Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Moving to WordPress

I'm moving this blog to WordPress. The new link is No particular reason other than because I can.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Extreme Events

Roger Pielke Jr has a great posting which comments on the testimony of Michael Oppenheimer from Princeton University and coordinating lead author of the IPCC special report titled Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation, to the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming of the US House of Representatives. He takes issue with Oppenheimer's assertion that "assignment of cause for the damaging outcomes of such extremes" is a relatively new field.

Pielke says:
In suggesting that this is a "new" field he notably avoids discussing a large body of literature such as on tropical cyclones (in the US, Australia, China, India, Latin America, etc.), floods, European storms, Australian bushfires, etc. where peer reviewed work has explained damage trends solely in terms of increasing societal vulnerability. Why is it so hard for IPCC authors to acknowledge any of this literature?

I like that. Good question.

I'm going to dig out my text books to find out when this field of extreme events became "mature", but in the 1970's we learned all about environmental "extreme" events like flooding in my undergraduate and graduate courses in Hydrology. We learned that the probability distribution of many extreme events could be reliably be modelled using the Gumbell Distribution. For homework, we gathered data on "extreme" floods, wave heights, etc. and plotted those events on Gumbell Distribution probability paper (we didn't have Excel in those days). The data usually lined up in a straight line which enabled us to extrapolate to longer periods of time than for which we had data. For example, we could take fifty years of real data on maximum river levels and use that data to extrapolate to the 100, 500, or even 1000 year flood. That would then provide a basis up which to design flood control structures. I learned at my first corporate job that Gumbell distribution also worked well with maximum ocean wave heights.

All that before the IPCC existed to tell us what we don't know.

How to Give a Version of the Truth

This is a posting I've been thinking I should write for quite some time. I'm prompted as I again saw this graph of CO2 in parts per million, as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii since the 1950's, used this week at the Royal Society of Edinburgh by the Lord Kreps.

The first graph is as published by NASA where they show vertical scale from about 315 to 400 parts per million. The second graph, based on "cherry-picking" the annual numbers, is on a scale from zero to 400 parts per million.

When one is told before seeing this graph that we have a problem with carbon and then we see the first graph, the concern is pretty much "proven" without discussion. If one were shown he second graph would not be more difficult to support the "problem" assertion? Neither graph shows the "ideal" number of carbon molecules we should have in parts per million, probably because nobody knows.

All this reminds me of that great book "How to Lie with Statistics".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Facing Up To Climate Change

This evening I attended the Royal Society of Edinburgh's lecture on "Facing Up to Climate Change" presented by The Lord Krebs Kt, FRS, FMedSci, Principal, Jesus College, University of Oxford. He's also a member of the House of Lord's Committee on Climate Change.

His message was clear

: the climate is changing--the proof is clear: rise of sea level, flooding, ocean acidity, etc. It's going to get hot, and hot is bad (extreme weather, uninhabitable regions of the world, etc.) And all this is caused by mankind.
: the science proving this "fact" is settled and beyond reproach, discussion, and "denial". (He said CRU was "exonerated", and he frequently used the word "denier" for those who do not agree with this assessment.)
: the key to solving this "problem" is to change mankind's behaviour to stop the climate changing.
: government's role is to ensure people to change their behaviour--probably via non coercive methods, e.g. psychological, because to do otherwise is politically impossible.
: buying "stuff" (consuming) does not lead to happiness and if mankind stops "unethical consumption", the horror of climate change will be prevented.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Electricity Collected from the Air Could Become the Newest Alternative Energy Source

It's headlines like this from what I thought were reputable science web sites that really p..s me off. As if this is ready for big investment now to fix our energy crisis. Oops. I can see it now. People will be pushing for the government to fund generation plants using this technology soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Great Tool For Writing

Dana Severance has written a good review of the of the great writing product "Scrivener". I'm doing more than a little writing at the moment on two projects: one is being done in Word and the other in Scrivener. Scrivener wins as a writers tool. Word 2011 comes out soon so we'll see how that compares with Scrivener 2.0 which comes out about the same time. There is no way that I can or will stop using Word as I have built up some valuable experience over the years, but Scrivener is so darn useful. Recommended.

Monday, August 16, 2010

We are so good about finding fault with those who have problems

This in the August 15th New York times talk about the risks associated with solar storms:

DESPITE warnings that New Orleans was unprepared for a severe hit by a hurricane, America was blindsided by Hurricane Katrina, a once-in-a-lifetime storm that made landfall five years ago this month. We are similarly unready for another potential natural disaster: solar storms, bursts of gas on the sun’s surface that release tremendous energy pulses.

Something in me tells me the world will not prepare/invest for this and when it happens we'll spend all our energy left on blame and court suits.

This is a risk that just feels like we should attempt to "manage" it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This is terrific

The Chief Scientist, Professor David MacKay, of the UK's Department of Energy and Climate change has released the "DECC 2050 Calculator."
This tool is an interface to the first version of a calculator to help policymakers, the energy industry and the public understand these choices. This work is not about choosing a pathway out to 2050 today — such a task would not be feasible given the major unknowns and timeframe involved. However, this work enables us to better manage some significant long-term uncertainties and helps us to avoid making long-term decisions that are incompatible with meeting our 2050 emissions target.
The tool is easy to access and easy to use. Within the assumptions and logic of the model, you can draw your own conclusions about the energy policies the UK should take.

They have released the source code for the tool. I'm going to take a look and see how they handled the probabilistic aspects of the modelling.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

What Engineering is Really About

There are so many reasons to remember what engineering is all about. It's not about fixing dishwashers, refrigerators, or computers. Engineering is an art. Engineering is a profession. More people need to learn how to think like an Engineer.

This NY Times article is recommended reading.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

And Why Can't Computers Work Better

In June I was asked via email to renew my membership in PMI (Project Management Institute). I renewed within a day of the that email. I've been happy with the benefits of being a member of PMI.

Since then, they must have sent me at least a dozen reminders ... email and postal mail, to remind me that my membership is soon to expire and that I should renew immediately. Sigh. I have.

I wish they had programmed their computers to work better than this. I wonder if they used PMBOK for their project to implement the renewable process.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Let's get Steve to England

I contributed to Steve McIntyre's trip to England to participate in the Guardian's Pearce Inqury. He would be pleased if you did same.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

iOS4 intall took about 90 Minutes...

I don't know why it took so long and I don't know if this normal or not. The install process took about 90 minutes or so. Maybe my sync wire is going bad and the whole time was spent on data communication errors or something. I don't know. Read a book while watching it go, so it was not a complete waste of time.

But boy is this a good upgrade for the iPhone:
  • Camera now has an electronic zoom. In the spirit of "the best camera is the one you have with you", this is a great feature which makes the camera more useful.
  • Folders for grouping start up icons. Good for usability
  • Mail has some upgrades which allows you to read all mail in all accounts from one view. I need to monitor a number of accounts and this is useful. At first glance, though, it's not clear how to tell which account the mail actually resides in. This would be needed to help me understand who I am when I reply.

Monday, June 21, 2010

iOS 4 ... trying to Install it. Seems a slow process.

My iTunes invited me to download and and install the new operating system to my iPhone, iOS 4. I said "yes, do it" and the computer and the iPhone are working on it as I write this.

It was a pretty big download taking about 10 minutes on the wireless connection to the house's broadband.

Now iTunes reports it's backup the iPhone. It appears to be much slower than a normal backup of the iPhone. In about 20 minutes of backup, it's progressed to what the progress bar suggests is about 5% or so. I suspect it might take all night. I'm glad it's the end of the day and I can just let the two gadgets work on it overnight.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weather Great. Reading about Climate Change

The weather has been great this weekend and outside of a bike ride and a walk along the sea front I've enjoyed the time reading a couple of books which I recommend to anyone interested in the debate about climate change and energy for our planet:

"Climatism", by Steve Goreham

Both books are superbly written. For where I feel I am informed and understand the current issues and state of play both books are in line with my thinking. This gives them great credibility as they explain so much that is still new or still not understood. They talk of both the science and politics of the issues.