Monday, March 31, 2014

Bunny bunny bunny murder mystery

There are bunnies everywhere. Many are alive. But quite a lot of them dead from myxy. Others are dead from cars. But today we found a mystery one, just inside the front door of a house we viewed.
It wasn't a ferret what done it, but thanks to the Stoat for alerting me to the excellent bad estate agents photos blog. I suppose my photo does not count as it was not taken by an estate agent, but the dead bunny at the front door approach it is surely an excellent way of making sure the wrong sort of people do not buy the property. 

We suspect it died of thirst after getting trapped inside the empty house. Does that mean the house has holes in it large enough to let in a bunny?! Should we go and live there so we can find out? Might that be fun...?

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

[jules' pics] Feeding the birds

We have a bird feeder each, set up in trees outside our "office" windows. James' healthy seed mix was quite popular, until I got ... a peanut feeder. It seems that like Westerners, birds prefer fatty food to healthy food. This is a coal tit getting its beak full.
coal tit
But today we had our perceptions realigned, when we realised that the peanuts are not the food after all. This is a Sparrowhawk, trying to look nonchalant after failing to catch a long tailed tit on the peanut feeder.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 3/23/2014 07:30:00 PM Cloudy lock-in

Posted: 23 Mar 2014 03:20 PM PDT
Some scientific meetings, like the EGU or AGU, are attended by thousands and open to anyone prepared to pay the registration fee. Then there are the other sort of meeting; workshops. My fertile imagination likes to call them, “lock-ins”, as it sometimes seems like the plan is to get 30 or so scientists together, lock them in a castle, and only unlock the door when they have achieved something.
In this case, my imagination is closer than usual to being literally true.
Here’s the castle,
My bedroom is on the 3rd floor of this tower!

It is also snowing, which is quite fitting as it not only adds to the feeling of isolation (some attendees arrived un-Germanly late after braving the elements) but all this cloud fits in very well with the theme of the workshop – clouds, circulation and climate sensitivity.

[jules' pics] Scottish flowers

Unlike England, Scotland has flowers other than snowdrops!! And they are colourful!

Yes - that top one really is camellia!! Here is a close up to prove it. Two months too late, but still...

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 3/22/2014 02:58:00 PM

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sawyer's "remarkably accurate" forecast

Spotted this in the Guardian, not sure what provoked it, but never mind. The claim is that a paper published in 1972 made a remarkably accurate prediction of 0.6C, and this proves we've understood the climate system really well for a long time.


For starters, it should be pretty obvious that if people published enough random papers, some would (with hindsight) turn out to be close to correct. That in itself would hardly prove prescience, although it might be hard to refute a claim by the lucky one. See also investment analysts who claim to be able to "beat the market"...

But I'm not going to go looking for all the silly forecasts that were wide of the mark, which there surely were - people are still churning them out, remember Lovelock's few remaining breeding pairs of humans, or Bryden's AMOC shutdown, or Keenlyside's cooling? - but merely evaluate the Sawyer paper on its merits. Found courtesy of the paper doesn't really seem to have much original research, but repackages other work in what looks more like a commentary. He uses Manabe and Wetherald's climate sensitivity estimate of 2.4C, and a predicted increase in CO2 of 25%, to get a warming of 0.25*2.4 = 0.6C by the end of the (20th) century.

While the final number ended up pretty close, there are a number of assumptions/approximations/errors (take your pick) in that calculation. Firstly, there are other forcings! The IPCC AR5 lists other factors which in total magnitude exceed the CO2 effect, though the positives and negatives broadly cancel. But Sawyer doesn't consider them at all. Secondly, the logarithmic effect of CO2 means that a 25% increase should equate to a 32% of the effect of a doubling, which would work out at 0.8C...not a huge difference in forecast, but a big difference in level of understanding! Lastly (perhaps) there is also the small issue of equilibrium versus transient response - the thermal inertia of the ocean means there's a chunk more warming in the pipeline, probably about a third as much again. All these values have substantial uncertainty even now, of course - and although I'd say the the 2.4C sensitivity value still looks pretty good, others disagree and at best it was a lucky guess to get it right back then.

So all in all, it looks like he made a number of significant errors which end up cancelling out, thus resulting in a forecast that hit the bullseye much more closely than can have been reasonably expected. Internet

Posted: 21 Mar 2014 08:49 AM PDT
After 2 months in the internet wilderness, we are finally online properly. The constraint to this particular problem was that, while we look for somewhere else to live, we are staying with my Dad who has dial-up, and doesn’t want to change. We started sharing one laptop (and some iPads) that we brought with us in December. We bought a monthly contract internet dongle on the Three network, which seems to be the network with the best coverage here, although it isn’t brilliant. Then James thought he wanted a phone so we moved to a cheap smart phone with wifi hotspot capabilities. We discovered that it is easy to buy things through Three, but not so easy to downgrade. They let you do it but only after subjecting you to about 20 minutes of sales banter, which is apparently obligatory for the telephone monkeys to read out. Three could learn a lot from the case-by-case basis approach of most Japanese companies. Anyway, the mobile phone was OK while we had one laptop, but when the desktop arrived in the shipment from Japan, the phone couldn’t keep up with two people trying to connect at the same time. We quickly realised that we had to find some broadband, but we didn’t want to sign a long contract as we are not really planning on staying here very long. James found that Zen Internet offer 1 months contracts! We signed up. But it didn’t work! This didn’t really come as a surprise, as we are located at the end of a quarter of a mile of phone line that had never carried broadband. Zen Internet help desk were actually extremely good. They were, however, rather frightened of calling out the telephone engineer, as BT charge 180 UKP for an unnecessary callout, so they wanted us to test the modem they had sent. A week later we had successfully done this by plugging it in at the mother-in-law’s up on Scotland. Then the engineer visited, literally jiggled a cable at the exchange half a mile away in the village, and, suddenly, we have internets! It started at 4.5Mbps, and has now risen to 6.8Mbps. That’s several times faster than we had at home in Japan! Not bad when we only have sheep, grass, trees and bunnies for 500m or more in all directions. And Dad still has his dial-up.
Through our collaboration with Bristol University (we are now official visiting researchers there) we have access to online journals through their very clever library proxy service. I am not sure how it works, but it does not seem to slow things down at all (except for when I switch it off and my iPad refuses to believe it is still online). Being a university they have access to a wider range of journals than we could access at JAMSTEC. So, just 2 or 3 months of papers to catch up on now! There are still plenty of distractions for those days when the sky approaches a blue colour,
so it is perhaps fortunate that those blue-sky days are quite rare.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Saturday, March 08, 2014

[jules' pics] Amadeus the Amaryllis

Sorry for the lack of pickturs. As James suggests, a slow intertube is a big disincentive, but also, most of the photos I have been taking recently are quick snaps of the inside and outside of other peoples' houses, which one can hardly then go and put on flickr. We realise now that we have always previously cheated the housing problem by having the constraint of living within a 35-45 minute tandem bicycle ride of work. Now the home is the workplace, the problem is unconstrained! However, James has decided that we should settle close to Settle. Hopefully this is a sufficient constraint to make the housing problem tractable.

Meanwhile, Amadeus, the Amaryllis which the Mother In Law gave me for Christmas, has flowered. Dad is mightily impressed and says he has never seen anything like it. Neither have I, except, of course, at the mansion of the green fingered Mother In Law.

The powdery bits

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 3/08/2014 06:17:00 PM

"Pause" blah

I've got lots of bits and pieces to write about, so this will probably turn out to be a fairly incoherent blog post as I don't have time to write a concise and structured one. We are still struggling to obtain a proper broadband connection, though the end (one way or the other) might be in sight with a BT engineer visit planned for next week.

We had a brief visit to Bristol last week - sorry to those we had promised to contact, but it was a chance to see two different people on the same rather busy day, so we jumped at it. We are now both officially "visiting collaborators" of some sort there which is nice, the main practical benefit is library access (inc remotely), and perhaps also the right to a cup of coffee in the staff common room? So hopefully we'll be back on an occasional basis in the future. This is all as a follow-up to Paul Valdes' sabbatical visit to Japan last year, from which joint work is still ongoing.

The "pause" discussion continues (see RC for a summary of recent coverage), which seems a bit silly to me, because it isn't really a "pause" at all, just a continued anthropogenically-forced warming with some other (anthropogenic and natural) forcings and internal variability added on, such that the trend is a little lower than most expected.  Of course idiots will continue to play the "down the up escalator" game indefinitely, but I don't feel the need to play with them. I'm usually happy to let the "communicators" duke it out on the most politically correct way to present the science, but perhaps they could start by not using a term that's factually wrong.

There are many possible causes for the model-data discrepancy: the forcings might have been more negative than anticipated, or perhaps natural variability has a bit more negative recently, and just possibly the forced response is a little lower than (most) models predicted. I'm a little surprised to see people like Gavin apparently nailing his colours to the mast of the models being right, for one thing, his calculations (which may be mildly optimistic) only explain "most" of the model-data discrepancy, and it is worth noting that since the natural forcings and internal variability are relatively transient and short-term in nature, this view implies a substantial future near-term acceleration in order for the world to catch up with where the models say we should be. All model simulations show only a very gradual rise in underlying trend, and it is worth mentioning (to those who think that climate scientists have been slow to discuss this) that back in about 2006 I was pointing out to the authors of the IPCC AR4 drafts that the model trends were already starting to look a little high relative to recent observations. This acceleration has been promised "just around the corner" for a long time now, I'm happy to give people like Hansen a bit of a pass on his 1984 work because it was so groundbreaking (and substantially correct), but it's now starting to feel like people are scrabbling around trying to find excuses. I even think I saw some wag in a recent paper (sorry I forgot where) arguing that there were so many excuses for a lack of warming, that the logical conclusion from the model-data discrepancy was that sensitivity was actually higher than the models say!

By the way, one point that is sometimes ignored in these recent energy balance type of calculations, is that some of the analyses (ie, those based on D&A techniques) aim to specifically separate out the different forcings though the different warming patterns they generate. So it is not enough to claim that there are additional negative forcings, but these forcings actually have to generate a spatial warming pattern that negates the well-known pattern of GHG response. Or else, the model patterns of response to the different forcings have to be wrong in a way that leads to a large systematic underestimation of the GHG impact. It's not impossible, but at some point Occam's razor has to kick in.

Oh yes, the GWPF thing has also been published. Disclaimer: those who actually read the thing (which seems to be a small minority, judging from my in-box) will see that I'm acknowledged, which is due to having acted as a reviewer. I haven't carefully checked the final version, but on the whole I saw it as a slightly optimistic but basically defensible interpretation of the evidence. There have certainly been worse papers published on climate sensitivity! I haven't seen any very convincing rebuttals, but am of course open to further dicussion on that score. I'm sort of assuming it's been on the blogosphere but haven't had much time (or internet) to look. Some have found it notable that the GWPF is explicitly acknowledging a significant future warming (albeit at the low end of IPCC projections) thanks to ongoing emissions. I'm not sure how much of a narrowing of disagreement that represents, especially when others are doubling down on a high sensitivity.

BTW, for those who accuse me of being in the pay of the fossil fuel industry - yes, the trip to Bristol was funded by a major oil company :-)

Having strayed into tl;dr territory (some time ago!) I'd better stop here.