Sunday, November 27, 2016

“stop this ridiculous Brexit nonsense ever from happening”

How times have changed. It's hard to imagine anyone saying this on Any Questions 5 months ago and being met with strong applause. Is there finally some light at the end of the tunnel?

Friday, November 18, 2016

[jules' pics] Winter Wonderland

Yesterday it was cold, grey and snowing so we stayed at home a fought bitterly about climate sensitivity all day and then enjoyed the cultural experience of attending our Condominium Management Meeting. That was fun. Today it's back to business as usual, only the landscape has changed colour, and it is freezing cold outside instead of boiling hot.




Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 11/18/2016 06:08:00 PM

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

[jules' pics] The probably actually last day of summer

If the forecasts are correct then summer ends today. So, we took the morning off and did an MTB trail near Boulder, called Dirty Bismark.  





It was a lovely ride and we finished it off by riding to the nearest pretentious cafe to NCAR where we enjoyed coffee and pastries. The only problem was that then we had to ride up the hill to NCAR, in the hot sun after already having done 2:30h of bone shaking cycling. 

 Strava trace here.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 11/16/2016 10:08:00 PM

[jules' pics] Last days of summer

Summer isn't supposed to last this long in Boulder. Snow usually falls in October, but the first snow is expected tomorrow. Am very excited, as the temperature is max 26C today and expected to reach only 6C tomorrow. Anyway, forecasts seem to be easier in this part of the world, with tomorrow's precipitation already being predicted this time last week! So, to make the most of the dry weather, last Friday we cycled via Magnolia Drive to Nederland, stayed overnight in a luxury hotel, did a bit of mountain biking and then freewheeled down the hill home.

Naturally the adventure started at a pretentious Boulder cafe.

Packed lunch stop was near the top of the road section of Magnolia Drive

After which the views opened out


And the sky was very blue

Luxury hotel was the Boulder Creek Lodge, 1st of 1 hotel in Nederland!

Ate own weight in pizza

Mountain biking the next morning was tough on our rigid all-rounder bikes, while carrying overnight gear at even higher altitude than Boulder (2600m). But we made it round the West Magnolia loop and then had brunch at the conveniently located Sundance Cafe.

And then it was back down Magnolia Road (including just a couple of easy MTB trails).
The reason I am looking so happy in this pic is that the Magnolia Drive ride has been a long time coming. Nineteen years ago we came to Boulder for a couple of weeks on the way back from a conference in San Francisco with the idea of doing some cycling. One ride that James had planned was the Magnolia Drive dirt road. But, unfortunately, we got knocked off our bicycles by a motorbike on one of our first rides, on our way back from Ward, and that was the end of the cycling for that trip, although we got to experience lots of other interesting Boulder things, like ambulances, dentists, surgeons, hospitals, state troopers and lawyers.

No problems with traffic on this ride...

Strava traces here and here.

Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 11/16/2016 09:39:00 PM

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


For all the reader of this blog who was in cloud when the supermoon appeared.

It was super. Could see all the men, women and bunnies!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Apocalypse now?

Lots of people have asked about this paper (which I think is open access).

To cut a long story short, it's not silly - the authors are entirely respectable and the work is interesting - but I don't think it is really that credible in terms of overturning established consensus. In fact it looks to me like they've gone astray in a few ways which add up to provide plenty of reasons for doubting the result.

The underlying idea is interesting enough and I have no problem with it in principle. They looked at climate change over multiple glacial cycles, to estimate not only the climate sensitivity, but also tease out how much this varies with temperature. Their observed temperature record comes from a handful of long-term proxy records of sea surface temperature, just 14 in total, which do not give very good global coverage. So they start by calibrating these records to a global mean temperature by comparing the local (proxy location) to global temperature at the last glacial maximum as simulated by models. The LGM temperature change arising from their 14 proxy records scaled to global temperature is about 5C colder than pre-industrial. This is a fair bit colder than the 4C we got with 400 data points over both ocean and land. But not content with this, they then average it with the mean of the PMIP model simulations, which is 6.5C colder than PI, thus getting a cooling of almost 6C.

Edit: Thanks to an email from Axel, I've had a more careful read and the above is wrong. One estimate is the PMIP models scaled to match data ("proxy-based"), another is their LOVECLIM simulation scaled to match a different data set ("model-based").
It is probably defensible to use the PMIP models in this way as some sort of independent estimate of the LGM state, but surely it is inconsistent to not then also use the PMIP models to estimate the cimate sensitivity and/or its nonlinearity. Anyway, this cold LGM state feeds through into a high sensitivity. An important additional factor here is the nonlinearity which they diagnose by comparing temperature to net forcing throughout the time series. I think a fair bit of this nonlinearity relates to the very high interglacials which are at best poorly calibrated since they only calibrated the proxy records to a fully glacial state. Interglacials have much smaller global temperature signal compared to the present, with the regional differences being much more important, and it seems doubtful whether a single scaling applied to these 14 proxy records could represent the true relationship with adequate precision for their purposes.  In support of this, the last interglacial appears to have extremely high warmth in their calibrated proxy record of some 3C above pre-industrial, which I don't think is widely accepted. On the other hand, some nonlinearity is probably quite plausible, so let's press on. Using the "warm" sensitivity of 4.9C/doubling, they then generate a transient prediction, using a simple energy balance with the ocean heat uptake factor again taken directly from the CMIP models.

Disappointingly, their plot of the transient warming from 1880-2100 doesn't show the actual observations up to the present. It is hard to be precise from eyeballing a computer screen, but it looks to me that their new improved prediction is already way ahead of observations. It suggests a warming that first reaches 1C (relative to 1880) back in the early 1990s before Pinatubo, rebounding from that brief dip to reach about 1.5C by the present. HadCRUT4 shows rather less warming that this, with even the current extraordinary hot year (boosted by a strong El Nino) not reaching 1.2C on that anomaly scale. In my view failing to show, or discuss, this discrepancy is a major failing of the paper. If they think it can be explained by internal variability then they should have presented that discussion and I'm surprised the reviewers let them get away without it.

Edit: ok, here is a very quick and dirty attempt to show what their pic would have looked like with real temperatures on it:

Not a great graphic, I just scaled the hadcrut pic off here and tried to line it up with the authors' own axes, matching the baseline temps around the end of the 19th century.  As anticipated, recent years are well below their prediction, with 2016 just about reaching the CMIP mean.

Edit: Axel claims that internal variability can explain this discrepancy, but I don't believe it. The magnitude of decadal-scale internal variability is about 0.1C (Watanabe et al 2014 and Dai et al 2015) and this new forecast would be even hotter if it wasn't also hugely overestimating the response to volcanoes.

So, in summary, nice try, but I don't believe it, and I don't really think the authors do either.

[Blog post title inspired by the Mark Lynas quote which is not the authors' fault. Incidentally, it is disappointing to see journalists falling for the parasitic publishing scam in which "one of the most respected academic journals" cashes in on its name by setting up numerous sister journals which share some elements of the name but neither the editorial policy nor barriers to entry. "Science advances" is not Science and it's only been around for a year or so, nowhere near long enough to have any sort of reputation. But if journalists don't know the difference, scientists will happily pay the steep publication charge and reap the publicity benefits. Nature have been doing this for a few years now (eg Nature Communications) so it's hardly surprising Science have followed suit.]

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Bigly and Brexit

I am Jack's complete lack of surprise, but at least we're trying to hit bottom. Late August 2015 I remarked to an American friend that if the US could elect Reagan in the 1980s then Trump could be elected in the 2010s. Unfortunately he laughed. But really it only hit home yesterday afternoon when I wrote to my Dad, "Let's hope that this time the Americans are less stupid than the British." I felt a deep sinking feeling that, for sure, Trump was going to win. Why? The Americans' one remaining small act of deference to the British, is to act just that little bit more stupid.

I wrote to someone a little while ago that if Brexit is the Apocalypse then Trump will be Armageddon. But I'm not so sure about that now. I'm hoping that this is the Dead Cat Bounce of the angry white man and that when such evil is exposed to the light of truth it will wither and die. Of course it is up to us to do the exposing to make sure that happens.

Some people are wittering about the death of democracy, but it is much worse than that - it is the death of reason (as in the Enlightenment) that actually matters. 

Very amused by Trump's speech in which he promised to follow Japan's lead and use concrete to solve all the problems. What you do is borrow and print a lot of money, and use it to buy concrete and employ companies controlled by the yakuza to build things that you do not need. The results are ugly and bad for the environment, but jolly good for employment. And the US has so much more space than Japan, it could keep this up for practically ever! The less amusing part was Trump's "reaching out" to everyone and promising to be nice to everyone who is nice to him. In my experience, people who claim to be "reaching out" will consider any form of constructive criticism as a direct attack. 

The internet suggests that pictures of cute cats are the answer, but I tried that for Brexit, and it didn't work. So, instead, here's some construction, which, curiously is occurring in extremely Democrat Boulder within currently Democrat Colorado... and of course it is happening for reasons of prosperity rather than politics. Not that this is necessarily the best thing either - I tend to think that if there is great growth somewhere, then somewhere else someone is being enslaved.



And is Bigly also going to become an actual word now that Brexit has become one?

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

[jules' pics] Autumn in Boulder County

Normally when in foreign, one can send emails to other continents and not expect a reply for a day. Not so today - all the Britishes are still awake, but not just to send me emails. They are waiting to see if the USA takes our crown of most idiot electorate evs

Had better supply some soothing pix.



Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 11/08/2016 10:12:00 PM


Did someone say BreakfastScrambles?

This is a Boulder Scramble. It contains Tofu!

And that is James with some eggs, potatoes and pancakes.

This is reason he is not getting fat: (for those who can't/won't click, that's 31km of running in the dust kicked up by some actually fast runners).

Monday, November 07, 2016


So on Tuesday we will learn whether the USA is going to take the UK's crown as having the World's Most Stupid Electorate. Predictions are apparently quite close, with putting the odds around 2:1 at the time of writing. Colorado is a particularly close state, not that you'd know it from Boulder of course. I ran past a Trump poster on Sunday, and someone in the group I was with mentioned it was only the second one they had seen.

I've written about brexit before, and it's shocking to see how little progress has been made in the intervening 4+ months. Perhaps the most significant change is that brexit is now an official word in the Collins English dictionary, so I can use it without embarassment (I mean, without embarassment about the word - embarassment about the shambles itself is less easily cast aside).

Apart from that, we've got the unedifying and dangerous spectacle of those who called for the sovereignty of British Parliament, now denouncing this sovereignty as anti-democratic - and worse, labelling judges who upheld it with the chilling Nazi-era “Enemies of the people” slogan.

Great to see the Telegraph get in on the act too, patriotic poppy and all. And rather than supporting the independence of the judiciary, the govt response was to issue mealy-mouthed evasions about the importance of  a free press. So much for the so-called Party of Law and Order.

It's blatantly obvious that the reason May doesn't want to reveal her cunning plan to parliament is that there is no plan. What is more puzzling is how those who are supposed to be among the brightest and best minds in the country haven't yet worked out the problem, which is quite simply that there is no “good brexit”; there is no sensible way though the process of cutting ourselves off from our largest trading partners and source of much-needed labour. Yet the Three Brexiteers are still blethering on with their idiot fantasies about how we can pick and choose exactly what we want from the EU27, and they will just roll over and accept it. Economics isn't everything and no doubt there are quite a number of xenophobes who would think a recession is a price well worth paying to reduce the number of young europeans coming here, studying in our universities and/or working and paying taxes. What's more troublesome from my own point of view is the growth of anti-rational populism fed by deliberately malicious and dishonest politicians and the media.

Of course the question is not even whether brexit is a good idea or not. Brexit isn't an idea at all, it's an incoherent mishmash of contradictory ideas, connected only in that they involve some change from the status quo. The vote for brexit is the logical equivalent of voting to go out for dinner - we might all agree that my cooking isn't great but if one person thinks they've been promised a curry, another is wanting to go to a French restaurant and a third is expecting fish and chips - and all have been promised that it will be completely free, in fact they'll be paid to eat it - then there is likely to be disappointment and disagreement as a result. As the chant goes: “What do we want? Well if you didn't know why did you vote leave?” At least, that's how it should go.

Jules says (quite rightly) that I shouldn't just criticise without coming up with a solution. What would I do? Well, nothing has change my previous opinion that the only reasonable solution is to abandon the process. This will take a lot of backtracking now that May has backed herself into a corner so firmly, but the reality of the situation is that there is no plausible brexit that will actually satisfy the British public, and all options for change are substantially worse than the status quo in basically all aspects. Will this actually happen? I don't know, the betting odds give about 70% probability to article 50 being invoked next year, 30% probability to 2018 or later or not at all.

Still, at least we can all rely on the BBC to do its patriotic duty and bend over backwards when some reactionary bigot demands that they play the national anthem at every opportunity:

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

More Breakfast Success

As I've said before, although maybe not on this blog, the only actual difference between peoples the world over is what they eat for breakfast. In the USA a lot of different things are available for breakfast, because the population of the USA is almost entirely immigrant, and from all different parts of the world. On Sunday, James had something with beans in and I had something called "Dill eggs". Still don't really know what that was,. But it was delicious. 

Sampled the NCAR cafeteria breakfast this morning. Although most of the elements seemed familiar, it was a cultural minefield. I thought an egg on toast might be nice. It turned out that the scrambled eggs were an omelette, the fried eggs came in 3 choices none of which I understood, there were about six varieties of toast to choose from rattled off to quickly for me to catch them all, and also something called biscuits that looked like a scone to me. But of course being well versed in inter-cultural quick thinking of a gastronomic nature, I made a success of breakfast and ended up with an egg "over-easy" (don't know what that means but it was cooked freshly to order!) with sour dough toast and butter. yum yum. I ate it too fast to take a picture.