The Logic Escapes Me

November 29, 2009

The UK Guardian Newspaper reports today in headlines “Climate change: Gulf stream collapse could be like a disaster movie” reports on a study (? or was it just comments … the Guardian’s report does not say) by Bill Patterson of Saskatchewan University.

“The next Ice Age could take only weeks to engulf Britain. Scientists say the last great disruption to the Gulf Stream 12,800 years ago took only a couple of months to trigger a massive plunge in temperatures across Europe.”

The “trigger” in this case was:

“Such an event occurred 12,800 years ago when a vast lake – created from melting glaciers at the end of last Ice Age – overflowed and poured into the north Atlantic, blocking the Gulf Stream. Europe froze – almost instantly, said Patterson.”

Mr Paterson is reported to have said:

“It was very sudden,” added Patterson, “and it could happen again.”

I suppose it could happen again. But what is the trigger event that could make it happen? Is there somewhere in the vicinity of the Atlantic or Arctic Oceans a vast lake that could flow into the sea? What are the threats which could cause it to “happen again”.
This is a classic demonstration of the idea written here before about how people do not understand (or chose to understand) Risk. Risk is not just a situation. Risk is a threat, which causes something to happen, with results in impact.
The impact here is clear: the severe change in climate to be very cold in Northern Europe which we intuitively conclude would be a “huge” impact and a very “bad thing” indeed, caused by the shutdown of the Gulf Stream. [The Gulf Stream brings heat to Northern Europe from the Caribbean]. The “threat” or the “cause” in this scenario was “vast” freshwater lake that spilled into the sea. This makes sense.
But to “happen again” there has to be some cause that makes it happen. What are the possibilities that we can now imagine that could realistically or even unrealistically cause the Gulf Stream to shutdown? None are mentioned in this article–but we are made to be afraid because it could “happen again”!

Says it all about the Climate

November 28, 2009

I really like Terry Hughes’s short article about his “Saturday’s with a laptop” working with climate date in and around Phoenix. Rings true to my understandings, some of which started in grad school in the 1970’s when we were looking at Chicago’s effect on weather in Indiana.

There is more science to discover.

He sums up nicely:

The more I’ve seen, the more convinced I’ve become that the global warming crowd latched onto the parallel rise in temperatures and CO2, and built what has essentially become a religion around it. For 22 years it appeared to have been a solid conclusion that they were indeed tied together. Then the inescapable truth of the matter made itself clear in 1998 that they are not necessarily linked in the fashion that was first thought. Entire professional careers have been built around, and on, the premise that man-caused CO2 raises temperatures, and it’s too late to turn back now for most of them.

It appears that Jones and the CRU folks didn’t simply massage the data. As other pundits have pointed out, they waterboarded it. There are several blatantly obvious conclusions to be drawn here. First, any group receiving public money for research must make their data available to all. Even to guys with laptops on Saturday afternoons. Second, it seems that peer review means next to nothing. In the whole AGW thing, collaborating researchers apparently became co-conspirators. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge has no place in honest scientific endeavors. Third, science in general has taken a huge hit, making the average guy wonder if large grants create large lies and vice-versa. Fourth, where the heck has our media been? Menus at the White House are more important than what is possibly the biggest scam ever perpetrated on the American public? Apparently, only FOX got the memo. Fifth, school children need to be re-educated that CO2 is not the same as phosgene and sarin.

Jerry Pournelle on "Climategate"

November 25, 2009

He thinks and writes so clearly.

Risk and Probability

November 25, 2009

For reasons beyond my understanding, in recent weeks I’ve been involved with a number of independent conversations with a number of people the the same theme–risk. That four letter word has apparently replaced other four letter words in common use. In almost all instances, I was jarred at the diverse understands of what “risk” actually means. This is a pity since there now is so much talk about risk–in the financial world, in the climate change debate, etc.

Despite the time I’ve spent reading, talking, and teaching risk and risk management (an oxymoron by the way!) I now realise I haven’t written as much here on risk as I had thought. I looked back and found this, and my best article here. But there is so much more from the plethora of PowerPoints in my files and some new ideas in my head. I promise here to start getting this written down and published here over the upcoming time period.
I’m going to start not with an attempt to define “risk”, but instead to define how I think it must be described. All risks should be articulated as the following sentence suggests.

Because of [the uncertain event], [an event or events] might happen, which could lead to [impact or result which could be positive or negative].

Risk is not simply an uncertain event. Risk is not a “bad thing”. Uncertainty is not always bad. Risk is not an event. A risk is properly articulated with all three of these elements. One must insist when talking with others about risk that these three elements are used to articulate and explain the risk. Without this articulation, the risk is not understood and is not yet ready to be “fixed” (called “mitigation” by professions).
From an understanding of risk as articulated here, we can start to understand or at least brainstorm about those things which we can influence–or not, the kind of things that can happen, and the impact (positive or negative from our own perspective). Further, we start to understand which risks we are going to try to “manage”.
There are just preliminary words about a concept that I now feel I understand more clearly. It’s time to get it written down.

When Scientists Become Politicians

November 23, 2009

In fact, when scientists become politicians but continue to pretend to be doing science, that is the real crime.

Making Twitter Work For Me

November 4, 2009

I do not really “get” Twitter for my personal use. I guess see it as a world-wide texting system largely independent of mobile phones companies (who make large margins on text services). I do not doubt, though, that people do use it. Accordingly, I setup a Twitter account for The Scottish Oil Club called, funny enough, “scottishoilclub“. The purpose is to give greater visibility to the club for members and non members. Perhaps also it could be a way to remind members of upcoming events and club news. All depends on getting “followers” of which as of now there is only one–me.

I gave some thought about how I was going to remember to contribute something to this Twitter feed. There is no point to having Twitter with no tweets! However, that is easier said then done.
Then I remembered that the automation I use for managing the Club is mostly done in Python (with a little Microsoft Access) which interacts with the database (MySQL) and the internet (web site, email, etc.). I wondered if I could use Python to interact with Twitter? “Yes” is the answer.
A Python wrapper around the Twitter API has been created, called Python Twitter. After installing this in Python, three lines of code are required to post a tweet:
import twitter
api.PostUpdate(“Hello World!”)
I’ve added this into my little program that manages club information. When I make changes to information (new directory, email to members, etc.) I now have in front of me the option to send a tweet on the same subject. Since this is almost automatic, it is likely to happen.