Posts tagged ‘Caribbean’

Warmists and Skeptics Should Agree That This is The Real Scandal in Climate Science

Imagine that for some reason you desperately needed to be under a certain weight.  I am old enough to think of the relatively obscure movie Vision Quest where a high school wrestler is trying to drop two weight classes.  If you were in that situation, what is the first investment you would make?  Exercise equipment?  Nutrition guides?  A personal trainer?  No!  You would invest in a good, accurate scale.  Because without being able to measure the variable (in this case weight) you care about, everything else is worthless.

As trivial an observation as this may seem, the fact is that the world's governments have spent tens, perhaps hundreds of billions of dollars on global warming research and mitigation and have done almost zero to build out and improve a reliable temperature measurement system and historical temperature database.   We have absolutely failed over the last 30 years to substantially improve our actual measurement of the warming we are so concerned about.

There are at least two problems with our temperature data, the first of which I have written about many times before -- our surface temperature measurement infrastructure is full of bad installations whose design and location bear no resemblance to best-practice standards.  The most common problem is that temperature measurement stations are located in places that are subject to a lot of local biases, particularly urban development and heat islands.  I wrote about a classic example I discovered right here in Arizona.  And while the US has taken a few steps to eliminate the most egregious locations, many bad ones still exist.  And problems with the US infrastructure are nothing compared to issues with the infrastructure in other countries.  There still are only a handful of measurement locations in huge continents such as Africa and Antarctica, with quality problems equal to or greater than those in the US.

Parallel to the land surface data, we have a second temperature data set taken from satellites that has nearly as many issues.  Satellite data eliminates some of the problems of the surface data set:  it does not have large gaps in coverage and it is not subject to local biases, such as urban heat islands.  It does have the problem of not actually measuring the surface temperature, but rather the lower troposphere, but this is exactly where computer models predict the largest global warming signal to occur, so it is still useful.  But there have been many under-investment problems here, too.  The history of temperature versions of the UAH satellite temperature data base has many ups and downs that must be corrected -- this satellite fell out of the sky and then this one has sensor drift and then this other one went off course.  Despite the large and vocal role of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in climate research, the database they maintain is a surface temperature database and they seem to do little to support space measurement, leaving it to a few small groups to learn something from the satellites.   It's as big mess, made worse by the political factor of the space temperature database getting lower warming rates and being maintained by a skeptic while the surface temperature databases show more warming and are maintained by folks more pessimistic about warming rates.

To this picture we can add substantial problems with the historical temperature record.  The Hadley CRUT database is generally considered the gold standard in surface temperature records and is used by most researchers.  There are some problems with the database that are hard to fix -- for example, for 1850 there is apparently only 1 temperature station in the database for the entire southern hemisphere, which means half the world's temperature is being extrapolated from one site in Indonesia.  We can't get in a time machine and sprinkle the world in 1850 with more thermometers.  But we can try to take some sort of estimate of the potential error induced by such spotty measurement, something I have never seen done in the CRUT database.  The data in 1850 is always presented as just as solid as that in 1950 (see my last global temperature update).

Apparently, a PHD student in Australia recently audited the CRUT database as his thesis project. Before you get into his results, here is one thing to consider: Literally trillion-dollar decisions are being made based on this database and based on research which uses this database, and no one has bothered to do this previously until some random grad student in Australia gives it a shot?  By the way, it should be noted that once he completed what should have been warmly welcomed by the climate community with a "Dang, can't believe we didn't do that already," he has instead gotten nothing but grief and criticism.

The thesis is paywalled, (just $8, I have bought a copy and am slogging through it now) but Anthony Watt summarizes:

HadCRUT4 is the primary global temperature dataset used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to make its dramatic claims about “man-made global warming”.  It’s also the dataset at the center of “ClimateGate” from 2009, managed by the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University.

The audit finds more than 70 areas of concern about data quality and accuracy.

But according to an analysis by Australian researcher John McLean it’s far too sloppy to be taken seriously even by climate scientists, let alone a body as influential as the IPCC or by the governments of the world.

Main points:

  • The Hadley data is one of the most cited, most important databases for climate modeling, and thus for policies involving billions of dollars.
  • McLean found freakishly improbable data, and systematic adjustment errors , large gaps where there is no data, location errors, Fahrenheit temperatures reported as Celsius, and spelling errors.
  • Almost no quality control checks have been done: outliers that are obvious mistakes have not been corrected – one town in Columbia spent three months in 1978 at an average daily temperature of over 80 degrees C.  One town in Romania stepped out from summer in 1953 straight into a month of Spring at minus 46°C. These are supposedly “average” temperatures for a full month at a time. St Kitts, a Caribbean island, was recorded at 0°C for a whole month, and twice!
  • Temperatures for the entire Southern Hemisphere in 1850 and for the next three years are calculated from just one site in Indonesia and some random ships.
  • Sea surface temperatures represent 70% of the Earth’s surface, but some measurements come from ships which are logged at locations 100km inland. Others are in harbors which are hardly representative of the open ocean.
  • When a thermometer is relocated to a new site, the adjustment assumes that the old site was always built up and “heated” by concrete and buildings. In reality, the artificial warming probably crept in slowly. By correcting for buildings that likely didn’t exist in 1880, old records are artificially cooled. Adjustments for a few site changes can create a whole century of artificial warming trends.

Details of the worst outliers

  • For April, June and July of 1978 Apto Uto (Colombia, ID:800890)  had an average monthly temperature of  81.5°C, 83.4°C and 83.4°C respectively.
  • The monthly mean temperature in September 1953 at Paltinis, Romania is reported as -46.4 °C (in other years the September average was about 11.5°C).
  • At Golden Rock Airport, on the island of St Kitts in the Caribbean, mean monthly temperatures for December in 1981 and 1984 are reported as 0.0°C. But from 1971 to 1990 the average in all the other years was 26.0°C.

The last point about past thermometer adjustments is one I have run into before when I was looking at urban heat islands and their effect on temperature measurement (by the way this is a really great science fair project if you are looking for one).  Past urban heat adjustments seem to imply (by cooling the past more than the present) that urban heat biases on measured temperatures have gone down over time, which defies all logic and experience.

There is a lot more of interest at the link, but it strikes me as shear madness, bordering on fraud, that there seems to have been so little effort put into data integrity of perhaps the single most important non-economic dataset in the world.  I would presume that warmists, who constantly accuse skeptics of being "anti-science" would be the first to line up in favor of investing whatever is necessary in better, cleaner data.  So far, there has only been criticism of the effort.

Postscript:  The temperature adjustment issue is an important one.  In short, as seen below, the magnitude of the temperature adjustments in the US temperature database equal the magnitude of the warming.  In other words, the warming signal comes entirely from the adjustments.  This does not mean the signal is being read incorrectly, but it does mean that getting the adjustments (and their error bars, which no one ever includes) correct is perhaps the single most important issue to a good historical database.

There Be Crazy People Here

Yes, our Arizona legislature keeps cranking out the hits

In what has to be the most hilariously unconstitutional piece of legislation that I've seen in quite some time, senators in the Arizona state legislature have introduced a bill that would require all educational institutions in the state -- including state universities -- to suspend or fire professors who say or do things that aren't allowed on network TV. Yes, you read that right: at the same time the Supreme Court is poised to decide if FCC-imposed limits on "indecent" content in broadcast media are an anachronism from a bygone era, Arizona state legislators want to limit what college professors say and do to only what is fit for a Disney movie (excluding, of course, the Pirates of the Caribbeanfranchise. After all, those films are PG-13!).

Amazing.  I had thought the nominal reason for the FCC standards was because non-adults might watch TV and hear a bad word that they likely hear 20 times a day at school.  But college kids are generally adults.  This is just bizarre.

The Huffpo article did not mention the bill's sponsor, but how much do you want to be its a Conservative who has in the past lamented political correctness on campus?  [update: sponsors here]

Hope and Change

Via the WSJ, discussing the US's Siberian Gulag in the Caribbean:

The Obama administration on Monday announced plans for new Guantanamo Bay military trials and for the first time laid out its legal strategy to indefinitely detain prisoners who can't be tried but are too dangerous to be freed.

President Barack Obama issued an executive order to conduct periodic reviews of the cases of the nearly 50 detainees who will be detained indefinitely.

It used to be that people who had never been convicted of any crime but that certain people in the government considered dangerous were called "free men."

Pirates Review

I loved the original Pirates of the Caribbean, and so I was excited to go see the sequel.  I won't write a long review, except to say that this movie is to the original what Star Wars Episode 3 was to the original Star Wars.  It seems to have forgotten what made the original a success, and focused instead on elaborate special effects and a confused plot.  The effects are amazing, and may be alone worth the price of one viewing, but the movie itself was only so-so. 

The plot wandered around aimlessly at times, and key elements, such as exactly how Jack got crosswise with Davy Jones in the first place, get a very very short exposition, which seem odd in a 2-1/2 hour movie.  This is the same mistake many action movie sequels make - the Indiana Jones movies come to mind in particular.  The sequels go for action action action continuously on the screen, forgetting that the original had long stretches of quiet periods that actually moved the plot and characters along.

Of all the plot elements, the sudden introduction of the ex-commodore Norrington seems the most forced.  There feels like there are one two many characters in the movie, with Sparrow, Will, the governor, the east India guys, Norrington, Davy Jones, etc. all having independent agendas.  This is fine for a taught character drama, but for a light action movie it is overly complex, and feels like Mission Impossible 2 where the writers tried to outdo the original in twists and turns and betrayals.  The introduction of Norrington does set up an interesting 3-way fight (kind of reminiscent of the awesome final scene in God, Bad, and the Ugly).  Like much of the film, the fight is kindof fun but falls short somehow.  And looking back on the movie, I can't figure out why the whole first part of the movie with the cannibals was even in there.  Basically, it did nothing to advance the plot.

The worst offense of the movie in my mind is that it underutilized Johny Depp.  Depp, whose performance really made the first movie, is OK but is not really allowed to be great.  The writers have him reprising his best bits from the first movie, rather than doing anything new.  It all feels a bit stale.

Oh, and by the way, does every single Hollywood movie have to find a way to make a large corporation the villain?  I mean, is it a writers guild requirement or something?  Even this movie set in the 18th century has to seek out the one and only large corporation in the world and use it as a villain.

A (Partial) Defense of Larry Krueger

Larry Krueger, a radio personality for the San Francisco (baseball) Giants, recently ignited a firestorm by saying that he was frustrated by the Giants'

brain-dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop nightly.

In response, Giants manager Felipe Alou has demanded Krueger's firing, asserting that this statement represents the worst sort of racism, and that he refused to accept Krueger's apology because "There's no way to
apologize for such a sin."

OK, at the risk that Krueger turns out to be a serial idiot with a long history of racism, I will deal with this statement solely on its face.  And in context, the reaction to his statement strikes me as extremely exaggerated.

Some background:  Typically, hitters can be thought of in two classes:

  1. Picky hitters, that sort through pitches like my wife shopping for vegetables, carefully picking out only the best to swing at, and gladly accepting walks when they come.  These hitters are often considered more "thoughtful" hitters
  2. Aggressive hitters, who swing more indiscriminately at pitches, and who often consider a walk to be a failed at-bat.  These hitters often described as "intuitive" or "natural" hitters, rather than thoughtful.

Some managers prefer the first type, some the second (for example, Miguel Tejada's being indiscriminate at the plate drove A's GM Billy Beane crazy, while other managers are happy to let him hack away for their team, given his huge numbers).  Which brings us back to the Caribbean.  What's interesting to me is that the Caribbean is not actually a race, but a location.  And in that location, it is very clear that hitters are schooled to be type #2 aggressive hitters.  Players in the Dominican Republic, Filipe Alou's home country by the way, have a saying:  "You don't walk off the island".  In other words, to get the attention of the US scouts and come to the majors from the Caribbean, a hitter is trained to be an aggressive type 2 player. They are taught that going down hacking is better than a walk.

In a sense, the Caribbean is a big (and very very successful) baseball school for training players to play in the US.  And it turns out that this "school" tends to teach players be more indiscriminate hackers at the plate.  Ask any manager in the majors if Caribbean hitters on average are less picky, more aggressive hitters at the plate and they will say "of course".

So, to some extent, Krueger is getting flamed for saying what everyone already knows.  Saying that Caribbean hitters can be indiscriminate hackers is like saying that PAC 10 quarterbacks tend to be more NFL-ready and polished than Big 12 quarterbacks -- its just a fact that is not always true, but is true on average given how they were trained.  Krueger's real mistake was probably using the term "brain dead", which can be a dangerous term when it has racial overtones, but in context probably refers to hitting style rather than absolute IQ.  I think Alou is reaching to say that Krueger was referring to Caribbean hitters poor English skills, but I will admit that he has more history with Krueger and may have reason to make this interpretation from past events.

Well, at Least I am Consistent

Via Professor Bainbridge, here is a nice Friday distraction for you -- a test via Philosophy magazine called Taboo.  Here are my results:

Your Moralising Quotient of 0.00 compares to an average Moralising Quotient
of 0.29. This means that as far as the events depicted in the scenarios featured
in this activity are concerned you are more permissive than average.

Your Interference Factor of 0.00 compares to an average Interference Factor
of 0.15. This means that as far as the events depicted in the scenarios featured
in this activity are concerned you are less likely to recommend societal
interference in matters of moral wrongdoing, in the form of prevention or
punishment, than average.

The test basically gauges wether you think an action can be immoral if no one is harmed, or if no one but the individual actor is harmed.  Its making a point that libertarians often make, and I made more generally here about respecting individual decision-making.  The distinction between immoral and yukky is also useful.  However, the nature of the questions reminds me of this funny bit by libertarian Dave Berry about libertarianism, sex, and dogs (scroll down):

John Dorschner, one of our staff
writers here at Tropic magazine at The Miami Herald, who is a good friend of mine
and an excellent journalist, but a raving liberal, wrote a story about a group
that periodically pops up saying that they're going to start their own country or
start their own planet or go back to their original planet, or whatever. They
were going to "create a libertarian society" on a floating platform in the
Caribbean somewhere. You know and I know there' s never going to be a country on
a floating anything, but if they want to talk about it, that's great.

wrote about it and he got into the usual thing where he immediately got to the question
of whether or not you can have sex with dogs. The argument was that if it wasn't
illegal to have sex with dogs, naturally people would have sex with dogs. That
argument always sets my teeth right on edge.

And I always want to retort
with, "You want a horrible system, because you think the people should be able to vote
for laws they want, and if more than half of them voted for some law, everyone
would have to do what they said. Then they could pass a law so that you had to
have sex with dogs."

Postscript:  By the way, I consider myself profoundly moral.  I just don't tend to apply morality to situations where an actors actions affect only themselves, or other via mutual consent.  More on this in another post.


Charlie's Grandpa Joe is Really Scum

We were watching the old Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on DVD the other day.  This movie choice was made by the kids in anticipation of the new Johnny Depp version coming soon (since Pirates of the Caribbean, my kids are huge Johnny Depp fans).

I guess I really never paid much attention,  but Charlie's Grandpa Joe (played by Jack Albertson) is a real schmuck.  This little boy and his mother slave away for pitiful wages all day to support their four grandparents who are infirm and stuck in bed.  Grandpa Joe has laid in that bed for years, maybe decades, and never once tried to get out and help his family.  But, given the chance to go on a special trip to the Chocolate Factory with Charlie, Joe soon bounces out of bed and dances around the room.  Where was this energy when the family needed a wage-earner?

I don't know if this was intentional or not.  My guess is that this might not have been intentional - the early 1970's were the height of welfare sensibilities, and it would probably have been unlikely that Hollywood would try to include any messages about a slacker dad who failed to support his family.

Update:  By the way, in response to one of the comments, I am mostly just having fun with this.  I love Willie Wonka and am not so much of a Scrooge to turn on the movie because of an issue like this - heck, if I only enjoyed movies I was in complete ideological agreement with, I would have a very small movie collection. 

But, I do beg to differ with the commenter who said that Grandpa Joe provided the best adult supervision of all the parents.   This is actually not true, at least in the factory itself.  When each child pursued their fatal screw-up, in most cases their parents were trying to stop them, however lamely:  Augustus's mom says to stop drinking from the river, etc.  Charlie's Grandpa Joe actually was the one parent (or I guess guardian) who took an active role in encouraging their child into breaking their host's rules (i.e. drinking the fizzy lifting drink). 

I sit here thinking - jeez, am I really arguing about this?  I feel silly, but it does beat arguing about 30-year-old events in the military service of presidential candidates.