Monday, February 28, 2011

Cycling kills!

A great bit of headline-writing from the Daily Wail:
Why cycling to work is one of the biggest causes of heart attacks
Yes, it's true, the roads round here are littered with the corpses of cyclists who have keeled over on the morning commute.

Or perhaps not. It might just be a piece of nonsensically over-hyped drivel - I report, you decide. A more rational discussion of the underlying research can be found here.

Firefox users can solve the "Daily Mail causes cancer" problem here. For those readers who aren't familiar with this particular rag, lucky you.

[jules' pics] 2/27/2011 11:31:00 PM

cedar fever season, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.
Allergy season in Tokyo starts around this time. In these parts people do not suffer from Hayfever, but Cedarfever from the pollen of the Japanese cedar tree (Sugi in Japanese). I suppose that, like in the UK, it is really the mixture of pollen and manmade pollution that causes the problem, so that the suffering may be worse in the towns than in the forested areas. So far James and I have been mercifully Cederfever free, but many people do get quite seriously affected.

As James mentioned earlier, it was forecast that this year should be a worse Cedarfever season than usual - about twice as bad. While visiting Sugimotodera, a particularly aptly named temple, James decided to shake a tree to see what it was all about. We were both rather surprised by the massive plume of pollen that fell from the tree.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/27/2011 11:31:00 PM

Sunday, February 27, 2011

E&E caves in

I don't seem to have posted much recently...hope you've been enjoying jules' pics in the interim. Here's a little snippet of interest. Probably most of you know of the threat that Bill Hughes, publisher of possibly the worst journal in the world, E&E, made to Gavin Schmidt: "At the moment, I’m prepared to settle merely for a retraction posted on RealClimate". RC replied robustly, and there was an article in the Guardian about it a few days later.

It now seems that E&E are planning a graceful withdrawal, according to chief editor Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen as reported here:
There is quite a wide discussion about what to do. Multi-science is not rich and I have not time for legal matters!! Most think it is just not worth it. I think we could thank Gavin for the publicity and withdraw our threat, but this decision is not really mine. Benny certainly does not want to sue.
It occurs to me that, at the time he issued the threat, Bill Hughes might actually have not known quite how crap and biased E&E is, but perhaps that's too naive of me. Anyway, it serves a useful purpose as a dustbin for lunatics to publish in, which may reduce their incentive to sneak into real journals (though they still succeed there occasionally, of course). Long may it flourish!

Friday, February 25, 2011

[jules' pics] 2/24/2011 07:47:00 PM

Uncomplaining portait #3: Hotei, god of happiness, was as happy as Hotei, to model for me.

[Jochiji, Kamakura]

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/24/2011 07:47:00 PM

Thursday, February 24, 2011

[jules' pics] 2/23/2011 10:16:00 PM

Tengu, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Uncomplaining portrait #2: We came across a tengu in the woods. He was happy to pose for me.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/23/2011 10:16:00 PM

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

[jules' pics] 2/22/2011 11:04:00 PM

James, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Gavin thought that the reason there were no people on my blog was that I did not like to photograph them. Then I found out why I was reluctant to post my photos of people - flowers, bugs and buildings don't complain. Gavin did.

Here is number 1 of the uncomplaining portraits.
Husband: doesn't mind looking weird. Hopefully.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/22/2011 11:04:00 PM

Monday, February 21, 2011

[jules' pics] 2/20/2011 08:24:00 PM

Robai @ Jochiji, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

At first you think it is all cherry blossom. Then you learn that the ones without flower stalks that are flowering in February are "plum" blossom, not cherry. Then you discover that boke is a flower, not a just feature of a lens. This is good as it means we can all take photos with "great boke" even without investing in that 85mm f1.4 lump of glass.Then your eyes are opened and you realise almost every tree in the temple grounds is a differently specially special species,

This is robai, with a weeping ume behind. At Jochiji, Kamakura. Clever photo by James, using wide-angular macro feature of his little camera, and managing to include blue sky, despite its scarcity this weekend.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/20/2011 08:24:00 PM

Saturday, February 19, 2011

[jules' pics] 2/19/2011 12:53:00 AM

Zuisenji, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Zuisenji - our local.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/19/2011 12:53:00 AM

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

[jules' pics] 2/15/2011 04:18:00 AM

Icy plants, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

The weather is playing tricks again. Just when James thought it was spring, the coldest snap of the winter got going. Luckily we have some new clothes.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/15/2011 04:18:00 AM

Friday, February 11, 2011

[jules' pics] CP+

Wild excitement today, as CP+, the biggest camera show in Asia, is in town.


From the bizarre - handy magnetic tripod

To the ridiculous - camera bondage

Entertainment for pervs on every corner

Stereotype reinforcement lectures for women

Fondling of vapourware for the geeks
CP+ Vapourware
[Yes that's me squeezing a non-existant Fujifilm X100!!! I reckon I earned lots of geek points by crashing the firmware twice in my 3 minute test drive.]

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/11/2011 01:22:00 AM

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Talking of falling down snowy slopes...

These famous "gassho-zukuri" (praying hands style) steeply thatched buildings (which we visited last year, incidentally) are supposed to be designed to shed snow effectively, so I'm a bit surprised that people still have to climb on the roofs to clear them:

14 fall off Gifu temple's thatched roof

The news report doesn't mention whether they were successful in clearing the roof, but I suppose it's a safe bet that they took a fair chunk down with them. And I bet they didn't have ice axes either (not that they would have been much use).

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


As you will have seen, we recently spent a few days in Tsukuba, which must be my least favourite place in Japan, by quite a distance. It's a horrible windswept boring new town, built about 40 years ago as a "science city" (Nature article here). There are no interesting shops, restaurants or other facilities that I am aware of, just a regular grid of offices and apartment blocks. Going to Tsukuba is about on a par with visiting Milton Keynes. Unfortunately, one of our main collaborating labs is based in Tsukuba, so we have to show our faces there occasionally.

When first built, it was almost impossible to travel to (being in the middle of nowhere, with a poor bus service) and had a famously high suicide rate even by Japanese standards. This web page says the university still has the highest suicide rate in Japan, even though it's supposed to have gone down a lot. A few years ago, the new train line was completed and now the scientists seem happier in the knowledge that they can get whisked straight to the geek heaven of "electric town" Akihabara in under an hour. The train terminus is in the basement of Yodobashi, no less. If our colleagues are representative, Tsukuba also has an unusually high birth rate, so it seems there still isn't a lot to do there :-) I think all 5 of our closest associates have young children, whereas no-one in our institute does. Of course the different employment system (tenure vs short contracts, basically) may also be a factor in that...

Anyway, enough about Tsukuba. The reason we were there for was a workshop on downscaling, which in practice really meant regional modelling and prediction. It's not that much of a focus of mine but it does seem a natural progression from global down to smaller scales. And being an "International Workshop", all the Japanese-side presentations were in English, so it was a good chance to hear what was going on. As well as the Japan-based work (which I'm not really part of), there were quite a few invitees from overseas, who mostly said interesting and useful things. One of them was Roger Pielke Snr. He didn't actually come over, but gave a presentation via videolink, which was described as "Skype" but looked like it might have been something else - Google video chat perhaps? Technically it worked very well and while I accept there are benefits to physical attendance, the time and cost savings of such an approach make it very attractive.

His main theme was that neither statistical nor dynamical downscaling of multidecadal global climate model projections generates any value. The basic reasoning was based on the typology expounded here, where "Type 1" is basically hindcasting or nowcasting forced by observations, and "Type 4" is basically pure modelling as is required for long-term climate projections. Pielke's article explicitly states:
Observational constraints on the solution become less as we move from Type 1 to Type 4. Thus forecast skill will diminish from Type 1 to Type 4.
This final sentence is, of course, completely false, at least when you realise that Type 1 and Type 4 are likely to be used for different purposes (we don't have obs for forcing regional climate models in 2100...). While it is true that model accuracy will (other things being equal) generally degrade as observational conditions are replaced by model outputs, this does not mean that skill will diminish for the simple reason that skill is always a comparative measure against some alternative hypothesis (typically a null hypothesis such as persistence, or climatology, or indeed persistence of climatology, when talking about multidecadal forecasts) and the performance of this null hypothesis will ALSO degrade as we look further ahead. We all agree (including Roger) that stationarity is dead (if it was ever truly alive), and thus the climate in 100 years is likely to be substantially different to that of today, or the next 10 years. In order for Roger's claim to be true, it would have to be the case that the model performance degrades MORE RAPIDLY than the performance of whatever null hypothesis he would use in the absence of the models. Which could in principle be true but he has not, as far as I'm aware, ever attempted to show it. I'm disappointed to see him still playing fast and loose with this terminology about "skill", several years after I pulled him up on it previously.

Lest you think I'm being too technical and pedantic in my usage of the term "skill", it is quite clear from reading what Roger says, that he is also using it in this sense, at least when it suits his purpose. Eg, he explicitly states that as a consequence of his argument, model runs are not suitable for use as projections or even scenarios.

I challenged Roger on this at the end of his talk, and he retorted that the models had yet to demonstrate skill over these time and space scales. I agree with that to some extent, but it's a very much weaker claim than his original one that the models necessarily have no (or at least negligible) skill. It is perhaps debatable to what extent we can consider skill in a rigorous sense, as we aren't dealing with a lot of repeatable experiments like daily weather forecasting, but we are working on it to the extent that is possible. (The analysis presented there only considers global mean temp, because that is all that was available. However it's pretty obvious that if the data had been available, it would have given similar results at the continental scale, since the spatial patterns are very consistent between all models and obs. That's still some way from really fine scale of course, but it's a start.)

Monday, February 07, 2011

[jules' pics] 2/07/2011 05:11:00 AM

Oranges and daffodils, originally uploaded by julesberry2001.

Oranges and daffodils.
A special post for James' readers,
who will send corrections.

It isn't even a proper Haiku!

[Engakuji, Kamakura]

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/07/2011 05:11:00 AM

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Mr Potter had an ice axe tied to his rucksack

But presumably a broomstick in one hand and wand in the other.

This is a fun little story in the British press about someone who fell down a mountain in Scotland recently (though after a decade in Japan, I'm tempted to refer to it as a hill). When I heard the news, just about my first thought was that his ice-axe was probably tied to his rucksack (and I said as much to jules, I'm not making it up after the event). Bingo. I had it drummed into me from an early age that they aren't much use back there!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

How to hype

A lovely bit of hype in the Torygraph caught my eye:
'Second sun' on its way

The Earth could find itself with a 'second sun' for a period of weeks later this year when one of the night sky's most luminous stars explodes, scientists have claimed.

So this remarkable event is "on it way" and "could" happen, "later this year". That's just the headline and subhead though. On reading the rest of the story, it might not happen for a million years. I'll not hold my breath then.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

[jules' pics] Environmentally friendly Pielke!!!

I'd thought he was just one of those US physics professors who didn't know about conservation of momentum, but it turns out that he's not so stupid after all. At one of the International Workshops in Tsukuba Epochal (a soulless building in the most soulless town in Japan) that are held around this time of year in order to use up the budget on meaningless and harmful travel, there appeared one Pielke senior - on the big screen! Japanese internets being blazingly fast, interaction suffered no delay. At the end there was a little time for platitudes, during which much regret was voiced for all the things "missed" for not being there in person. But what did he really miss?

Delights of Tsukuba
The Tsukuba Epochal's many automatic stop-start escalators?
James already looks bored...

Delights of Tsukuba
A warm friendly handshake from James?
Note how much bigger (bigger=better?) than James is Pielke.

Delights of Tsukuba
Sunset in Tsukuba Epochal. Yes, there's still no one around.
There is never anyone there... apart from the people who polish it.

Delights of Tsukuba
This is more like it - real Japan?

Delights of Tsukuba
Oh no - the workshop dinner is at a Yuba (soya milk curd) speciality restaurant!

Delights of Tsukuba
At least our beer is no worse than that in Colorado (whence liveth the Pielke)

Delights of Tsukuba
Now we're talking! The first place I ever ate pizza - in the 1970s - was Shakey's Pizza Parlour in Boulder, Colorado. That restaurant is long gone - but curiously they can be found here and there in Japan. One such establishment occupies prime real estate in downtown Tsukuba. Yes, that's a slice of chocolate and banana pizza! Surely Pielke would have felt right at home here after all. What a shame he couldn't be here in person....

(...wise, wise man...)

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 2/01/2011 05:36:00 AM

Hot....and not

So the surface temperature analyses for 2010 are in, and depending who you believe, it was either the hottest year (NCDC), or it wasn't (HadCRUT), or it was basically a dead heat (GISTEMP). Even if it wasn't a clear record, it was certainly close. I wonder whether the sceptics will start talking about "no global warming since 2010"?

Realclimate has a nice round-up of various indicators in comparison to model outputs. I don't have much to add to that. Back in 2007, Smith et al gave a 50% probability of 2010 (and every subsequent year) exceeding 1998 by the HadCRUT measure. Given the current La Nina situation, it looks like at least 2011 will stay stubbornly below that threshold. It might be interesting to consider how long it will take before half the years post 2009 will actually exceed the 1998 value. Just for fun, I've roughly updated the plot in their paper with more recent obs (annual means, blue dots in the below), but only by hand and I'm not confident that it is very accurate. I would say it is too early to be sure they are wrong, the obs are persistently in the low end of their predicted range but it's only been a few years. Even with the La Nina, there probably isn't a great chance of next year (or subsequently) falling outside of their 90% range, but I can't see temperatures reaching the upper half of their predicted range in the next few years either.

Keenlyside et al, on the other hand, looks substantially worse, given that the error bars are for the decadal average - only one single year has just about reached that level, and their initialised forecast is substantially worse than the free run with no assimilation! Of course it was clear that their forecast was wrong as soon as it was published. But hey, it got headlines and 140 (google scholar) citations so far, which of course is what really matters these days...

I spotted that Vicky Pope described the 2010 temperature as being a "dead heat" for 1998 despite their analysis coming in about 0.05C colder. I would guess that when the temperature actually does beat the 1998 value by a similar margin, she won't put it in quite the same terms :-) I don't think there is any need to talk things up, the evidence for ongoing warming is quite clear enough as it is. Whatever the details of 2010 beating the HadCRUT record or not, it doesn't change the fact that the world continues to warm at more or less the expected rate.

One place where I do have a nit to pick in RC's post is in their explanation of the multimodel mean not providing a perfect fit to the data. They excuse this (as if it needs excusing) through the models being merely an "ensemble of opportunity". However, even if it was a carefully designed ensemble that perfectly described our uncertainty, the ensemble mean would still not match the truth, instead inevitably being "biased" relative to some future observation (although we would not yet know in which direction the bias will be). My point being, the mere fact that the ensemble mean does not match incoming observations of reality - even ignoring the fact that these observations are themselves imperfect - in itself tells us nothing about the design and adequacy of the ensemble as an indication of uncertainty. It is not possible in principle to design an ensemble which would have this "truth-centred" property, even in simplistic idealised "perfect model" cases. It is therefore not meaningful to try to use it as a means of assessing (or criticising) the ensemble.