Monday, March 31, 2008

The Climate Data Is Off or Contradictory

When climate models are wrong, it doesn't help at all to have bad data. Of obvious importance to climate data is of course, temperature measurements. Countless stations around the country monitor all kinds of statistics, which ideally should be completely free of interference so that objective conclusions can be made.

These stations were originally placed at rural locations throughout the country, but due to our gorging on cheap sources of fossil fuels, suburbia has expanded far into the countryside, often engulfing weather stations in their wake. There is a common weather phenomenon associated with cities, known as the urban heat island. Because of the vast amounts of concrete, asphalt, pavement in cities, and the relative lack of greenery, cities tend to much hotter in sunshine than the country. The heat island effect is noticeable to the point where even a child can scientifically measure its existence. So one would think that having stations that go from being in a green zone to being in an urban zone would be problematic. The IPCC assures us that this does not matter: if a sensor has been in a heat zone for very long amount of time, it should display a consistently higher temperature, but not constant increase. I'm not certain if I buy this explanation. To see how massively urban areas have expanded, compare this map of Chicago around when temperatures began to be recorded, to this today:


View Larger Map

This is not to say that global warming isn't happening, it's that doubt shouldn't be cast on the extremity of predictions. Normally when a scientist conducts an experiment, and their data proves to be corrupted, they meet massive ridicule. Instead the IPCC has become indignant, saying the heat islands don't matter, as long as their measurements for ground temperatures match their data on oceans temperatures. However, independent sources say that conclusions based on oceanic data are ambiguous at best.

Lesson learned? If a set of data is unreliable, it's better to use data that's unambiguous and hard to fool--statistics can only repair data up to a point. This is why satellite data should be used as often as possible. Data can be recorded from anywhere on the globe, and it samples temperature form the atmosphere and is therefore prone to less variability than surface temperatures. Unfortunately, satellite data only goes as far back as mankind has had satellites. Weather balloon measurements serve as a good proxy, but even then those go back about fifty years. However, proponents of using surface temperatures don't like satellite measurements (which record temperatures in the atmosphere), because--surprise--they record less severe warming trends than for surface temperatures. Could this be the urban heat island effect in play? You be the judge.

Addendum 4/21/2008:In this post I neglected the man who is behind the verification of the climate data station--making sure that they are a minimum distance away from potential sources of the urban heat island effect--so that they give a more reliable measure of the temperature record. His name is Anthony Watts, a meteorologist who runs a blog that describes his research as well as SurfaceStations.org which keeps track of information about each station.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Climate Models Are Wrong

It wasn't so long ago, that there was a quite different campaign warning of the dangers of climate change. In the 1970's, the climate crisis du jour was global cooling. This is because temperatures had been declining for several decades, from the 1940's through the 1970's. It was predicted at the time that we were headed towards a global cooling catastrophe (loss of farmland, severe storms, etc) if the trends were to continue according to the best models science had to offer. The prevailing theory at the time was that aerosols given off by factories, automobiles, deforestation, farming, etc. was reflecting sunlight back into space from the atmosphere, causing cooling throughout the planet.

It turns out those models were wrong. In the 1980's the trend reversed, and we had global warming throughout the 1990's. In particular, 1998 was the warmest year on record. What were climate scientists to do? The new paradigm was that the cooling effect of aerosols was counteracted by the effect of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, which has been increasing consistently since the Industrial Revolution. So the new mantra has become that our consumption of fossil fuels is gumming up the global climate system, causing it to warm up like a car with its windows up on a hot summer day. When reconstructing temperatures from the past and projecting them into the future, we had the hockey stick model, where due to accelerating carbon dioxide levels, we would have accelerating temperatures, until the planet turned into a smoldering cauldron, much like Venus.

However, it just so happens that if you take the hot, steamy year of 1998 as a reference point, we've had global cooling1:

World Temperatures according to the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction. Note the steep drop over the last year.

Which Leads us to Dr. Miklós Zágoni, a climate specialist who worked for NASA. Since the climate predictions of massive global warming turned out to be wrong as of late, he tasked himself to refine the climate models. It turned out that the carbon dioxide model for global warming made a flawed assumption in its equation. Namely, to simplify one of the thermodynamics equations, an assumption was made that the atmosphere has infinite height. Since I have an engineering degree, it's not unusual to see equations simplified using assumptions--with the understanding that the results would be identical when the assumptions are made. In this case though, Dr. Zágoni discovered that accelerating heating would not happen, that there would be a ceiling to the amount of global warming due to carbon dioxide. This sounds like good news! We won't all die, and we won't need complex and onerous carbon legislation! Dr. Zágoni's reward? He was summarily defrocked and excommunicated by NASA.

Is this really about science, or is it as much about orthodoxy, bureaucratic inertia, and grant money? Perhaps if we have problems predicting weather into the news ten days, maybe we should be wary of making temperature predictions for the next 100 years.

Update 2008/3/31: I think the best model that explains global warming (as opposed to the prevailing anthropogenic CO2-based theory of global warming) is the one which ties global temperatures directly to solar activity. The increased presence of CO2 in the atmosphere would be explained mostly that it would be released from the oceans as they warmed; as opposed to being a cause of the warming they would be a symptom.

1 It was actually a challenge to find temperature data for the past 10 years. A little too convenient, if you ask me.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Dr. Zágoni or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Global Warming

This post isn't about global warming denialism. In fact I accept that the climate changes all the time. At one time glaciers covered much of the Earth, and during another period, Antarctica and Greenland were verdant and covered in forests. I propose the following: that the moderate global warming that has happened in the past 100 years is a boon to human development and prosperity, with overall greater benefits than detriments. Extreme runaway global warming will not happen, and the more data that comes out, the clearer that becomes. One prediction is clear though: by attempting to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it will require more oppressive use of government to enforce regulations, and cause a massive disruption of the economy. I will be publishing a series covering these points, including who is Dr. Miklós Zágoni, and link them back below.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Anti-War Movement Hijacked by Communists and Islamist Apologists

Since today was the 5 year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, I decided to check out the anti-war rally in downtown Chicago, which happened to start just down the street from where I work. As the above link will attest, I was aware of the some of the socialist intentions of the event, but decided to give the organizers the benefit of the doubt that it was going to be a straight-up focus on the war and give a rational presentation of arguments to back up our side of the issue. It turns out I was dead wrong.

At first I was entertained by some of the more creative and individual protesters that weren't affiliated with the leftist organizers of the event. These included Jesus Christ with the Cross, Patriotic Puppets, a Revolutionary in a tri-corner hat, St. Gertrude Parish, and few "billionaires for Democrats":

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Though as soon as the speeches started, the whole thing left a sour taste in my mouth as the anti-war issue was used as a linchpin to forward all sorts of political ideologies only marginally related to war. There were anti-corporate socialists who wanted to use the war money to fund socialized projects. Hey, I happen to like the corporate overlords who pay my salary. As far as the cost of the war is concerned I'd rather get my money BACK through lower taxes and lower inflation, and not have it spend on more big-government boondoggles, thank you very much. There was a Mexican nationalist who tried to link the illegal immigration issue to the fact that non-citizens are "coerced" into the army. Last time I checked our army consisted entirely of volunteers, and immigrant veterans tend to be rewarded handsomely with citizenship. There was a person ranting against Israel and for the Palestinian Intifada. I'll get more into that insanity later. There was no end to the grandstanding on people's pet issues, and relatively little time left to take a principled stance against the war.

After the speech we started marching, and this is when the madness truly began. If you click on the image below, you'll see that these are members of the International Socialist Organization, or put another way, Revolutionary Marxists:

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An organization that should have died with the fall of the Berlin Wall when communism collapsed under it's own crushing weight of oppression, and should have been buried along with the millions of deaths it caused throughout the 20th century. Yes, the very people who would love nothing better than to reproduce the hell on Earth that is North Korea and Cuba on our soil. But wait, there's more! I managed to scribble down one of the chants that they started up on the march, reproduced here:

Long live the Intifada!
Intifada, Intifada!
Free free Palestine,
Long live Palestine!

Repeated ad infinitum, all while holding "Stop Racism, Stop The War" signs in Arabic. Of course, the irony is that the Intifada is a fucking war, that antisemitism is rampant in the Intifada, and that the Islamists would be more than willing to throw the commies under the bus in the quest to re-instate the Caliphate and Sharia Law in Palestine. Pure madness.

Another interesting aspect of the march was how shockingly civil it was (given the rampant communist and black-flag-and-mask anarchist presence). There was a sizable police presence (as taken in pictures below), but there was absolutely no conflict. There were exactly two intersections that featured riot police and policemen on horseback, but they seemed positively bored out of their skulls, and seemed to be more of a curiosity than the protesters, who were photographed almost relentlessly. At other places, the march was flanked by ordinary beat cops who looked like their couldn't wait to end their shift. Onlookers and protesters alike crossed the police "lines" without so much as a sneer. I took a picture of what I thought looked like a police version of an Active Denial System, but it turned out to be an ordinary TracStar satellite dish.

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Naturally, the media was there to gawk at the scene:

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Here are some random pictures of the protest:

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To end on a positive note, the march was worth it purely as an opportunity to take pictures of a city with world-class architecture--at night:

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Update 2008/3/20: One thing I forgot to mention was that there was a "United Nations" contingent there flying a large UN flag. The irony, of course, is that one of the pretenses for going to war was over non-compliance with UN resolutions.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Getting Windows Vista NOT to screw up networking

I recently bought a low-end laptop, and much to my surprise, it came Windows Vista instead of Windows XP. It sure looks pretty, and, in fact, I'm using to write this blog write now. However, Windows Vista has an infuriating flaw.

It won't network with Windows.

First a little background on my network topography. I run Windows 2003 Server as a router, file server, and print server. I've gotten everything, and I mean everything to read file shares on this network. I've gotten almost every Windows OS (save Vista) to work: Windows 95, Windows 98 SE, Windows 2000, Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Professional 64-bit. I've even gotten openSUSE (a flavor of Linux) to read network shares using Samba, with the small exception of folders on NTFS drives.

And Windows Vista? Absolutely nothing. Yes, I can connect to the internet, but I see nothing on the network. Microsoft Help pointed me in the direction of installing the LLTD (Link-Layer Topology Discovery) protocol. Of course, it can only install in Windows XP. I forced it to install using compatibility mode on Windows 2003, and added the protocol to my network card, and rebooted the server.

Four hours of a wasted evening later, I can now not only finally see the shared files on the network, but I can also see the position of my 2003 server in my network. If it had taken one hour longer, I would have torched my laptop. Let's just say I don't expect the average home user to figure out this problem on their own, and may cause a small amount of chaos in IT departments across the country. Thanks, Microsoft.