Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BlueSkiesResearch.org.uk: Oh Vienna redux

It’s April, so it must be EGU time again! No Vienna marathon this time – the race was the same date as Manchester this year, a week too early for our trip – so we went purely for the science. Well, the science and the schnitzel. The plan was to go over on the Friday before the conference started, with the intention of enjoying a weekend of sightseeing and relaxing in the sun, but both jules and I contrived to come down with flu again after the Manchester outing, so instead we spent the weekend mostly lying in bed and coughing our lungs up, failing even to attend the Vienna Phil for which we had (cheap standing room) tickets on Sunday morning.


Monday morning started with jules’ paleo modelling-and-data session, including talks on the effects of changing ocean tides, the green Sahara problem, state dependence of climate sensitivity and other things. After a lunch meeting we were both pretty much wiped out for the day and sidled off home without staying for the evening posters. Tuesday had a session on some minor revisions to the the 19th/20th century record, and then climate prediction including my talk on model independence. As jules keeps telling me, it’s time that was written up. In the afternoon we went to one of these funny debate things (nominally about resource depletion), where a bunch of people said how awful everything was, and one token panellist played Devil’s Advocate and argued that we could technologise our way out of it all. He almost managed some decent points, but unfortunately was more of a journalist/writer than scientist so didn’t really have anything much to back up his rhetoric. As expected, he was ritually disembowelled both by the other participants and the questioners from the floor, so all went away happy that indeed we really are all going to die. Can’t help thinking it was a bit of a missed opportunity for a real debate though. A further session that afternoon on open access publishing was cancelled, so I didn’t hang around for the medal lecture later on that evening. Unfortunately this is also not one of the handful of streamed talks – I think the EGU could do better with this.

Wednesday was data assimilation day, as usual a mix of highly technical and irrelevant stuff, interspersed with a handful of interesting and useful details. Sadly the medal lecture this year was all about turbulence which isn’t really my thing, but overall the session was worthwhile. Finally managed to stay long enough for a beer in the posters, though there were not many relevant ones to look at. On Thursday I decided to expend my horizons with sessions on renewable energy (good idea, but some limitations) and tsunami,  which was interesting. Somehow missed the debate on open access publishing, which I have now played on the webstream, and it wasn’t really that exciting. Lots of standard comments (including the usual crop of irrelevancies) and fairly smug “but it works” replies. The Hansen paper got a lot of discussion, but whatever you think about how that was handled, one example out of thousands of papers does not amount to much really. I’m sure we can all point to stuff that shouldn’t have happened in any journal we care to mention (though of course in many cases it’s hidden away). There was another publishing party in the evening, it seems that they manage an excuse for a celebration just about every year!

By Friday people were starting to drift off home as always. However jules had been roped into talking about models in the geosciences, (this was also streamed) so I thought I ought to turn up and show support. Probably the most interesting talk for me was the last one by Charlotte Werndl, on “double-counting” data for both tuning and validation. It is rare to find a philosopher with enough of a mathematical background to be able to back up their rhetoric. By the afternoon I was pretty much wiped out, we did manage to attend the convenors’ party but didn’t stay long.

Overall, I didn’t find the EGU quite as exciting as usual, though can probably put that down to being ill for most of it, as I definitely picked up some useful bits and pieces. The days are really long when you are not feeling 100%, running from 8:30am potentially to 8pm then with dinner to follow. Needless to say, we didn’t do many full days this time. In fact we barely went out in the evenings and my first and only schnitzel was on the last Saturday night just before flying home.

2016-04-23 18.47.24

Next year, the Vienna Marathon is scheduled for the Sunday immediately prior to the EGU again. Watch this space…

Monday, April 11, 2016


Another spring, another marathon. Manchester this time. My entry of which was really borne out of my plan to do the 3 Peaks fell race this year. With all the training that's necessary to get round that in reasonable shape, it seemed a good idea to slip a road marathon in for no extra effort, which I could count as training/race practice. Also, this would give me two bites of the cherry in case the 3P went pear-shaped for any reason. When the date for Manchester - flattest and best marathon in the UK, no less - was announced as 3 weeks before the 3P, a plot was hatched...

Winter training went well, consisting of my usual Jack Daniels marathon stuff with an added helping of fell running. Jules and I did 3 of the Kendal Winter League events, and I did some of my long training runs on the peaks themselves - partly to learn the course (I'd not even been up either Whernside or Pen-y-Ghent before) and partly to get a bit of practice at running up (and down!) steep hills on tired legs. Well, walking up and running down. But I didn't really have much idea how this off-roading would translate into pace on a flat marathon. The Haweswater half marathon in early March was too hilly to be a great guide and that very day I came down with what I thought at first was a cold but what with hindsight I think was a persistent though fortunately mild flu-like illness. Took a full 3 weeks to get properly back up to speed (ie Easter weekend, a mere fortnight before the race) and I was really unsure what to aim for until I got wind of some people on a running forum aiming to run 2:55. So I decided the best option was tag along with them, at least to start with.

Booked a hotel in Salford Quays for the night before, and arrived early enough to have a wander round the Lowry, which was worth a visit. Jules had more recently come down with flu and was still recovering but came along anyway as supporter/tourist and, as it turned out, sag wagon. Dinner was booked in a local restaurant - a good move as when we turned up, there was a big queue of hungry runners (you can tell by the shoes) waiting for tables. I think I've got the answer to pre-race feeding sorted now - similarly to Chesterfield, I worked my way through a platter of BBQ ribs, with half a chicken on top this time, all washed down with a couple of pints of Boddies. Who needs pasta when you've got this much meat?

The last supper

As a result of this (and a quick bowl of cereal in the morning) I hardly felt like eating all the way round the race, though I did make myself force down a few of the gels that were provided, plus two whole pieces of home-made Kendal mint cake, just in case I needed them.

The hotel was undergoing substantial renovation but would have been fine, were it not for the person who came back to the room next door and started up a party at about midnight. To be fair, he wasn't actually very noisy, the problem was that our rooms had a (locked) connecting door that wasn't adequately soundproofed. After a while I asked him to quieten down and he was very apologetic, but I could still hear him/them until about 3am or so. Not the best pre-race night I've ever had.

The morning dawned sunny and chilly, just what we'd hoped for. The plan was to wander straight down to the start area just in time for the race, with jules later taking my bag to the baggage drop where I could pick it up at the end. However we were a bit early and decided to do the bag drop together first. It got more and more crowded the closer we got, until I panicked, left the bag (fortunately only a medium sized rucksac) with jules and jogged back to the start as a warm-up. She then had a closer look at the queues and gave up on them, and ended up carrying my bag along with hers all morning. Just as well, as apparently the bag collection was even more chaotic than the drop, with people having to queue for literally hours to retrieve their clothes (and in many cases wallet/phone etc). A warning for next time. The obvious alternative is to carry all valuables, only bring old/cheap/worthless clothing and be prepared to just stash that somewhere around the "race village" aka stadium. Which we've done often enough at other events. We could have left some stuff at the hotel too, it was only a mile away.

Found my internet running mate Dave along with a few others at the start, had a quick chat to confirm plans and pushed our way in front of the 3h pacer who was surrounded by a huge rolling road-block of runners. The race itself went really well, though the course was certainly a bit suburban and boring compared to the sights of Vienna. We were just a bit up on pace through the first half, which was feeling really comfortable for me.

The easy bit, about 5 miles in.

Too easy, really - if I'd been by myself I would probably have pushed a little harder. Pulse was in the low 140s to half way (which we hit just a few secs under 2:55 pace), at which point I decided to press on a little and left Dave behind. I was building up a bit of a cushion of time, cruising past loads of people and at one point thought that 2:53 might be on the cards. However, the last stretch was mostly into wind and this, together with my by now rather sore legs and foot, soon put paid to that that idea and I settled for my original target. The last straight is interminable and the finishing arch was visible for about a mile, seemingly not getting any closer for minutes on end, so it was a relief when the clock eventually came into focus and I realised that I really was going to get that sub-2:55 time. According to the official results, I was 307th at half way and 182nd at the finish. Or 16th male of a certain age, if you prefer.

Even with being relatively early home, the finish area was quite crowded with spectators, and I was lucky that jules managed to do a great job first of spotting me (earlier than she'd expected me to arrive, optimist that she is) and then meeting me just past the finish line with my clothes etc. There followed a slightly tedious and tiring afternoon waiting for trains which are a bit sparse to Settle, particularly on a Sunday, and we only finally got home arond 7pm. Perhaps that's a reason to splash out on a second hotel night, but it might seem a bit of a waste when we, or certainly I, would be too tired to enjoy Manchester properly and still have to take half of Monday getting home.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Climate sensitivity is 5.3C?

Too late for an April Fool, my eye was caught by this headline in the Guardian:
 With the article itself containing the odd phrasing:
Researchers said that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s
atmosphere compared with pre-industrial times could result in a global
temperature increase of up to 5.3C – far warmer than the 4.6C older
models predict.
4.6C seems a strangely high value to start with, it's some way from any consensus value (and it's not even the upper end of the oft-quoted undcertainty range of 2-4.5C).

Sadly, the paper is paywalled, so I can only see the abstract. But it seems that the authors are arguing that models have a bias in the way they represent clouds (too icy, not wet enough), and correcting this bias will shift their sensitivities up a bit. 4.6C is the most sensitive model in the AR4 and it seems to get shifted up a smidgin to 5.0-5.3C (there is presumably some uncertainty in the adjustment to each model). The paper also says the sensitivities shift by "up to 1.3C" which must therefore be the largest potential shift of any of the models, and probably some way above the mean estimated change. It doesn't look like such a revolutionary change as to justify the headline, even if one accepts that the result is right.

Of course, if the models were more sensitive, it would (other things being equal) result in greater warming not only in the future, but also in the past. Which would make it more challenging to reconcile with what we've observed. Kevin Trenberth (who has presuably seen the whole paper) doesn't seem that impressed. Maybe I'll manage to find a copy somehow...

Update: seems like several others have weighed in similarly (Gavin, ATTP). The Yale puff piece is particularly misleading, constrasting the old 2-4.6 model range with a new range of 5-5.3 which is surely nonsensical. Even without reading the paper, it's obvious enough that 5-5.3 does not represent a new range that would contain all the models, since they only move by "up to 1.3C". I'm fairly confident that my interpretation above must be correct.

I don't want it to sound like I'm determined to reject any attempts to change our estimate of sensitivity. But any substantial changes will have to be supported by significant evidence to overturn the weight already accumulated. In this case, what I'm really objecting to is the hyped-up presentation of what is actually a pretty small change anyway.

Saturday, April 02, 2016


Lovely GingerNuts only lasted 3 weeks before a GingerLady came and took him away to his new life hunting GingerRabbits around the legs of the GingerHorses on a farm deep in the Lune Valley.  All is well, but when we got the cats back from the rescue after Easter we found that GingerNuts' ghost had somehow stowed away with Spice and Pepper:

Being much lighter than GingerNuts, GingerGhost floats around the furniture, and has a tendency to waft to the top of the house. He's friendly, nimble and elegant, and Spice and Pepper are a lot less bothered by him than they were by his predecessor.  Can't say more yet as I haven't played with him much due to being down with 'flu for the last few days. 

He was originally called GingerTip at the rescue, but maybe that was a made up name. They changed his name to Benson, because he, apparently, likes the bed. We don't let the cats in our bedroom. Hope this won't be a problem; he seems to have taken well to the upstairs sofa instead. But, does this mean I have to rename him 横浜ワールドポーター (Yokohama World Porters), which is where we bought that sofa?