Thursday, April 30, 2009

The EGU review part 3

On to Tuesday...

The monthly-seasonal-decadal prediction session was quite interesting. The pick of the bunch was Weigel's medal lecture, which explored various issues relating to ensemble systems, such as why adding even bad models to a multimodel systems will generally improve overall performance (mainly by increasing ensemble spread and reducing overconfidence, it seems). He also talked about weighting different models - a hot topic in climate change prediction - and proposed a new intuitive way of evaluating prediction skill (which met with some objections, to be fair). There were other possibly contradictory presentations concerning the possibility of skillful predictions much beyond one year, which still seems a challenge. Of course these people are aiming at prediction of the seasonal anomaly, which is not the same thing as predicting changes in the mean climate.

In the ocean temp and salinity session Syd Levitus presented a new analysis of ocean heat content, based on various corrections to the observations. He claimed it all made little difference to the overall trend, but I reckon there are more subtle effects (relating to the decadal variability) that will actually be quite important to users. In the feedbacks session, Bates's medal lecture was a bit of a disappointment to me. He spent a long time going on about how there were numerous incompatible definitions of "feedback" in the literature. Although I'm sure the basic issue is well known it seems to be a bit more subtle than I had realised, and I'm relieved to see it is not just a climate science issue. He then went on to talk about Lindzen's iris model, praising it as elegant although a bit limited. He described how he had added some more realistic elements to represent dynamical effects...and had to rush through the last few slides so fast that I don't actually know what results he ended up with! Grrr. I got the impression the sensitivity was higher, though.

Lunchtime was the business meeting for the climate division. A fair bit of routine stuff (CL is still going well, growing fast and now the 3rd largest division in the EGU in terms of abstracts submitted) but there was also the Exxon kerfuffle that I mentioned previously. I really don't know how this is going to work out. I find it hard not to be deeply suspicious of the whole thing - why Exxon alone, and what is the EGU actually gaining from it? I also couldn't resist a quick poke of the embers regarding the journal Climate of the Past. This is officially the journal of the division but the division's full title is "Climate of the past, present and future" and a careful reader might observe an incompatibility between the two that excludes a fair proportion of the division members' interests, including most of mine! What makes it more amusing, this year they are planning a special issue with papers from the medal lecturers, including today's talk which is firmly in the numerical weather prediction camp. But this issue came up a couple of years ago, and I don't have a good solution. CP is rapidly becoming one of the best paleoclimate journals, so I can certainly sympathise with the current editors not wanting to tinker with it, and I'm not sure if there is really a niche for a "Climate of the present and future", let alone sufficient energy to run it. But something like that would be a nice forum for more open discussion of issues in climate change and prediction. We'll see how things go...

Dinner was a slice of pizza in our room, cos jules had to prepare her talk for the following day. The life of a jet-setting scientist is all glamour!

[jules' pics] 4/29/2009 07:27:00 PM

Extreme gardening, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

On the face of it not a very striking photo, but forget Extreme Climate, or Extreme Ironing, Extreme Gardening rules in Japan. Balanced on a ladder you remove about a third of the needles from every sprout of pine needles over the whole tree. Repeat for each pine tree in huge garden. Nice cup of green tea when you're done, or a hospital trip if you reach the tipping point first. (Garden of Nijo Castle, Kyoto)

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/29/2009 07:27:00 PM

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The EGU review part 2

OK, on with the show.

Oh, actually, I have one more thing to say about Vienna. It was amazingly, disgustingly, smoke-ridden. I was astonished at how bad it was, or else how intolerant I have become. It seemed that every public space was thick with the stuff, and the smokers had absolutely no consideration for how they behaved and dropped their fag-ends wherever they wanted (even in smart public parks like the Schonbrunn Palace, when there was a bin a few yards away). It made me realise that Japan has really come a long way in the time I've been here, as it is basically fine here now, with a handful of exceptions. Rant over.

With the EGU being so big and busy (and not providing much in the way of info on the ground), it's helpful to be at least partially organised before you turn up. The program is on the web, with a half-decent interface to pick interesting sessions/talks (only half decent, becuse there was no author search and neither was there an effective means to delete a whole session once it had been picked). So we had spent our last afternoon at work doing that while waiting for our posters to print.

Monday for me started with some nonlinear time series stuff. There's generally some interesting maths in the NP sessions, but nothing really caught my attention here. The only thing I noted was about synchronising models via chaos which is an idea that's been around for a few years, and I'm sure it could be valuable if it works in realistic applications (ie synchronising an imperfect model to reality, using limited and imprecise observations). Next came a session on Holocene climate, which I didn't get much from either.

Straight after lunch, Stefan Rahmstorf gave a well-attended talk on ocean circulation in the open session. He argued pretty convincingly that no-one had really shown the meridional overturning was stable, the tests involving GCMs have been somewhat limited and there are arguments for at least some of them being biased in a stable direction. Although the case was well made, one might think that if GCMs really could reproduce this behaviour, then someone would have found it by now - even if the testing is not fully comprehensive (it can't be, for computational reasons) a lot of people have put a lot of effort into looking for it!

Last afternoon session was Extreme Climate (like extreme ironing, perhaps). Geert Jan van Oldenborg presented his new theory that the anomalous warming in Europe was actually largely due to aerosol reductions, not the ocean mixed layer theory he was pushing last time I saw him. This now seems mainstream, I think - and implies that future warming in this area will probably be relatively slower for the next couple of decades. I wonder if various people will try to pin the hot summer of 2003 on all these awful pollution reduction policies and technologies that were obviously directly responsible for thousands of deaths? I'm not holding my breath!

The evening session was taken up with posters again. This means fewer speaking slots, but it also means the posters are more fun than they used to be, because basically all the climate people are there at the same time. Oh, the free wine helps too (not that it's much good or even very copious, before I get accused of living it up).

[jules' pics] 4/29/2009 05:55:00 AM

eurotrash, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Funny lights, lots of metal piping, and music a bit like J-Pop is how the Eurotrash while away the evenings. Apparently.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/29/2009 05:55:00 AM

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The EGU review part 1

Since I'm going to go through my notes to ward off jetlag and remind myself of things to check up on (and any unwise promises I might have made in the poster sessions), I might as well put some thoughts here too. (Oh, I should put link to another post which has a list of blogging contributions, in case no-one saw Hank's previous comment.)

First, some comments about Vienna. It's a delightful city to visit and we really enjoyed our trip. Having been before makes it less exciting than a new destination might be, but also more relaxing in terms of getting around and having some ideas of what to see and where to eat. Like the last time we went 2 years ago, Jules's Dad came too (he's a solar-terrestrial type, we have thoughts of turning him into a climate sceptic and getting him to write a book, but that's another story). According to Jamstec's silly rules, we are not allowed to take any holiday while on a business trip, but we can have a day for jetlag recovery and the conference officially started on Sunday (registration) so we flew on Friday and had two pretty full days of sightseeing, including Schonbrunn Palace (hint: arrive at opening time).

We had also managed to get tickets for the Vienna Symphoniker and found a free organ recital so the week was not all hard work and no play. But it was scheduled to be 6 full days (I'll explain later), often 8:30 - 7pm (still with dinner to find after) and sometimes later, and we did attend the first talk each day. Not bad on 7 hours of jetlag. Luckily there's a direct flight Tokyo-Vienna (and the airport is handy for the city, unlike here) which makes the travelling as painless as it could be.

Next: on to the conference itself...

[jules' pics] 4/27/2009 07:28:00 PM

karlsplatz, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

James won't blog much this week. He is busy finishing a paper which has a deadline, while the fiery angel of jetlag attempts to thwart him. (ceiling of Karlskirche, Vienna)

[but he does have time to fix your spelling - ed]

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/27/2009 07:28:00 PM

Monday, April 27, 2009

[jules' pics] 4/27/2009 02:03:00 AM

EGU, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Typical jules-eye-view at the EGU. There is a talk going on somewhere at that glowy bit in the distance. As you can see scientists dress dull. This is so as to not distract from the beauty of the science.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/27/2009 02:03:00 AM

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

[jules' pics] 4/22/2009 01:13:00 PM

EGU The Exodus
Originally uploaded by julesberry2001
This is what happens when I stand up to speak at a meeting. They call it "The Exodus". Actually it's not just a jules effect but common experience for those who speak directly after an EGU "medal" talk. You may be able to hear me taunting the departing throng, whose cruel response is to laugh. Apparently I should be encouraged that some waited until after my talk before finally fleeing the room.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/22/2009 01:13:00 PM


In case anyone hadn't realised, I'm at the EGU. I doubt I'll be liveblogging, partly because there's no time and partly because the internet connection is overwhelmed by the number of attendees. There are brief reports on the Nature Climate Feedback which seem to be capturing the most newsworthy sciency bits. However there is no sign there of the biggest story which may be the apparent lurch towards scepticism in the higher echeons of the EGU council (I blogged earlier, but it now seems a little worse than I thought).


Just in case anyone is puzzled as to what is going on, jules set up a photo blog with a nice template (no heading or sidebar clutter) which can be found here, but then we arranged it so her posts also get mirrored here. My version has more viewers but hers is prettier...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

[jules' pics] 4/21/2009 01:39:00 PM

Tiger, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

My talk tomorrow directly follows a "medal" talk by a famous person. Expect to be mauled. (The kitten lives at Schonbrun zoo, Vienna)

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/21/2009 01:39:00 PM

[jules' pics] 4/21/2009 01:36:00 PM

EGU, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Abandoned the architectural chaos of Japan for the refined historical beauty of Vienna. Or as James described it, "Shinagawa without the cute bits".

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/21/2009 01:36:00 PM

Sunday, April 19, 2009

[jules' pics] 4/18/2009 10:23:00 PM

nanzenji, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

My own rubbish attempt at capturing the quintessence of Kyoto sakura (cherry blossom). Nanzenji in early April.

Posted By jules to jules' pics at 4/18/2009 10:23:00 PM

Friday, April 17, 2009

Who needs a gym membership?

Says the Guardian, suggesting that people should be able to go to their local park for an outdoor workout. That'll catch's not as if people could just jog to the park, then round it, and home again, without the need for expensive equipment that will need maintained. Or alternatively, just ride their bikes to work and forget about all this silly "working out" nonsense altogether :-)

In a related vein:

"Let's have a moment of silence for every American stuck in traffic on their way to a health club to ride a stationary bicycle" - Representative Earl Blumenauer, US Congress

Not forgetting:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

I'm shocked, simply shocked...

...that people can pretend to be shocked at the police assaulting members of the public - some protesters, some simple passers-by - at the recent G20 demonstrations in London. Of course the police beat people up! Given the mix of testosterone-filled males, truncheons, and de facto legal immunity, what other outcome could anyone possibly expect? I don't even see that the current crop of videos show anything particularly egregious - of course it's unfortunate that one victim died, but that was obviously a bit of bad luck - even if they did beat him up gratuitously it's not as if they actually shot him for carrying a table leg or being the wrong colour, or deliberately ran him down at high speed with a car. The miners' strike was another glorious example of policing at its finest, and those with long memories will recall the Birmingham Six appearing in court bloodied and bruised after their "interviews". It's always happened, and always will. So why the faux outrage now? I'm genuinely puzzled.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Comment on "Aerosol radiative forcing and climate sensitivity deduced from the Last Glacial Maximum to Holocene transition", by P. Chylek and U. Lohmann

It's now finally published and can be found here.

We did get a comment from C&L which can be found here, which seemed to us like a rather weak attempt at a misdirection. They bring up the point that they used a range of temperatures, rather than a single value - a point that we were well aware of, having already replicated their analysis - but did not address the rather more important issue that the temperature ranges they calculated were based on extreme outliers in the noisy data set (which were not even contemporaneous with the extreme outliers they used for the dust values).

You can judge for yourselves how taxing a task it would have been for the GRL editor to continue to deal with this manuscript in the usual manner rather than deciding (as I mentioned here) that it was all too much like hard work after getting a set of reviews. I can only imagine that the reason the original paper got published in the first place is that none of the original reviewers even considered the possibility that C&L might have done something so startlingly inappropriate in their selection of data points, and did not think the calculation actually needed checking in detail.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Earthquake prediction

In case anyone was wondering whether there was anything to that supposed "prediction" of the recent Italian earthquake, Piers Corbyn's advocacy of the cause should settle the matter...

"The tragic Earthquake death toll in L'Aquila Italy is due to criminal arrogance of authorities who ignored the well-founded warnings of an earthquake-scientist; and this isn't the first time that authorities and governments have ignored well-founded serious warnings based on sound science* " said Piers Corbyn astrophysicist

(blah blah blah repeat ad nauseam)

Although I have no particular expertise, I do suspect there may be something to at least some of the various "precursor" theories. However, the obvious point, as many bloggers have mentioned, is that a "warning" that is vague enough to be a week (or more) wrong and in the wrong place to boot is completely useless, even if such predictions occasionally provide enough of a coincidence to be superficially attractive. I'm not at all surprised to see Piers's enthusiasm for it, as it closely mirrors his own modus operandi.