Monday, April 13, 2009

9th Inning Comeback at the Post

The Washington Post has finally published its own climate-related editorial. There's no mention of the foolish George Will columns, and it's limited to a single issue, but still, it's welcome:
Make no mistake, Arctic Sea ice is melting.
Global warming is doing a number on Arctic Sea ice. The [NSIDC] report noted that the Arctic winter was 1.8 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than average. This and other factors are causing the surface ice to melt. That ice is vital for reflecting the light and heat of the sun. Without it, the heat warms the Arctic Ocean, which then melts the ice below the surface of the water.
It remains to be seen whether or not Mr. Will will begin his next column with "Morons!", the witty and elegant retort of so many global warming critics' blog comments.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

AGW Critics: Short Term Trends Are Not Your Friends

I ran across a nice post on the excellent Open Mind blog that shows with absolute clarity why the "cooling trend" of the last decade or so has no relevance to global warming. I've posted about this before, using a similar technique, but Open Mind goes into considerably more detail.

What's nice about these analyses—Open Mind's and, humbly, my own—is that the demonstrations have nothing specifically to do with global warming. The data are not climate data, and it doesn't matter what you think about climate change. They're just common-sense math. They can't be obfuscated with charges of sensor data inaccuracy or urban heat island effects or global conspiracies of grant-happy scientists or any of that. They are what they are.

Here the Cliff's Notes version of the Open Mind post.

Open Mind's author, Tamino, programs a set of data points to have a small upward trend (simulating global warming) and then superimposes on that a bit of "noise" (random upward and downward deviations, simulating weather). If you look at the whole graph, you can see the trend clearly, despite the noise:

Then he steps into the role of Global Warming Critic and takes a subset of the data, starting with "1998" (see the blog for why Tamino labels this data point as "1998"):

Presto! An instant decade-long cooling trend! Global warming is a hoax!

Well, of course not. The long-term upward trend can't possibly be wrong, because it's built in. It's literally programmed into the model. It's as real as it gets.

What does this show? It shows very, very clearly that noise can easily hide a trend if you choose the right time span. In the case of weather "noise", it takes longer than a decade to average out and give you a true picture of the climate trend.

So, the next time your friendly neighborhood GW critic trots out "It's actually been getting cooler since 1998", you have even better information on your side. Nice job, Open Mind.

P.S.: For yet another take on the same concept, Andy Revkin of the New York Times has a good post on his Dot Earth blog.

Friday, April 3, 2009

April's Fool

Good ol' George Will, he's back for another try. Sort of like Charlie Brown and his neverending but hopeless quest to kick that football. And, just like C.B., he's never going to get it.

In his latest Washington Post windmill tilt, he goes after, of all things, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). Turns out that "some" of them—he doesn't bother with any numbers— don't last very long. Well, George, I have had "some" incandescent bulbs that didn't last very long either. I've had "some" of them blow out the first time I turned them on. Have you considered a column about that scandal?

He's also discovered that they contain mercury and should be disposed of properly. Apparently he's very concerned about the environment, so he worries about this. Some people might not do it right. There's no word, however, on whether or not he's equally concerned about the mercury that's been in all those fluorescent tubes that have been lighting offices and—gasp!—hospitals for so many decades. Or on whether he's worried about the mercury that goes into the air when you burn all the extra coal needed to run your inefficient, power-hungry incandescent bulb (which turns about 90% of its energy into heat)—mercury that gets dispersed into the landscape and is virtually impossible to clean up.

George seems unaware, too, that CFLs represent a transitional technology, one that will save energy until LED bulbs, which have all the benefits of CFLs but none of the drawbacks, are ready for home use.

While he's at it, George simply can't resist abusing the UN World Meteorological Office's data just one mo' time. He's a little more subtle about it than in his earlier columns; maybe he read one of the hundreds of blog entries that pointed out just how utterly wrong he was. Or the letter from the the head of the WMO itself that said the same. So this time he shoots for misleading instead of wrong—and he scores! Where he used to say that the WMO's data show no global warming since 1998, this time he goes with the more clever thought that, according to the WMO, "there has not been a warmer year on record than 1998." Well done! This one is technically true, but wholly misleading. He implies rather than states something that's factually incorrect. Brilliant!

Of course, it still doesn't mean anything. As Chris Mooney notes, "It’s absurd to assume that we’ll set a new temperature record each year, and that if we don’t, there’s nothing to worry about."
The brilliant cartoon is by Tom Toles of the Post. It's a Web-only cartoon that unfortunately did not appear in the newspaper.