Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hurricane Prediction Time, Remembering Katrina

Last week the experts in Colorado predicted a relatively mild  2012 Atlantic hurricane season .  Years ago I was interested in the predictions because I had a relative that lived in Fort Myers; now I give some credit for my interest to Al Gore.

Yup.  Al Gore.  It all started in 2006 when I saw his film An Inconvenient Truth.  I actually found his film conveniently untruthful in many ways.  The film converted me from a mild global warming believer into a confirmed skeptic.

In the film, Mr. Gore blamed the Katrina event, and tropical cyclones all over the world on man caused global warming.  His argument was based on the notion that the oceans are warmer so hurricanes are much worse since they form over oceans.

Unfortunately for Mr. Gore, his favorite UN agency, the IPCC disagrees.  They state in their 2007 Synopses Report that most of the recent warming has occurred over land in northern climates.  They also say there is no clear evidence that hurricanes have been impacted by anthropogenic global warming.  The do say it might happen in the future.

Hurricanes are tropical systems, they need warm water.  The tropics have not  warmed significantly in the last 50 years.  The warming of the oceans has been primarily in the the North Pacific, the North Atlantic and the Arctic.  Hurricanes don’t form there.

Maybe I should cut Mr. Gore some slack, his film was released in 2006, and the IPCC Synopses Report was not released until 2007…but naaaa, Al should have known better.   I am never a fan of mixing politics and science…and Hurricane Katrina got the Al Gore science/political misinformation treatment in spades.

Many people are particularly upset by Mr. Gore’s politicizing of science with his extensive use of the Katrina event.  FEMA did a poor job, as did the mayor of New Orleans and the governor.  The Corps of Engineers and the civilian boards in New Orleans also made many judgment errors.

It was a case of many people not preparing for an event that everyone knew would come some day, an event that was not particularly extraordinary in a weather sense. Katrina was a Category 3 hurricane when it hit New Orleans.  It really is a story of failed human behavior. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves if it is wise to live below sea level adjacent to very warm water in hurricane country.

I know a good or a bad hurricane season doesn’t prove anything about global warming.  It is but a single data point ….and we need lots of data over a long period of time to really understand….but every year we don’t have a bad hurricane season,  Mr. Gore looks silly…and I like that.

PS.   We have had 6 relatively mild Atlantic Hurricane seasons in a row since Mr. Gore released his film.


Government silliness — Highway mileage markers

Friday the 13th, a good day to change things up a bit and talk about government silliness. Today’s subject… road signs.

Our newest interstate highways have mile markers every .1 or .2 of a mile.  Why?

We used to have mile markers every mile….seemed reasonable to me.  Then half mile markers made an appearance.  I was touring New Hampshire a few years ago  and saw my first .1 mile marker.  I figured New Hampshire is small and they must like to count everything they have.  The markers are showing up everywhere now.  I wonder if  sign companies and defense companies share lobbyists?

I have difficulty figuring out what problem is being addressed by the additional signs.  Governments love to spend money in the name of safety…but I can’t think of a safety angle here.  Were people getting lost in between mile markers on interstate highways?  At 70 miles an hour, and .1 mile spacing, a marker goes by every 5.2 seconds.

All I see are capital and maintenance costs rising.  Sure the installed cost of each sign is probably less than $100,  but if there is no benefit it is pure waste.  I can’t imagine a favorable cost/benefit analysis cost argument.

In Ohio, and other places too I’d guess, there is a sign along the curve on cloverleaf off ramps.  The sign is  a label for the off ramp. One might  say   E 270  S Sawmill Road ramp or something equivalent telling the reader the off ramp they currently occupy.

I am at a loss, I cannot for the life of me understand why the sign is there.    The signs are small and come at you quickly which makes them difficult to read.   I’m not too sure reading the sign while negotiating the off ramp is a good idea.   Perhaps there is another purpose.   OK, but what could it be?

There is a stretch of the Pali Highway in Kailua, Hawaii that has 6 speed limit signs in a quarter mile section of the roadway.   There is no additional traffic entering the highway between these signs.   I wonder what the engineer that placed those signs must have been thinking.  Maybe he had an uncle in the sign business.

I have a theory for why this is happening.

All these projects are funded with Federal  Highway Trust Fund dollars.  The bureaucratic red tape associated with those  funds is substantial (I used to work on these projects so I have first hand experience).  That red tape encourages the various highway departments around the country to do a few large projects rather than many smaller ones because the red tape is a much bigger percentage of a small project’s total cost.

If they have a little extra money left over, they add crap to a big project.   It takes years to get a project approved…and having small projects in the wings to soak up extra money is just too much work.

States don’t want to return extra federal funds to the treasury….so they put crap they don’t want or need into the projects so they can spend the available  funds. After it has been added a few times,  the here to fore unwanted stuff  becomes a necessary part of all future road projects.

And as the states compare notes with each other, the dumb ideas work their way around the country.

Sometimes signs are just plain stupid.   The H1 Freeway in Honolulu used to have signs that said Do not throw rubbish over bridge.  Under the bridge or onto or off the bridge was OK, but not over.   A few years ago the signs were replaced with more pedestrian no littering signs and a fun little bit of Hawaiiana went away.  Every now and then I see one of the old signs on a bridge in an out of the way location and I smile.

March weather brings out Climate Boogie Men

Late last month I predicted that the warm March in the USA would become fodder for the global warming crowd even though the warming trend being seen in America didn’t exist anywhere else.  March statistically was an average month.

Monday, April 9, 2012 — The  AP ran a story titled –-Start of 2012, March shatter US heat records.  Here is the link to the story.

The first quarter of 2012 was extraordinarily warm in the 48 contiguous USA states because of a La Nina event.  The article provides some interesting data that supports the notion that this event is unprecedented in climate history…and then the boogie men arrive.

Everybody has this uneasy feeling. This is weird. This is not good,” said Jerry Meehl, a climate scientist who specializes in extreme weather at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

At the end of the article is a section blaming everything on global warming.

They seem to be falling far more often because of global warming, said NASA top climate scientist James Hansen. In a paper he submitted to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and posted on a physics research archive, Hansen shows that heat extremes aren’t just increasing but happening far more often than scientists thought.

What used to be a 1-in-400 hot temperature record is now a 1 in 10 occurrence, essentially 40 times more likely, said Hansen. The warmth in March is an ideal illustration of this, said Hansen, who also has become an activist in fighting fossil fuels.

I  found the article interesting.  Wow March was one odd month in a small part of the world, the contiguous 48 states and more specifically the eastern half of the country.  Add Canada and Alaska to the regional mix and the data changes significantly…but this really was  the winter that wasn’t in the Eastern USA.

The article is full of SWAG.  Lots of scientists guessing about the significance of an event.

The end of the article offers a glimpse into the prejudices of the author.  It spends a bunch of time setting up the notion that Dr. Hansen is an expert in the field…and he is, but it does so dishonestly and it’s done with just one word.

Dr. Hansen has become an activist.  Give me a break.  Dr. Hansen has been the premier activist in the USA since the 1980’s.  He is featured in Al Gore’s film.  He testified at an Al Gore global warming dog and pony show when Mr. Gore was a Senator.  He is famous for his inflammatory remarks belittling climate skeptics.

He didn’t become a climate hawk recently.   He has been an advocate of a specific position for a long time.  He is a controversial character.  The word become makes the reader believe that Dr. Hansen has been converted from a different view, that he has changed his mind.  It makes him more believable.  It’s a small change, but not an insignificant one….and it’s not true.

Anchorage sets record snowfall total

Anchorage set a new seasonal snowfall record this past weekend.  The winter of 2011-2 is now the snowiest in history with 134.5 inches.  The Anchorage Daily News went nuts with lots of photos and a front page story.

We are in the middle of breakup….that time of year when the snow that has been hanging around since November starts melting.  Usually by the end of the month it’s all gone.  I for one am ready for Spring.  Now that we have the record, it can all melt…as soon as possible.  It is an attitude many Anchorage residents share.  We really wanted the record, but enough is enough. But this is Alaska; we’ll probably get one or two more snowy days before we officially quit counting.

We live in a wonderful world full of exaggeration.  Yes, we set a record, an all time record. It really is only a 97 year record, because we didn’t start counting until 1915.   It was most likely quite a bit colder during the Revolutionary War than it is today.  There was just nobody around to take measurements.

This preoccupation with records that don’t mean much is ever present in the Arctic.  Whenever I see or hear anyone talk about record melting in the Arctic, I remind myself that the records are only about 33 years old.    Give me a break.

Climate has so much variation from time to time and place to place.   I live the part of the world that is supposed to be the most changed by global warming, and it was until about 2005.  Small data sets, wild predictions,  records everywhere.

Welcome to the world of Climate SWAG.

Carbon Dioxide and Pollution – A Political Construct?

Whenever I think of carbon dioxide as a pollutant I become puzzled.  Carbon dioxide is a building block of life.   No carbon dioxide means no plants which means no oxygen which means no humans.  I am used to thinking of pollutants as poisons and carbon dioxide doesn’t fit.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas…but greenhouse gases are good.  Without greenhouse gases we’d have a climate more like the moon.  Not exactly a friendly place for humans.  The global warming doomsayers argue that it is possible to have too much carbon dioxide….but how much is too much?

Pollution is defined as a discharge of a harmful substance.  And too much carbon dioxide can make the planet warmer than it would otherwise be…but is that necessarily harmful?  At least so far, global warming has been, on balance, beneficial.

Too much of just about anything is bad.   It is possible to drink so much water that you kill yourself….but that doesn’t make water a poison.

So, how much is too much? I don’t know, but I’ll go a step further –  anybody that thinks they know is guessing.  Climate science is extraordinarily complex. Climate models don’t predict the recent past (say the last 1000 years) very well.  They have problems with the medieval warming period and the little ice age.   C’mon guys…at least admit to a bit of SWAG here.

We live on a planet that has a climate that warms and cools in a cycle that lasts about 100,000 years.  Most of the time it is cooler than today.  The Earth’s climate changes all by itself and we do not understand that process well enough to model it accurately.  And since we can’t model it we don’t know whether the warming we have been seeing in recent centuries is normal or man-made or both.  We are guessing.

The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted .2 degree C warming in the first 10 years of the new century and they predicted another .2 degree C by the end of 2019, in less than 7 years.   And that prediction was based on carbon dioxide levels lower than we have right now.  So far, there has been no net warming in the 21st century.

It is possible the IPCC  have got the man-made global warming science exactly right…and they have the background noise that is natural climate variation completely wrong.   Hmmmm.  I’d be surprised, but it is a possibility (but don’t bet on it).  If that were the case, carbon dioxide would be saving us from a colder world.

You make your guess, I’ll make mine…and we’ll meet in 10,000 years and see who’s right!

April 1998 — Warmest month in history?

A few years ago I did a bunch of research on global temperatures.  I have this vague memory that April 6th 1998 was the warmest day in the UAH (University of Alabama Huntsville) satellite troposphere data base.  I was going to use that day as the basis of a post on climate data.

Well I couldn’t find the data I was looking for, but I did find multiple discussion items written in  February of 2010 using the UAH website data to tout January of 2010 as the warmest month ever and proof that global warming theory was correct.  People talked about all sorts of things, but the UAH January 2010 data was the source of celebration.

When I first started looking at global temperature data I was surprised by the nature of the data.  Each month can vary quite a bit from the month before.  Annual changes can be very large too.   NASA has global surface temperature records that go back to 1866.  In 1879, the temperature dropped .43 degree C in a single year.

UAH data shows a slower rate of warming than the other three websites that measure world temperatures via satellite.  The difference is small but there is a difference..and the scientists at UAH have been among the more skeptical of scientists that work in the field.  So if they show warming ……

Here is the UAH data that was being used, updated to include February 2012 data.

C’mon guys….a single data point doesn’t prove anything one way or the other….and it looks to me like April of 1998 was warmer than January of 2010 anyway.  But there it was, one opinion piece after another, trying to use a single data point to prove a position.

Climate data has wild fluctuations and the data sets are small.  Too many people are trying to use individual data points in wildly fluctuating small data sets to prove whatever point they want to make.  Always a bad idea.  And just about everybody talking global warming science does it all the time.   Al Gore loves to do it, so does Bill Mahr and Sean Hannity …and they all are making the same mistakes.

Satellite data is only 33 years old, the Ice Age we currently live in is 2.5 million years old.   20,000 years ago it was much colder than it is today (probably 10 degrees C colder) and 130,000 years ago it was much warmer (probably 6 degree C warmer).  And sudden rapid warming and cooling is present all throughout the cycle.

The IPCC (the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) loves to use short term data to predict climate years into the future.   In their 2007 Climate Synopses Report, the IPCC states that the warming of the late 20th century gave them greater confidence that global warming theory was correct.  Do they have less confidence now…just 5 years later…when their short term predictions for 2010 turned out to be wrong.

Canada dumps the penny, go Canada

I was looking for an excuse to write about my second favorite subject in the world, government waste…when the calendar cooperated.  April Fools Day.  Perfect.

I’ll warn you ahead of time, I’m a bit nuts on this subject.

Canada has just announced that they will no longer make the penny.  It costs the government 1.6 cents to make a penny and Canada is losing 11 million dollars a year manufacturing the item.  In 2011 the US Mint manufactured 4.9 billion pennies and lost a cool $50 million dollars in the process….and we loose money on the nickel too.

The penny has been the lowest denomination coin available since 1858 when the Philadelphia mint quit manufacturing the half penny.   Inflation has worked its magic over time and the lowly penny of 1858 would  have the equivalent buying power of  $2.80 today.

As I think back to 1858, eliminating the half penny was the modern day equivalent or rounding to the nearest $1.40…and cash was the only way to pay.

We haven’t changed the shape or value of coins in over 100 years.  Sure we keep trying to get Americans to use a dollar coin…but we do it so stupidly.   Message to Uncle Sam…the dollar coin needs to replace the dollar bill not supplement it.  People are creatures of habit and we are going to keep using paper dollars as long as they are available.

But no…we make both ….and then run commercials trying to get people to switch….and then when they don’t….we store the coins in vaults…because we don’t have the wherewithal to get rid of the paper dollar.   Lucky thing we live in a credit card world.   We really don’t need coins…or currency for that matter.  Just charge it!

We really need to start over when it comes to coins….and currency too.  A good place to start would be to dump the penny and nickel and stop manufacturing the paper dollar.   I’d add a $5 coin too if I were king.   And a $500 bill.  Inflation exists and will continue.  If we assume 3% inflation, then the currency loses 50% of its value every 26 years….we might as well get started, it’s only going to get worse.

I’d be the first to admit that in a world of trillion dollar budget deficits, a billion here and a billion there doesn’t add up to much….but little every bit helps.