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Richard Alley takes a page (unintentionally, I’m sure) from my playbook for debating creationists: You wanna tell us global warming isn’t real? Then go back to North Korea where you are obviously from, you Anti-American commie non-patriot!

Well, he doesn’t say it exactly that way, but you can hear it for yourself. The point is, if you deny the basic physics of climate change science, you might as well tell us that our system of national defense and apple pie are all made up too!

From Peter Sinclair’s series of elevator pitches:


“Hi Professor.”

“Oh, hello, RP, come on in. Great to finally have a student come by for office hours! What can I do you for?”

“Well, Professor, I think I’ve narrowed down my undergraduate thesis topic, and I wanted to run it by you and see what you think.”

“Certainly, my boy, that’s a great idea. Much better to get some input on the project near the beginning so you don’t end up going off the rails later on! So, have a seat and tell me what you were thinking.”

RP remained standing.

“Well, eventually I want to prove that global warming isn’t so bad.”

“Whoa, hold on a second, that’s rather begging the question, don’t you think? We don’t prove or disprove something like that. We propose hypotheses and them and the data and the science lead us where they may. I’m pretty sure global warming has a down side, but even if I didn’t know that, I wouldn’t think you’d start out an undergraduate thesis with a presumption it is good or bad.”

“Well, professor, I get that, but I actually wanted to look at the damage cost of bad storms, how that goes down rather than up over time, but first I just wanted to show that there are fewer hurricanes.”

“Um, RP, you can ask the question, ‘Is there a change in hurricane frequency’ for a certain time range, or ‘is there a change in damage costs’ then see if it goes up or down, but you can’t set out to ‘prove there are fewer…’”

“Oh, I’ve got data, Professor, I just need to work out the statistics. So I have a plan.”

“Well, OK, then, what’s the plan, then? Tell me about your data? A quick warning, first. Hurricanes are actually rare beasts, when you think about it. Think about most statistics. To characterize a population you want minimally dozens of observations. To look at change over time you might want dozens a year. That’s the only way to track something like hurricanes.”

“OK, fine, professor. Well, first, I am going to look only at Atlantic hurricanes.”

“RP, the Atlantic hurricane basis is the smallest one, it has the fewest hurricanes. Plus, under global warming while tropical storms are expected to increase, it is thought the Atlantic may experience frequent years with significantly attenuated tropical storm activity owing to Saharan dust and teleconnections with …”

“Right, then, I’m only going to look at the biggest ones, maybe just Category 3 and 4.”

“RP, that is exactly the opposite of what you should do, that reduces your sample size even more you should include all…”

“Then, I’m only going to count landfalling hurricanes.”

“RP, you have pretty much guaranteed that your sample sizes are going to be too small, you’ve latched on to the part of the system with the highest variability and …”

“So thanks for the great advice, professor, I’ve got to go!”

RP steps out into the hallway and sees his friend. “Hey, wait up, Andy, I’m done with my meeting about my thesis!” The door closes behind him.

Office hours can be so lonely. Even when a student actually shows up.


“You can believe the United States Navy or you can believe the Senator with the snowball.”

“You can believe the Pope or you can believe the Senator with the snowball.”

“We can believe [great American corporations] or we can believe the Senator with the snowball.”

“You can believe every single major American scientific society, or you can believe the Senator with the snowball.”


Remember earlier this year when Senator James Inhofe stood on the floor of the United States Senate and displayed a list of supposed climate scientists who question the reality of global warming? That list was produced by the Heartland Institute, who now use the list and it’s infamy to raise money. One of the “climate scientists” on that list was Willie Soon. We’ve talked about Willie Soon before (see: Science Denialists Make Fake Journal, Get Shut Down, Willie Soon Gate, and Willie Soon, will he soon be fired?) and he is now been exposed by the New York Times for ethical violations. I understand that he has testified before Congress before. I wonder if his testimony can now be re-examined.

Anyway, just thought you’d like to know. And that you might enjoy the above meme.

Oh, and there has been some interest in who is on the list. This is the list of “those who can not be challenged!”… Continue reading

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I don’t have a strong opinion on dog sledding, but if you are a musher you need to know that, like ice fishing and hockey, dog sledding is at risk from climate change. From Vice News, about Alaska’s Iditarod:

…on Tuesday, race organizers announced that the starting point of this year’s race will be moved due to a lack of snow, a change that has happened only one other time in the race’s 43-year history, in 2003.

“While some snow did fall east of the Alaska Range over the past couple of weeks, other parts of the trail, in very critical areas, did not get much or any of it,” Iditarod CEO Stan Hooley said.

Meanwhile, it appears likely that global warming is causing Grizzly Bears to come out of hibernation early, so be careful if you are in or near Yellowstone:

On Monday, park officials confirmed sightings of a grizzly in the center of the park, feeding on a bison carcass. The bears don’t usually begin to emerge from hibernation until the beginning of March, making this bear’s arrival about three weeks early.

“We have had bears observed in February before, in a few other years,” Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone National Park’s bear management biologist, told VICE News. “But this year, lately, it’s been unseasonably warm. Certainly springlike temperatures, almost summerlike temperatures.”

Several grizzlies have also been spotted beyond the park’s boundaries in Montana and Wyoming.

And if you are a ski bunny, Climate Change Could Decimate the American Ski Industry

…The Summit at Snoqualmie, near Seattle, closed its highest and last remaining open slope last week because of poor conditions. The situation there hues closely to what’s happening all across the West.

“Based on a 60-year record, the total amount of snow that we’ve lost in the West varies anywhere from 15 to 60 percent,” Noah Molotch, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, told VICE News.

… winter sports recreation generates $67 billion annually for the US economy, propping up 900,000 jobs. Its collapse could kill entire local and regional economies across the West or in New England.

California Drought

There is reasonable hope that the California drought will diminish in intensity as the winter progresses, but there is also a reasonable concern that it will persist. See this recent post by Peter Gleick for a good summary. Since the drought is almost certainly linked to climate change, even if the drought diminishes over the coming months, having a major drought in California with increased frequency may be expected.

Recent research, published in Geophysical Research Letters, suggests that the present drought is the worse in a very long time. From a summary in Science:

…Griffin and Anchukaitis use tree-ring records of past climate conditions to determine how the current drought compares to other droughts since 800 CE. Based on metrics for soil moisture and for precipitation, they conclude that 2014 was the worst single drought year in at least the past 1200 years, caused by very low (but not unprecedented) precipitation and record high temperatures. The 3-year period from 2012 to 2014 was the worst unbroken drought interval in the past millennium.

A key finding is this: While rainfall rates per se over the last few years are not the lowest ever, and such low rainfall periods have frequently happened, the present drought is made much worse by exceptionally high temperatures.

Added: We are comparing California to California here, not California to everything.

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Who is Willie Soon?”

(ADDED: Since there have been so many wonderful questions about the controversial research and related issues, let me point you to this post, which is essentially a link farm to myriad resources for you to read and enjoy.)

According to DeSmogBlog, Willie Wei Hock “Soon is a prominent climate change skeptic who has received much of his research funding from the oil and gas industry.” He thinks the sun causes the climate change we’ve been observing over the last few decades: Continue reading

Prior to the middle of the 20th century there are few really large blizzards recorded for New England. Then they start happening, then they start to increase in frequency. At this point, expect about one every other years, but also, expect that number to increase over time because of global warming.

I made a graph based on information provided in a post at Jeff Master’s Wunderblog.


A while ago the National Hockey League issued a report expressing concern over global warming. With open air, inexpensive and easy to produce “ice” (the term of art for where you play hockey) being an essential gateway drug for the sport, anthropogenic global warming represents a real threat. I wrote about that here.

Today, the Minneapolis Department of Parks and Recreation closed outdoor skating and hockey rinks in the city because of warm weather, and this winter we’ve had the usual (recently elevated?) number of cars and people crashing through lake ice.

Regionally, there have been one or two (or more?) annual ice fishing contests permanently cancelled because they were being cancelled due to warm weather frequently enough that it was no longer worth supporting the effort.

Keystone XL is effectively obsolete.

James Lenfesty, a retired editori
Oil Spill

Fracking spills, earthquakes, pipeline spills, global warming, add up to making Keystone XL and similar projects a bad idea.

al writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has an Op Ed in that paper suggesting that by the time Keystone XL pipeline is built it would be obsolete. He acknowledges that by out dated reckoning the pipeline might have been a good idea, but not by modern standards.

… zero carbon emissions is what the times require, for carbon emissions are dangerously altering the global climate and the chemistry and temperature of oceans and lakes, endangering almost every living thing.

Which is why I, a 70-year-old grandfather, along with thousands of other citizens, have pledged that if the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline is approved, we will peacefully contest every foot of its construction across the heart of America.

He also discusses oil trains and carbon taxes. Go check it out.

Pipelines like Keystone XL would mainly carry costly crude

Keystone XL Protest

Keystone XL Protest

One of the costs of that crude is the side effects of mining and fracking. And, a new cost is being added to fracking; liability for earthquakes caused by it.

In a case expected to set a precedent for future earthquake claims in Oklahoma, the state Supreme Court will consider whether two oil companies can be held liable in state court for injuries a Prague woman suffered during the 2011 earthquake.

An attorney for one of the companies has said the lawsuit, if successful, would cause energy companies to abandon wastewater disposal wells across the state.

“These wells will become economic and legal-liability pariahs,” attorney Robert Gum told a Lincoln County judge during an October hearing in the case. Gum represents New Dominion LLC, a Tulsa-based oil and gas company, in the lawsuit.

Tulsa World has the story.

Not all pipeline spills are oil

Here’s an update on a North Dakota salt water pipeline spill:

More than 4 million gallons of a mixture of fresh water, brine and oil have been pumped from the area affected by the largest saltwater spill of North Dakota’s current energy boom, according to a report issued Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

…brine, is an unwanted byproduct of oil and natural gas production that is much saltier than sea water and may also contain petroleum and residue from hydraulic fracturing operations. Some previous saltwater spills have taken years to clean up….

The mixture of fresh water… is being transported to a well site to be injected underground. Saltwater is usually pumped underground for permanent storage …

…The latest spill is almost three times larger than one that fouled a portion of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in July. Another million-gallon saltwater spill in 2006, near Alexander, is still being cleaned up nearly a decade later.

Democratic state lawmakers have promised to file legislation that would mandate additional monitoring and safeguards for pipelines that carry briny oilfield wastewater…

The story is here.

Keystone XL Debate Does Not End

Meanwhile, in the US Senate, the current Keystone XL pipeline debate has continued, moving a likely vote to next week. The reason is that several Democrats who actually support the pipeline wanted to continue the debate, joining the majority of Democrats who also want to see the debate continue. This may reflect a strategy to be to get as many pro-Carbon fuel advocates on record as being on the wrong side of an issue many expect to turn over during the next two years. This is largely done through the amendment process, which requires Senators (if the amendments come to a vote) to put their position on record. This record, in turn, can make or break later election bids. From The Hill:

“We don’t want Sen. McConnell especially after all the hop-de-do about an open process, open amendments, to shut it down at his whim. We are not ready to do that yet, there are more amendments pending,” [Democrat Chuck] Schumer said….

Schumer wouldn’t say how many more amendment votes Democrats would like to see. Over 150 amendments have been filed to the Keystone bill.

Ahead of Monday’s vote, McConnell laughed at Democrats for wanting more amendments, arguing they have had more opportunities to add measures to the underlying bill than Republicans had all of last year.

We shall see. He who laughs last votes first.

Years ago before there was a lot of paleo climate data, there were some rather simplistic graphs of ancient climate used to make basic points like “around this time it was warmer than around this other time when it was cooler. Maybe. One of those graphs depicts the now debunked “Medieval Warm Period.” (We now call this the Medieval Climate Anomaly, which included both warm zones and cool zones, was on average, globally, kind of warm, but not as warm as today.)

One of those graphs is shown here, but I’ve carefully labeled it so it will not be misunderstood:


This graph was shown on the Senate Floor by James Inhofe, the famous climate science denier from Oklahoma. This graph has been long discredited. Senator Inhofe should be censured for this.

You should know that this graph has a long and interesting history … Continue reading

Matt Ridley

Matt Ridley

Lord Matthew White Ridley will be familiar to most of you as the person who wrote a really good book on evolutionary biology, but later became a “lukewarmist,” a variety of climate change denier who claims global warming is real but not important. To him, this may apply. He is armored in protective privilege as a wealthy member of the royal class of Britain, and he makes some of his money mining coal on his own land.

Ridley has made a remarkable claim that leaves some of us wondering what his next move should be, and what it will, in fact, be. Continue reading

PotentialSeaLevelRise2Sea level rise is a serious issue, and the sea is rising because of global warming. How bad can it get?

The USGS has estimated the potential contribution of melting ALL of the glacial ice around the world to sea level rise. This is very rough, because many different factors affect sea level, including ocean temperature, gravity, and current. But this gives a rough idea. If the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses continues apace, we could actually see the eventual melt of all of this ice. If we stop releasing these greenhouse gasses in a reasonable time, it is unlikely that these very large numbers will be achieved. But it is important to realize the potential, to understand that the amount of available ice to melt into the sea is so large that that factor in and of itself will not come to our rescue.

I made a map, which is also very approximate, indicating about where the sea will reach in much of North America, and posted it here.

So, the following data are from the USGS. The total is Continue reading

One of the most persistent myths about clean energy is that clean energy does not supply a reliable source of electricity. That myth usually includes ideas such as we need coal, or nuclear, to provide baseload.

Check out this analysis from Forbes:

Experts: Reducing Carbon Emissions And Increasing Grid Reliability Are Doable

With the Clean Power Plan out for comment, a lot utilities are scurrying to figure out their game plan — or just how they would work with their state utility regulators to reduce their carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030, from a 2005 baseline. The general feeling is that the goal is doable but it may take a little more time.

Understandably, the utilities and the state regulators want to find better and cheaper ways of doing business. Their level of enthusiasm, though, differs based on which part of the country they live and which fuels they burn to make electricity. The Northeast and California are leading the charge, having created free market exchanges to buy and sell credits to reduce carbon levels — mechanisms that each say is helping to broaden their generation mixes and to boost their economies.

The IPCC report is out, “An Inconvenient Truth” has been honored by the academy, a sea change is happening in the way that climate change news is being reported, and you can bet the Right Wing and the Ree-pubs are as we speak working up new Talking Points and Spins to deflate the urgency of the issue. It is an axiom that in reporting science, there are two (not one, not three or four, just two) sides to every issue, and one side is the plank nailed to the Democratic Party Platform, and the other side is the plank nailed to the Ree-pub Party Platform. This is a truth as stable and reliable as the fact that Home Depot will always sell 2” X 4” studs and plywood in 4′ X 8′ foot pieces. We are already seeing the dubious dichotomies forming up. For instance, yes, the Antarctic Ice Sheet is sloughing off the continent, but it is opening new and wonderful opportunities for both shrimp and scientists. Yes, global warming is real and is anthropogenic, but the Average American thinks, according to Polls, that it is only the third or fourth most important issue. And so on.

The global warming debate has been running continuously since the now very obscure publication of Moment in the Sun: 1968” by Dr. Robert Rienow and Leorna Train Rienow. Most people think of the literary beginning of the environmental movement has having been “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, and maybe so, but for me, it was Rienow. This is partly because “Moment…” was the first book I read on the topic, one of the first “adult” books I read at all, and on those early mornings before school I was able to watch Dr. Rienow on that crazy new fangled box … the black and white TV my parents had just acquired … on a thing called “Sunrise Semester” produced by SUNY-Albany. Rienow would lecture, and he and his wife and (I assume) the occasional student would put on skits lampooning industrialists and other polluters.

I remember one day, years after having last seen Sunrise Semester, having just acquired a car and a license (at a ripe old age of 18 or so) exploring the territory south of town, along the Hudson River. I encountered an old narrow road running down into the wooded valley from a minor highway, and took the turn thinking it would lead somewhere interesting. Soon enough there was another turn onto a narrow gravel way called “Holly Hock Hollow” … that name sounded familiar, but I could not place it. So I made that turn as well. A mile and a half or so later, the road leveled off to join the floodplain of a small creek, and I started to see little wooden signs in the forest, extolling in a few words here and there the virtues of nature, and imploring the reader to “leave no trace of your visit” and “respect the trees and animals” and such. Eventually I spied, along side the road where a stone wall opened to a gate, a sign: “Holly Hock Hollow Farm ~ Robert and Leorna Rienow.”
Continue reading

“The 2nd of February in Paris will be remembered as the day that the question mark was removed from the idea that humans had anything to do with climate change,” says Achim Steiner, quoted here.

It is not really true. Groups of scientists have been saying this for quite some time. I wonder what George Bush will say next?

But even before this scientific panel’s report was finished, last night (I’ll post a picture later), my daughter, Julia presented her “Achievement Fair” ( = science fair) project on Global Warming and it’s effects in the polar region, entitled “Global Warming … breaking the ice.”

To my knowledge it was the first Achievement Fair entry at her school that explicitly called for the impeachment of the President of the United States … under the list of “Things to do” (along with other items such as use compact fluorescent bulbs, car pool, etc.). Continue reading

Our faith based Federal Executive has been reluctant to admit to, let alone address, the fact that global warming resulting from release of fossil carbon into the atmosphere is a real phenomenon. It is a little surprising that today, NOAA came out with a press release that virtually admits that global warming is a real phenomenon (but stops short of discussing the cause).

The scientific community is generally united in recognizing the reality of this problem, but there are still holdouts. However, considering that so much of the funding related to this research still comes from industrial sources (as does much of the fossil carbon), that there are holdouts is not surprising.

This is a parable that may be insightful or even inspiring to some. First, a look at the “Yes, it’s real” position. One of the first mainstream institutions to embrace the idea was the Union of Concerned Scientists. This is an excerpt from their web site:

Earth’s surface has undergone unprecedented warming over the last century, particularly over the last two decades. Astonishingly, every single year since 1992 is in the current list of the 20 warmest years on record.[1,2] The natural patterns of climate have been altered. Like detectives, science sleuths seek the answer to “Whodunnit?” — are humans part of the cause? To answer this question, patterns observed by meteorologists and oceanographers are compared with patterns developed using sophisticated models of Earth’s atmosphere and ocean. By matching the observed and modeled patterns, scientists can now positively identify the “human fingerprints” associated with the changes. The fingerprints that humans have left on Earth’s climate are turning up in a diverse range of records and can be seen in the ocean, in the atmosphere, and at the surface

In 1999, James Hansen of NASA wrote an editorial for Goddard (GISS) that showed this graph:

Fig. 1: Climate model calculations reported in Hansen et al. (1988).

And provided this commentary: Continue reading

Amazingly enough, we (my family) are going to have to work very hard this year, as we did over the last two years, to get in even one or two good days of cross country skiing. And we live in the middle of Minnesota. This is partly because a good bit of the precip that falls on us these days is actually rain and not snow.

But this is of course a very selfish concern, to the extent that this change is related to human-induced global warming (which I’m betting on). And this reminds me of how often I get the question from students and others, “why worry about global warming … what’s wrong with a little warm weather anyway.”

For one thing I think it is safe to say that the “controversy” is over. No one is seriously questioning that there has been warming, that we are in a warming trend, and that this trend is caused primarily by human release of otherwise trapped (mainly fossil) carbon into the atmosphere. Nice to know that the Yahoos are pretty much silenced by the facts on that one…

Still, the question arises, “why is this important” … even in places where you might not expect it, like this discussion on the geology of the grand canyon: Another Timeline

There are a lot of resources available on this issue, but here is a short version of my two cents:
Continue reading