Monday, November 05, 2007

I'm not a player I just crush a lot

Andrew C. Revkin, science writer for the New York Times and (reportedly) former ghostwriter for Ma$e and Puffy Combs is now writing a blog over there at the Times called Dot Earth. Here's his description of the blog:
By 2050 or so, the world population is expected to reach nine billion, essentially adding two Chinas to the number of people alive today. Those billions will be seeking food, water and other resources on a planet where, scientists say, humans are already shaping climate and the web of life. In Dot Earth, reporter Andrew C. Revkin examines efforts to balance human affairs with the planet’s limits. Supported in part by a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Mr. Revkin tracks relevant news from suburbia to Siberia, and conducts an interactive exploration of trends and ideas with readers and experts.
Good blog, sharp dude. Turns out he also looks like a really nerdy version of NFL commentator and former Bengals wideout Chris Collinsworth. I've added it to the sidebar here and I have subscribed to the RSS feed, and I suggest you do the same.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Rappers are in danger

There is a lot that can be said about the catastrophic wildfires that burnt Southern California up like a dry spliff of Mexican shwag. For a long time, fire-control policies were geared towards the management of wild areas. There was constant friction amongst the logging-related interests, conservationists and preservationists. Fire is an absolutely necessary and inevitable component of terrestrial ecosystems. Some systems have evolved to incorporate fire as an integral element of life cycle processes of key species. Many conifers require fire to germinate, for example. However, there is general disagreement on how to manage systems with regard to fire. If untended or unburnt, some systems build up huge fuel loads and explode into catastrophic fires. But this debate has become increasingly complicated due to the huge expansion in the urban/suburban-wildland interface.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of a seminar and talk with Michael Dombeck, former head of the US Forest Service and former Acting Director of the Bureau of Land Managment. This is an excerpt from his speech:
In the wake of sprawl and fragmentation comes concern about fire, especially at what is termed today the “urban-wildland interface,” a fancy term that tells us people are living in places that are half-wild, half-Wal-Mart.

Fire has long been on our minds. The Smokey Bear campaign was perhaps the most successful public education campaign in our history. In 1968, more people in America knew who Smokey was than could name the President. Smokey was the second most popular character in the United States. Santa Claus was number one.

Some consider it heresy to say this, but the challenge today is to help people understand that while fire is always dangerous, all fire is not bad. Like wind and water, fire is one of nature’s cleansing agents.

Unhealthy forests today are due to a combination of past timber management practices, exotic and off-site species and the cumulative effects of 100 years of fire suppression. We are good at fighting fire. We have the best firefighters in the world. During several of the past few years, we have spent over one billion dollars fighting fire.

Contrary to media reports, Oregon’s half-million acre Biscuit Fire did not “destroy” the entire landscape. The fire burned at various intensities, leaving some patches of forest scorched but other areas completely untouched. The result was a classic mosaic pattern of burning on the landscape, which benefits many ecosystem functions and restores habitat diversity. According to Forest Service estimates, approximately 16% of the area burned at high severity, 23% at moderate, 41% at low severity, and 20% was unburned. The costs of such massive firefighting efforts are tremendous, over $40 million on this fire in just one day. In the long run, fire will occur one way or another. How fire returns to fire-adapted ecosystems is the question.

The challenge is to put fire back on the land. And do it in a way that doesn’t harm people. Forests evolved with fire and are adapted to withstand fire. If they weren’t, there would be no forests. Our houses and communities adjacent to the forests are the new additions. The development and sprawl are occurring all over the country, and are especially problematic in high fire frequency areas.

The urban-wildland interface is now spread over millions of acres. The millions of dollars that we pour into wildland fire fighting may not save your house. Structural firefighting requires very different skills than fighting forest fires. The most important things you can do to prevent your house from burning as a result of a forest fire are within 200 feet of your house: clear away flammable fuels that carry fire close to your buildings, keep stacks of firewood well away from structures, use fire-resistant roofing and siding materials, and maintain a perimeter of non-flammable material around the house to serve as a firebreak.

I hope the Bush Administration’s ‘Healthy Forests Initiative’ is as intent on implementing an ecologically-balanced fire management plan as it is on rolling back mining regulations, water quality standards and roadless policies. If the wildland fire plan turns into little more than accelerated commercial logging program, it will quickly become a controversial “black hat” program, just like the infamous “salvage rider” did after the bad 1994 fire season when it was dubbed “logging without laws”.
The full text of this speech, given in Bryn Mawr, PA in November, 2004, can be found here. More on Mike Dombeck at his website.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Don't call it a comeback, I been here for years

The big news today was that Al Gore and the IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work on global climate change. I find Al Gore to be a really facsinating bol, and maybe this Nobel will bring some awareness to the media age devaluation of politics which Gore has come to represent. In a nutshell, Gore, after being millimeters away from the presidency, said "fuck it" and decided that he could make more impact free of the restraints and ethical compromises inherant in politics. Many have understood that politics isn't the sole arena of power in this country, but few have been able to speak from outside the political realm with the authority that Gore can, only because of his former position of power. I still haven't formulated any real statement as to the nature and effectiveness, generally speaking, of this "insider-outsider" thing he's been doing, but no matter what the circumstances, he'll be bustin' at y'all daily for some time to come.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bong bong bong your head went rung rung rung

If you're up for some (relatively) heavy reading, take a look at Scientific American's analysis of the potential problems and solutions inherent in the task of creating a carbon market.

But what that article really reminded me of was Kool Keith alter-ego Sinister 6000.
Age: 7999
Birthplace: Iceland
Likes: Warm, Cuddly Woman
Dislikes: Democracy, Carbon
Quote: "Sinster 6000 / new styles I be housing."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Not destroyed, merely melted

Sorry about the protracted hiatus- I've been really busy with making music and writing about non-sciency things.

While I get my shit together so's I can conjure some of the irreverantly nerdy informationalizing that makes this blog so damn special, here are some things to keep you busy:

-Economists are stunned (for the millionth time) as blind altruism and trust of strangers often trumps the selfishness of homo economicus. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise, because cooperation (e.g. the sublimation of selfishness for group goals) has long been understood as the foundation of complex society. It's ironic, I deal in ecology because I think people are such assholes, but somehow I have more faith in the goodness of the human race than economists, who are the oracles of the market age. [Scientific American]

-Holler at this bad-ass vulture who can take in oxygen at 23,000 feet. It's endangered, so holler at it gently. [Endangered Ugly Things]

-Ian Hart of the The Pacific Institute's Integrity of Science blog has made his last post. Go and read over some of his work so you can practice up for spotting bullshit in the press. [Integrity of Science]

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Suck it or not- the fecudity anthem

For some time now, I have had passing discussions with a friend about the rift between Richard Dawkins and his "Selfish Gene" gene-selection theories and Stephen Jay Gould and his emphasis on organism/population selection. Quite often I hear of how Dawkins was somehow "discredited" some time after The Selfish Gene was published, but that the ideas were valuable insomuch as they were premature and published on the precipace of a great revolution in genetics and biotechnology. I attempted to argue this viewpoint and make generalizations about levels of selection for and in organisms but found myself talking in circles. So here is my blow-by-blow of the debate between two of the titans of evolutionary biology:

Dawkins- fetishizer of late model foreign sedans

The Selfish Gene put forward a gene-centric view of evolution, one which describes genes, rather than organisms as the unit of selection. In short, Dawkins says that a gene, the material which gives an organism a particular characteristic (phenotype), is responsible for driving evolution. The gene, through random chance and its ability to confer preferential fitness to its vessel, survives. Although the genes themselves do not "behave", the gene level is the level of organization where selection acts. Organisms are merely "survival machines" for genes.

This explaination became particularly popular because it made sense of a number of oberved but until-then counter-intuitive phenomena, namely kin selection. Preferrential and protective treatment by siblings seems to fly in the face of an organism-based selection theory but makes a great deal of sense when you explain such behavior as a protectiveness for genes. After all, your genome is more similar to your siblings than it is to any body else's. Essentially, Dawkins describes such behavior as being the natural consequence of genes building machines to protect like genes.

Behaviors or charicteristics that cannot be classified as strictly phenotype-derived are put under the classification of "memes"- info genes- where units of information are culturally transmitted.

Gould- thug denizen of bus station fashion

Gould was a paleontologist and curse-era Red Sox fan, so naturally he took the long view on biological issues. He believed that Dawkins was using a sort of "Darwinian fundamentalism" that was not unlike Social Darwinism and Genetic Determinism of times past. Even though Dawkins makes biological/mathematical justifications of pacifism in The Selfish Gene, Gould dismissed these examples as retrofittings of theory to conform to existing society as viewed through the Dawkins' own disposition. Furthermore, Gould's broad based view of cladistics (the science of biological classification) over geological history led him to believe that the expansive cascades of interactions (in life and in development) between broad groups of species or organisms within a species could not be explained so simply without empirical evidence. Furthermore, Gould felt that Dawkins did little to explain the herky-jerky stops and starts of species (and gene) proliferation at varying rates through geologic time. Dawkins really presents very little empirical evidence for his theorizing in The Selfish Gene, written before the modern era of genetic biotechnology.

In short, Gould felt that Dawkins was making a mistake by ignoring (as he saw it) the vast complexity of biological interactions in favor of a more unifying, dogmatic view of evolution wrapped in appealing and sexy rhetoric.

My take- makin peace like Tookie

Dawkins theory is sexy, Gould's theory is not, by virtue of its age. However, it's hard to assign (in my mind) too much agency to genes. Genes are the agents of evolution, phenotypes are the agents of selection. However, genes are pretty passive actors- they are subject to random mutation and crossing over during meiosis. It's kind of a chicken and egg argument in my mind- do genotypes passively control the preservation of phenotypes or do phenotypes actively control the preservation of genotypes? Without one, there is no other.

I understand Gould's concern about the retrofitting of a theory to confirm observed social phenomena and the potential distortion that could be wrought by those who seek to use "Darwinism" to confirm social beliefs. However, that point is largely moot- social liberalism, although admirable in my mind, cannot be used as a scientific defense, only empirical evidence can.

I'm pretty rusty on my evolutionary theory, so if anybody has any corrections or opinions they'd like to offer, have at it. I need to get my brains back in shape for when I return to school, and this is as good a forum as any.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you

Without a strong rhyme to step to

I've been kind of neglecting this here blog for the last few weeks- other tubes have been keeping me all distracted. Here are some good links I've come across of late that will help me (and you) get back in the swing of things.

-St. Louis (where I just spent a weekend) has seen very high levels of development in its flood plain since the catastrophic flood of 1993. I remember flying over the Mississippi/Missouri confluence during that flood- it was like a small ocean- insane. People are obviously getting more attuned to coastal and riparian development since Katrina.

-One of the best blogs I've seen in a while- Endangered Ugly Things. Their tagline encapsulates the blog perfectly: "Sure, they're not cute. But they're at least as important as your fuzzy thing." I'm adding it to the blogroll as soon as I post this.

The Southern Cassowaries got their eye on the gold chain

-There was a scary fire in Philly a few weeks ago- a salvage yard in South Philly caught fire and spread disgusting smoke over most of the city. I was in Center City that night, several miles away from the fire, and I could barely breathe. Sometimes you forget how close we are to extreme catastrophes. Many remember or are familiar with the 1984 Bhopal disaster, when a poisonous cloud from a Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India killed 3,000 instantly and at least 15,000 afterwards. Apparently, there have been numerous incidents of this magnitude in the United States which didn't cause nearly this level of carnage due to dumb luck- a change in wind direction or a holiday parade causing a town to empty out entirely (sorry, but I couldn't find a citation on the internet, but this was told to me by a university researcher).

This sort of thing can happen almost any time for any number of reasons- it's frightening. It makes you hope that the government takes it's responsibility as the executor of the public trust seriously. In China, where the government seems to only give a fuck arbitrarily, there was an 80 km long benzene slick in 2005. 2005! For decades chemists have been avoiding working with benzene because of its well-known carcinogenic properties- but it is most certainly in use in factories near where you or I live.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In the limelight

Here is an irresponsible (but not necessarily inaccurate) blog post (from ThinkProgress):
Climate change death toll ‘to double within 25 years.’

“Deaths and injuries from climate change are set to more than double in the next 25 years, according to estimates” by the World Health Organization. Deaths “linked to even a very narrow number of causes most closely connected to shifting weather patterns will reach more than 300,000 a year by 2030.”
That's it. That's the whole thing. Needless to say, the comments section over there is all stirred up.

The original article from the Financial Times cites some WHO data which points to "deaths inked to even a very narrow number of causes most closely connected to shifting weather patterns." I think that asserting such data as highly accurate is difficult because of the indirect relationship between climate change and individual weather events which haven't happened yet. I've said it a million times- climate is not weather. Although we could predict a mean of hurricane intensity or frequency over the next twenty years, we can't predict whether another one will hit New Orleans or Miami or Houston years ahead of time. Furthermore, populational and geopolitical issues have a huge role in predicting these deaths (e.g. migrations, emergency response, food supply) and thus the uncertainty grows.

Here's a good analogy for this type of report: What if you were to estimate the number of people killed by "poverty" in the United States over the next 20 years? This would seem difficult, because you would have to figure in deaths from poor medical treatment, deaths from exposure (for the homeless), deaths from malnutrition and maybe even deaths from drug-related gun violence. Is poverty the actual cause of death? No. But poverty is arguably the principal underlying cause. Climate change works the same way- a two degree rise in temperature may not kill anybody, but the hurricane resulting from more intense tropical ocean convection just might.

The issue here isn't the WHO report, which is surely based on broad estimates and designed to be preliminary and cautionary. The issue is that ThinkProgress presented the story so sensationally in a forum where people are looking for stories like these to confirm their biases. This is not good reporting, nor is it informative.

[ThinkProgress: Climate Change Toll to Double in 25 years]
[Financial Times: Climate Toll Will Double by 2030]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Labeled me a ho

Article in today's Times about Home Depot getting into green labeling. Perhaps this is a sign that being green is attractive to consumers in this down economy. I seem to recall that this was a big thing with lumber some time back- boasting of the concientious logging your companies suppliers practiced.

As most know, in the absence of any sort of regulation, a label doesn't really mean shit. The debate about what exactly qualifies food as "organic" illustrates this perfectly. If the label sells, people will surely try to sell the label without taking the hit associated with actually providing the bona fide product. I'm not saying this is what Homie D (nomenclature that proves I've worked on a construction site) is doing, but I'm just sayin is all. keeps their eye out for this sort of thing. Recognize.

News on them internets:

-The Philadelphia Eagles are crediting members of their organization who invest in wind energy. Maybe that's because Lincoln Financial Field is in the Delaware River flood plain.

-I came across an interesting blog recently called Framing Science. The blog doesn't talk about science itself so much as it talks about the way in which science is talked about- e.g. The Frame. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term "framing" it can be losely understood as the way in which an issue is presented and understood in the public debate. For example, here are two competing frames: Estate Tax versus Death Tax.

Basically, Framing Science keeps up with the issues of rhetoric, debate and discussion in science policy. I have said numerous times before that I think scientists have to work harder to make themselves understood and accessible so that they are not pushed around in the public debate by people with political goals but no factual backup.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Get schooled

I figure this is the appropriate forum for some horn-tooting, because a little bit of self-aggrandizing may help inform my dear readers of my credentials. This week I formally accepted entrance into a Ph.D program in Ecology and Evoloutionary Biology at Brown University, a program run in conjunction with the Ecosystems Center at the internationally renowned Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, which has played home to fifty one (51!) Nobel laureates over the years. I have studied before at the MBL, and I am excited to be not only Ivy League material but also a student at one of the world's truly legendary biological institutes. I'm deferring for a year, because, after all, I am a low-level superstar DJ in Philly, am I not?

So at least you know I'm bona fide.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ante up

After yesterday's Supreme Court decision, I neglected to mention that just because the court says that the EPA has the ability to regulate carbon dioxide and tailpipe emissions, it almost certainly won't until there's a new president. I was having an argument with somebody about the real differences between the parties and I pointed out that traditional conservatives are wont to let executive departments sit without enforcing the laws on the books, whereas liberals are unlikely to relax enforcement. This is largely a matter of beliefs regarding the role of government. The President, as the enforcer of federal law can generally choose to enforce or not enforce, to a certain degree. Conservatives, with a traditionally Libertarian perspective that minimal government is good government, generally try to use the existing governmental apparatus as little as possible, or eliminate parts of it should the opportunity arise. This is how Reagan turned thousands of homeless and mentally ill folks out onto the street in the 1980s, by cutting off funding to Federal programs pretty much regardless. He was a fucking dickhead.

A good example of lax or delayed enforcement is Brown vs. Board of Education, which served to strike down segregation in 1954. However, functional desegretation didn't happen until Eisenhower was forced to act on behalf of the Little Rock Nine to protect them from Arkansas governor Orval Faubus in 1957. George Wallace was forcing the Feds to play their hand still in 1963 at the University of Alabama. Another example of the potential laxity in executive enforcement would be the secret White House plan (recently uncovered) to limit the number of species which can be protected under the Endangered Species Act. More info on this here.

Anyway, back to the court decision. The New York Times has a good graphic showing the states that have their own carbon dioxide caps or regulations. I'm posting it here, but you can't host New York Times graphics on imageshack for some reason, so the graphic will probably rot in a week or so:

Not surprisingly, most of these maps look a lot like this one, from back in 2004:

Edit: I should point out that the states which have ethanol initiatives include those in the midwest, because these are the big agricultural states. However, this seems not to correlate with emissions regulation. Ethanol is a renewable energy source, but it does not eliminate greenhouse gas emission. I am not sure if ethanol burns cleaner than other combustion fuels.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Supreme Clientele

By a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court issued a ruling today in favor of states petitioning the EPA to classify greehouse gases such as carbon dioxide as pollutants. This means states can regulate carbon dioxide and so too can the federal government, I suppose.

This is a really, really big deal.

Here's the ruling (PDF) from scotusblog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Al Gore is in effect mode

Al Gore is on the Hill today and he'll likely go toe-to-toe with A number One dumb dumb idiot and Pour The Science whipping boy Sen. James Ihofe (R-OK). The NYTimes talks about Gore "revisiting the old stage" and manages to point out that Gore has basically said "fuck you" to politics.

Marlo Lewis of the Cabal of Corpulent Industrialists Competitive Enterprise Institute has an absurd op-ed in the Atlanta Constitution Journal which contains the gem:
Carbon dioxide, which Gore demagogically calls "global warming pollution" (it's plant food, after all), is the inescapable byproduct of most of the energy that fuels the world's economy.
The rest of the "piece" is about how he believes that madatory emissions caps are an elitist cockblock on third world development. It's funny how a representative of such a powerful industry group (see bottom) will play the "pity the poor people" card during a brief break from screwing the poor. Two problems here Marlo: yes, CO2 is plant food... but so is cow shit... nice attempt at nice-ifying CO2 like it could [puppy dog face] nevuh evuh be a puwoootant because da happy flowees need it to bwooom (red herring count: 1). Second, CO2 is not an inescapable byproduct- you could decide to, uh, use something else for energy by working together and changing things for the positive. Oh, yeah, that.

Actually, let's take a two second break from beating up on Marlo here (because Snoop might be round the corner), and just quickly debunk his entire organization. Ok, step one- watch their propaganda video:

Step 2, read any one of these:

Nature's piece on Celia Bitz's recent sea ice model. Celia is a SCIENTIST, Marlo has a PhD in GOVERNMENT and a BA in POLI SCI.

A late 2005 paper about a decline in sea ice extent by SCIENTISTS at U. Colorado, NASA and U. Washington. The paper contains things like graphs and complex computer models that took years to build. The results were confirmed further in 2006. Marlo, on the other hand, has been published in "The Washington Times, Investors Business Daily, TechCentralStation, National Review, and Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy."

Einstein Escobar

I could go on for a long, long, long, long time, given the number of studies out there, which appear in Science and Nature (the premier peer-reviewed scientific journals in the world) almost every week. So let's just hope that Gore has his shit in line to be the point man for the people who dedicate their lives to researching these phenomena and fend off the people who dedicate their lives to attacking those who threaten industry. There's a lot at stake, and people are watching.

File FoxNews "science" writer Stephen Milloy in the same category as Lewis (Naysaying Dickface).

P.P.S. One of those responsible for absolutely infuriating the scientific community by doctoring and altering government scientific reports on climate change has copped to it in front of Congress. Phillip Cooney said "My objective was to align these communications with the administration’s stated policy." The administration's stated policy, of course, was to look the other way. Watch It!

Triple P.S. Big up to homebody Joey over at Straight Bangin', who sent some bols this-a-way earlier this week. Between SB, Just Sayin and this blog, it's like a full school day. Early!

Monday, March 19, 2007

It's Ya Boy

Tale of the Tape:

Ya Boy
-Originates: San Fran
-Raps over the Imperial March from Star Wars
-Keeps Shit Hot
-Only person ever to be down with Stephon Marbury
-Came up in 2002
-Has a confusing-ass name

El Nino
-Originates: Indian Ocean
-Makes it Rain
-Keeps Shit Hot
-Will Fuck up your Fishery
-Comes up every couple of years, but never on the regular (like Cappadonna)
-Thinks Stephon Marbury is a complete piece of shit
-Gets accused of all sorts of shit he may or may not have done

El Nino (aka El Nino- Southern Oscillation or ENSO) is a pain in the ass, but an interesting one, if that makes any sense. The general public's short memory and scientific naivite (we are a nation petrified of doing our taxes for chrissakes) has been thrown through a loop by this year's warm winter in North America. El Nino, which has been a recent culprit for climate anomaly, has been implicated by many as a player in this year's steez. But is El Nino synonymous with global warming? If not, what is it? Does it fuck La Nina or is that it's sister, if yes, is that statutory? Does it hang out with Rick Rock?

El Nino is a force which warms winters in North America as westward trade winds weaken, allowing warm water to float eastward from New Guinea (where it is hot as fuck, according to Survivor). Waters in the tropics rotate counter-clockwise in the southern hemisphere and clockwise in the north like this diagram shows. El Nino has a bunch of strange effects on the Americas including playing havoc with fisheries off Peru, which used to be an extremely important source of fertilizer, various oils, guano and nasty canned fish for grandpas and Mediterranean people. El Nino happens cyclically but not quite regularly and it corresponds to the Southern Oscillation, which is a weather cycle that affects monsoons and other weather in South/Southeast Asia (read some history about it, but it is fucking confusing). La Nina is its opposite- La Nina is an abnormally cool easterly Pacific current, El Nino totally hit that. This University of Illinois site explains it pretty simply.

Like I've said a million times before- weather is not climate. 2006 is like a day in the long geological life of the earth. If you feel sick today, it's hard to say you've got AIDS, but if you are sick for a month, you might be in trouble. Unfortunately, news cycles and attention spans are 15 minutes at most, so this is a hard notion to get through to people- neither does it say that warming is not taking place, it's just good science. The El Nino signal is apparently not large enough to be entirely responsible for the record high temperatures of 2006, but it does have effects on seasonal climate. 1997-98 was certainly a more drastic year and stuck in people's memories. What seems to be going on is that El Nino and Warming Temperatures are interfering constructively, instead of destructively (picture two waves both moving in the same place at the same time, getting larger instead of clashing and breaking up- these waves are temperature).

So winter like "AYE!"

What weather can do is tip climate. For example, if your gutters are backing up, it's gonna take a good, hard rainstorm (No Bol) to blow the whole shit up...but that rainstorm in and of itself is not the cause of clogged gutters, they've been backing up over many many seasons. Penn State's Michael Mann breaks this down really well at as it relates to El Nino versus global climate in 2006. I mean, shit, the man made Heat, gotta listen. OK, no he didn't. Here's what he says about El Nino and climate change, and I figure this is a good way to end, because frankly, this is a complicated issue and I can't say it any better than the pros:
Another issue here involves the precise role of El Nino in climate change. El Nino has a profound influence on disparate regional weather phenomena. Witness for example the dramatic decrease in Atlantic tropical cyclones this most recent season relative to the previous one. This decrease can be attributed to the El Nino that developed over the crucial autumn season, which favored a strengthening of the upper level westerlies over the tropical North Atlantic, increased tropical Atlantic wind shear, and a consequently less favorable environment for tropical cyclogenesis.

If a particular seasonal anomaly appears to be related to El Nino, can we conclude that climate change played no role at all? Obviously not. It is possible, in fact probable, that climate change is actually influencing El Nino (e.g. favoring more frequent and larger El Nino events), although just how much is still very much an issue of active scientific debate. One of the key remaining puzzles in the science of climate change therefore involves figuring out just how El Nino itself might change in the future, a topic we're certain to discuss here again in the future.
Oh, by the way, El Nino and Rick Rock are tight.

[NOAA: ENSO Education Resources]
[RealClimate: El Nino and Anomalous Winter Warmth]

Thursday, March 08, 2007


If you read Just Sayin, you probably know that I have nothing but contempt for the Ohio State Buckeyes football program. But Coach Jim Tressel gets a momentary pass for his classroom video where he describes photosynthesis using a bunch of tenuous football analogies. Watch it:

Seen via The Wizard of Odds

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cakin means makin green

If you are interested in some tips for making your lifestyle more efficient and ecologically friendly (but still very budget conscious), check out what Era has to say.

[E.R.R.A.N.T.: My green products]

Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Interesting article in the Times about decreases in pollinator populations, specifically bees. This has been a long-standing concern amongst agricultural scientists. The article cites viruses or exhaustion from mismanagement by beekepers as possible reasons for 30-60% offseason loss rates of bees. In my understanding, the causes of pollinator population decreases are somewhat unclear. Suspects include habitat fragmentation, invasion by exotic plants (which decrease off-season pollination options for certain pollinators), viruses, parasites, toxic pollutants and others. People usually write off bees, on account of their being small and stinging people and shilling for Cheerios. However, with the large amount of artificial fertilizers in use today, many agricultural systems are "pollinator limited" by virtue of lack of bees.

Maybe you should talk to them in Spanish

I used to work as a tech at Princeton University, conducting a study about pollinator diversity as it relates to land use. Pollinators are either specific to certain hosts or they are host-unspecific AKA "generalist." This relationship between pollinators and flowers has led biologists to study this interaction intensively- it is rich in examples of various evolutionary phenomena such as co-evolution, mutualism and interspecific competition. Thus, there is a large volume of research to draw on, going all the way back to Darwin's hypothesis that there must be a moth with a proboscis capable of getting into the foot-long nectary of a Malagasy orchid (such a moth was discovered in the 20th century). However, the range of suspects seems so large as to imply that nobody is quite sure what is going on.

As a well-rounded person, grounded in the very much parallel fields of science and late 1990s rap music, I would like to offer my professional opinion as to the solution:

I would say there's about a 75% chance this could all be cleared up by playing Cobra Clutch at high volume during the growing season.

[NYTimes: Where my beez at?]

Monday, February 26, 2007

Slg Pct*(Tg C/Yr)

Hov, what's your carbon footprint?

Phillies second baseman Chase Utley is a lock to lower the average gas mileage of your fantasy team. Same goes for Troy Polamalu and his compact Kia on the gridiron. I would suggest drafting Bill McKibben, but he is pretty much guaranteed to hit no higher than .260. More on Utley from
Utley said he plans to buy a hybrid car that would get profoundly better gas mileage than the trucks owned by teammates Jon Lieber and Aaron Rowand. Lieber's custom-built Ford F-650 gets 12 miles per gallon.

"I don't think we're really on the same page," Utley said. "Maybe I'll show them the movie."

Utley plans to watch another film, "Who Killed The Electric Car?" a documentary that explores the birth, limited commercialization and eventual death of the battery electric vehicle in the U.S., specifically the General Motors EV1 of the 1990s. The film explains the role of car manufacturers, the oil industry, the U.S. government and consumers in squashing the development of the technology.

[ Utley is green (scroll to bottom of article)]
[Post-Gazette: Troy-Troy keeps it subcompact]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

As nasty as they wanna be

Pursuant to yesterday's post, the NYTimes blog The Lede details some leaked information about the IPCC's report, which will apparently come out in three stages. The comments section is predictably ill informed and painful for a scientifically educated person to stomach. And the basis for debate continues to be obfuscated.

In other news, National Intelligence Chief John Negroponte is apparently barred by the White House from saying "global" and "warming" in conjunction with one another. Meanwhile a new executive order gives the White House greater ability to review and edit scientific documents, which flies in the face of the Union of Concerned Scientists. The UCS put out a 2004 report entitled "Scientific Integrity in Policy Making" alleging that the Bush White House had been altering reserach through funding cutoffs and document editing to further political aims rather than scientific ones. Over 11,000 scientists have signed on to the scientists' statement including 52 Nobel laureates, 63 National Medal of Science recipients, and 194 members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The gathering storm

I've been pretty lax on two fronts over here at Pour Dat The Science. First, I've been lazy about posting in general. Sorry about that, for the two of you that subscribe to this here on Bloglines. I'm a busy guy. Second, I've been posting mostly about climate change. I don't mean to- I have much more varied interests than just ocean currents and dumbshit senators- but it is the one topic with the most super-meta public policy ramifications and it's been getting a lot of play because it's been so warm this winter (but remember, weather isn't climte!).

I'm going to give you a little satisfaction on the first point I mentioned- after all, I'm posting right now, but it's not a long one. On the second point, no dice.

I've known that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due to release a new report soon. It is going to scare the living fuck out of everybody except James Inhofe and Michael Crichton, who both believe more strongly in modern dinosaur street apparel and unicorn poop facial scrub than in modern science. I expect the report to lay out a lot of the research that has been done in the last half-decade detailing predicted effects, ranges of expected effects and so on. People will probably be stunned and the ensuing debate will be fierce because the conclusions will be understandable but the methods will be complex, once again leading to an earpiercing sound and fury signifying... what?

P.S. While you're waiting, go pick up a copy of this.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Kilo is a thousand grams

From, Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann, David Archer, Stefan Rahmstorf, William Connolley, and Raymond Bradley talk about the "middle ground" on climate science. By "middle ground" I mean the space in between "slow, slow warming" and "runaway warming with gulf stream shutdown, etc.," as seen in my last post. These respected scientists review varying points of view in layman's terms. This piece is highly informative and very helpful.

Since I am not a climate scientist or oceanographer, I don't read all the literature coming out, so I have a hard time judging much beyond the statistical and methodological validity of single experiments or papers I see. This makes it hard for me to process the totality of the breadth of climate research coming out. Various teams of researchers are exploring different directions which climate may take and I just don't keep my ear close enough to the ground to weigh each against the other. If I have trouble doing this, you know how easy it is for a Neil Cavuto type to obfuscate the real scientific basis for debate- knowing how complex the issue is. I know that Stefan Rahmstorf is well known for his big distillations of current climate research in Scientific American-type accessible science magazines- he really knows all the research out there and he is very sharp.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Drinkin half a 40 bottle livin outdoors

From Fox"News" yesterday. Emphasis is mine.
PAT MICHAELS: Uh, Neil, if you believe that warming causes cooling, you’re like my neighbors down in Virginia who think that if you put hot water in the ice cube tray, it freezes faster. It doesn’t work that way.

And in fact, in Denver, there were very few people who, I think, tried to conflate the snowstorm with warming, they just tried to ignore the fact, that in fact it’s snowing like crazy in Denver, despite the fact that unlike in the East, where there is no warming trend in the winter temperatures, there is a warming trend in the winter temperatures in Colorado.

NEIL CAVUTO: Dan, if more of those who support global warming did not live in the East Coast, or more specifically in New York, and were stationed in Denver, they might have a different take on things?

DAN GAINOR: Oh, I think so.
Some notes:

Global climate change causes an increase in severe weather events in the mid-latitudes, including snowstorms. Notice how I use the term "global climate change?" "Global warming" is somewhat of a misnomer. For example, a probable consequence of warming would be melting of the polar icecap and severe precipitation events, like the Denver snowstorm, which cause a lot of runoff and erosion. Some of the research done by my former instructor Bruce Peterson, et al (2002) and expounded upon in a more recent article of theirs in Science describes potential consequences of such increases in freshwater runoff or melting upon the oceans.

The Gulf Stream keeps Europe warm. Remember that England is at a higher latitude than much of the "colder" parts of the US (see graphic below). The Gulf Stream is a global conveyor belt, moving heat away from the equatorial regions. When the water cools in the Arctic, it's high salinity (warm equatorial waters can dissolve more salt than polar water) causes it to sink and continues its circulation around the globe. Unfortunately, increased input of fresh water from melting ice and pulses of water from Arctic landmasses from severe storms are causing the waters around the sinking point to "freshen" and lose density. Scientists are fearful that the water at this point will one day stop sinking as increasing amounts of fresh water mix with the gulf stream. If the "conveyer belt" stops moving, Northern Europe would lose the heat provided by the Gulf Stream and it would "cool"- hence "climate change" rather than "global warming."

However, the current trend in climate change is a warming one, so this is not intended to discount the current warming trend, it's just that the medium to long-term effects may not be warming. It is precisely this kind of ruse that guys like Cavuto are interested in running. For example, Patrick Michaels, provessor at University of Virginia, publishes papers for Western Fuels Association and has lost a notable wager in which he posited that global temperatures would fall significantly between 1998 and 2007. For "balance," Michaels appeared opposite Dan Gainor, who writes a blog in which he says things like:
most Americans already know the media and environmental wackos are trying to send the nation down the tubes. Now there is new proof
No Bruce Peterson, nothing of educational value, only a discredited scientist, accusations of East-Coast bias, and a wild-eyed proponent of a vast left wing consipiracy.

Fox News stuff seen via thinkprogress