Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How to stay below 2°C…

February 4, 2015

A quick post to draw attention to the Global Calculator, which is an excellent and simple tool looking at how different actions will change greenhouse gas emissions out to 2100. The tool is from DECC and I think that’s it’s a follow up from something they launched a few years ago (but I don’t remember being particularly impressed with that first version).

In contract, this one is really easy to use and has lots of background information. It’s a nice teaching tool as well and sparked a lot of interesting discussions with our students.

In particular, the role of food was really interesting – some scenarios can massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions just by controlling global calorie intake and reducing meat production!

Anyway, go and have a play! (And there’s a long post over on The Carbon Brief about the calculator.)

Tellus moves to open access

December 30, 2011

A few months ago Monbiot attacked the academic publishing model, which I largely agreed with.

Maybe things are starting to change.

A couple of days ago I got an email from Tellus (a journal focusing on meteorology, climatology, oceanography and atmospheric chemistry) saying that it’s switching from Wiley-Blackwell to an open access publisher (Co-Action Publishing). I’ve published a couple of papers in Tellus before and I’ll certainly consider it for future papers in light of this development.

So, from January 1st you can see Tellus A here and Tellus B here. You can get content alerts here and here.

Booker on Frozen Planet

December 12, 2011

Christopher Booker seems quite confused regarding his opinion of the final episode of Frozen Planet.

In the Mail on 8th Dec, he starts off full of praise for the series’ “breathtaking footage” and  “perhaps the most riveting sequence of natural history programmes ever produced” but soon decides that:

Sir David used the awesome shots of the frozen polar wastes to hammer home his belief that the world is facing disaster from man-made global warming.

No one can doubt the  passion of his belief. But in putting across his apocalyptic  message so forcefully, too many important questions on this hugely important subject  were last night neither asked nor answered.

Then, in the Telegraph on the 10th Dec:

In fact, Sir David played it rather more cleverly than in previous forays. Accompanied by the usual breathtaking photography, he didn’t make his message too explicit. Instead he just conveyed that the polar ice caps are melting at an unprecedented rate, suggesting that this will cause a disastrous rise in sea levels.

The Carbon Brief wonder if he’d even watched the episode before writing the Mail peice.

Well that’s all fun but the Telegraph piece seemed to be more inconsistent than just whether he thought a message was being hammered home or if was all subtle and sneaky.

My point is that he’s happy to accepted that a lot of the warming on the Antarctic Peninsula is caused by changing wind patterns and their effect on ocean circulation. The problem with this argument is that the change in Southern Hemisphere atmospheric circulation has most likely been driven by greenhouse warming or by CFC related ozone depletion (or most likely a bit of both plus some natural variability) but Booker isn’t too keen on admitting that either of these phenomena are real. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

Monbiot on academic publishing

August 30, 2011

Monbiot has a nice article in the Guardian today about academic publishing. It’s a pretty dry subject but he does a good job of highlighting the issues.

Monbiot misses out one of the steps where publishers rake in money – page charges – so I thought I’d have a go at making a timeline of paper publishing to show what the publishers get for free.

  1. Do some research, usually directly funded by a research council grant or indirectly via a permanent academic appointment.
  2. Write a paper and submit it to a journal. The publishers pay nothing for the article.
  3. An editor or associate editor (usually an academic who is not paid by the publishers) makes an initial assessment of the paper and sends it out to reviewers.
  4. Reviewers (usually 2 or more academics who are not paid by the publishers) spend as long as they like assessing the paper, suggesting revisions and recommending publication or otherwise.
  5. Editor makes a decision. Not many papers are published as submitted at this stage.
  6. Author revises the paper in light of reviews and sends back to the editor.
  7. The paper may be reviewed again (and again!)
  8. Paper accepted! Author generally signs away copyright and, in some cases, pays the publisher page charges (sometimes £1000s) to get the paper published.
  9. Other people want to read the paper and have to pay the journal subscription costs for the pleasure.

It is quite a parasitic relationship as, apart from type setting and copy editing, publishers get the “product” for free and then usually charge to publish it and/or to distribute it. Many journal don’t even bother with a printed version anymore!

It feels like something needs to change.

Weather forecasts and probability

August 24, 2011

Over the last few years there has been some talk of the Met Office including probabilities with their weather forecasts e.g. “there’s a 75% chance of rain today”. It’s always seemed like a good idea to me. I suspect that most people can handle a 50/50 forecast and wont end up getting caught in some sort of Schrödinger’s umbrella paralysis.

So now the Met Office have devised a little web game to get some idea of how people will interpret these probabilities. They say that this will help them work out how to communicate forecast confidence.

It’s kind of fun. I scored 205 on my first go (“Red hot meteorologist” apparently, whoo hooo!) but that seems way short of the top of their leaderboard, which is around 370! I think I’m playing it too safe – maybe you get the big points by overstating your confidence in forecasts. I’m not sure if that’s a good message!

PS Apologies for the long pause in blogging: conference, holiday, deadlines, writing, blah, blah, blah.

Climate change in the National Curriculum

June 13, 2011

The Guardian has a climate change lead story today.

The head a government review into the National Curriculum thinks that it should “get back to the science in science”. (Although, as far as I can tell, the review and it’s evidence have not been published yet and the Guardian story is just based on an interview.)

As an isolated statement, “…get back to the science in science” sounds fair enough as you can’t become a scientist by just learning facts about one particular application of science.

That said, I don’t know the National Curriculum very well at all – I had a quick read through KS4 a few years ago when I gave a talk to some physics teachers – but I don’t remember being overwhelmed by the amount of climate change material in there. That still seems to be the case.

Maybe the curriculum is ready for an overhaul, though, as the science curriculum seems to make a point of not using the words “biology”, “chemistry” or “physics”, which seems a bit odd. Maybe I’ve missed something, please let me know if I have.

However, this statement about excluding climate change seems to be in contrast to the original thinking behind the review when it was first reported in the Guardian in January.

Then, the problem that seemed to be that subjects like geography and history had removed all the examples and facts (e.g. names of rivers, historical figures) in favour of understanding and interpretation.

Why does this thinking not apply to science as well?

Surely, by that logic, more examples of science applications should be included in the syllabus rather than removing the main one that is currently there.

Maybe this review has uncovered evidence that prescribing examples is not a good idea but then you’d think that any good history or science teacher, according to the current curriculum, would advise waiting until all that evidence is available and analysed before getting on the front pages of the papers.

Did Watts’ paper show that surface temperature trends are unreliable? No.

May 16, 2011

Editor’s Selection IconThis post was chosen as an Editor's Selection for ResearchBlogging.orgA while ago I wrote a post about an analysis of the US climate monitoring network led by Anthony Watts, who has a very popular climate skeptic blog.

The reason for that post was that Menne et al. 2010 had used some of Watts’ analysis to find that US surface temperature trends aren’t affected much by the station siting (and not in the way that Watts had thought – bad siting seemed to add a cold bias to the record).

Now, Watts has had his paper accepted for publication (although he’s not 1st author) and in a pretty decent journal (JGR). It’s nice to see people contributing to the field in a constructive way so congratulations are in order!

So what does the paper say?

It’s all relatively bland stuff. Here’s a quote from the abstract:

Temperature trend estimates vary according to site classification, with poor siting leading to an overestimate of minimum temperature trends and an underestimate of maximum temperature trends, resulting in particular in a substantial difference in estimates of the diurnal temperature range trends. The opposite-signed differences of maximum and minimum temperature trends are similar in magnitude, so that the overall mean temperature trends are nearly identical across site classifications.

Hmm. I can’t imagine many people getting fired up over that.

This seems quite different to the kind of thing Watts has been saying in the past about the results. Deltoid has some examples.

Anyway, a couple of things strike me as interesting.

On May 8 Watts asked his readers to chip in to cover the publication costs of the paper ($2247), which he collected quite quickly. At the time I looked for the paper or abstract online but couldn’t find it. (I didn’t look too hard, only on WUWT, and the JGR website and a did few searches – maybe it was out there but I thought it should’ve been linked to from a post like that.) Given how Watts had sold the findings up to that point, if I’d have contributed to the costs I’d now be feeling a bit confused at how it turned out.

Also, maybe this is the end to questions as to whether surface temperature increases actually exist. With Fall et al. not really turning much up and the BEST project looking like it’ll confirm the previous surface temperature analyses, there can’t much mileage left in that argument, which was pretty much answered years ago. In that light I suppose it’ll be interesting to see what happens to in the future and if Watts’ perspective changes. (It would also be really interesting to see how the Fall et al. paper changed as it went through review but I don’ suppose that’ll ever happen.)

Finally, I thought it would be worth noting that I do think it’s important to keep looking at the temperature record, how it stands up and how it can be improved. Watts has helped with that in some respect. But overstating conclusions is not helpful.

ResearchBlogging.orgSouleymane Fall, Anthony Watts, John Nielsen-Gammon, Evan Jones, Dev Niyogi, John R. Christy, & Roger A. Pielke Sr. (2011). Analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends Journal of Geophysical Research

So, is the ozone hole fixed?

April 21, 2011

Bishop Hill reports that the ozone hole is back.

This seems to be the story. A guy with a blog read an abc news report from September 2001 (I’m not sure what year) and some people seem to be surprised that the ozone hole didn’t instantly fix itself with the introduction of the Montreal Protocol.

I can’t help thinking that this interpretation shows a worrying lack of understanding of a big atmospheric issue.

The hole only appears in the Southern Hemisphere spring when the sunlight returns and releases chlorine (sourced from CFCs) from polar stratospheric clouds, which store it over winter. The “hole” occurs because this sudden influx of chlorine decimates the ozone, which then recovers each year.

Minimum ozone levels in the "hole" region.

However, there’s also a more general decline in ozone globally. The big problem is that the chlorine atom isn’t removed in the reaction that removes the ozone so each one does a lot of damage.

There’s more background on wikipedia and some nice plots, including the one above, on the NASA website.

Oddly enough, Science very recently (April 8th) published a news story about a GRL paper (which is still in press) reporting the first signs of recovery of the ozone hole, which weren’t previously expected until the 2020s. So you’d expect this information to be know by people interested in climate science and legislation.

The BEST mess

March 23, 2011

The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project aimed to do something quite useful: clear up any confusion regarding land surface temperature trends.

But it seems to have become a mess.

Some have questioned the impartiality of the project team (and its funders and advisers in particular). I’m not sure how concerned I was about this – if this project showed that the 3 established global temperature datasets were more-or-less sound then that would surely put the issue to bed for all but the most detached from reality.

There are many problems with long records of temperature and maybe the best outcome for the “skeptics” would be a stronger judgement on uncertainty.

But it seems that just doing the work and then publishing it without making the most of the limelight is too much too ask.

I only really took notice of the project when Richard Muller (BEST Chair) gave an interview in the Guardian in February.

More recently, Climate Progress “revealed” the outcome of the BEST analysis via an email from Ken Caldeira (who “helped fund the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study, but didn’t participate in it” – CP).

This came after Muller had given a talk on the Current State of Climate Change – a Non-Partisan Analysis at Berkeley, which appears to be getting ahead of himself.

At some point the BEST “Findings” page was updated to say:

A preliminary analysis of 2% of the Berkeley Earth dataset shows a global temperature trend that goes up and down with global cycles, and does so broadly in sync with the temperature records from other groups such as NOAA, NASA, and Hadley CRU. However, the preliminary analysis includes only a very small subset (2%) of randomly chosen data…

…and then Watts criticises Caldeira for jumping to conclusions from 2% of randomly chosen data, which according to Watts all comes from Japan.

I’m not really sure what to make of all this, well, other than that everyone looks a bit daft when commenting on the outcome of projects before they’ve even got their results.

OPAL Weather Roadshow at the Big Bang

March 15, 2011

I went along to the Big Bang fair in London last week to help out in the OPAL (OPen Air Laboratories) Weather Roadshow trailer.

They’ve got some pretty cool stuff in the trailer: a blue screen and camera for pretending to be a TV weather forecaster (I got a bit too exciting about this!); a metre high tornado (a bit like this one); a professional standard weather station to have a look at; and lots of other cool gadgets and weather demos to play with.

If you want to go along and see the roadshow for yourself, then its going to be at these places:

14-17 March 2011: Newcastle Science Fest
21-27 March 2011: Manchester Climate Week
29 April – 2 May 2011: BBC Discover Nature Weekend, Lincolnshire
21-25 May 2011: Plymouth
31 May – 5 June 2011: Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham
8-12 June 2011: Cheltenham Science Festival
17-19 June 2011: East of England Show
20-23 June 2011: Bruce Castle Museum, London
12-14 July 2011: Great Yorkshire Show

More generally, the Big Bang fair was pretty interesting even though it seems to be half way between a careers fair and a science festival. I particular enjoyed the flying silver penguin-esque balloons. No idea what they were for but they were so strange – it almost felt like you were underwater if stared at them for too long!