Monday, January 31, 2011

[jules' pics] Four flavours of ume

ume on black

ume on orange

ume on blue
ume on blue

ume on green

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/31/2011 04:09:00 AM

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Uncertainty on uncertainty

So Judith is going on about probability and uncertainty again, this time on the back of our "new" paper (which as you can see from its title page, was actually submitted in 2008 and previous versions of which date back a lot further). I suppose this is further evidence that the dead tree version actually means something to a lot of people. As jules suggests, I may have recalibrate my opinion about the benefits of being talked about :-)

Judith doesn't seem to like Bayesian probability. Well, that's her opinion, and it does not appear to be shared by the majority. To be clear, I don't object at all to people trying more esoteric approaches. Indeed we were quite explicit in sidestepping this debate in the paper, which does not attempt to argue that the Bayesian way is the only way. What I do object to is people throwing away the Bayesian principle on the basis of inadequate analyses. If it is to be shown inadequate, let that at least be on the basis of decent attempts.

Perhaps a useful way to think about a Bayesian analysis is that rather than magically providing us with (probabilistic) answers, it is merely a rational process to convert initial assumptions into posterior judgements: thus establishing that the posterior is only as credible as the inputs. One obvious way to test the robustness of the posterior is to try different inputs, and (subject to space constraints and the whims of reviewers) we tried to be pretty thorough in both this paper and the earlier "multiple constraints" one in GRL. People often think this just means trying different priors, but other components of the calculation are also uncertain and subjective. I've also tried to be as explicit as possible in encouraging others to present alternative calculations, rather than either blindly accepting or rejecting our own. I'm aware of a couple of reasonably current observationally-based analyses from people who were certainly aware of our arguments, and they generated estimates for the equilibrium sensitivity of ~1.9-4.7C (Forest/Sokolov group) and ~1.5-3.5C (Urban and Keller, Tellus 2010). (I read those values off their graphs, they were not explicitly presented). Like I said, it is going to be interesting to see how the IPCC handles this issue, as all these papers strongly challenge the previous consensus of the AR4.

The stuff Curry quotes at length about the lack of "accountable" forecasts (the term is a technical one) is basically a red herring. Accountable forecasts are not available for daily weather prediction either, or indeed any natural process known to man, but that does not prevent useful (and demonstrably valuable) probabilistic forecasts being made. In fact the lack of an accountable forecast system doesn't even prevent perfectly reliable (or at least arbitrarily close to perfectly reliable) probabilistic forecasts being made. What it does mean is that we need to be careful in how we make and interpret probabilistic forecasts, not least so that we don't throw out something that is actually useful, just because it does not reach a level of perfection which is actually unattainable. Which is somewhat ironic, given Judith's interpretation of what was written.

Judith summarises with "I don't know why imprecise probability paradigms aren't more widely used in climate science. Probabilities seem misleading, given the large uncertainty."

I believe the reason why these paradigms aren't more widely used because people have not yet shown that they are either necessary or sufficiently beneficial. I believe that in many areas, a sensible Bayesian analysis will generate reasonable and useful results that are adequately robust to the underlying assumptions, and I think our own sensitivity analyses, and the results I've cited above, bear this out (in the specific case of the climate sensitivity). If Judith wishes to make the case for other methods doing a better job here, she is welcome to try. In fact I've been waiting for some time for her to make a substantive contribution to back up her vague and incoherent "Italian flag" analysis. Merely handwaving about how she doesn't believe Bayesian analyses won't convince many people who actually work in this area. At least, that is my subjective opinion on the matter :-)

As a calibration of the value of her opinion, it's telling that she refers to the awful Schwartz 2007 thing as a "good paper". This was of course critically commented on not only by yours truly (along with Grant Foster, Gavin Schmidt, and Mike Mann), but perhaps more tellingly by Knutti, Frame and Allen - with whom I have not always seen eye to eye on matters of probability, so when we agree on something that may probably be taken as robust agreement! Even Nicola Scafetta found something (else) to criticise in Schwartz's analysis. Even Schwartz admitted it was wrong, in his reply to our comments! But Judith remains impressed. So much the worse for her.

I also spotted a comment on her post a couple of days ago, claiming to have found a major error in our paper. I expect Judith will answer it when she has the time, if one of her resident experts doesn't beat her to it. I'm busy with a barrel of my own fish to shoot :-)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

[jules' pics] 1/29/2011 03:30:00 PM

masks all round, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

I think I'm turning Japanese I really think so...

Why? Because I didn't notice until later that everyone in the photo was wearing masks. I am not quite Japanese yet though, as I still cannot imagine why they were wearing masks in the clean air and uncrowded environment of a spacious Zen temple in Kamakura on a Saturday morning... The man at the back is quite alone, watering a private part of the garden with a hosepipe.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/29/2011 03:30:00 PM

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pielkes all the way down, revisited

Remember Pielke and Matsui 2005, Klotzbach et al 2009 and the debate over how plausible and valid their results were? You may recall my main complaint with PM05 (it wasn't my original observation, but I could see its significance) was that they had applied a large heat flux directly into the base of the atmosphere, which is not how GHGs work, but still claimed that their results were indicative of the effects of GHGs. Based on this implausible result, and some observations which were misinterpreted as supporting this theory (but which actually had the wrong sign) Klotzbach et al claimed that about 30% of the global temperature trend might be an artefact.

Well, a new paper has been published in JGR, Screen level temperature increase due to higher atmospheric carbon dioxide in calm and windy nights revisited by Steeneveld et al. (including Roger Pielke Snr as last author). It's a modelling study which investigates how long-term 2m temperature trends (due to GHG increases) should vary with wind speed. Instead of using an analytic equation and implausibly pumping heat into the base of the atmosphere, they have used a realistic atmospheric and radiative transfer model.

The second-to last sentence of their abstract reads:
We find that the screen level temperature response is surprisingly constant for a rather broad range of both geostrophic wind speed (5–15 m s−1) and 10 m wind (2–4.0 m s−1).
Thus the central claim of PM05, which underpinned this entire edifice, is refuted. No doubt this will be spun as a glorious victory, in some quarters...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

[jules' pics] 1/26/2011 08:17:00 PM

Overflowing rubbish bin outside the Moscone Centre(*), just as the AGU morning session was starting. My jetlagged and coffee addled brain thought it looked startling similar to a giant frappuccino

(* If it's a "rubbish bin" it may as well be a "centre" too.)

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/26/2011 08:17:00 PM

Monday, January 24, 2011

You know it's too cold...

...when your Mac laptop won't even charge. Apparently the minimum operating temperature for these things is 10C.

Fortunately, other than charging, they seem to work fine at lower temperatures (at least down to 4C which is as cold as we've been here), and the CPU soon warms things up sufficiently for things to get back to normal. But jules wasted some time on various tasks like resetting the power management before we worked out what was going on.

This is what the conditions are inside our lounge, of course, both when we get up in the morning and when we come home from work. It's been a bit chilly recently, and with the fairly feeble hot air blower (air conditioner working in reverse, as a heat pump) it takes more than an hour to get the room - which is the only one we even attempt to heat - up to a comfortable temperature. Which isn't really that helpful, especially in the mornings. Why don't these things have a decent timer system so they can be set to switch on every day before we get up in the morning? (There is a timer of sorts, but it has to be reset every time in a "switch on in x hours" way which seems a bit primitive.) It's not even merely a case of getting a more powerful heater, as things are our fuse box blows when we dare to use the a/c, microwave and kettle at the same time thanks to the 4KW max rating of the WHOLE HOUSE. Yes, that's a fraction more than the equivalent of one 13A socket in the UK.

Rumour has it that in some colder parts of Japan, they have actually heard of insulation and heating. Lucky them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Thanks but...(2)

Another for the annals of useless invitations. It is not rare to receive publishing mill spam - usually from Hindawi, inviting me to publish my esteemed research in one of their obscure and unread journals - on payment of a publication fee, of course. I don't usually take too long pondering their generous offers, to put it politely.

Recently, I got one for a new journal "Natural Science" published by SCIRP, which I had not heard of. Helpfully, their email included a list of current contents. One article in particular caught my attention: On the recovery from the Little Ice Age, by Akasofu.

I think that tells me everything I need to know about their standards of peer review... (more digging uncovers that in fact the organisation seems to have form).

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

[jules' pics] 1/19/2011 12:56:00 AM

robai, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

The best way to soothe the disquiet caused by the uncontrollable Japanese propensity to destroy their environment is to use a longer lens. The ability to frame out the bad bits is surely why cameras are quite such a Japanese success story.

[waxed plum (robai) blossom infront of some temple buildings, Hokaiji, Kamakura]

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/19/2011 12:56:00 AM

Better late...

As I was promised recently, our (non-)uniform prior paper has officially appeared in dead tree format in the January issue of Climatic Change. Abstract below, and you can find it on my web site. It was waiting for a commentary which doesn't seem to have happened. I'm not sure how I should feel about that: one the one hand, it's a relief that someone doesn't get a free shot at criticising it (not that I know what they were going to say), on the other, perhaps this is the one thing worse than being talked about. I'll be interested to see if the appearance of the paper version will attract more interest (citations), given that it was officially published on-line back in 2009 anyway. It seems that many (most? all?) people have accepted the argument, without explicitly referring to it. Eg Sokolov et al in their 2009 paper only used an expert prior, referring to their previous use of a uniform prior as merely a sensitivity analysis. However, in that previous work, it was actually the uniform prior case that was presented as the main result - and which was featured in the AR4 by the IPCC, who ignored my explicit request that the expert prior results should at least be mentioned therein. I realise our paper was not published when Sokolov et al was written, so I'm not criticising them for not citing us. It will be interesting to see how the IPCC authors manage this particular conundrum this time around.

The equilibrium climate response to anthropogenic forcing has long been one of the dominant, and therefore most intensively studied, uncertainties in predicting future climate change. As a result, many probabilistic estimates of the climate sensitivity (S) have been presented. In recent years, most of them have assigned significant probability to extremely high sensitivity, such as P(S gt 6C) gt 5%. In this paper, we investigate some of the assumptions underlying these estimates. We show that the popular choice of a uniform prior has unacceptable properties and cannot be reasonably considered to generate meaningful and usable results. When instead reasonable assumptions are made, much greater confidence in a moderate value for S is easily justified, with an upper 95% probability limit for S easily shown to lie close to 4°C, and certainly well below 6°C. These results also impact strongly on projected economic losses due to climate change.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nature goes open access

Not really, of course. But in what seems like an abrupt u-turn, they have started up a new open-access cash cow dumping ground for all those papers that can't get published in a "proper" journal. OK, of course I'm being a bit cynical here. Their paper charges seem comparable to PLoS One, which is the obvious (existing) competitor for their new venture. My cynicism is mostly based on Nature's previous well-documented hostility to such publishing models. It remains to be seen how many people are prepared to pay for the Nature name, and/or how this may affect the reputation of their existing journals.

The editorial policy of the new journal seems a bit confused. Up front, they say that the only criterion is that the paper should be "technically sound". However, in the more detailed guide for referees they also seem to use this phrase to refer to a pre-review check that the editor performs before sending out the paper to review (to a single reviewer). Anyway, the critical point is that they aren't making any judgment about the value of the paper, hoping instead that "Judgments about the importance of a paper will be made by the scientific community after publication."

It is interesting to compare and contrast with the EGU journals. These days, these are generally open access with the peer-review process also open (at least, the new journals seem to follow this system - there are some older journals which have not switched). The paper charges are rather lower, with a charge of only €24 per (small) page compared to $1350 per paper for PLoS and the same for the new Nature journal. Few papers are long enough for the former to exceed the latter. One slightly controversial (IMO) point with the EGU system is that this fee is charged at submission, not publication. This is logical enough from some respects but I would guess may cause some ill-feeling for those who feel their papers have been unfairly rejected. It certainly causes awkwardness with the admin in our institute justifying why we should pay a fee for the publication of what is a non-peer-reviewed document. Anyway, these EGU journals are designed as proper journals where papers are supposed to be interesting and significant, not merely technically sound. Several of them are relatively high impact within their fields.

The fat fee for the Nature papers is explicitly described as including "all expenses, including peer review". I wonder how they will respond to bills received from scientific peer-reviewers who may be increasingly tempted to claim their fair share of the fat profits that Nature expects to make on the back of their (currently) free labour. Of course that applies to all commercial publishing houses.

[jules' pics] 1/17/2011 09:13:00 PM

ume, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

As James remarked not long ago, the blossom is early this year. This is ume (plumish/apricoty blossom). The orange in the background is Egaratenjin. IMO, this photo looks best on a bright monitor, such that the background glows.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/17/2011 09:13:00 PM

Monday, January 17, 2011

[jules' pics] 1/16/2011 08:51:00 PM

Fuji-san, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Oh, it's beautiful after all!

There is not much in between Mitsutouge and Fuji-san, so on a clear day you might think you would get a great view. Fuji-san is certainly very big from Mitsutouge but the problem is that in winter the sun sits over Fuji-san at around noon, which is also when you reach the summit. This makes it impossible to get as clear a shot as one would like. On this amazingly clear day James gave it a go from part way up Mitsutouge. In summer of course, the air is much thicker, so the solution would seem to be to stay overnight at a hut on the summit, and do the sunrise thing...

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/16/2011 08:51:00 PM

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thanks but...

I was just listening to the news, when an email arrived, inviting me to a Tunis. Oh well.

(Of course, the meeting is some way off, and probably things will be OK by then, but in fact I have another engagement on the dates in question. Which is a shame as a trip to Tunisia would otherwise be very tempting.)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

[jules' pics] Fuji-san

Continuing the theme of beautiful views of Fuji-san...


Note the 3 mini-Fujis in the foreground, and the big one in the background.


The lesser spotted mountain pylon and Fuji-san.


Ubiquitous beautiful architecture carefully designed to blend in with the dramatic scenery.

I've also started a Fuji-san set on flickr.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/12/2011 05:40:00 PM

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

[jules' pics] 1/12/2011 05:05:00 AM

Yarigatake at sunrise, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Some people don't like top 10 lists, and reviews of the year. Personally I really like being reminded about the year just gone.

So I have again made a set of my favourites from 2010 - here they are. The set from 2009 is here.

I think this was the best shot - quite annoying for this electronics fan that it was taken on a cheap film camera with an exposure meter that didn't work with the lens, which is a cheap manual focus job from the 1980s. No way this will help James realise the necessity of new toys...

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/12/2011 05:05:00 AM

Sunday, January 09, 2011

First cherry

While some have been grumbling about the cold winter, we've been having fairly mild weather. In fact Tokyo dropping as low as 1.8C made the news last week, with the first frost being 27 days later than average. Out in the sticks here it's been a bit colder, but still fairly mild (the problem with winters here is not that they are cold, but that it's as cold inside the house as out). In fact I spotted the first cherry when walking back from town today. Didn't have a real camera (and jules didn't notice it when she passed by later) so you'll have to make do with what my iPod can manage:

Technically, it's not really the first cherry of the year for us, as there is one species that flowers rather feebly right through the winter (the Japanese name means "October cherry") and we saw a few flowers on the tree in Zuisenji at about 12:05 am on the 1st. But this one (Kawazuzakura) is one of the earliest of the spring species. The Kawazu cherry festival down on the Izu peninsula runs from early February, and though it's hardly in full bloom yet, I see that our equivalent photo from 2007 was taken more than a month later. I therefore deduce that we are having an unusually warm winter here.

US nuttery

Watching the film "The US vs John Lennon" last night" (not really our usual style, but it was Now Cheap on iTunes) it became more apparent to me than it was previously, that the US has had a surfeit of rabid violent nutters for a very long time indeed. Of course there is little motivation for the politicians to attempt to tame them, because they serve a useful purpose in enabling intimidation and even assassination by proxy. Not that the politicians are necessarily above the latter all the time anyway, but it's obviously more convenient and much cleaner if the trigger is pulled by some delusional nutcase rather than a directly paid operative.

And then this morning's news, of course, which is why a random cynical thought has actually turned into a blog post. Oh, I updated Sarah Palin's poster for her (original spotted on PZ Myers)

Friday, January 07, 2011

[jules' pics] Lion grins after snacking on little stoat

Lion on Wakamiyaooji, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Finally, proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. Stoaty shamelessly misattributed my diligent and wide reading of the scientific literature to James The Delinquent, of all people. Word count on the comments to that post: 1108. Would have been nice if it had happened here, but, well, wot's a girl to do...

The Lion lives on Wakamiaooji in Kamakura. I took this photo because doing so entailed lying down in the middle of the road in broad daylight. This is only possible for the first 3 days in January when the road is closed to motor vehicles.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/07/2011 12:07:00 AM

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Picture of the day

I know James is supposed to blog the science stuffs, while I stick to delicate feminine topics, but I couldn't resist this delightful image that I found in "Education, politics and opinions about climate change evidence for interaction effect, Lawrence C. Hamilton, Climatic Change, 2010".

IPCC Ghostwriter wanted

I was somewhat surprised to see that one of the eminent scientists who accepted the heavy mantle of responsibility of IPCC Lead Author, is now advertising for a post-doc to ghostwrite it for him. Nice opportunity for some young thrusting ambitious person to get a co-authorship of the AR5, I'd have thought.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

[jules' pics] Claustrophobia anyone?

Hachimangu, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

mmmm... you can't beat a cosy holiday crowd.

[Hachimangu, 3rd January 2011]

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/04/2011 03:16:00 AM

Monday, January 03, 2011

[jules' pics] 1/03/2011 03:19:00 AM

paddling on 1 January, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Brrr... pre-dawn paddling.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/03/2011 03:19:00 AM

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Saturday, January 01, 2011

[jules' pics] How to New Year Kamakura stylee

cold morning on Kamakura beach
1. Put on your carpet and head to the freezing beach where three ships may be seen sailing by.

New Year sunrise
2. Join the throng to look at the sun.

New Year surfers
3. Admire the watersportspeople. Are those Hello Kitty yachts?!

4. Head to the churches of mammon. This year St Arbucks and the one across the road, called Excelsior, were both open all day from midnight. I suppose exhaustion is a good enough excuse for forgetting to put the espresso shots into our lattes.

shibaraku omachi kudasai
5. At Hachimangu creep past the "redcoats" holding "walk slowly" signs and head towards the stairs. At the base of the stairs gather behind a rope waiting for the "Just Moment".

6. When the rope is lifted, charge up the stairs to the shrine, where a bunny rabbit and a wooden arrow may be purchased.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/01/2011 04:35:00 AM

Ringing in the New Year

A Happy New Year to all of my reader.

We seem to be turning Japanese (not really, fortunately). Last night, we went to the beach to see the last sunset, then just before midnight wandered along to our local temple and joined the rapidly growing queue for the "joya no kane" (New Year's Eve Bells). In theory the first 108 people get to ring the bell once, though I'm not sure if anyone was actually counting, and I don't think there were that many people anyway. I've wanted to ring one of these huge bells for ages...this is actually rather small compared to some of those in the more major temples.

Then this morning we were back on the beach for sunrise, followed by a visit to the main shrine of Hachimangu (after thawing out in a cafe).