Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A drop in the ocean

How many fish in the sea? A fraction of how many there were a few decades ago.

Where has the oil gone? Has the BP disaster been overhyped? Or simply pushed underwater? And where are all the dead animals? And where is the dispersant?

Is it too late to save Miami? An interview with a paleoclimatologist on rising sea levels.

But really, what's climate change got to do with the price of bread? Quite a lot, actually. And the stability of food prices is related to political stability.

The current Russian heat wave is unprecedented for at least 1,000 years and likely to become the deadliest heat wave in history.

What makes a Methodist Sunday School teacher mad?

Are games a waste of time when the world is burning? Or might they be just what is needed?

Is martyrdom a repudiation of the goodness of life? Not at all, says Michael Jensen (summarising his PhD in a page).

And in a mere three part series, Ben tackles the perennially vexatious issue of gelato ethics.


David Palmer said...

Re the Russian heatwave,I note in the comments on climateprogress that people want to make a connexion to global warming, but this is speculative to say the least.

The drought in SE Australia has certainly broken and down in Melbourne people are commenting on being back to a traditional winter - cold and wet. So do we speculate want a few claim might be happening - global cooling. Of course not!

We know the el nino has given way to a la nina which probably means 2010 average global temperature will not exceed 1998's record. But it may.

Roger Pielke Jnr has a couple of interesting posts on the floods in Pakistan (record?) and the current very low level in tropical cyclone activity.

See here and here

byron smith said...

It's not just at Climate Progress.
USA Today
NYT (again)
And top climatologists
Even CNN sceptic Chad Myers (albeit reluctantly)

Pointing to the end of one of the most devastating Australian droughts on record doesn't mean that it didn't happen. Only that it (finally!) ended.

The claim is not that ACC causes these events, but that it makes them far more likely. So that when you look at the ratio of record highs to record lows, you see this (make sure you also scroll down for the image of the last few decades), or you notice that although we're only a little over half-way through the year, seventeen countries have already set record high temps this year (more than in any other year) or when you are an insurance company or engineering firm working out how large a 1 in 100 year flood might be, you're increasing the parameters. See here for an interesting discussion in the best answer (I know how unreliable YA is, but Trevor is a practising climatologist). Quote: "In simple terms this means there has been 3 to 4 times as many weather extremes this year as would ordinarily be the case. I haven’t yet worked out the probability of this happening but it’s going to be many thousands to one against.

"In respect of the flooding in the UK, we were commissioned by two organisations to conduct some research, once in 2006 and again in 2007 following the devastating floods. Prior to the record breaking floods, the probability of the number of floods occurring, without some external force affecting the climate, was just under a million to one, in the wake of the 2007 floods this rose to nearly 5 million to 1 and following the 2008, 2009 and 2010 floods it now stands at 8 million to 1."

byron smith said...

Here's another very helpful comment from Trevor answering "So when is weather just weather and when is it indicative of climate change?"

David Palmer said...

Hi Byron,

I think we just need to be very cautious in jumping to conclusions.

Re Russian heatwave, Pakistan floods, this story has appeared today.

Re NYT, BBC, USA Today, etc - more fool they.

I'm pleased that you phrased this paragraph so carefully -

Pointing to the end of one of the most devastating Australian droughts on record doesn't mean that it didn't happen. Only that it (finally!) ended.

Australia has had a history of devestating floods going back in time when lower CO2 levels prevailed.

byron smith said...

Not sure why we can't see your latest comment in which you link to this SMH story. It may or may not appear later (or did you delete it?). In any case, the SMH article says "droughts and heatwaves likes those affecting Russia and 18 US states become longer and more intense in a warming planet" - making the very point that is relevant also for Australian drought.

Why they are giving most space to the opinions of a meteorologist (without a PhD) about these matters is another issue, since he has basically zero qualifications in climate attribution. It would be a little like asking the ambulance driver to offer an attribution of the cause of a cancer. Yes, he's involved in the medical field, but has no relevant qualification in answering the question.

And as for the jet-stream, see here, where the head of climate monitoring and attribution at the Met Office explains the links (someone with just a little more qualification than the SMH's weatherman).

Please notice that nearly all the climatologists have nearly always been quite careful to say that climate change makes these kinds of events more likely and/or more severe, rather than claiming direct causation. It is like our actions are loading the dice on extreme weather (or are putting more bullets into the pistol to play Russian roulette). If lazy or sensationalist journalists have sometimes taken a shortcut, this is no fault of the science.

The Russian heat wave is off the charts for how unusual it is. And pointing to a single event is, of course, merely weather, but it becomes an exclamation mark at the end of a whole string of events: record-breaking number of countries recording record-breaking high temps in the hottest 12 months on record at the end of the hottest decade on record. And you know we could go on and on.

byron smith said...

Having re-read the SMH article, I see now why they have asked a man without relevant academic qualifications to give his opinions: is a Fairfax Digital company.

byron smith said...

The only thing they know for sure is that 25% of the oil was collected, skimmed or burned. That's what they know for sure. The rest is a guess.

byron smith said...

CNN: Oil settling on ocean floor.

byron smith said...

Up to 79% of the oil remains in the waters of the Gulf.

byron smith said...

The Russian heat wave and black swans.

byron smith said...

SkSci: In the middle of this post are some interesting observations from NASA about the Russian heatwave and its statistical likelihood. The frequency of events more than three standard deviations from the long term mean generally ought to be about 0.3% of the time in a Gaussian distribution (which surface temperatures usually follow). But the frequency of such events in the last few years has been more like 7% (2009), 13% (2010) and 9% (2011). The Russian heatwave was more than six standard deviations above the mean.