Friday, 29 January 2016

Kennedy Trail

On a recent trip down to Mission Beach I took the chance to go for a wander around the Kennedy Track from South Mission Beach to Kennedy Bay and back. There are a few stair climbs and it's about eight kilometers return, but it's a fairly easy walk. It was, as you would expect in January, rather humid and I did wish I had taken more than one litre of drink with me.

The trail shortly after starting at South Mission Beach
After a brief boardwalk along the ocean's edge, the trail takes you up onto the hillside and through the forest below the Elandra Resort before dropping down to Lugger Bay. There is a trail just behind the tree line, but the beach is rather tempting. It curves around to a small creek and a few mangroves before reaching Tam O'Shanter Point.

Looking toward Tam O'Shanter Point from Lugger Bay
After crossing the creek and wandering around the back of the mangroves, the trail heads into some light forest beside a paddock before climbing up to a lookout. At the entrance to the forest area I was fortunate enough to come across a male cassowary accompanying a single young chick. I didn't try to get to close as it was clear the father was not happy with my presence, and the chick didn't come out in the photos. An angry and protective cassowary is not something with which I wish to tangle. I followed them at a distance before they headed off the trail.

A male cassowary near the south end of Lugger Bay
After a short climb to the lookout, the trail runs along the rise before dropping down into a couple of rocky bays with views out to the Family Islands.

After Tam O'Shanter Point the trail climbs over the headland and along a few rocky bays
The trail cuts across to Kennedy Bay, which is a long and undeveloped beach with paddocks and forest beside it. There have long been plans to develop the area with a residential development and a golf course, but at present it feels very secluded. While it's possible to keep on down the beach, this was the point I turned around and headed back to the hotel for dinner.

Kennedy Bay

Shortly after turning at around at and heading back

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Sunset aloft

Sunset over Rattlesnake, Herald and Acheron Islands, just north of Townsville
This was taken on my way home from a work trip to Townsville this week. When I looked up what islands I was looking at I was curious about why an Australian island would be named Rattlesnake Island. It's named after the HMS Rattlesnake, a ship that explored the region in the late 1840s. The ship's naturalist was T.H. Huxley.

Religion evolves - Baba Brinkman

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Ice recovery!

In my previous post I commented on the way some deniers like to leap on variation in the trend of sea ice to shout about how it is recovering so spectacularly. I pointed out some examples in the Daily Mail, but subsequently noticed another example from yesterday.

The pseudonymous* Steve Goddard has a fairly long and vocal history among the denial movement, often getting the Arctic trend wrong, and accusing the NSIDC of doctoring data. Someone I was talking to on Twitter retweeted a post from Goddard commenting on how big a recovery there was in Arctic sea ice.

Well, a first impression when looking at that chart certainly makes one think everything's just fine. Then you notice the legend. 2005 onwards? I wonder if we can find a more informative chart, perhaps with some more context. Yes, yes we can**. Here's the chart from the front page of the NSIDC:

And here's one fairly similar to Goddard's from NASA. Notice the drop from decade to decade. Where do you think 2009-2018 is likely to be?
So yes, it's better than the worst years on record, but I think Goddard is attempting to polish the proverbial. You don't need to actually lie to mislead an audience.

The below video might help you understand how the Arctic is going;


* I note that Steve Goddard is a pseudonym because the person who I was talking to shortly afterward criticised me for only using Mike K. Goddard is quite well known to be using a pseudonym, and I think he has the right to do so. Some others have named him due to his rather public profile, but I've decided against it.
** That's a deliberate attempt to needle anti-Obama people.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

No, Patrick Moore, Al Gore did not predict the Arctic would be ice free by now

A couple of days ago I commented on a Twitter encounter with claimed "founder of Greenpeace" (on Ian Plimer's most recent book cover) Patrick Moore. He had said he would consider my statement if I backed it up. I did, with video evidence, but he studiously ignored his mistake. I don't think he can bring himself to admit he was wrong. But this post isn't about that.

Someone had tweeted at me intimating that because there was still ice in the Arctic, global warming must be false. I pointed out that it wasn't a logical argument. This morning I saw that Patrick Moore had piped up:

Now, of course the Arctic ice ice in serious decline. There's variation around the trend, and deniers do like to use that variability to occasionally proclaim a recovery, as the below chart from Skeptical Science shows:

Plummeting faster than my respect for Patrick Moore*
Graphic by SkepticalScience,com

And yes, deniers really do make such recovery claims, and even publish them in the UK's Daily Mail (1, 2, 3). I've linked those numbers up to examples, but you might better off reading the Guardian's discussion of the Daily Mail's stupidity.

But that's not what this post is about. It's the second part I really want to discuss here. Did Al Gore predict that the ice would be gone by 2013/14?

The claim that Al Gore predicted the Arctic would be ice free by 2013 or 2014 is a commonly repeated meme from deniers, and is rather well known to people like me who watch the deniers. I was surprised that Patrick Moore, who I thought had a reputation as being one of the "serious skeptics", would trot this lie out. Deniers usually like to point out one of two occasions to support their claim that Al Gore predicted the Arctic would be ice free by now.

In 2007, Al Gore received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work promoting understanding of climate change. In his acceptance speech he referred to recent studies showing that the Arctic ice was declining:
Last September 21, as the Northern Hemisphere tilted away from the sun, scientists reported with unprecedented distress that the North Polar ice cap is "falling off a cliff." One study estimated that it could be completely gone during summer in less than 22 years. Another new study, to be presented by U.S. Navy researchers later this week, warns it could happen in as little as 7 years.

Seven years from now.
So in one sentence Gore says a study says 22 years, and then in the next that another study says 7 years. Somehow this is twisted by deniers into "AL GORE PREDICTED THE ARCTIC WOULD BE GONE BY NOW!!!!". This is, of course, immensely dishonest. It's curious that deniers like to make it into a claim that Al Gore predicted it. I don't see deniers saying "THE US NAVY PREDICTED SEA ICE WOULD BE GONE BY NOW!!!!!".

The other possibility is from 2009, when Al Gore addressed a UN conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen, Gore discussed the modelling of arctic sea ice, and again referenced the US Navy study. He reportedly said:
Some of the models suggest that there is a 75 percent chance that the entire north polar ice cap during some of the summer months will be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years
Again, this is not Al Gore predicting that there would be no Arctic ice by now. Gore was correctly reporting on the available science - science conducted by the US Navy in order to facilitate the movement of submarines in the Arctic. I'll note that Gore's office, mindful of having his words twisted by deniers, reportedly clarified his statement, saying he meant nearly ice-free, because ice would be expected to survive in island channels and other locations.

This type of misrepresentation of "predictions" is common among deniers. We saw an example of it in the Cairns Post this week in the columns by Andrew Bolt. I'm hoping to have more on that later in the weekend. Bolt's columns, and his episode of the Bolt Report on Ten last week with Ian Plimer, had a great deal of absolute bollocks in them. But that's another post.

Given the attention paid to Gore by the deniers, and the utterly debunked nature of the "Gore predicted the Arctic would be ice free by now" claim, I find it immensely difficult to believe that Moore, claimed co-founder of Greenpeace (although challenged by, among others, Greenpeace), occasional guest commenter in conservative media, and someone who one assumes must spend a lot of time looking at the subject, is unaware that the claim is utterly false.

There's a phenomenon called "throwing red meat to the base", and I think this is what Moore engaged in. I think he knows what he said is a lie. But he also thought that it would get retweets and adulation from the simpletons that follow him. I think he just didn't care that it was a lie, and didn't think it was wrong to lie. If this is the case, you should not trust what Moore says about climate change.

But I could be wrong. It's possible that, contrary to my impression, Moore is incredibly stupid. Maybe he had checked what Gore had said but is enough of a simpleton to have misunderstood Gore as predicting the Arctic would be ice free by now. If this is the case, you should not trust what Moore says about climate change.

It's also possible that he's not a complete idiot but, although he promotes himself as an expert commentator, he just doesn't bother doing basic research and fact checking. Perhaps he repeats oft repeated lies spread among the deniers. If this is the case, you should not trust what Moore says about climate change.

Another possibility is that he's a cynical individual profiting off the denial movement, using his notoriety to get speaking gigs. Maybe he knows he's talking bollocks but just thinks of himself as providing entertainment value for the simpletons that follow him. If this is the case, you should not trust what Moore says about climate change.

Or maybe he's a parody, performance art. If this is the case, well, Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley is much better at it than Moore. That guy's a comedy genius.

I'm struggling to think of any other possibilities.


* While I say in the caption to that chart that the ice is plummeting faster than my respect for Patrick Moore, I should note that I didn't have much respect for him before this. I knew he was a denier, just not that he was such a clown.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A musical interlude.... Freedom to Glide

It had been a while since I googled "progressive rock that sounds like Pink Floyd", but I gave it another try a couple of weeks ago. The best find in the past had been Porcupine Tree and Steven Wilson, which has always been a hard act to follow.

A couple of weeks ago the search came up with Freedom to Glide, a band that formed out of a Pink Floyd tribute band. The album Rain, released in 2014, is a theme album on the costs of war, and it's absolutely magnificent from start to finish. The album is wonderfully cohesive, the music is beautiful, and I've found the lyrics truly emotional. It's so good I sometimes have to delay getting to work just so I can finish listening to the album from start to finish on the way in.

It's really, really hard to pick a favourite track off the album, but I think When The Whistle Blows might be it. Or maybe Not A Broken Man... No, damn...

Have a listen:

You can buy Freedom to Glide's music on Bandcamp or iTunes. I've bought their whole collection.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Fun with climate change deniers

I've had a long weekend to laze about, and I've spent some time online with climate change deniers. Some of it has been rather amusing, some frustrating, and I'll have longer posts to come, but I found one bit particularly amusing.

Patrick Moore, a noted denier whose main claim to fame is he was involved in Greenpeace's early days (whether he was a founder or an early member is debated - long winded semantic arguments may ensue), posted a tweet about US Republican Senator Ted Cruz, who is trying to become the Presidential candidate for the party, and Cruz's claim that:

As with most of the Republican clown car of potential candidates, Cruz at least claims to be deeply religious. It has always struck me as odd that religious people, when seeking to denigrate something they disagree with, try to put it on a par with religion.

When someone lamented the possibility of Cruz actually becoming President, Moore followed up:

Science in his family? This was a reference to Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz's father, who was mentioned in the article as being a mathematician and programmer, and a "self-taught geophysicist". This magnified my mirth. Why?

Rafael Cruz is not just a conservative Christian. He's a theocratic, Dominionist, fundamentalist preacher who has called evolution a communist lie - something he and other climate change deniers, coincidentally enough, call climate change too.

I would have thought Ted Cruz would be the last person to put forward in arguing that climate change is a religion, but I was wrong. Rafael is even more remarkable. He a nuttier than squirrel shit science denier and a deluded faithhead. It would be really nice if reporters asked Ted Cruz about his beliefs and how they line up with his crazy father's views. Hopefully that will happen if Cruz does, somehow, get the nomination.

When I brought Cruz Snr's denial of evolution and claim it was a communist lie, Moore asked for documentation of the claim, saying if I could back it up he would reconsider. Cruz Snr isn't shy about making such claims, so I gave a link to video of it and more. We'll see if Moore comments on the anti-scientific and bizarre religious views of both Rafael and Ted Cruz.

What was the good reasoning that Cruz had? Aaron Mair, the President of the Sierra Club (and not a climate scientist) hadn't answered some questions at a hearing to his satisfaction. The questioning was about the "global warming pause" or "hiatus", which never actually happened. There simply was no pause. I must admit that the President of the Sierra Club didn't handle it well, and should have been better prepared. It was a very poor performance, possibly due to Mair being prepared to comment on social impacts rather than the science of climate change. Anyone testifying before the US Congress on climate change should familiarise themselves with denier memes, because they're going to get hit with common ones.

Even if you take the RSS data, which is what Cruze was referring to and isn't as simple a measurement as he seems to suggest (objective numbers?), the warming since 1998 is in keeping with the trend prior to 1998. It's just that the warming trend is slight since 1998 and still within the limits of a 2σ confidence interval. In other data sets the warming over the period is faster and significant.

I really don't think Cruz had any good reasoning for calling climate change a religion. It seems an insult to religion, and a misunderstanding of what religion is. Religion is not just "something people believe" or "something people accept without evidence".

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Babies on the loose

My Metriaclima lombardoi fry are now out and about, though I'm unable to say exactly how many are hiding in the nooks and crannies of the tank. Here's a close up of one of them:

So, how big are they? Well, here's a photo showing just a bit of the 90cm long and 40cm high tank. Note that the top and bottom of the tank aren't in the shot. These are some small, and adorable, fry:

The background in the tank which provides all those lovely hiding spots is a latex background by Universal Rocks.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Waiting for the pitter patter of little fins

With a colony of nine Synodontis grandiops (sold in shops as S. multipunctatus) refusing to breed without hosts, I decided to see if the Lake Malawi cichlid Metriaclima lombardoi could step into this role. There were some internet sites citing success with them, so I bought a few. They're a beautiful species in their own right so I'm happy to see them breeding with or without the catfish parasitising their brood. This is just as well as the first breeding occurred while they were still in quarantine.

While I've moved four, including the dominant male and one juvenile male, across to the Synodontis tank, I now have a very "pregnant" female sheltering with one other juvenile that proved difficult enough to catch that I gave up for the time being. I use the quotes around the word pregnant as they're a mouth-brooding species, as is obvious in the below shot.

The female is starting to show the signs of not eating for a couple of weeks. She pops out at feeding time and approaches food, but doesn't actually eat anything. She's still in pretty good condition, but is going to be ravenous when she finally releases her brood. I'll give her a couple of weeks to fatten up again before moving her across with the males, and hopefully she'll get knocked up again soon after.

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.