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 realclimate.org, 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