31 May 2013

Saturn's Hurricane

Many articles and blog posts about Saturn's north polar hurricane.  I'll point you to the NASA press release for some viewing and discussion of the Saturn side of things.

No complete answer here, but I'll raise the flag that one of the movies and set of papers I watched and read in graduate school was under the title "The Range and Unity of Planetary Circulations".  Additional flag: my bachelor's degree was in applied mathematics.  We argued that if you understood the mathematics behind things, you could rapidly move from one area where a certain math applied to any other area where it applied.  Geophysical Fluid Dynamics is one such.  Notwithstanding the name, it applies to any area where you have a fluid on a rotating body -- whether it's Saturn, the earth, the Sun, or Venus.

Coincidentally, I've been playing with a fluid dynamic model, nominally of the earth, but it could be Saturn just as well, and have a movie which I'm still trying to figure out how to share.  This movie has some characteristics which look a lot like the press release.

30 May 2013

The world is very small

We all run in to plenty of situations which make us think or notice that the world is a very small place. Last week gave me yet another example, though in a bit I'll be challenging you to do some examination to see just how surprising it really is.

 The smallness of the world comes from this photo of Genevieve (Jenny to family) Ramsey getting her Master of Fine Arts from Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina last week. I was down for my wife's graduation from the program, but ran in to Genevieve, who's looking (my wife said) a decade younger than she had in January.
Small world aspect: I mentioned my interest in weather/climate, and she mentioned her nephew and his father who also are. Turns out one is Steve Skolnik (I guess this is the father), who is also proprietor of Capital Climate, a blog to which I link over in the blogroll, and whom I've met in 3d.

Do keep an eye out for Genevieve's memoirs when they get published.  The first book includes autobiography, and her fight with cancer (hence looking so much better now).

The challenge aspect:

17 May 2013


Lots going on in the blogosphere, little of which I'll really take up in favor of mentioning that I'll be visiting Charlotte, NC next week.  Any of you in the area are welcome to drop me a note and maybe show me the area some.  If there's a Science Cafe in the area with an opening, I'd be glad to stop in and chat.

In the mean time, I've continued at a slow pace my work on the ESMR sea ice.  See the comment by MMM about the progress that the NSIDC has made on integrating it to the record with other satellites.  That's no reason to stop my effort here, though, because we're always better off if there are more lines of evidence, or more mehtods of analyzing the data, that independently come to the same conclusion.  Or, perhaps, it turns out that they don't support the same conclusions.  Either way, we learn something, which is the key for science.

A major European effort to re-examine prospects on sea level rise has completed and announced figures higher than the IPCC 4th report, but lower than some of those considered possible previously.  See ice2sea for details.

A 'citizen science' effort from Skeptical Science has confirmed the unsurprising, to those of us reading the scientific literature, that the overwhelming majority of the scientific literature either doesn't mention whether climate change is occurring and is human-caused, or that it supports the conclusion.  See 97% consensus for the details on what they did.

Climate change, by way of sea level rise, is starting to get attention of towns in the US, as Newtok, Alaska is now facing exile from its traditional locale since it'll be under water in the next few years.  I'm actually involved in a proposal that'll help provide improved information for the west coast of Alaska.  Doesn't affect this situation, but some towns farther inland, or where sea level isn't as obvious a factor, might be helped in their decision process.

The one-sided political divide continues on climate science.  Barry Bickmore, scientist and former GOP party official in Utah, has replied to a former GOP senator about the science.

Some time in the last week or two, we've reached 400 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere.  On the one hand, it's a milestone of sorts; the digits ticked over a round number.  On the other hand, there hasn't been a question of whether we would do so for over 30 years.  Purely a question of when.  As many have noted, levels have not been this high in human history.  Now, if you take history to mean the written record of 10,000 years, that's true, but no surprise.  We've been past the highest levels in history ever since the industrial revolution.  Call it the 280 ppm of 'pre-industrial'.  It's more surprising if you consider that it's longer than our species has existed -- the about 200,000 years 'anatomically modern' humans been around.  And, for that matter, we didn't see such levels even in our ancestors' times, for Homo erectus, back to around 1.8 million years.  Last time such levels existed is perhaps 2.5 million years ago, when the nearest thing to us was Homo habilis -- a species with less than half our brain size, and averaging perhaps 1.3 m tall (Wikipedia).

01 May 2013

Assessing forecasts

This is actually part of pursuing whether ESMR was screwy, but I decided that to show that nothing was up my sleeve, it was time to talk some about assessing forecasts.  That, and it's something I've been meaning to talk about for a while.  The thing is, forecast assessment is not nearly as simple as we sometimes think.  Having judged many a science fair project that is comparing weather forecasts, I've seen many of the same issues come up there, too.

For precipitation forecasts, people (science fairs included) often think about either 'probability of detection' -- i.e., what fraction of the time that there's rain did the weather forecast call for rain, and 'false alarm rate' -- what fraction of the time did you get no rain even though the forecast called for rain.  Both are potentially meaningful, and both have serious problems if used alone.