out and attach to your refrigerator.
Salamanders (Order Caudata) are ectothermic, meaning that they get most of their heat from the environment in which they live. There are over 650 species of them and for the most part they are temperate, with none living in Africa and not too many species in Central or South America. The greatest diversity is in the United States. They are opportunistic predators.
Salamanders are diverse in their life histories and behavior. There are species that live all their time in water, and some that spend some of their life cycle in water and some on land, and some that actually never live in the water. Of the former some only shift to land living under certain conditions. Most salamanders are small, but there is an American species that grows to about 75 cm and a Chinese salamander that is abut 1.8 meters long and eats Pandas. OK, I’m only kidding about it eating Pandas. But it is that big. And, of course, people of the region eat them so they are nearly extinct.
There is a paper just out, “Widespread rapid reductions in body size of adult salamanders in response to climate change,” by Nicholas Caruso, Michael Sears, Dean Adams, and Karen Lips, that looks at 20th century changes in body size of 15 species of Plethodon salamanders from the 1950s to the present. This study has a lot of very interesting features (other than the findings). First, it incorporates a huge collection of data (and salamanders) made by a now emeritus researcher, Richard Highton, who had an interest in the beasts and collected piles of information on them. I love it when these old collections are a) usable and b) used. In this case, only a small percentage of the 140,000 salamanders Highton collected (that we know of) were part of the study.
(I would like to pause for a moment and say that I feel much better now. When I was a kid, my friend Kirk and I would collect salamanders and put them in a bait bucket, and put the bait bucket under the cabin. In these hot and dry conditions up in the Adirondack park in August, the salamanders would mummify and become tiny toys we would play with. Until I read this paper I felt partly responsible for the decline of the salamanders. Now, I realize that our small contribution to this was, well, small. But I digress….)
Second, the huge amount of data collected by Highton was supplemented by additional data. This helps anchor the data to current conditions and methods, and, frankly, it probably helps anchor the researchers to the old data as well.
Third, and I think this is the most important part, the researchers did not simply observe changes in key variables over time but they developed a sophisticated model of the biology underlying the data. Here’s the thing. If you observe change in some variable across time, space, or conditions you can speculate about the process underlying the change. But unless you have a sensible biological model to explain (and in some cases develop) the links, you’ve got bupkis. Here, the researchers looked at several possible underlying causal variables and were able to narrow down the list of suspects to two, which, in turn, are affected by climate change (and vary across elevation as well, which is nice because prior studies have shown elevation to be a key factor in recent changes in salamander biogeography).
This study looked at salamanders in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The source of the samples is complex and involved multiple sampling efforts combining, as mentioned, the old samples taken by Highton and newer samples. I’ll let you read the original paper if you really want all those details. The key measurement of the salamanders was the SVL, which as you know means Snout-Vent-Length. Also recorded were temperature, humidity, elevation, and all sorts of other variables about the study sites.
Here is the key result in pictures:
As you can see, salamander length goes down over time. Each plot (the stats were all done in R) shows a different species over time, and generally the length goes down. Massive statistical analyses on these data, looking for underlying variables, resulted in this cool little graph showing that warmer-drier conditions were primarily responsible for the changes.
The aforementioned statistical model helps explain how and why the changes occur. It actually turns out to be very simple. As ectomorphs, salamanders get more active when it is warmer. Heat them up and their metabolic rate goes up, so they burn more energy. As you know, life is all about the partitioning of energy into three major categories: Reproduction, maintenance, and growth. The increased metabolic rate cuts into the maintenance part of that system, so the others may be reduced. I’d like to know if reproduction is diminished, but clearly, growth is affected. The science behind the following graph is complex (again, read the original if you want to bask in the formulae) but the meaning is pretty clear.
For different regions (where temperature, humidity, elevation, etc may vary) the models incorporating climate change and slamanderness of the salamanders show a modest uptick in activity, or virtually no change, happening along side a significant upward trend in energy expenditure. Temperature matters when it comes to size.
Now here’s the bonus climate science denialism controversy I promised you. Anthony Watts, on his blog Watts Up With That, mentioned this study and then made fun of it. He and his readers derided this excellent piece of science by pointing and laughing at two things. First, the scientists studying the salamanders used OMG COMPUTER MODELS. All climate science denialists know that all computer models are wrong. That is not true of course. Also, the modeling done in the salamander study was different … it was physiological modeling not climate modeling, and it was an excellent piece of work. Essentially, the salamander modeling took reasoning based on long established biology and expanded on it mathematically, then took that and used various techniques to test the mathematical modeling for validity. The second Wattsian complaint about the study is that some other study in the past showed that salamanders GREW, not SHURNK when it got warmer.
And yes, there is in fact a study from a few years ago that looked at fossil salamanders from the last 3,000 years, and showed an increase in body size with warming conditions. But comparing these studies is absurd. This would be like comparing a study of how big lions grow depending on how many antelopes there are from year to year with a different study on the evolution of lions across time as their body size changed. But worse, because these are species living in different regions. So it would be like studying size changes in African lions over decades in Amboseli with long term evolutionary trends in saber tooth cats in Mongolia, and assuming that you are looking at the same thing.
I suppose if one rejects science as does Watts, one would be more comfortable with the creationist idea that there are not really different species of animals, but rather, “kinds” of animals. In this way, one could think of all salamanders as just a “kind.” I suppose.
There are a lot of reasons the studies seem to show opposite patterns. In Yellowstone, that particular species of salamander can get larger if they change from a water based life history strategy to a land based one. In that region warm conditions may increase food supplies in terrestrial areas but not aquatic areas. Water based salamanders can evolve to be larger if their water bases become smaller and shallower, increasing predation and thus selecting for larger body size.
The main difference between the studies is the temporal resolution. The study reported here covers decades of phenotypic change within the range of norm of reaction (i.e., probably not mostly genetic) while the Yellowstone study is over evolutionary time. But there are other differences. Mike Sears, one of the authors of the Appalachian salamander paper, told me this:
Ambystomid salamanders [Yellowstone] require water for reproduction. Some adults live in terrestrial environments, but their larvae all require water. Plethodon salamanders [Appalachian], on the other hand are terrestrial for all life stages. Plethodon salamanders are lungless. They depend on their skin for oxygen exchange, meaning that they are limited to cooler, wetter habitats in terrestrial environments. Because their habitats are predicted to get drier and warmer, this lifestyle imposes some immediate stress (e.g., dry out and you can’t breathe). In fact, if these animals lose too much water over the course of an evening, they retreat from activity.
Most importantly, regardless of the differences between these two species, climate change biologists would not expect all species to respond similarly, within or among species. For instance, ectothermic animals from the Tropics might be expected to be negatively affected by increasing temperatures, whereas temperate species might benefit from them. For that matter, animals with large species ranges might be expected to respond differently to warming climates across their ranges, benefitting some populations while harming others. In fact, for species that are negatively impacted by warming climates, declining body size has been observed and should be expected given basic physiological principles.
Here’s the thing. Anthony Watts and his friends in the Climate Science Denialism gaggle love themselves them cherries. And, this is an example. Using just the titles of articles and not understanding the underlying science behind them, one can pretend to find contradictions that aren’t really there. Also, this is easy to get; it does not take much effort to misconstrue the meanings of a bunch of journal article titles. An active climate science denier can probably do several over a weekend. This expedience then allows the denier to blend the cherries into a nice Gish Gallop. Just look at Anthony Watt’s blog; the cherries flow there like the effluence of a hippopotamus with diarrhea. Who ate a lot of metaphorical cherries.
Anyway, back to the salamanders. There are many cases of well established biologically understood links between climate and physiology. And that is nice because it allows us to observe climate change in the past. But as this article on salamanders (and the Yellowstone paper as well) points out these systems have an important additional implication: Climate change is going to change more than just climate. From the paper:
Regardless of whether the effect is genetic or environmental, the degree of body size reduction we documented in Plethodon was both large and rapid. For the six species displaying significant trends, body size reduced by an average of nearly 8% across the time period examined. When standardized for within-population variation, this corresponds to approximately a 1% body size reduction per generation in these species. This magnitude of change is on par with some of the largest phenotypic changes observed in contemporary populations. Thus, these changes represent some of the fastest responses to environmental perturbations ever recorded and lend support to the observation that phenotypic responses, particularly those related to anthropogenic disturbance, are both more rapid and more extreme than those observed in natural contexts or over longer time periods. The rapidity and the widespread extent of these changes across so many species in a biodiversity hotspot may signal rapid adaptation to novel environmental conditions.
And now, for your patience, your refrigerator magnet:
For another writeup see Climate change makes salamanders shrink, scientists say: A warmer and drier climate is likely causing wild salamanders in North America to shrink, say scientists by Cudeshna Chowdhury.
Caruso, N., Sears, M., Adams, D., and Lips, K. 2014. Widespread rapid reductions in body size of adult salamanders in response to climate change. Global Change Biology. DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12550
Bruzgul J. E., Long W. & Hadly E. A. 2005. Temporal response of the tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) to 3,000 years of climatic variation. BMC Ecol., 5. 7 (2005).
Michael Mann, Byron Steinman, and Sonya Miller have just put out a new paper on climate change which addresses a number of key concerns. The paper is called “On Forced Temperature Changes, Internal Variability and the AMO.” Here’s the abstract:
We estimate the low-frequency internal variability of Northern Hemisphere (NH) mean temperature using observed temperature variations, which include both forced and internal variability components, and several alternative model simulations of the (natural?+?anthropogenic) forced component alone. We then generate an ensemble of alternative historical temperature histories based on the statistics of the estimated internal variability. Using this ensemble, we show, firstly, that recent NH mean temperatures fall within the range of expected multidecadal variability. Using the synthetic temperature histories, we also show that certain procedures used in past studies to estimate internal variability, and in particular, an internal multidecadal oscillation termed the “Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation” or “AMO”, fail to isolate the true internal variability when it is a priori known. Such procedures yield an AMO signal with an inflated amplitude and biased phase, attributing some of the recent NH mean temperature rise to the AMO. The true AMO signal, instead, appears likely to have been in a cooling phase in recent decades, offsetting some of the anthropogenic warming. Claims of multidecadal “stadium wave” patterns of variation across multiple climate indices are also shown to likely be an artifact of this flawed procedure for isolating putative climate oscillations.
The key points of this paper, which I cribbed directly (with minor modifications) from Michael Mann’s Twitter stream, are:
So the pause is looking increasingly like a faux pause. The relationship between large scale decade-level variations in climate systems to long term warming is better understood. And, very interestingly, a previously proposed method of explaining the so-called “pause” was found wanting.
The “Stadium Wave” model found a signal in the data that appears to arise from the AMO and propagate across a number of climate subsystems and seemed to explain a pause in global warming, further suggesting that this pause may last until 2030 or so. When models were run by Mann et al that were explicitly designed to not include the necessary properties to develop a “stadium wave” they seemed to have this property anyway, which was further amplified by the procedure used to “detrend” (eliminate the long term effects of global climate change, leaving behind decade-level variation) were applied to the data. The “stadium wave” effect seems to have arisen initially from interaction of essentially random variables in the procedure and was then further accentuated by the detrending method. Putting it a slightly different way, the meaningful part of the long term climate signal, warming and other known factors, explains the climate signal best and the “stadium wave” is an artifact of an untried and untested method.
We know know what the famous announcement by the European Southern Observatory is. They found an asteroid with ring! Two of them!
…the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings.
Telescopes at seven locations in South America, including the 1.54-metre Danish and TRAPPIST telescopes at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile were used to make this surprise discovery in the outer Solar System.
This unique finding has sparked much interest and debate since it is the smallest object by far to have rings and only the fifth body in the Solar System — after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune — to have this feature.
Astronomers think that this sort of ring is likely to be formed from debris left over after a collision.
Above is the nifty interactive graphic from the National Snow and Ice Data Center showing sea ice extent in the Arctic for the current year (the lower squiggle). This year’s squiggle looks like a peak, and it is possible that Arctic Sea ice extent is now on the decline. Minimum extent is typically reached in September.
The other squiggles are all the years since 1979 that seem to have had peaks later in the year than this year’s apparent peak of a couple of days ago. Those years are 1992, 1997, 1999, and 2010. In other words, for the available data set, four out of 34 years, or just over 10% of the years, had sea ice extent peaks that post date March 21st, which appears to be this year’s peak. There is still a chance that more ice will be added and this year’s squiggle will see an uptick. Well, I guess it is fair to say that there’s about a one in ten chance of that happening. But, I hear the Arctic is a bit warm and that the ice is getting all breaky-uppy so that seems like it might be a high estimate.
This is probably not too important because the relationship between what the ice does during its maximum extent and what the ice does during its minimum extent is seemingly random, and it is the minimum extent that counts.
You will recall that I’ve predicted the minimum extent of sea ice this year, here.
The degree to which sea ice extent is reduced is important. It normally melts to some degree every year, but when it melts a lot the open sea can absorb more heat from the sun, and there is less shiny ice to reflect sunlight away. This causes extra warming in the Arctic, a phenomenon known as Arctic Amplification, which may be implicated in changing large scale weather systems, resulting in the phenomenon known as Weather Whiplash.
This is a followup on Are the climate science deniers criminals?, which explored recent work by Lawrence Torcello, a philosopher at Rochester Institute of Technology. (See: Is Organised Climate Science Denial Criminally Negligent?)
Professor Torcello’s point was made in part by reference to the tragic events at L’Aquila, Italy, where a screw up mainly by non-scientist government official seems to have resulted in unnecessary deaths due to an earthquake. Torcello notes:
If those with a financial or political interest in inaction had funded an organised campaign to discredit the consensus findings of seismology, and for that reason no preparations were made, then many of us would agree that the financiers of the denialist campaign were criminally responsible for the consequences of that campaign. I submit that this is just what is happening with the current, well documented funding of global warming denialism.
That’s a powerful analogy from real life. If we are allowed the luxury of thought experiment, we can probably put an even finer point on it. Let me give that a try. Remember, this is a thought experiment. These things did not happen.
Bridges across the region are starting to deteriorate and some say they should be replaced. But there is an industry that makes a lot of money repairing bridges, as distinct from replacing them. That organization is represented by a number of public relations and lobbying organizations funded by the industry. The ruling legislative body has hearings to help decide if bridges should be replaced over the next few years at great cost, or if the annual budget for repair should be maintained.
There may be legitimate arguments on both sides of the issue, but the vast majority of engineers with relevant expertise feel that repair can not keep up with deterioration and bridges may start falling down despite best efforts to keep them up. A consensus has emerged that the bridges should be replaced. But the hearings happen anyway.
At the hearings there are a number of witnesses making various points, but among these witnesses are several representatives of the above mentioned industry and their lobbyists and public relations organizations. These witnesses are asked a number of questions and they provide a lot of information. But, they intentionally leave out important data, emphasize less important data that happens to support their cause (cherry picking) and they even go so far as to falsify studies. Overall, their argument is convincing, even if it is based on willfully misrepresented information and lies.
The legislative body, looking to save money in their budget decides to kick the can down the road, based on the testimony of representatives of the repair, not rebuild, interests. No bridges are replaced.
A few years later a string of busses carrying toddlers to a toddler convention is driving across one of the bridges. Below the bridge happens to be a tour boat that was leased by the Dalai Lama. He’s on the boat. Also on the bridge is a medical transport vehicle carrying a half dozen hearts to a nearby transplant hospital where very ill children will be given a new lease on life.
The bridge collapses, everyone on the bridge, and under it on the boat, are killed but many of them die slow and miserable deaths because the busses and other vehicles are pinned below water line under the debris, and they drown over the next half hour as the vehicles slowly fill with muddy, cold, river water.
OK, now, what do you think of the witnesses who knowingly and maliciously provided false testimony to the legislature, which ultimately was used to decide to not replace the bridge? Oh, by the way, the bridge that collapsed in this thought experiment would have been the first bridge to be replaced.
There are several things that Lawrence Torcello did not say. He did not say that “scientists who don’t believe in catastrophic man-made global warming should be put in prison.” But James Dellingpole claims that Torcello said that. James Dellingpole needs to apologize to Professor Torcello for that.
Eric Owens of the Daily Caller said that Torcello “wants to send people who disagree with him about global warming to jail.” Professor Torcello did not say that. Eric Owens owes the professor an apology.
Infowars.com and The Drudge repeated that Professor Torcello “called for the incarceration of any American who actively disagrees that climate change is solely caused by human activity.” He didn’t. More apologies owed.
These quotes (and their documentation) come from a piece by Graham Readfearn, which you can read HERE. Readfearn’s post also describes the kind and amount of harassment Professor Torcello has received since he revealed his idea that people who intentionally cause harm should be held responsible. (See also A corollary to Godwin’s law: the “law of genocidal intentions” by Ugo Bardi.)
The bridge analogy is very straight forward and if that really happened it would be hard to argue against very seriously looking into the industry representatives’ actions. The L’Aquila earthquake is a much less clear situation used by Torcello to make the point. Had there been bought and paid for expert testimony assuring everyone that filling cracks in buildings with some sort of cement like filler would suffice to keep everyone safe from earthquakes, from representatives of the crack-filling-compound industry, that case would be more like the bridge-thought-experiment. How does climate change fit into this?
Significantly changing the chemistry and physics of the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels makes a lot of people a lot of money. But it is also similar to lighting a fire under a pot of tap water on your stove. Once the CO2 is in the atmosphere it starts the multi-decade (and longer) process of changing the climate in ways that will undoubtedly have important negative effects, including sea level rise, changes in atmospheric circulation, and so on. People are going to die, economies are likely to collapse. It is a very bad situation.
Willfully misrepresenting the realities of climate change for personal gain (financial or not) is a nefarious act. I’m not sure if it is technically a criminal act, but maybe it should be. This is overall very tricky stuff. Lawrence Torcello has raised the question, as a philosopher interested in this problem. The result of his raising the question has lead to severe harassment and a spate of public misrepresentation of what he has said. In other words, a scholar has pointed out that there may be serious issues of legal responsibility related to attempts to do something about the fire we’ve lit under the pot, and the response to that has been to try very hard to make him shut up.
Climate change science denialists are not honest brokers. And that’s the nicest thing that comes to mind that I can say about them at this moment.
Trigger warning: Explicit video of a homeless man being executed by the cops.
I strongly recommend that you don’t call the police. If you do, because for some reason you have to, get the hell out of there before they arrive. Why? Because our Post-9/11 first responder philosophy is not the first responder philosophy you grew up with. First responders have one primary directive: Protect themselves, at all costs. Your safety is the cost. For firefighters and the like this means running the other way when there is danger, because of 9/11. Recently, a New York City fire chief was quoted as saying “Good thing we didn’t get here sooner” (or words to that effect) in relation to a gas explosion. In recent weeks somebody who did not get the memo called the cops for a “domestic disturbance” happening in a public park. When the cops arrive they killed a man that was trying to help. It goes on and on. The police, generally, will protect themselves before they protect you, even if it means gunning down people who are not really a threat to them.
Here is the video. Yes, the guy had knives. He was probably either a bit disturbed when the cops got there or became disoriented when they started shooting flash bangs at him. But they had him surrounded, run to ground, and it was only after he turned away from them that they gunned him down. After he was gunned down the police acted like he was a live cobra, but really, he was just some guy bleeding out on the ground where they dropped him.
I predict that this will be determined a justifiable shooting.
I’m quoting here from Daily Kos who quotes AP (the AP site is borked):
The illegal camper shot by Albuquerque police this week was turning away from officers when they fired at him, according to video released by Chief Gorden Eden on Friday.
The shots come after a confrontation in which the man, identified as 38-year-old James Boyd, tells police he’s going to walk down the mountain with them.
“Don’t change up the agreement,” Boyd says. “I’m going to try to walk with you.”
He tells officers he’s not a murderer.
Boyd picks up his belongings and appears ready to walk down toward officers. An officer fires a flash-bang device, which disorients Boyd.
Boyd appears to pull out knives in both hands as an officer with a dog approaches him. He makes a threatening motion toward the officer, then starts to turn around away from police.
That’s when shots ring out, and Boyd hits the ground. Blood can be seen on the rocks behind him.
Raising Julia, who is ow 18, I taught her to trust the cops, what cops were, when you should go to them or call them. Now, Huxley is 4. I’m teaching him differently.
From meteorologist Paul Douglas:
Published on Mar 14, 2014
Weather seems to be staling. Look into how the speed of the jet stream causes this “stuck in a rut” weather pattern. Meteorologist Paul Douglas also takes a look back as to how this winter compares to years past. Checking out extreme drought conditions, snow cover and cooler temperatures overall. This did not only impact the U.S. but other areas of the world. England experienced their wettest winter yet!