Monday, 28 September 2015

January to August was damned hot... except for a blob in the North Atlantic

Land and ocean temperature percentiles from January to August 2015. Illustration: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Centres for Environmental Information
Writing in the Washington Post, and reproduced in the Sydney Morning Herald, Chris Mooney (Author of the Republican War on Science among other books) reports:
While there may not yet be any scientific consensus on the matter, at least some scientists suspect that the cooling seen in these maps is no fluke but, rather, part of a process that has long been feared by climate researchers - the slowing of Atlantic Ocean circulation.

In March, several top climate scientists, including Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Michael Mann of Penn State, published a paper in Nature Climate Change suggesting that the gigantic ocean current known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, is weakening. It is sometimes confused with the "Gulf Stream" but, in fact, that is just a southern branch of it.
Go and read.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Before the denial

Inside Climate News reports:
At a meeting in Exxon Corporation's headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world's use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

"In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels," Black told Exxon's Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

It was July 1977 when Exxon's leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.

A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon's Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.
Read more at Inside Climate News

Thursday, 17 September 2015

People are again missing Charlie Hebdo's point

So close...

At the Daily Beast Maajid Nawaz writes that "never in living memory has a magazine been as misunderstood as Charlie Hebdo. For the truth is, Charlie Hebdo is not a racist magazine. Rather, it is a campaigning anti-racist left-wing magazine. And its cartoons, which are so often misunderstood to be promoting racism, are in fact lampooning racism."

Getting to the confronting cartoon reproduced above, he writes:
Bringing this back to the subject at hand, far from insulting him, these cartoons about Aylan are a damning indictment on the anti-refugee sentiment that has spread across Europe. The McDonald’s image is a searing critique of our heartless European consumerism, in the face of one of the worst human tragedies of our times. In particular, this image plays on the notion that while we moan there are not enough resources to cope with the influx of refugees, we simultaneously offer two for one McDonald’s Happy Meals to our own children. 
Go and read all of Nawaz's article.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Cairns Post Letter from the Wingnuts #30: A record low? I think it is.

During a caffeine break at work this morning I took a peek at the Cairns Post and came to the Letters to the Editor page. Contrary to what you may expect, it's not the first page to which I turn. Anyway, a new wingnut had decided to pop up, and apparently decided to make up for lost time by packing a remarkable amount of being wrong in one letter. Phil McLuskey of Brinsmead wrote:
Does the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) put out two reports?
Actually, it puts out quite a few reports. The most recent major release was the Fifth Assessment Report. You know already he's going to make a mess of it, don't you?
The one I read almost two years ago clearly stated that the confidence of anthropogenic carbon dioxide causing global warming was 5 per cent.
Ahem... Bullshit! The IPCC did not say 5 per cent. The figure was 95%. NINETY five per cent! And that was the confidence that we cause most of it, not just some. Does Mr McLuskey really think that the IPCC would be in existence if they thought it was only 5% likely that we cause climate change? Dear sweet FSM, the Editor really should step in for mistakes like that.

My number one piece of advice for wingnuts writing to the editor would have to be "Don't trust your memory. It is almost certainly tainted." We saw this with Viv from Earlville's claim about the BOM the week before last, and here we see it again. Actually, perhaps my first piece of advice would simply be "Don't".

I'm sure that, contrary to his claim, Mr McLuskey never read the IPCC Report (I'll admit, I haven't either. It's huge.). I'm sure he never even glanced at the Summary for Policymakers. I'm even sure he never read an article about it in a science magazine. He's going by vague memories of news reports, or possibly just discussion of those news reports by Alan Jones or other loons, and those memories fail him.
What this means is that the IPCC do not think that carbon dioxide has much effect on global mean temperature at all.
Again, this is utter bollocks. The IPCC said "It is extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the anthropogenic increase in GHG concentrations and other anthropogenic forcings together. The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period."

That last sentence is important. The IPCC's best estimate is that pretty much all of the recent warming is anthropogenic. ALL of it.
Plus, not one of the dire predictions made by climate alarmists have come true.
That's because the dire predictions are still predictions, most out to the year 2100 or so. We don't expect dire consequences yet. We are seeing what we expect to see from global warming. Temperatures are trending up, ice mass is trending down, species distribution is moving up to higher altitudes and toward the poles, sea level is rising, etc, etc, etc.

Most of the claims of dire predictions that have proven false are either misrepresentations of what was said (Tim Flannery being the most common target here in Australia) or based on popular media headlines rather than the science.
Plus, even though we have been pumping out ever more CO2 we have less effect than solar activity.
Um, no. This is Skeptical Science's #2 most used climate myth. As they say, "Over the last 35 years the sun has shown a slight cooling trend. However global temperatures have been increasing. Since the sun and climate are going in opposite directions scientists conclude the sun cannot be the cause of recent global warming."
Plus, we know that global warming of 3 degrees would be of huge benefit to humans
Actually we know 3 degrees of warming would be bad for humanity, particularly for the poor. Gee, I wonder what a good source of information on that subject would be... Perhaps the IPCC AR5 that Mr McLuskey claims to have read. It covers it in detail.
It would also mean a drastic reduction in burning fossil fuels for heat.
Oh, for heaven's sake. Okay, yes, global warming will make it easier for some to stay warm. Does he not realise that it will also make it harder for some to stay cool? Which does he spend more on, heating or air conditioning? How does he like the idea of a summer in Cairns 3 degrees warmer than now? Does he fancy working as a labourer outdoors in those conditions?
So, the good news is, all those people panicking about the future need not worry about the climate.
I believe this is called assuming the intra-posterior cranial position and claiming to smell roses.
There are far more destructive forces that we are worrying about.
Yes, there are other destructive forces and we should work toward alleviating those too. Climate change is, however, a major problem we need to address. This is not just because of its direct effects, but also its amplifying effect on other problems. There is, for example, increasing evidence that climate change played a role in the drought that was one of the factors that contributed to the Syrian crisis.

So, to summarise Mr McLuskey's arguments:
Image by Plognark.. Buy a shirt.

The Brilliance Of Peter Dutton's Apology

At the Huffington Post:
Deep within the corridors of power lies the office of the Department of Information, the Federal Government's messaging and communications team. Department head Mr Martin "Squidink" Farquar addresses his staff.

FARQUAR: In the wake of the drolly hashtagged #boomgate, I want you all to take in every detail of the apology that the Minister for Immigration made on Sky News. It is near perfect in its execution. It has been widely reported that Mr Dutton has apologised for the joke itself -- he didn't, which shows the skill behind the sleight-of-word here.

His performance is bookended beautifully. He opens by apologising for being unaware that a live mic was positioned behind "a private conversation", and so paints whoever listened in as an eavesdropper while still sounding contrite. Just lovely. Towards the end he apologises for distracting from the announcement of the Government's planned intake of Syrian refugees, and so leaves a key talking point fresh in the listener's mind as the statement wraps.
Read on at the HuffPo.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Cairns Post Letter from the Wingnuts #29: Short and wrong

It has been a while since I had a Cairns Post Letter from the Wingnuts post on here. Unfortunately that hasn't been because they haven't been appearing on the Letters page. We've had the usual claims - no warming since 1998, climate has changed before, etc - and the usual suspects.

The end of the Australian winter triggered a brief comment from Viv from Earlville in the short bites part of the Letters page last Thursday:
Interesting report from the weather bureau that Australia has just had one of the coldest winters on record. Must be the climate change that we keep getting told about.
It is, of course, possible that Australia could have an unusually cold winter. Climate change brings a warming trend, but there is still variation around that trend. But such cold events are becoming increasingly rare, especially across large geographic areas, so I thought it was a claim that should be checked.

Seeking more information, I turned to the Bureau of Meteorology's website and came across its Australia in winter 2015 summary.
Winter was a warm season for most of Australia, but cooler than average for much of the southeast. Nationally, maximum temperatures were the equal-eighth warmest on record for winter and mean temperatures were the ninth warmest on record (anomalies of +0.83°C and +0.79°C respectively). The national minimum temperature anomaly was also above average at +0.75°C.

Both maxima and minim were above to very much above average for Western Australia and Queensland, including an area of warmest-on-record for maximum temperatures in northwest Western Australia. Maximum temperatures were also above average for the north and west of the Northern Territory, and minimum temperatures above average for the north of South Australia.

Maximum temperatures were cooler than average for much of southeastern Australia although average to above average in eastern New South Wales. Minimum temperatures were cooler than average for Tasmania, and part of central Victoria, southeastern New South Wales, the northern agricultural districts of South Australia, and a pocket of the northwestern Alice Springs district in the Northern Territory.
So, from a report of one of our hotter winters on record, the correspondent had come away with the opposite impression. The report did note that it was Tasmania's 10th lowest on record, and its coldest since 1992. I suspect some cognitive bias has resulted in the correspondent incorrectly remembering this as being an Australia-wide figure.

While Australia had a hotter than average winter, the rest of the globe had its equal hottest June ever and its hottest July ever. I can't find August's end of month figures yet, but I suspect that Australia's winter will turn out, on a global scale, to be the hottest on record. 2015 is looking increasingly likely to be the hottest year on record, breaking last year's record.

It would be nice if the other wingnuts kept their falsehoods similarly short.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Grouper feeding at Cook's Landing

Two Queensland groupers enjoying dinner service at Cook's Landing
One of your dining options in Cooktown is the Cook's Landing Cafe, located on the waterfront at the end of Charlotte St. It's a small shack with a patio dining area looking out onto the Endeavour River. They're primarily known as a fish and chips shop, and I heard a couple of groups complimenting the staff on how nice the fish was. With fishing wharves nearby, I'm sure it was extremely fresh. I'm not a big fish-eater, so I went for a hamburger with the lot.

The cafe offers a dinner show with a difference, feeding the fish frames (head, skeleton and tail) left over from cooking to feed some giant grouper (Epinephelus lanceolatus) that come to dine each evening. While I was there, there were five extremely large grouper (definitely the biggest fish I have seen in the wild) feeding from a staff members hand, and two large stingrays plus a multitude of small species picking up scraps. A juvenile remora tagged along with one of the grouper, and an adult with another. It was interesting watching the small remora darting out to grab scraps, then racing back to its grouper.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Cooktown Golf Links at Walker Bay

The primary purpose of my visit to Cooktown last weekend was to play a round at the Cooktown Golf Links - Walker Bay Course. While the name gives the impression that it may be one of a number of courses, but this is the only course in Cooktown. Walker Bay is on the south side of Mt Cook, on the road to the small Quarantine Bay community.

Walker Bay is a short nine hole course, with the white tees giving a 4,297 metre par 65 course. With no par fives on the course, and the longest par four at 367 metres, it's a bit lacking in length. Longer hitters will be able to drive some of the par fours, though missing the fairway can be costly. The layout is perhaps ideal for holiday makers and retirees who have lost some of their length.

I played on a Monday, and found that the clubhouse was unattended. Green fees were paid through an honesty box, and I paid $20 for nine holes plus $5 for a buggy. Hire clubs were also available, though I didn't check them out. A fridge with another honesty box housed soft drinks and water.

Hole-by-hole descriptions and photos are below the fold.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Little Annan River

The Mulligan Highway crosses the Annan River twice as it approaches Cooktown. The first crossing is signposted as the Little Annan River, and the western side of the bridge offers a nice bit of rock hopping downstream along a small gorge with small waterfalls and rock pools. While it doesn't look like crocodile territory, it's probably best not to try a swim.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Byerstown Range Lookout

Along the inland road from Cooktown to Cairns there are many spots that have scenery that give a feeling of wide open spaces. Bob's Lookout on the Desailly Range, looking out to Mt Elephant, is a favourite that I've previously posted about. The James Earl Lookout is a little further north at the top of the Byerstown Range, just before you drop down into Lakeland. The above photo is taken from the Lookout looking a little east of Lakeland

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Imagining a potential catastrophe

At Bad Astronomy Phil Plait, astronomer and author of Death From The Skies!writes:
Take a moment and indulge me. I want you to imagine a scenario.

Astronomers mapping the sky find a moving object, incredibly faint, in their data. It’s moving slowly, so it’s very far away and probably small. Their best guess is that it’s an asteroid about a kilometer across.

Because it’s faint and relatively far away, they can only get a very rough estimate of its orbit. It appears to be on a trajectory that brings it into the inner solar system, but it’s not possible to reliably say more than that.

A report is made, some other scientists try observing it, but for many the signal from it is just too hard to make out. Every now and again, someone follows up to see if they can refine its orbit. When they can spot it the orbit gets refined a bit better, but it’s still rough. Calculations show it getting no closer to the Sun than Mars, but with a wide margin of error. A handful of papers are published arguing over the shape of the orbit.
Read more at Bad Astronomy.