Monthly Archives: January 2016

Genetics and Food Security

There is a food crisis sneaking up on us right now. A lot of them, actually. A lot of little one, some big ones. There are always places in the world where food has become scarce for at time, and people starve or move. You’ve heard of the “”Syrian refugee crisis,” and the often extreme reactions to it in Europe and among some in the US. That started out as a food crisis, brought on by human pollution induced global warming in an already arid agricultural zone.

Nearly similar levels of climate change related pressure on agricultural systems elsewhere has led to very different outcomes, sometimes more adaptive outcomes that won’t (at least for now) lead to major geopolitical catastrophes as we have now in the Levant and elsewhere in West Asia. What’s the difference? The difference is how agriculture is done.

Are GMOs a solution? Are GMOs safe, and can the produce a small or medium size revolution in crop productivity? What about upgrading traditional agriculture to “industrial agriculture”?

And speaking of GMOs, what is the latest in GMO research? How should GMOs be regulated, by the method they are produced, or by the novel or altered traits they have? How do we communicate about GMO research and GMO crops? What about labeling?

These and many other questions are addressed ad Mike Haubrich, me, and Anastasia Bodnar talk about “Genetics and Food Security” on the latest installment of the Ikonokast Podcast. GO HERE to listen to the podcast. Also, if you go there, you can see a picture of Anastasia holding her latest GMO product, a corn plant that can see and talk!

Also, Iknokast has a Facebook Group. Please click here to go and joint it!

And, if you have not yet listened to our first podcast, with author and science advocate Shawn Otto, click here to catch up!

How Machines Work Zoo Break: Excellent New Macaulay Book

David Macaulay is famous for his “how things work” books. How Machines Work: Zoo Break! is a new book that is really fun. So fun that it took me a long time to get it back from Amanda and Huxley so I could review it.

The concept is simple. A story, a simple story, is constructed, that has nothing to do with machines. Except it has everything to do with machines. Two critters, Sloth and Sengi, are in a zoo and trying to escape. Their various escapades lead to situations that allow the exploration of all those interesting mechanical concepts, such as inclined planes, levers and fulcrums and leverage, wheels, pulleys, zippers, and so on.

The book’s cover is a machine with gers, and you can turn one of the gears to watch the sloth go up and down. That is great fun for the littler kids. Every page has 3D pullouts and thingies that demonstrate the physical concepts explored by Macaulay. The book is just a lot of fun.

Sloth, the main character, is a sloth. Sengi, Sloth’s sidekick, is a Sengi. What is a Sengi? It is also known as an Elephant Shrew. What is an Elephant Shrew? It is a forest dwelling insect eating critter that looks vaguely like a rodent but with an elephant like trunk, sort of. In the old days (before the 1990s) we used to say that “An Elephant Shrew is neither an Elephant and a Shrew.” In the old old days, Sengi were classified as shrews. Then, they became reclassified as something other than shrews, but still, obviously, not closely related to elephants. The “elephant” in the name is just because of the elephant-trunk-like nose. But more recently, Sengi were reclassified again into a group that includes elephans (and aardvarks and some other stuff). And it is because Sengi are related to elephants (closely enough) that Macaulay used a sengi (played by Sengi the Sidekick) … he felt an elephant would be the perfect character but they were too small, thus the shrew. And, as you will see, in the end, tamed.

Other Macaulay books (small selection, there are several):

  • The New Way Things Work
  • The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body
  • Underground
  • Hip-Hop Artist Baba Brinkman Crowdfunding Climate Change Album

    I’m not sure what an “album” is, but I think it is like a CD.

    Anyway, if you don’t know who Baba Brinkman is, check this out. (he previously produced “The Rap Guide to Evolution.”)

    Then, head on over to the Indiegogo site to see his project. This is likely to be a go, with your help. He’s a fourth of the way there already, and he has a lot of fans and supporters. I have no doubt that this so-called “album” will be great.

    Also by Baba Brinkman:

  • The Rap Guide to Religion
  • The Rap Guide to Evolution
  • The Rap Guide to Evolution: Revised [Explicit]
  • The Rap Canterbury Tales
  • The Rap Guide to Wilderness
  • The Rap Guide to Human Nature [Explicit]
  • Dead Poets
  • Who won last night’s Republican presidential debate?

    UPDATE for Feb 6th debate:

    This post was originally written for the previous GOP debate. Here are a few comments on last night’s debate.

    I watched the debate at a debate watching party of DFL activists, so naturally I saw very little of it because we were a loud and raucous crowd. But this morning I re-watched portions of the debate, and checked out the online commentary and polls.

    Once again, most of the commentary by experts has little to do with the on line polls. The on line polls show Trump as having won by a huge landslide, while the experts are talking about this or that lower level candidate having done better than expected, etc. etc.

    One of the key features of last night’s debate was the attack on Rubio by various lower level candidates, including Christie. Rubio was just starting to emerge from the back and of the pack over the last few weeks. But, last night, he was effectively eaten by his fellow Republicans, and contributed himself to his own demise. So, he was a big loser. I loved his repeated spirited defense of President Obama’s administration. Rubio made a great case that the President has helped move our country in line with other countries in a lot of ways that people of all political persuasions, in their heart of hearts (for those that have hearts) really want. Good going Marco!

    It is possible that the biggest winner of the GOP debate, given all the infighting, was actually the Democratic Party.


    Just a quick comment about last night’s debate.

    As you know, Donald Trump did not show up at last night’s GOP debate. Yet, online polls not only show him winning, but winning by a larger margin than most earlier post-debate online polls.

    In addition, much of the conversation during the debate, according to reports, was about Donald Trump, who was not there.

    Political commenters over the last few days, commenters who often get things right, said that not showing up last night would hurt Trump more than helping. That did not happen. This election year, in relation to the GOP primary contest, has involved a very large gap between what experts say and what people actually do, a larger gap than usual.

    One way we know Trump won the debate he didn’t show up for is that most debate polling web pages included him anyway.

    On the one page where Trump was not included, Paul was far ahead of the other candidates. This tells us something, perhaps, about the overlap between Trump and Paul in either a) who supports the candidate or b) how good the supporters of the candidate are at gaming the online polls.

    I’m very interested to see what happens in Iowa and New Hampshire, in both parties. We’ve been watching the polls, regular and on line, for weeks now. I strongly suspect that this is one of those years where people who actually go in to the process and participate will be a different group than those who clickity click buttons on line or even answer polling questions. I do think Trump will do well in both primaries, but I suspect the overall pattern in those two states will be different than for online and scientifically done polls.

    In the Democratic race, there has been a huge difference between what expert observers have said about who did well in the debates and what the post debate polls, especially on line polls, have shown, with Clinton winning the hearts and minds of observers and Sanders scoring big in the polls. How will this pattern be challenged in the actual caucus and primary votes coming up? This will be very interesting.

    The Great Human Race: How to survive

    The Great Human Race is a new production of National Geographic, in three parts. I recently viewed the first episode, “Dawn” which comes with this description:

    All people can trace their roots to the savanna of East Africa, the home of one of the first members of the human species — Homo habilis. Archaeologist Bill Schindler and survival instructor Cat Bigney face what early man did as they work together to survive in the wild savanna just as these primitive people did 2.6 million years ago — without any weapons or fire. But they soon find that living like our ancestors is harder than they expected.

    Great Human Race premieres Monday, February 1, at 10/9c on National Geographic Channel.

    Photo at the top of the post: NG Studios

    NGS has asked me to participate in a roundtable (here is the link to the roundtable) focusing on this documentary, specifically addressing this question:

    Do you think that experts today can accurately replicate the challenges that Homo habilis faced thousands of years ago? And do you think that experts today could survive and thrive as Homo habilis did?

    This is very much my area, and I’m glad to contribute to the discussion. The short answer is, of course, no, this is too hard. But, we can try and in so doing, we can develop some interesting thinking about early human evolution.

    My contribution to the conversation centers on two rules of being a human hunter gatherer. Homo habilis was not, of course, a human, but we assume that this early hominin had some incipient human traits, further developed with early Homo erectus/ergaster. The two rules of being a human hunter gatherer refer to important aspects of living off the land that my research indicates apply to modern humans living without agriculture or animal husbandry as a source of food. I don’t know if these rules applied to earlier hominins or not … that is the $64,000 dollar question.

    Rule 1: If you don’t know where it is, you are not likely to find it.

    Much of the story in the first episode of The Great Human Race has to do with the two scantily clad protagonists, a professional survivalist of sorts and an “experimental archaeology” expert, set lose in the African Savanna to see what would happen, searching for various resources. I won’t give you a spoiler, but the episode ends with their discovery of one of the most important resources they need to survive, with that discovery realized in a very spectacular way.

    I spent a lot of time in the 1980s and early 1990s living with, and studying the foraging patterns of, the Efe Pygmy foragers of the Ituri Forest, Zaire (now Congo). One of the things I discovered and documented is the simple fact that most of the resources they use are not really found by them, as though they had no idea where they might be. They already know where most of the stuff they can eat either will be, or are likely to be.

    Bot men and women gather plant resources, but this is more of a woman’s job. In most cases, the more important plant resources are well known fruiting trees or concentrations of trees, or patches of wild yams that are frequently exploited. Women catch fish in streams that they have fished repeatedly before. This involves damming the stream at two points and removing the water from between the dams so the fish are easy to harvest.

    Men seasonally hunt honey, and much of the honey is taken from trees they have exploited in the past, and check on a regular basis to see if the bees have settled in that cavity again. They do occasionally cut down a honey tree, but this is fairly rare (it is very hard work).

    Even hunting, which one might assume is somewhat random, is done with a great deal of expectation based on knowledge. One type of hunting (not the most revered but among the most predictable) is to take porcupines or other small mammals from cavernous areas beneath rock piles that are found here and there across the landscape. If you find a rock pile and try to get at the animals hiding in it, even with the use of dogs, the animals can easily escape as they have many hidden exists. But if you return to the same rock pile repeatedly, you know where many of these escape routes are and can block them with wood or stone. A repeatedly used rock pile can be exploited with a high degree of confidence in success.

    One of the most productive methods of hunting is the ambush. A well known tree that produces a fruit eaten by small ground mammals such as duikers is identified as currently producing the bait. A nearby tree which is climbable is used as a hide, where the Efe man waits for his prey, shooting it from the tree. The Efe almost always camp in locations that were previously used as camps, so at any given location where they are living, any of the men can easily point out the location of excellent ambush sites, rock piles, and nearby potential honey spots, and the women, and some of the men, can easily point out the locations of nearby fruit trees or yam patches.

    There is uncertainty as to what resource will pay off, and not every resource is so easily predicted, but most of the wild foods the Efe gather and hunt are exploitable because of this knowledge.

    The information is probably shared among people in a group, but remarkably little conversation centers on this topic. You don’t hear Efe talking about the location of this or that resource more than you hear, say, Americans talking about the locations of this or that grocery story. Certainly, such things are part of the normal conversation but do not make up a large percentage of it.

    Rule 2: If you are doing it right, the use of a given instance of a resource can increase its future return.

    This is probably a more important finding than that related to the first rule, and is rather counterintuitive. If the Efe use a resource, they will quickly use it up. This is one of the main reasons they move frequently from camp to camp over the year. But, the value of that resource, both the likelihood that it will produce something, and the abundance it produces, is enhanced by their very use of it.

    I’ve already implied a couple of examples. If you block off a few exit ways on a rock pile, you don’t unblock them when you are done. Those escape routes may remain blocked between uses. If you add to your ambush trees a blind to sit on (usually just a few sticks tied on here and there) or modify the tree to make it easier to climb, these modifications may make the use of that ambush spot easier in the future, allowing you to climb and sit in the tree more quickly, more quietly, and more comfortably. Efe will also remove branches that interfere with their view and their shot.

    Often, after an Efe man has finished taking the honey and comb out of a bee nest way up in some tree, he will spend a few more minutes making the cavity the bees had nested in larger. This may increase the amount of honey that can be fit into that cavity the next honey season.

    When Efe women harvest yams, they tend to keep the “head” of the yam, attached to the above ground vine, intact, and rebury it. The space where they took the yam out will then be filled, with a little luck, with more yam months later.

    As the Efe walk along the trails they habitually use to get around in the forest, they maintain the trails to keep them open and passable. it takes an Efe twice as long to traverse a given distance of forest without a trail as with a trail. This is a huge long term enhancement in the return of foraging.

    As the Efe walk along a trail, they often grab up fruits from trees along the way. They eat the fruit as they walk, or stop at a resting place and eat it there. I documented five species of fruit tree where the Efe spit out or otherwise discard the seed of the fruit. This process of dispersal, well known to plant ecologists, enhances the number of those fruit trees along these trails, roughly doubling the abundance of these seasonally consumed fruits.

    And there’s more, I won’t bore you with now. Much of the energy the Efe put into foraging enhances future return, including the development and maintenance of the basic knowledge of where various resources are.

    There is some evidence that chimps do something like this as well. Chimps are probably primary dispersers of some of the fuits they exploit, almost certainly enhancing the abundance of that type of tree or plant. Where chimps use nutting stones (this is rare, but there are some groups that do this), they seem to keep track of the where the stones were left, so finding this rare object is much more efficient.

    Given that chimps use prior knowledge and enhancement a little, and human foragers are capable of using these two “rules” a lot, I would assume that some of this would have been going on with Homo habilis.

    I should mention that the observations I’ve made with the Efe have since been made among other groups of foragers. This seems to be a general pattern among African tropical and subtropical foragers, and possibly beyond. If you don’t already know where something is, you are not likely to find it. And, once a resource is exploited, foragers are often likely to enhance its future value. The emergence of those two features of modern human foraging must have been part of the hominin evolutionary story.

    How Did Climate Change Cause The Great More’Easter of 2016?

    Storms like last weekend’s blizzard and widespread snowfall can happen, in theory, any winter, but large snowfall storms in the US Northeast have been significantly more common in recent years than in previous recorded history. Over the last few years we’ve seen these large snowfalls happen farther south than usual, as was the case with the 2016 Blizzard. Climate scientists are pretty sure that this blizzard was either outright caused or significantly enhanced (you really can’t tell the difference) by human caused global warming. How can a blizzard, a big cold thing, be caused by warming? Because climate is not a simple thing.

    Just trust me, this was an effect of global warming. Or, if you like, read on, and I’ll give you the gory details.

    There are two factors that needed to come together to make a storm into a large southern-offset blizzardy mess like this one. First, there needed to be cold air tracking farther south than usual, and this happened as a result of trade wind and jet stream meanderings which have become more common with climate change, and made more likely this year, probably, because of El Niño. Second, there needed to be more moisture in the air coming off the Atlantic Ocean. This happened last weekend, and during other recent storms over the last few years, because the Atlantic is much much warmer than it usually is in the immediate region of the coast. Warmer water provides more moisture to the atmosphere via evaporation, and that relationship is not linear. More sea surface warmth equals more more moisture.

    The Atlantic hasn’t been just a bit warmer. This region of the Atlantic has been anomalously very warm for several years and has been getting more warmer annually.

    There are two reasons for this extra warmth. One is pretty straight forward. Sea surface temperatures globally are warmer because of human caused greenhouse gas warming of the surface of the planet. This has been enhanced over recent months because of El Niño, but it is a larger and longer term phenomenon with El Niño warming riding on top of that overall increase. Any randomly chosen patch of the world’s ocean is likely to be warmer today than it was ten or twenty years ago.

    The second reason is a little more complex. Weather (and it’s big brother, climate) happen because of the uneven distribution of the Sun’s energy on the surface of the earth. Extra heat accumulates near the equator (which is pointing, relatively, more directly at the Sun), and this heat is redistributed through the movement of air and sea currents towards the poles. However, since the oceans and continents are not evenly or symmetrically distributed, or otherwise laid out to make this redistribution of heat efficient, this gets pretty complex. For example, the Pacific is huge while the Atlantic is narrower and restricted as one goes north. Notice also that the Indian Ocean is not connected directly to northern regions, only to the south, so extra heat builds up there and has to make its way towards both poles via long and convoluted currents.

    One result of this complexity is what we call the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). This is sometimes referred to as the Atlantic Conveyer and people will sometimes use the term “Gulf Stream” to refer to part of that, but really, it is all more complex than that and not so easily labeled.

    Warm water that started near the Equator (including both in the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, via South Africa) moves north in the Atlantic, on the surface. Up in the North Atlantic, this warm water becomes relatively even warmer (since the air is cooler in the north) and passes as well into areas where the air may be relatively dry. This causes heat to leave the water carried by the current, and evaporation to take place. Evaporation not only cools the water, but makes it extra salty. Saltier water is denser, so the cooling, hyper-saline waters at the northern reaches of the currents sink to the bottom of the ocean, pulling even more of the north-flowing surface current with it. This is like the electric motor that turns a conveyor belt. The lower part of the “belt” is the saltier, colder water now flowing back south, in the opposite direction, towards equatorial regions where it can later re-emerge and warm up again.

    That is the simple version. If you just put water in a big place it will rotate because energy supplied by winds (or other currents) will be deflected by the Earth’s rotation, so you get, in the simple case, a counter-clockwise rotation (in the Norther Hemisphere). To the side of such a rotating masses of water, one tends to get counter-gyres (running clockwise). Trade winds push surface waters along, contributing to currents. Between the movement of the currents themselves, differential heat across the sea surface and at some depth, and air the currents, the surface of the ocean tends to not be very flat, though it looks rather flat from any given normal human vantage point. At present, the North Atlantic is mounded up in such as way that the sea surface is lower along the North American east coast than it would be were none of these things were happening.

    All this results in a big blob shaped area in the North Atlantic where the surface waters are relatively cold, into which warmer currents mostly from the south (including the Gulf Stream) flow, cooling, sinking, being part of the conveyor.

    What happens if you turn this conveyor off? For one thing, heat that is normally contributed to the atmosphere at northern latitudes as part of the process is no longer available to the various trade winds that pass over them. So, downwind regions (i.e., northern Europe) may experience cooling. Under certain conditions, this could cause a shift in climate in the direction of an Ice Age. We are currently experiencing such warming planet wide that this is not a possibility, though there is a famous movie in which this (rather unrealistically) happens.

    Another effect can be a change in the mounding of water around the North Atlantic, with an effective regional sea level rise (measurable in inches, probably) along the Northern Hemisphere east coast.

    Another effect is, of course, that the hot water moving north into the North Atlantic where it might otherwise cool gets stuck, almost like it is backed up, and becomes warmer and warmer.

    All of these effects can happen with a mere slowdown in the AMOC, not only if it stops completely, and we seem to have seen these effects.

    Stefan Rahmstorf, a scientist who studies these things, has an excellent writeup about a slowing AMOC and its effects, here at RealClimate.

    The graphic at the top of this post is from his post. This shows sea surface temperatures across the world’s ocean as relative change caused by doubling the planet’s normal CO2 level. This is a model indicating that in the North Atlantic, there would be cooling in the far north, and extreme heating along the Northern Hemisphere’s east coast. So that is what the physics says is likely to happen in a warming world.

    Here is a portion of the Climate Reanalyzer daily summary showing today’s actual sea surface temperature anomalies (how far above or below a long term average the actual sea surface temperature is measured to be).

    Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 12.35.38 PM

    Find the purple spots in the North Atlantic. That is the head of the AMOC, more or less, and here we have record low relative sea surface temperatures. Along the east coast are several blobs of red, showing near record or record high sea surface temperatures. There are stripes and blobs of very warm water all along the coast, made relatively warmer first by the simple fact that the sea surface is warmed by global warming, then made even more extra warm because of the recent slowing down of the AMOC. (Click through to see the whole globe, the scale, and to play with the data.)

    Why is the AMOC slowing down?

    First, note, that this is not a short term oddity of weather. Rahmstorf asserts that this is a long term condition.

    (1) The warm sea surface temperatures are not just some short-term anomaly but are part of a long-term observed warming trend, in which ocean temperatures off the US east coast are warming faster than global average temperatures.

    (2) Climate models show a “cold blob” in the subpolar Atlantic as well as enhanced warming off the US east coast as a characteristic response pattern to a slowdown of the AMOC.

    Stefan and other scientists have effectively argued that this slowdown is caused in large part by the addition of fresh water from melting glaciers in Greenland. The fresh water interferes with the process by which waters at the head of the AMOC becoming hyper-saline, and thus slows down the conveyor belt. There are probably also increases in freshwater flow from major rivers into the North Atlantic, also resulting from climate change, that contribute to this.

    Let me clarify something here in case there is some confusion. The cooling of the regions of the North Atlantic having to do with AMOC did not provide wintery conditions to cause this blizzard. That is something happening much father away. We may be seeing cooling effects in part of Europe because of this (I’m not discussing that here) but the Blizzard of 2016 (which we hopefully don’t bother to call “2016A” assuming there will not be another) was not hyped up because of that cooling, but rather, from the backed up surface warmth much nearer New England and the rest of the US East coast.

    The slowing down of the AMOC has been going on for decades, and seems likely to continue. It is not that clear what would happen if the AMOC simply shut down, or even if it could. Will the action simply move to a new latitude, or will some sort of conveyor system continue but with a very different configuration? Will additional slowdown of the AMOC cause important sea level rise in the US East? One thing that seems very likely is this. With increased surface warmth, and no reasonable expectation that warming will slow or reverse in the near future, Greenland will continue to contribute abundant fresh water to the region, and quite possibly, increased rainfall in major river basins will add even more freshening. The AMOC is not likely to stop slowing down, or to regain its strength.

    The slowing and other changes in the AMOC may be a qualitative and long term outcome of anthropogenic global warming. It seems likely that enhanced sea surface warmth off the US East Coast will be with us for the long term. A blizzard like the one we had over the weekend is much more manageable in regions that normally have frequent heavy snow storms, like Massachusetts and Upstate New York. If they happen now and then father to the south, that is a bit of a disaster, but if it is only now and then, it is not likely that we could or would do much about it.

    But if annual or nearly annual middle-Atlantic blizzards are now part of the “new normal” of our disrupted climate, then infrastructural changes may be required. Roads and parking lots, and even sidewalks, are constructed with the prospect of frequent snowfalls in mind in northern states. Maybe that is what we should be doing in the formerly less snowy regions along the Atlantic. Snow plows … lots of them … will be needed. Complex and annoying (and costly) parking rules to make room for snow clearing are common in snowy states. Should “snow emergency” procedures and parking rules be set up for the mid-Atlantic?

    People will have to learn, either the easy way or the hard way, that during a blizzard warning, one does not simply venture out onto the highways. Minnesotans and northern New Englanders and everyone in between keep blizzard kits in their cars. These are life saving items for when you do get stuck for 30 hours on a highway in the middle of nowhere. People who commute to Washington DC may consider this inexpensive investment. And so on.

    Finally, will there be another Snopocalypse this winter, somewhere in the US? I think not. With El Nino, things are warming up, and even in the usually blizzardly places, like New England or around the Great Lakes, I suspect we’ll have more slush and rain than deep snow. But you never know. On the other hand, global warming and El Niño enhanced storminess and raininess could cause more flooding, both inland and in coastal regions. But climate science denying Senator Jim Inhofe may have to wait until next winter to get a new snowball.

    More’Easter Jonah The Storm Continues: Updates

    According to Paul Douglas (pers. com) there is some important news on what Jonas still has planned.

    There is likely to be major flooding along the coast of Cape May, and in some areas of New Jersey there may be coastal flooding nearly of the magnitude that happened with Superstorm Sandy. So far storm surges have exceeded the original predictions.

    The region from Washington DC to New York is likely to have another half foot or more of snow, and storm totals will be two to three feet with much larger drifts over that area. This snow will taper off this evening over much of the area.

    The map at the top of the post is a prediction for the snowfall totals for this storm (from here).

    Jeff Masters notes, “This storm will certainly rival some of the biggest mid-Atlantic storms in recent decades, and some model runs have cranked out snow totals beyond historical precedent.”

    For the northern regions affected by this storm, the areas it is moving into now, there is less certainty.

    So far there are many places with 12 to 20 inches of snow on the ground across western New Jersey, the DC area, large areas of Virginia, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. New York around the city haws already seen a foot or moe in many places.

    Boston is going to get a more normal snow storm, just a few inches total.

    There have already been major power outages in North Carolina.

    Dark Money by Jane Mayer

    The book is: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

    Also by the same author: The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals.

    Here is my version of recent American political history:

    Everyone in America knows that if you want to identify the people or corporations, and the motivations, behind politics, you follow the money. Americans have historically differed in the degree to which they formulate this concept in their own minds as conspiratorial end-times ranting or shrug it off as just the way things are. But in recent years, changes in the way that money is spent on politics have made the most extreme and paranoid-seeming views most likely to be correct.

    Yes, in the old days, political parties were run by bosses and unions were often run by thugs, voting was often rigged and decisions about what the government should do about this or that thing were handed to the elected representatives by cigar smoking back room denizens. If you don’t know about this “Gilded Age” of American Democracy that is just because you haven’t read about it. (You could start here.)

    But that was ancient history, and during the 1960s and 1970s numerous changes were made in the law, lots of nefarious actors rounded up and pushed out, transparency became a previously unspoken of concept, and the the government got cleaned up. Somewhat. A lot, really.

    You might say, “yeah, right, cleaned up, like Watergate and the Pentagon papers.” You’d be right to point that out. But notice that when Watergate happened, America got pissed. That is in part because we were in the process of cleaning up the government over those decades.

    And, part of this cleanup may have involved the strengthening and organization of a strong Liberal elite that thereafter tended to run things in certain states, certain cities, and now and then nationally. This elite probably arose from the marriage of Northeastern Intellectuals (including both Republicans and Democrats) with Hard Core non-Northeastern Democrats that didn’t happen to be crazy racist bastards like George Wallace.

    In those days, in the 60s, various wealthy individuals started to organize a backlash against this, funding individuals who might be future elected officials, producing books and TV shows (like Buckley’s Firing Line, and later, The Bell Curve), and so on. This organization often involved the formation of secret (or nearly secret) societies, exclusive meetings or conferences, and a process of auditioning low level or would be politicians. The Family. Bohemian Grove. That sort of thing.

    Over time two things happened. First, more of the wealth that was available was attracted to this effort, and second, with the concentration of wealth, there was simply more money to put into this effort. But, still, the laws of the lands, and the regulations of elections, those elements of reform that had tossed the bosses, cleaned up the unions, expanded voting rights, and so on, stood in the way of the would be puppet masters.

    What are these people up to and what do they want? That is beyond the scope of this humble blog post, but if you are reading my blog, you probably know that one of the objectives is to stop policy action on climate change. Action on climate change means keeping the carbon in the ground. Keeping the carbon in the ground means assets will be stranded. Stranded assets means that people like the famous “Koch Brothers” will move from being nearly the wealthiest people in the world to being the 20th wealthiest people in the world. And that, dear reader, is a situation up with which they will not put.

    As you know, eventually, the law was changed mainly in the courts, the regulations obviated, a new and more effective effort to repress or control voting emerged, the unions effectively attacked, and the newly dubbed “1%” who were really the “0.1%” in most cases took over. And now, they are in charge. Or nearly so. To the extent that they are not, they will be in a few years.

    Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right is a remarkable book that covers the latter part of this history, from the nadir of right wing power to the verge of total control, but mostly, the very recent years, and of course, a lot of this is about the Koch Brothers and their rise to power and influence.

    And so, right now, I am faced with the task of getting you to read this book. I will do two things that I’m sure will work. First, I’ll tell you, truthfully and with enthusiasm, that this book is very well written, well documented, highly credible, very important, and while you read it you will probably have to be restrained at several points. Just. Go. Read. It.

    Second, I’ve selected a handful of excerpts to give you a flavor. I normally don’t use a lot of excerpts in a book review, but since I imposed my own personal version (I was in some of those back rooms, and fought in the streets against the old guard more than a few times) recent history of American Politics, I’d like to give Jane Mayer a chance to enthrall, inform, and entice you with her own words.

    So, from the book:

    In a 1960 self-published broadside, A Business Man Looks at Communism, Koch claimed that “the Communists have infiltrated both the Democrat [sic] and Republican Parties.” Protestant churches, public schools, universities, labor unions, the armed services, the State Department, the World Bank, the United Nations, and modern art, in his view, were all Communist tools.

    That was Fred Koch.

    By the time Barack Obama was elected president, the billionaire brothers’ operation had become more sophisticated. By persuading an expanding, handpicked list of other wealthy conservatives to “invest” with them, they had in effect created a private political bank. It was this group of donors that gathered at the Renaissance. Most, like the Kochs, were businessmen with vast personal fortunes that placed them not just in the top 1 percent of the nation’s wealthiest citizens but in a more rarefied group, the top 0.1 percent or higher. By most standards, they were extraordinarily successful. But for this cohort, Obama’s election represented a galling setback.

    Keep this in mind. Obama’s election set them back, because the were already at the gates. Not covered in so much in this book is the fact that Clinton was a setback as well, years earlier, in its own way (though not nearly to the same degree).

    in a stunning turnaround in 2008, Scaife met with Hillary Clinton, who had fingered him as the ringleader of what she called a “vast right-wing conspiracy” to torment the Clintons. … After a pleasant editorial board chat, Scaife came out and wrote an opinion piece in his own paper declaring that his view of her as a Democratic presidential contender had changed and was now “very favorable indeed.” The rapprochement testified both to Hillary Clinton’s political skills and to Scaife’s almost childlike impressionability. Repeatedly in his memoir, he changes his political views after meeting antagonists in person, whether the liberal Kennedy family member Sargent Shriver or the Democratic congressman Jack Murtha. “Like many billionaires, he lived in a bubble,” concluded his friend Ruddy

    That was Richard Scaife, a banking and oil magnate.

    During a catered lunch at the summit, [early Tea Party leader Peggy] Venable introduced Ted Cruz [at an Americans for Prosperity conference] who told the crowd that Obama was “the most radical president ever to occupy the Oval Office” and had hidden from voters a secret agenda—“the government taking over our economy and our lives.” Countering Obama, Cruz proclaimed, was “the epic fight of our generation!” As the crowd rose to its feet and cheered, he quoted the defiant words of a Texan at the Alamo: “Victory, or death!”

    Not an original idea of Cruz, but you get the point.

    For the Koch network, Walker’s improbable rise was a triumph. Koch Industries PAC was the second-largest contributor to Walker’s campaign. More important, the Kochs were an important source of funds to the Republican Governors Association, which Republicans used in Wisconsin and elsewhere in 2010 to work around strict state contribution limits. The Kochs’ PAC had also contributed to sixteen state legislative candidates in Wisconsin, who all won their races, helping conservatives take control of both houses of the legislature and setting the stage for Wisconsin’s dramatic turn to the right…Walker had also benefited enormously from the philanthropy of two other archconservative brothers, the late Lynde and Harry Bradley…

    Bradley funded the publication of the infamous “Bell Curve” by Herrnstein and Murray.

    By 2009, the Kochs had indeed succeeded in expanding their political conference from a wonky free-market swap fest to the point where it was beginning to attract an impressive array of influential figures. Wealthy businessmen thronged to rub shoulders with famous and powerful speakers, like the Supreme Court justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Congressmen, senators, governors, and media celebrities came too. “Getting an invitation means you’ve arrived,” one operative who still works for the Kochs explained. “People want to be in the room.”

    The new smokey back room, but probably with better food.

    With Ryan declining to run, the Kochs and their operatives searched anxiously for an alternative…. The search for a more promising candidate set off a torrid courtship of Chris Christie, the tough-guy governor of New Jersey. David Koch invited Christie to his Manhattan office, where the two spent almost two hours bonding over Christie’s brawls with the unions and other liberal forces. The governor’s scrappy blue-collar style, combined with his plutocrat-friendly economic policies, made him an almost irresistible prospect. By June, the Kochs had given Christie the keynote speaker slot at their seminar, where he could audition for his party’s leading role in front of the people who could pay his way.

    Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, who preceded Christie as a speaker, provided a perfect foil. In a prelude to Perry’s later “oops” moment during the Republican debates, the governor made a poor impression on the numerically minded businessmen in the audience by displaying five fingers to illustrate a four-point plan, only to be left with one digit still waving in the air, programmatically unac- counted for.

    The rich and powerful interviewing the prospective puppets.

    Go read the book. Report back.

    Who Will Win The Iowa Caucus?

    The answer: One Republican and One Democrat/Independent.

    The Iowa Caucus is pretty much up for grabs in both parties. Over recent days, a clear Trump lead has been erased, and Cruz is now ahead in recent polls. Over roughly the same period, a clear Clinton lead has been erased, and Sanders is now ahead in recent polls.

    FiveThirtyEight (Nate Silver) is still predicting a Clinton victory for the Dems, but a Cruz victory for the GOPs. The Clinton victory prediction is of high confidence, while the Cruz prediction is not, and Trump is close behind.

    One way to look at the polls is to track changes and put a lot of faith in the most recent information. Another way is to use as much data as seems relevant (even looking outside polls) and assume that this gives a better prediction, and go with that. The latter is the method used by FiveThirtyEight. So, Nate Silver’s method will be a big winner if Clinton and Cruze cinch the Caucus, but not so much if Sanders sandbags Hillary and Trump trumps Cruz.

    People put a lot of significance on the Iowa Caucus because it is the first real contest among candidates. But then, after the caucus has become history, they are less likely to care too much about it. How important is it as a predictor of the outcome of the entire primary season?

    That depends on the party.

    Barack Obama, John Kerry, Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Walter Mondale, Jimmy Carter and George McGovern all won the Iowa caucus (or came in above the other candidates) and went on to be the Democratic Party nominee. Dick Gephardt and Tom Harkin also won the caucus, but did not become the nominee. One might say that the Iowa Caucus predicts the nominee pretty well for Democrats.

    Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, and George W. Bush all beat the other contenders and went on to get the nomination. But most of the time, the Iowa Caucus was either won by an unopposed Republican (so we can’t count those years in assessing its significance) or was won by a candidate other than the eventual nominee (such as Rick Santorum in 2012, Mike Huckabee in 2008, and Bob Dole in 1988). Overall, the Iowa Caucus means little in the Republican Party, if we go on history, especially in recent years.

    Despite FiveThirtyEight’s claims, based on a good analysis of hefty data, I’m going to say that there has been too much flux in the polling numbers to call the caucus at this stage, just over a week prior.

    From the mouths of babes: “We’re worried. Please debate science.”

    I had previously mentioned the ScienceDebate ad with the kids asking for a science debate. Here is some local coverage on the story (the ad was made here in the Twin Cities) including an interview with one of the stars, Susanlyn Singroy. (I don’t agree with everything she said, but what the heck, she’s asking for a debate, and is up for it!)

    Here is the coverage.

    More about here.

    More’easter Jonas Looks Like The Real Deal (UPDATED Storm shifts to the north)

    Friday AM Update: Overall the storm has shifted north. Washington DC is still on track to have something close to two feet of snow in the city, more to the west. The predicted snowfall for New York City, the city that eats meteorologists, is increasing, and The City may see a foot or more, with closer to two feet to the northwest. DC will have its most intensive snowfall during the night on Friday, while New York City will have most of its snow falling during the day on Saturday.

    With this northward shift, Boston is likely to get more snow too, possibly over a foot. Snow will start there during the afternoon on Saturday and continue through Sunday AM and early PM.

    Wave and storm surge erosion with winds gusting to 50 MPH along the coast is still expected, especially along coastal New Jersey, Long Island, southern New England, Cape Cod, and down south across the Delmarva Peninsula. Normal tides are strong this time of month. Expect power outages here and there.

    Regardless of the apparently senseless and, frankly, mean spirited comments we see from some of the climate science denialists (i.e., that blizzards have happened before therefore…) it is simply true that most of the big storms that have hit this area since good record have occurred in just the last few years. That’s the observation. These storms are made worse by global warming enhanced sea surface temperatures. That’s part of the mechanism. Changes in jet stream patterns have also probably played a role in both the concentration of moisture and the length of storms, and their tracks. So, yes, this is a global warming enhanced storm that earns an extra merit badge for having a bit of extra energy from El Nino.

    See THIS for more about the science behind the predictions and the storm itself.

    A quick update (Thursday 10:30PM Central). Not much change in the overall pattern, but the “most likely” amount of snow for DC and environs has increased. You’all are likely to get way over a foot, possibly 20 inches or so, maybe more. The minimum is 9 inches. That’s not too likely. Overall, predicted snowfall amounts are increased. New York is expected to receive a half a foot or more, but as I note below this is hard to predict for that area. The estimate of snow for Boston has gone down, most likely an inch or so. But, that estimate has a fat tail, and it could be much more in the Boston area or East/Central Mass (up to 10 inches). Coastal flooding in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and parts of Virginia are still expected.

    I had previously mentioned Jonas, the storm about to bear down on the US East Coast. I cautioned that we should be open to a lot of possible outcomes, and to realize that prediction of exact snowfall amounts in a given area are very difficult with this sort of storm. Here, I’ll repeat that warning. If you see a big blob of predicted snow on a weather map, you can be pretty sure that if you are within or near that blob, you’ll get snow. But if you look at the exact locations of 12″ snow here, or 6″ snow there, and expect that to be accurate, than please contact me off line, I have nice bridge to sell you.

    However, as the storm approaches the predictions get more reliable. In this case, multiple weather models have been in line with each other all along, and the convergence on a big storm with certain characteristics is emerging. The storm will affect land areas staring during the day Friday, and continue through the weekend, depending on your location.

    What will happen in Washington DC?

    One of the big questions is what will happen in DC. At the moment, some of the standard weather services are predicting five or six inches from between some time Friday and early Sunday in the DC metro. This is conservative, and if you are ramping up your expectations about this storm but are not going to be in the DC area, keep this in mind so later you can be all surprised at a larger amount. But if you are living or working in DC, you need to know that other highly reliable sources, such as the National Weather Service, are suggesting a larger amount.

    Sticking with the idea that snowfall prediction is a game of probabilities, I offer this EXPERIMENTAL prediction method showing possible snowfall for a few spots in DC:

    Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 8.24.11 AM

    It is pretty obvious how to read this. This information shows that there could be as little as 8 inches across the DC area, but as much as 30 inches. The chance of the snow on the ground adding up to over 18 inches is better than 50-50, meaning that the chances of there being a mere half of this large amount (the 30 inch apocalyptic number) is also 50-50. There is about a 20% chance that the total snow will be less than a foot. This means, of course, that the good money is on a total accumulation of over a foot, possibly a lot over a foot.

    In a place like DC, over a foot and over two feet are not that different. Both are city-shutting amounts.

    By the way, I’m hearing rumors that in the greater DC area, out in Virginia and such, there was some icing and snow over the last 24 hours that the authorities in charge decided not to plow or treat, so driving conditions in the area are currently very bad. Just rumors, but from credible sources. Maybe the snow plow people are saving up their resources for the big one. (See this!)

    Will New York City get much snow?

    Yesterday it was looking like New York might get a few inches. However, overnight, various model projections have started to show a big lump of snow on or near New York, suggesting that the storm might have a bigger impact there. Right now, the National Weather Service is saying that there may be 8-12 inches of accumulation in New York.

    New York is tricky because it has a strong urban heat island effect. Also, it is adjacent to not one, but two seas, and can be quite windy. Also, while New York has a lot of people in it, and the “Greater New York Area” is huge, overlapping large portions of three states and several counties (at least a dozen), when people go and look at the snowfall in New York City, they look at downtown Manhattan, and that is a tiny area (comparatively) that happens to be situated in a way that makes weather prediction extra hard. It is very common for a substantial snowfall predicted for New York to end up being nothing, or an inch or two. So, expect the unexpected. It is not unreasonable to assume a better outcome for The City than the forecasters suggest. But it may not be wise to rely on that assumption.

    Will Boston get much snow?

    In a way, Boston is even worse than New York. At the larger scale, Boston has a sort of barrier island, Cape Cod, which can influence some of the weather that comes its way, but Cape Cod is very far away covers only part of the sea in that area. Most storms sneak around it from the northeast. Nor’easters are not named as such for no reason.

    Boston is a very small city surrounded by many, many other cities, that are together called “Boston” as in “I lived in Boston” but actually lived in Somerville or Medford or something. Also, Boston is in a basin (the “Boston Basin”) snuggled up to the harbor and Mass Bay, and the highlands rise quickly (but not too much) around it, so it is not at all uncommon for Boston to get one inch of slush proceeded by some rain, while Lexington and Concord (commuting bedroom suburbs of Boston) get several times that.

    And, in this case, the northern extent of More’Easter* Jonas is somewhere around Boston but nobody can say for sure yet.

    The National Weather Service is suggesting that the worst case, but unlikely, scenario for the Greater Boston Area is 5-6 inches, the most likely 2-3 inches, but with a distinct possibility of zero. The Cape and Islands, and southern Rhode Island and SE Mass may get 6-8 inches. So, for that region, snowfall wise, just a typical winter snow but windy.

    Where will the biggest accumulations be?

    The biggest accumulations of snow are likely to be inland, at somewhat higher elevations, focusing around a couple of points. Here’s a map I cribbed from Paul Douglas’ blog:

    No, wait, here is a more recent updated version, read the discussion below with that in mind:

    Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 11.45.21 AM

    Technically, since over a foot of snow is a lot, the answer to this question is “everywhere form Long Island across most of New Jersey, half of Pennsylvania, Much of Virginia and West Virginia, and Maryland.” But, there seems to be two major centroids of heaviest accumulation being predicted, one in New Jersey south of New York City, and the other wet of Washington across Maryland and the Virginia-West Virginia border. But, as I’ve now said a half dozen times or more, these sorts of snowfall projections are notoriously inaccurate at any level of detail. If you live anywhere in the area of this map bounded by the yellow stripe, expect snow. If you are in or near the red and purple zones, there is a chance you will be snowbound. So, run out to the store now with all the other people and get stuff.

    The big problem with Jonas may be the wind

    But when you do get to the store, if you want to be a True Survivalist, don’t get frozen food or anything that requires electricity to prepare. And get extra batteries. And when you get home, do your laundry so you can get that done before your power goes out. The heavy snow amounts have the potential of knocking down power lines, of course, but there will also be windy conditions during this blizzard, and that will very likely knock a few wires off their poles. If this happens in many places over a large area, a simple outage that could be fixed in a few hours may take much longer. Between roads being closed because of snow and a high demand for repairs, some outages could last much longer than average, maybe even a day or a few days in the worst case. So be ready for that.

    Coastal Erosion

    My friend Paul Douglas referred to this storm as roughly like a “tropical storm with snow”.* It isn’t really a tropical storm, as he notes, but it is like one in the sense that there will be strong coastal winds and, owing to the winds and very low pressure, a storm surge in some areas.

    The storm surge may be most severe between the central New Jersey coast and the Chesapeake. However, the effects of a storm surge are highly local. So, for instance, the Delaware coast, because of the shape of the coast line and its position in the maw of the fetch, may experience high water. Small embayments along the Jersey coast may see very high local surges. There will also be high water in the same areas where Superstorm Sandy rose up to flood New York City and nearby New Jersey, but the height of those waters will not be as bad as during that storm.

    The other local phenomenon that determines the severity of a storm surge is, of course, local elevation. Areas with low relief behind the strandline facing the ocean may see several feet of water washing inland, and serious damage to property and natural areas. Places where the land rises quickly behind the beaches will still be affected by wind and spray (expect to see a lot of damaged or dead trees in some areas next spring form the salt) but structures and roads would be less affected. Pay close attention to what your local authorities are saying. At this point, though, the storm surges are expected to cause possibly record-book altering floods. From Paul:

    Unseasonably warm water in the Gulf Stream will fuel rapid intensification and pressure falls, a partial vaccuum that will pull air into the core of this developing Nor’Easter, whipping up high winds and pounding surf; the rough equivalent of a wintertime tropical storm (without the warm core). Here’s an excerpt from WXshift: “…On Saturday, powerful winds in excess of 60 mph could whip up waves that could reach 30 feet. As they come ashore, beaches will take a pounding and face widespread erosion. Models also show a current storm surge of around 5 feet coming ashore with Saturday’s high tide. In Cape May, N.J., the current forecast high tide mark on Saturday evening would be the third-highest on record while Atlantic City would come in at 10th in the record books, according to Stephen Stirling at That could push water inland and cause widespread property damage…”

    Bottom line: If you live or work in a place within the range of this storm that has been storm-flooded in the past, assume this is a possibility this time.

    UPDATE: The storm surge and coastal flooding is starting to ramp up as one of the more likely negative outcomes here. Paul Douglas just sent me these words of warning: “I’m increasingly concerned about the threat of widespread coastal flooding from this super-sized Nor’easter. Blizzard and 50+ mph winds arriving during full moon with sustained onshore winds creating a 4-7 foot storm surge capable of lowland flooding and beach erosion. Facilities that were impacted by Sandy in 2012 may experience problems with this storm.”

    The National Weather Service in New York is warning that this may be one of the top five flooding events on record in the area.



    So, when Paul made mention of the “Tropical Storm with Snow” to some mutual colleagues, the idea came up that this sort of storm needed a new name (Snowicane, or something like this). I suggested that during the last two decades, there have been more Nor’easters, with more moisture and precipitation, covering more geographical areas (mainly to the south) than in the past. So, maybe the term “More’easter” would be appropriate. Paul anointed the idea, and now you can use the term as well, if you like. I don’t expect the meteorology textbooks to be updated any time soon, but who knows?

    A quick word about climate change and El Niño

    Yes, this storm is getting its extra moisture and power from climate change with a does of El Niño added in. The driver of this wetness (which will be snowness) is very high sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic. El Niño influences this, but frankly, the sea surface temperatures off shore right now are not a lot different than they were last January, when a huge More’easter blanketed New England in a big pile of snow. This is a global warming enhanced storm.

    Jonas: The Giver Of Really Crappy Weather UPDATED


    See below for update

    Jonas, (and no, I do not condone naming of storms that are not tropical cyclones) is going to do bad things to the US East Coast and hinterland.

    Imma let you get back to setting your hair on fire over this storm, but first I want to ‘splain something to you.

    A big No’reaster like this is a big swirling fast moving low pressure system that is drawing potentially huge quantities of moisture off of a global warming and El Niño over-heated Atlantic ocean, driving that moisture inland where it will mix with cold air and turn into various forms of liquid and non-liquid precipitation.

    Predicting where rain, sleet, freezing rain, or snow will fall, and how much, in such a storm is probably one of the hardest things to predict in weather. Even if the center of the storm’s track is accurately predicted, and the overall size of the storm is accurately predicted, values of actual precip will not be known until it is known from direct measurements after the fact.

    Also, people will get this wrong, and some will use that wrongness for evil purposes. Remember when the Great New England Blizzard of 2015 (almost exactly one year ago, and it too had a name but I forgot it) was predicted to hammer New York City and didn’t? Climate science deniers and other morons went apoplectic over that. But what really happened is that a storm larger than most countries arrived as predicted, dropped about the amount of precip as predicted, but was about 10% offset to the North, sparing the greater New York City area, with it’s New York Ideals and all, from any major snowfall. In other words, that storm was actually very accurately predicted, but because one tiny bit of the landscape that happened to be occupied by 20 million people got several inches less than expected, the science of meteorology was declared dead by the usual nefarious anti-science yahoos. (See this for an account of that.)

    Paul Douglas, who is my go-to source for sane commentary about big storms like this, suggests that there will be more rain and mixed precip east of I-95, and more snow west of I-95, and that travel and power and such are likely to be affected. This storm, like most Nor’easters, will be windy, and that may be the biggest problem for may in its path. That wind could also be a problem in coastal areas where winds can cause flooding.

    The heaviest snow may fall north and west of DC and Baltimore, and there may be some places, here and there, that will have something close to 24 inches. New York City and Boston could get decent snowfalls as well, with New York likely to get more, Boston being spared more than the usual annoying few inches. But, again, the exact distribution of snow depends on the highly unpredictable mixture of moist air coming off the ocean and cold continental air turning rain to white matter.

    So, if you live in Virgina, West Virgina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, near New York City or the Southern Tier, keep an eye on the weather, you might anywhere from just under a foot to much more. This is all going to happen from Friday into the weekend.

    It is not clear that Senator “Science is a hoax” Inhofe will have ready access to Global Warming Alarmist Killing Snowballs this time around.


    As Jonas T. Storm approaches, weather forecasters are tightening up their predictions. There is now a blizzard watch (not warning, watch, not as certain as a warning) for Washington DC. This is the first blizzard watch for that location since 1986.

    The 1-2 foot snowstorm region at present, according to well accepted models, now includes Washington DC and Philadelphia. It is possible that this amount of snowfall will extend to New York City. The heaviest snowfall may be in DC for Friday evening rush hour. Meanwhile, Boston is not likely to receive too much snow.

    From Friday night through much of the day Sunday you might expect transportation systems including by air and by land to be seriously impacted in that region.

    It is still the case that the most snow will likely fall west of the I-95 corridor, with perhaps 3 feet in areas on the Piedmont in western Virginia. But, again, these things are very hard to predict. If you live anywhere from a triangle running from Louisville/Cincinnati to New York and down to Asheville/Knoxville you are likely to see snowfall ranging from several inches to a foot or so, and in some areas more, according to NOAA.

    Multiple models are putting more than 20 inches right on DC with more than 30 inches along the Virginia/West Virginia border. Again, your actual mileage will vary.

    Meanwhile, the wind predictions are still indicating severe conditions, with winds over 35 mph all along the coast from the Chesapeake up through Gloucester, and a concentration of 50 mph winds offshore of Long Island and on the Delmarva coast.

    But again, if you are on the edge of the predicted Great Blob of Snow and not much happens at your house, realize that this is a rough prediction, and don’t come complaining. Just be happy you dodged the bullet.

    The biggest uncertainty is probably how far north (up to and beyond New York City) significant snow will fall. Also, all the areas near water, such as DC, New York, and Boston are probably harder to predict because interactions with the ocean may cause warmer conditions, more rain or wet snow instead of fluffy snow, etc.

    The sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic are very high, and this is contributing significantly to the amount of precipitation this storm will bring. Notice the very high temps right where extra warm water would be feeding into this storm (hat tip, Paul Douglas):

    Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 12.04.01 PM

    The sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic have been very high in this region for a long time now, since before El Niño started, though it is likely that El Niño has contributed to this a bit.

    Giant Solar Power Plants Don’t Need To Vaporize Birds

    We often hope, even assume, that technology will fix our problems. We also know that sometimes technology creates a problem. In this case, technology can help us fix the problem of needing to keep the fossil carbon in the ground by making use of the sun, but created the problem of vaporizing birds with intensely focused solar energy. But then, the engineers applied adjustment to the technology to save the birds!

    I wrote it up here on 10,000 Birds, where I write a monthly installment on birds and stuff: Solar Plant Stopped Killing Birds: One Weird Trick!

    The John Droz Letter

    The following is a repost of a Facebook Post by Michael Mann. I don’t think this needs any comment from me. The original is here.

    Begin Repost

    Several colleagues have notified me of the following email that has been sent to a presumably broad group of researchers and academics by John Droz of the ?#?Koch?-funded American Tradition Institute (?#?ATI?) (read about Droz here).

    The email forwards a sign-on letter from ?#?GeorgeMarshallInstitute? chair and ?#?climatechange? denier ?#?WillHapper? (read about Happer here) asking colleagues to support the Lamar Smith (R-TX) witch-hunt against NOAA scientists (my The New York Times op-ed on the matter is here).

    The email and letter are reprinted below, along with the list of initial signatories, which reads like a who’s who of climate change contrarianism, with many of the most notorious industry-funded climate change deniers listed.

    Begin forwarded message:

    From: “John Droz, jr.” XXXXX

    Date: January 15, 2016 at 10:17:56 AM PST

    Subject: Scientific Integrity of Government Agencies

    To: XXXXX


    I’m very selective in what I publicly endorse — but I’m very supportive of the US House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. Below is can email I’m passing on from Dr. Will Happer, who is asking that you cosign an important letter (attached). If you choose to do that (as I have) please email Dr. Happer directly (by clicking on his name). He is planning on submitting the material by January 22nd.


    I am writing you to ask if you would consider joining other scientists in supporting the attached letter to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. A list of those who have already agreed to be co-signers is attached.

    The intent is to help the Committee, chaired by Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas. They are trying to combat the charge that they have declared war on Science — when all they have done is try to fulfill their mandate to assure that federal agencies (like NOAA) follow the law, especially with respect to “influential scientific information,” and “highly influential scientific assessments.”

    NOAA, EPA and other agencies have always violated this requirement to some degree, under both Democratic and Republican presidents, but violations over the past few years are of unprecedented scope and gravity. An example of the sort of propaganda to which this House Committee has been subject can be found here.

    I hope you will let us use your name, with your preferred “tag line” (similar to those on the attached list). If there are other good technical people that might be interested, please pass this onto them.

    Best wishes,

    Will Happer


    Initial Signatories:

    ALEXANDER, Ralph B, PhD Physics, University of Oxford, former Associate Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, author of book, Global Warming False Alarm, Canterbury Publishing, 2012

    ANDERSON, Charles R, Ph.D., Physics, Case Western Reserve University; Sc.B., Physics, Brown University; Founder and President of Anderson Materials Evaluation, Inc., previously Senior Scientist at Lockheed Martin Laboratories – Baltimore and Research Physicist in the Department of the Navy; 43 years’ experience using particle beams, gamma rays, x-rays, ultra-violet light, visible light, and infra-red radiation to characterize materials.

    ARMSTRONG, J. Scott, Professor, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, One of the world’s leading experts on forecasting, he has also published 19 papers on the scientific method.

    ASHWORTH, Robert A., Vice President of ClearStack Power LLC, Chemical Engineer with over 50 scientific papers published.

    BARRANTE, James R., Emeritus Professor of Physical Chemistry, Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, CT; author of book Global Warming for Dim Wits: A Scientist’s Perspective of Climate Change, Universal Publishers, Boca Raton, FL, 2010.

    BASTARDI, Joe, Bastardi, Chief meteorologist, Weatherbell Analytics

    BATTIG, Dr. Charles G, M.S. E.E.; M.D, Life member IEEE, American Society of Anesthesiologists; President, Piedmont Chapter, Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment;. Policy advisor, Heartland Institute

    BELL, Larry: Launched the research and education program in space architecture at the University of Houston and author of Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax.

    BELLER, Denis Beller, PhD, Lt. Col, USAF, retired (first tenured uniformed professor in the then–70-year history of the USAF Institute of Technology) co-author of seminal Foreign Affairs essay The Need for Nuclear Power, Jan/Feb 2000 (with Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Rhodes), former Research Prof. of Nuclear Engineering, Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas

    BENARD, David J, Ph.D Physics (University of Illinois, 1972) Co-inventor of the oxygen-iodine chemical laser

    BERRY, Edwin X, PhD, Physics, Climate Physics LLC, Bigfork, MT, Memberships: American Meteorological Society, AMS, Certified Consulting Meteorologist #180, American Physical Society.

    BEZDEK, Roger. Ph.D, Economics, President, MISI; former research Director in ERDA and DOE and Senior Advisor, U.S. Treasury Department. Author of 6 books and 300 papers published in scientific and professional journals.

    BLETHEN, John, Ph.D, physics, Stanford University, 1974, McGill, Nevada

    BOHNAK, Karl, WLUC-TV6 NBC & FOX U, Chief Meteorologist

    BRESLOW, Jan L, M.A. Physical Chemistry Columbia University, Doctor of Medicine Harvard Medical School, Fredrick Henry Leonhardt Professor Rockefeller University, Member National Academy of Sciences, Member National Academy of Medicine, Member German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina), published more than 250 original peer reviewed research papers

    BRIGGS, William, Statistician with specialty in evaluating the goodness and usefulness of models.

    BROOKS, Scott, Electronic-Electomechanical Engineering, Albuquerque, NM

    BRUMM, Douglas B, Ph.D., Electrical Engineering, Professor of Electrical Engineering (Emeritus), Michigan Technological University, Houghton, Michigan; Life Member, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers

    BUTOS, Wiliam N, George M. Ferris Professor of Corporation Finance & Investments Department of Economics, Trinity College, Hartford, CT 06106

    CAMPANELLA, Angelo, Ph.D., Physics and Electrical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, 55+ year experience in infrared physics, military electronics, and applied physics.

    CARLIN, Alan, PhD Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; BS, Physics, California Institute of Technology; senior analyst and manager, USEPA, 1971–2010; author or co-author of about 40 publications; author of Environmentalism Gone Mad: How a Sierra Club Activist and Senior EPA Analyst Discovered a Radical Green Energy Fantasy, 2015, Stairway Press.

    CATANESE, Carmen, M.S., Ph.D. in physics (Yale University), Retired Exec. VP, The Sarnoff Corp (SRI),Author of 12 peer-reviewed articles in science and engineering , Holder of 12 issued US patents

    CHRISTENSEN, Charles R., PhD Chemistry, California Institute of Technology. Retired Research Physicist, U.S. Army Missile Command. Seven Patents and numerous journal publications in optics and optical materials.

    COLEMAN, John, BS, University of Illinois, Former Professional Member of the American Meteorological Society, Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year (1982) of the American Meteorological Society, Founder of “The Weather Channel”, original Meteorologist on ABC “Good Morning, America”, TV Meteorologist for 61 years on stations in New York, Chicago, San Diego, etc.

    CONDON, William F., Ph.D., Electroanalytical Chemistry, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry (analytical and environmental), Southern Connecticut State University.

    CROWE, Donald R, B.S. Mechanical Engineering, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida; licensed Professional Engineer (P.E., Florida); Consulting Construction Executive; over 40 years’ experience in construction, product engineering, manufacturing, and information technology.

    CUNNINGHAM, Walter; MS Degree in Physics; Physicist, RAND Corp; Astronaut, Apollo 7; Founder, Earth Awareness Foundation, 1970; Advisory Board, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (5 years); Writer and Lecturer on the global warming issue.

    D’ALEO, Joseph, AMS Fellow, CCM, Chair of Committee on Weather Analysis and Forecasting, Former Professor of Meteorology/Climatology, Lyndon State College, Co-founder the Weather Channel, Chief Meteorologist, WSI, Weatherbell Analytics

    D’ALONZO, Raphael P, Ph.D., Analytical Chemistry, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Retired – the Procter & Gamble Company, former Department Head, Data Management.

    DeLONG, James V., J.D., Harvard Law School, mcl; former Research Director of the Administrative Conference of the United States; former Senior Analyst, Program Evaluation Office, U.S. Bureau of the Budget; author of numerous articles on administrative law, regulatory, and environmental issues, including Climate Issues and Facts (Marshall Institute, 2015), A Skeptical Look at the Carbon Tax (Marshall Institute 2013), and Out of Bounds and Out of Control: Regulatory Enforcement at the EPA (Cato Institute 2002).

    DOIRON, Harold H, PhD, Mechanical Engineering, Vice President, Engineering

    (retired) InDyne, Inc. Houston, Texas, Chairman, The Right Climate Stuff Research Team of retired NASA Apollo Program scientists and engineers. Member, American Society of Mechanical Engineers

    DOUGLASS, David, Professor of Physics, University of Rochester.

    DOYLE, Jeffrey M, PhD Resource Economics Michigan State University, President, Thermoeconomics

    DRIESSEN, Paul K: BA, geology and ecology, Lawrence University; JD, environmental and natural resource law, University of Denver; author of Eco-Imperialism: Green Power – Black Death, Miracle Molecule: Carbon Dioxide, Gas of Life, and other books; author of many articles and reports on energy, mining, climate change, sustainable development, malaria control and other topics; senior policy analyst, Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Congress of Racial Equality.

    DROZ, John Jr. Physicist. Energy expert with over 35 years of environmental advocacy.

    DUNN, John Dale, MD JD, Policy advisor Heartland Institute, Chicago, IL, and American Council on Science and Health, New York City, Civilian Faculty, Emergency Medicine, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Fort Hood, Texas, Clinical Instructor, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland. Lecturer and writer on human health effects of air pollution and climate as well as environmental law and air pollution science for 25 years.

    EASTERBROOK, Don: Professor Emeritus of Geology at Western Washington University. He has studied global climate change for five decades, has written three textbooks and a dozen other books, published more than 185 papers in professional journals, and has presented 30 research papers at international meetings in 15 countries.

    ENDRIZ, John Endriz, BS. (Engineering, MIT), PhD (Eng., Stanford, U), Retired VP, SDL, Inc

    ENSTROM, James E., PhD, Physics; MPH, Epidemiology; Research Professor/Researcher (retired), UCLA School of Public Health, and President, Scientific Integrity Institute, Los Angeles; Life Member, American Physical Society; Founding Fellow, American College of Epidemiology; extensive scientific expertise on health effects of air pollution.

    EVERETT, Bruce, Faculty Tufts University’s Fletcher School, over forty years of experience in the international energy industry.

    EVERETT, Robert, Electrical Engineer, Retired President of the MITRE Corporation

    FAGAN, Matthew J, PhD, B.Sc(Hons) Nuclear Physics. Founder and president of FastCAM Inc. with 17 robotic technology patents and published patent applications in the US.

    FORBING, Irv, PhD in oral surgery, MS in bacteriology, College of Physicians and Surgeons in San Francisco.

    FRANK, Neil, Ph.D., meteorology, Florida State University, Former Director National Hurricane Center and former Chief Meteorologist KHOU TV, CBS Houston. member, American Meteorological Society

    FRANK, Patrick, Ph.D. Chemistry, Stanford University. More than 60 peer-reviewed publications, including several assessing uncertainty in the surface air temperature record and in climate model air temperature projections.

    FRICKE, Martin Ph.D.: Nuclear physicist; Senior Fellow of the APS; elected to the APS Executive Panel on Public Affairs (POPA); nuclear physics research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Corporate Officer of seven R&D companies; Extraordinary Minister of Catholic Diocese of San Diego.

    FULKS, Gordon J, PhD Physics, The Laboratory for Astrophysics and Space Research at the University of Chicago. Five decades of experience studying physical, astrophysical,and geophysical phenomena for universities, government agencies, and private clients.

    GAMBLIN, Rodger L, Former VP Mead Corporation. Inventor. Author or coauthor on 46 U.S. patents.

    GAMOTA, George Ph.D.: Physics; former professor University of Michigan, Fellow of the APS; Fellow of the AAAS; Senior Member of the IEEE; elected to the APS Executive Panel on Public Affairs (POPA); Founding Director of Research, Department of Defense; Corporate Board member and Executive at several R&D companies; former Bedford Chief Scientist MITRE Corporation.

    GERHARD, Lee C, PhD., Senior Scientist Emeritus, Univ. of Kansas, Director and State Geologist, Kansas Geological Survey (Ret.), meteorology background. Extensive published research in both geology and climate change. Honorary member, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Association of American State Geologists and others. Member Russian Academy of Natural Science (US Br.), Kansas Geologist license #1. Former Getty Professor of Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines.

    GERLACH, Ulrich H., PhD Relativistic Astrophysics, Princeton University, Professor of Mathematics, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

    GERONDEAU, Christian, engineer and scientist,graduated from ECOLE POLYTECHNIQUE in PARIS,an energy expert,the author of many books on climate matters, two of them available in English: “CLIMATE,THE GREAT DELUSION ” and “ UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE LIARS”.

    GIAEVER, Ivar, Applied BioPhysics, Inc., Nobel Prize in Physics, 1973

    GLATZLE, Albrecht, Agro-Biologist, Dr. sc. agr. (Hohenheim University, Germany), Director of Research of INTTAS (retired), Loma Plata Paraguay Asociación Rural del Paraguay (ARP), Society of Range Management, US Grassland Society of Southern Africa, Fellow of the Tropical Grassland Society of Australia (AUSTRALIA)

    GOSSELIN, Pierre, Mechanical Engineering, author of the blog, (GERMANY)

    GOULD, Laurence I, Professor of Physics, University of Hartford, Past Chair (2004), New England Section of the American Physical Society, Professor of Physics, University of Hartford, Past Chair (2004), New England Section of the American Physical Society

    GRAY, William M., Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University (1961-present). Ph.D. Meteorology from U. Chicago. Tropical meteorology specialist – initiated Atlantic seasonal hurricane prediction.

    GREGORY, WILLIAM D., PhD, PE, Registered Patent Agent (US); BS(physics) Georgetown University; PhD(physics), MIT; Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering and Health Sciences, and former Dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Senior Member IEEE, Phi Beta Kappa, Tau Beta Pi; author on 100+ peer reviewed articles, inventor on 100+ US and foreign patents; currently Chair of the Board and Chief Science Officer, NovaScan LLC, developer of cancer detection devices.

    HAPPER, William is Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics (emeritus) at Princeton University, former Director of the Office of Energy Research Director of Research, U.S. Department of Energy, Member National Academy of Sciences

    HAYDEN, Howard C, Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Connecticut. Editor and Publisher, The Energy Advocate, now in 20th year of publication.

    HENNIGAN,Thomas D, Environmental and Forest Biology, Associate Professor of Biology, Truett-McConnell College, Cleveland, Georgia, Ecological Society of America.

    HESS, Michael L, BS Computer Information Systems, Raytheon Senior Field Engineer, Retired, U. S. Army, CW3, Retired, Florida State University

    HIGGINBOTHAM, Richard, DoD Retiree, Past Member of the Defense Acquisition Regulatory Council’s Environmental Regulatory Committee MBA form American Graduate University, Covina, CA.

    HUGHES, Terence J., Professor Emeritus of Earth Sciences and Climate Change, University of Maine. A half-century career studying the interaction of global climate with continental ice sheets, past, present, and future, focused on inherent instabilities in ice sheets that facilitate their rapid gravitational collapse.

    HUMLUM, Ole, Professor of Physical Geography, Physical Geography, Institute of Geosciences, University of Oslo (NORWAY)

    IDSO, Craig: Founder and Chairman of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Geophysical Union, and the American Meteorological Society.

    KARAJAS, John, retired geologist, specialist stratigrapher and sedimentologist who, as a result has gained a wide-ranging understanding of the geological history of planet earth and its climatic history.

    KAUFMAN, John, Retired, Faculty of Cornell University 1973–191976 & Michigan State University 1976–1981, Research Agronomist

    KEEN, Richard A., Ph.D. Climatology/Geography, University of Colorado, Emeritus Instructor of Atmospheric Science, University of Colorado, Author of 7 books and numerous reports and scientific papers on Climate and Meteorology. NWS climate change, Observer for Monsanto (retired as Science Fellow) 1981–2002 & Agrium 2003–2007.

    KENDRICK, Hugh, Ph.D. Nuclear Engineering, University of Michigan; former Director, Plans & Analysis, Office of Nuclear Reactor Research, US.DOE; retired VP SAIC.

    KAISER, Klaus L.E., Dr. rer. nat. (Technical University Munich, Germany), Research Scientist (retired), Natl. Water Research Institute. Author/coauthor of numerous scientific papers, author of numerous popular public press articles, author/editor of several books, Canadian

    KNOX, Robert S, Ph. D., Physics and Optics, U. of Rochester,1953.Professor of Physics Emeritus, U.of Rochester, fellow, American Physical Society; charter member, American Society for Photobiology.

    KRAMM, Gerhard, Dr. rer. nat.(Humboldt-University of Berlin, Germany), Research Associate Professor of Meteorology (retired), author and co-author of numerous papers on meteorology and textbook co-author.

    LANGNER, Carl G, PhD, Retired senior staff engineer for Shell E&P Technology Co, author or co-author of 31 patents along with numerous industry papers, member NAE

    LAPOINT, Patricia A, Ph.D. Professor of Management, Author of several articles on wind energy

    LEGATES, David R, Ph.D., Climatology, U of Delaware, 1988, Professor, University of Delaware, Member: AMS.

    LEHR, Jay Ph.D. Science Director, The Heartland Institute, author or co-author of 35 science books relating to water, energy and the environment.

    LESSER, Jonathan A, PhD, President, Continental Economics, Inc. Sandia Park, NM

    LESTER, David H, Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, retired consultant in Environmental Analysis and Nuclear Technology, former Asst. Vice-President SAIC, San Diego, CA, Currently Chairman of the Board of Go-Nuclear.

    LINDSTROM, Richard E., Ph.D., Physical Chemistry, Thermodynamics of Phase Changes, Professor Emeritus, University of Connecticut

    LINDZEN, Richard: emeritus, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Member of National Academy of Sciences, author of numerous papers on climate and meteorology

    LIPMAN, Everett, Associate Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara

    LUPO, Anthony R, Professor, Atmospheric Science, University of Missouri

    LYNCH, William t, IEEE Fellow, Former Director at Semiconductor Research Corporation, Former Dept. Head of VLSI Device Technology at Bell Laboratories, Former member of the U.S. Nuclear Emergency Team #1, and a nuclear and radiation effects specialist

    MACDONALD, James, M.S. Meteorology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Retired Chief meteorologist, Travelers Research Center Weather Service, Hartford, CT. 35 years weather forecasting experience.

    MALKAN, Matthew, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA. He received his PhD in Astronomy from Caltech. He is the lead author or co-author of over 350 peer-reviewed articles.

    MANGINO, Martin J, Ph.D., Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Research Director, VCU Trauma Center, President, Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment (VA-SEEE), Richmond

    MARTINIS, John, Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa


    MARSH, James A, Professor of Immunology (emeritus), Department of Microbiology and Immunology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

    MCCALL, Gene, Ph. D., former chief scientist of Air Force Space Command and former chair of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.

    MISCOLCZI, F. M., PhD, Astrophysics, Earth Sciences, Former NASA Senior Principal Scientist. Foreign Associate Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

    MILLER, Dennis D, Ph.D, Professor of Economics, Holder of the Endowed Buckhorn Chair in Economics, Baldwin Wallace University, Berea, Ohio.

    MILLOY, Steven j, MHS (Biostatistics), JD, LLM. Founder & publisher,

    MITCHELL, Dennis M. -Certified Public Accountant( Louisiana) and Qualified Environmental Professional( IPEP), Honorary Lifetime Member International Air & Waste Management Association

    MONCKTON, Christopher,

    MOORE, JOHN H., Ph.D. Economics, University of Virginia; Deputy Director, National Science Foundation, 1985–1989; President, Sigma Xi, 1998–1999; President, Grove City College, 1996–2003

    MOORE, Patrick, Ph.D., Co-founder and 15-year Director of Greenpeace, B.Sc. (Honours) Biology and Forestry, Ph.D. Ecology, Co-Chair US Clean and Safe Energy Coalition 2006–2012, Chair for Ecology, Energy, and Prosperity of the Frontier Centre for Public Policy 2015. Director, CO2 Coalition.

    NAGEL, Mechthild, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Center for Gender and Intercultural Studies at the State University of New York, College at Cortland, has written on ethical issues of water rights in South Africa

    NEWTON, Michael Newton, Professor Emeritus, Forest Ecology, Oregon State University.

    NIKOLOV, Ned, Ph.D., Physical Scientist (with expertise in atmosphere-ecosystem interactions, vegetation remote sensing, fire-weather forecasting and climate dynamics), USDA Forest Service.

    NICHOLS, Rodney, former President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Academy of Sciences; Scholar-in-Residence at the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Executive Vice President of The Rockefeller University, R&D manager Office of the Secretary of Defense.

    NUSGEN, Dr. Ursula, MSc MRCPCH FRCPath, (the MSc relates to Tropical Pediatrics) Consultant Microbiologist, Mater Private Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

    O’KEEFE, William O’Keefe, President, Solutions Consulting, former CEO George C Marshall Institute, and for Executive Vice President, American Petroleum Institute.

    OSBORN, Jeffery BM, BS Geology, University of Kansas, Petroleum Engineer, Memberships in American Association of Petroleum Geologists for 34 years, and in other scientific societies.

    PARISH, Trueman, PhD Chemical Engineering retired former Director of Engineering Research, Eastman Chemical Company.

    PAYNE, Franklin Ed, M.D. Doctor of Medicine, Associate Professor of Family, Medicine (Retired), Georgia Regents University, Augusta, GA.

    PERRY, Charles A, PhD, Hydrologist and Solar Physicist, formerly of USGS (retired)

    PLIMER, Ian PhD, FGS, FTSE, FAIMM, Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne (Australia). Co-editor of Encyclopedia of Geology, author of Heaven and Earth (2009), How to get expelled from school (2011), Not for greens (2014) and Heaven and Hell (2015), (AUSTRALIA).

    PROMBOIN, Ronald L., Ph.D. (Economics), Stanford University, Former professor of Finance and Economics, University of Maryland University College.

    PRUD’HOMME, Rémy, Harvard Law School, PhD economics Un. of Paris, Formerly Deputy-Director Environment Directorate OECD, Prof emeritus Univ of Paris, Visiting Professor MIT, Most recent book: Warmism as an Ideology – Soft

    Science, Hard Doctrine (FRANCE)

    QUENEAU, Paul B, Adjunct Professor, Colorado School of Mines; Principal Metallurgical Engineer and President, The Bear Group, PB Queneau & Associates Inc.

    QUIRK, Thomas W. D.Phil. Nuclear physicist and former Fellow of three

    Oxford Colleges. Published papers on methane, ocean changes, wind power, nuclear fuel cycle and psychology, behavioural economics and climate

    change (AUSTRALIA)

    RIGANATI, John P., PhD Electrical Engineering, retired Vice President Sarnoff Corporation, former member Air Force Scientific Advisory Board, cofounder The Journal of Supercomputing & IEEE Computation in Science and Engineering, 70 publications.

    RITTAUD Benoît, Ph.D: mathematics, Paris–13 university, Sorbonne-Paris-Cité, associate professor, essayist. Most recent book: The Exponential Fear (La Peur exponentielle, Paris, PUF, 2015), (FRANCE).

    ROGERS, Norman: founder of Rabbit Semiconductor Company, member of the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society.

    ROMBOUGH, Charles T, Ph.D., Nuclear Engineering, Founder and President of CTR Technical Services, Inc., a nuclear consulting firm, Manitou Springs, Colorado.

    RUTAN, Burt, aerospace engineer, designer of Voyager and SpaceShipOne.

    RUST, James H, PhD, Professor of nuclear engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology (retired), Atlanta, Georgia

    SCAFETTA, Nicola, Ph.D, Professor of Oceanography and Atmospheric Science, University of Naples Federico II, Italy, Former research scientist of Physics at Duke University. 87 Publications in complex systems and climate change (ITALY)

    SCHMITT, Harrison, Geologist, Astronaut, Former U.S. Senator, Former Chair NASA Advisory Council

    SHAVIV, Nir J, Professor of Physics, Chairman, Racah Institute of Physics, Hebrew University of Jerusalem (ISRAEL)

    SHEAHEN, Thomas P, B.S. and Ph.D. in Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Research career in energy sciences, including Demand-Side Management (Energy Conservation); author of book Introduction to High-Temperature Superconductivity; measured infrared absorption by CO2 and H2O.

    SINGER, S. Fred, PhD. Emeritus Prof of Envir Sciences, U of VA. Founding director, US Weather Satellite Service; former Vice Chm, Nat’l Advis Comm

    on Oceans and Atmosphere. Fellow, AAAS, AGU, APS, AIAA. Founding chm of NIPCC. Co-author of NYT best-seller Unstoppable Global Warming

    SOON, Willie, Scientist.

    SPENCER, Roy W, PhD, Principal Research Scientist, University of Alabama in Huntsville

    STEWARD, H. Leighton: Geologist, environmentalists, and Chairman of Plants Need

    TAYLOR, George, Ph.D. Computer Science, U.C. Berkeley

    TESDORF, Nicholas, B.Arch.(Hons) Architecture, Architect, F.R.A.I.A. A.R.I.B.A., Sydney NSW / London England , University of Melbourne (AUSTRALIA)

    TRIMBLE, Stanley W, Emeritus Professor, UCLA. Over the past 42 years, author, coauthor, or editor of 9 books on environmental issues in water including ENVIRONMENTAL HYDROLOGY (2013, 2015) and THE ENCYLOPEDIA OF WATER SCIENCE (2007), plus about 100 scientific papers, many published in SCIENCE.

    VALENTINE, Brian G, US Department of Energy, Associate Professor of Engineering ,University of Maryland at College Park

    VAN LOON, Harry, PhD, Meteorology and Climatology, formerly of NCAR

    VARENHOLT, Fritz, Ph.D., Professor of the University of Hamburg, Department pf Chemistry, former Senator of the State of Hamburg, Germany, author of the Book, The neglected sun, CEO of the German Wildlife Foundation.

    VELASCO HERRERA, Victor Manuel, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Institute of Geophysics, Space Science (GERMANY)

    THOMPSON, David E., PhD Mechanical Engineering, Professor and Dean Emeritus, College of Engineering, the University of Idaho. Published Design Analysis, Mathematical Modeling of Nonlinear Systems (Cambridge Press, 1988).

    WALLACE, Lance, PhD Astrophysics, 100 publications, mostly on human exposure to environmental pollutants, founding member of International Society of Exposure Science and International Society for Indoor Air and Climate (ISIAQ), member of AAAS and AAAR.

    WEINSTEIN, Leonard, ScD, Aerospace Engineering, B.Sc Physics. Former NASA Senior Research Scientist and former Senior Research Fellow, National Institute of Aerospace, retired after 51 years research. Associate fellow AIAA, Recipient of AIAA Engineer of the year, and numerous other awards.

    WERNER, Samuel A, Curators’ Professor of Physics Emeritus, University of Missouri and Guest Researcher, Neutron Physics Group, NIST, Fellow APS, AAAS, NSSA

    WHITSETT, Bob, Ph.D., geophysicist, ret. Former Special Projects Manager, CGG American Services

    WOLFE, Danley B., PhD – Chemical Engineering (Ohio State University, tau beta pi), MBA – University of Chicago Graduate School of Business (beta gamma sigma); energy and chemicals research and business management; management consultant, President – Chem Energy Advisors

    WOLFRAM, Thomas, physicist, former Chairman of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Missouri-Columbia, Fellow of the American Physical Society, and retired Director of Division of Physical Technology,Amoco Corporation.

    WOOD, Peter, President, National Association of Scholars.

    WYSMULLER, Thomas, (NASA Ret.) 2013 “Water Day” chair, UNESCO-IHE (Delft, NL); 2015 “Sea-Level presenter” at (Varna, Bulgaria); 2016 Sea-Level chair at Symmetrion, (Vienna, Austria), Founding member, NASA TRCS Climate Group, Johnson Space Center (Houston, TX).

    YOUNG, S. Stanley, PhD, Statistics and Genetics, CEO of CGStat, Adjunct Professor of Statistics, North Carolina State University, University of British Columbia and University of Waterloo, Fellow of American Statistical Association and AAAS, 3 patents; over 60 papers; six “best paper” awards.

    ZYBACH, Bob, PhD, Environmental Sciences, Historical ecologist with long-term research focus on Pacific Northwest catastrophic wildfires and reforestation history, more than 200 popular articles, editorials, presentations, reports and media interviews.

    Who Won The Democratic Debate of 17 January 2016?

    I have studiously avoided picking a Democratic candidate to support. I will not have to decide until Super Tuesday, when Minnesotans caucus to support one or another candidate. I like Hillary Clinton for a number of reasons, including the simple fact that she has considerable experience in the Executive branch, and is a person who can get things done. If I got to pick the president (skipping the election process entirely), I’d probably pick Sanders because I’m all in on the revolution in American policy. Both candidates are actually in close agreement on most of the key issues. Neither came to the game with a strong climate change policy, and that is a strong negative for both of them, but they have gotten on board at least rhetorically. Not good enough, but the best we have. Both are against involving the US in a Middle Eastern quagmire. Both seem to be in favor of election reform, but Bernie is right that he’s the one acting like it already happened while Clinton is not. Yet, we can’t hold that against Hillary any more than we held it against President Obama when he won two elections. The electability argument may have favored Clinton at one point during the current primary race, but that same argument has been effectively made against her, and Sanders’ electability quotient seems to be rising.

    Regardless, I strongly oppose the internecine arguing and sniping among supporters of both candidates. I sense that much of the really nasty anti-Clinton/Sanders yammering comes from people who are fairly new to the process and have yet to be disappointed by the outcome of such efforts that tend to harm one’s own chances of being represented in the White House.

    Notice how much sniping there was during the debate among the actual candidates. Some, but not much. Also, they pointed out agreements on a number of occasions. All three candidates (and no, I’ve not forgotten O’Malley) made strong points against the Republicans, especially Donald Trump, but there were not enough such jabs.

    [Note: Some of the sniping in brought to you by your friendly opposition party. See this.]

    Still, I hope that both Clinton and Sanders supporters take a page out of the play books of their own candidates and cut back on the damaging attacks. One of those two candidates is going to get the Democratic nomination, and regardless of which one goes against the Republican, it is essential that individual wins. Supporters of the candidate that looses have to put their big kid pants on, suck it up, and get into the fight full steam ahead to assure that this happens.

    I think of it as a recreational boxing match between marines in combat. Have a fair fight, try to win, but after the fight is over, the guy you knocked out is going to have to be in a condition to save your life later. If you kill your opponent, you’ve killed an important ally. This is why I think the most severe intra-party attacks are probably by noobs and youngies. They’ve not seen the loser of a primary jump into the general election context and help their former opponent win. That does, in fact, happen. Notice that Bill Clinton helped Barack Obama win, and Hillary Clinton served in the top cabinet post in President Obama’s administration.

    OK, so that’s what I needed to get off my chest. Now, who won the debate?

    I scored the candidates using a very subjective informal system during the entire debate. My scoring was based not on how much I personally agreed or disagreed with the candidate’s position. Again, the candidates are actually very close on most positions anyway. Rather, I scored the candidates on how they presented their case. Even there, I did not score on how much their approach resonated with my thinking, but with how I felt their rhetorical approach met the needs of a candidate talking to the American people.

    I was looking at the candidates debating like a campaign advisor might look at their candidate, to refine the rhetorical and tactical approach.

    Let me give you an example. I took points off Sanders’ discussion of “Medicare for All” in which he said that the middle class would have to pay taxes to get that benefit. He made the point that the overall output of the average middle class family would go down because the increase in taxes would be less than the current cost of expensive medical insurance, mainly by cutting out the insurance companies. I agree with that, but he lost points because he needed to put it another way. Overtly and even proudly claiming a tax increase, no matter how sensible, is not a good campaign strategy. He loses points not for being honest, but for having a policy that guarantees that enough voters can be turned against him on that one issue to throw a close election.

    This is not unimportant. There are better ways he could have made the same case. After all, Medicare is not paid for with income tax. Future expanded Medicare does not need to be either. Indeed, as a policy, sinking health care cost into general income tax is a bad idea, possibly, because of Congress. Congress is constitutionally empowered to do whatever they want with that money. A strong Republican Congress during a serious budget crisis could eliminate universal health care way too easily under those conditions. So, he lost a couple of points for not referring to a modest payroll contribution to replace overinflated premiums.

    I did the scoring on my facebook page, here. Feel free to jump in and complain!

    The outcome of the scoring was that Clinton and Sanders got almost the same score, not different enough to matter. O’Malley got a lower score simply because he talked less, and I did not adjust for that (though I recorded the data in a way that would allow that adjustment).

    Meanwhile, what did people think? The only real indicator of the outcome of this debate will be the official scientifically conducted polls that happen over the next few days. I’ve not seen any such polls yet. It takes a few days to do a poll, so a poll dated January 18th or 19th will not necessarily reflect the debate’s influence. I’ve argued in the past that online polls are actually useful, contrary to popular presumption, because of the way things work these days on the Internet. Online polls have tracked very closely with scientifically conducted polls for the Republicans. This may be true as well with the Democrats. Hard to say.

    Online polls show a HUGE surge for Bernie Sanders with this debate, with Sanders garnering results in the 80% range in many polls. This is not a small thing. This may be in part because Sanders supporters are crazy poll clickers and will go out of their way to create a buzz (there is material evidence for this). But Clinton supporters should also be clickity clicking, so this effect can account for only a portion of that difference between the candidates.

    It may well turn out that this debate is part of the transition I documented and described here, which is parallel to a transition that happened in the Clinton-Obama race.

    If Sanders did in fact win this debate by such a large margin, then this will have to be reflected in the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire primary. Sanders will have to win the Iowa Caucus by a decisive amount (close to 10 points?) and he will have to win New Hampshire by a landslide (he is effective “favorite son” there), in order for us to say that he won this debate at the level indicated by online polls.

    Then, we are faced with the rest of the primary process. The electability issue will not go away for Sanders unless he beats or matches Clinton in the South, or at least, does fairly well. If Clinton creams Sanders in South Carolina, that is bad news for Sanders. Some Sanders supporters have indicated that Sanders won’t win the South anyway, and that may be true, but if he totally loses every southern state including Florida and Texas in the General, than we may end up President Trump-Cruz, and you can kiss the Supreme Court and doing anything about climate change good buy for many decades.

    The fact that Sanders seemed to do well in this particular debate, held by the Congressional Black Caucus, might be important here. Clinton has the advantage with “minority” voters, for her family-related policy, her long term links to relevant issues, and the fact that she was married to the first Black president. Sanders is an old white Jewish guy from an all white state. African American vs. Jewish American relations are cold, on average. But Sanders kicked a lot of that to the curb with his social justice stands during this debate, and in general during his campaign. African Americans traditionally have had important friends in New England liberals, and in Jewish American intellectuals and their famous “New York Ideals” (sensu Cruz). The recent move to disassociate traditional allies by #BlackLivesMatters activists may or may not permeate to southern Democratic Party voters.

    Personally, I wish Minnesota was not voting on Super Tuesday along with Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia. I’d rather have a bit more time with the Fish Finder before I have to cut bait, if you get my drift.