Category Archives: Environment and Ecology

There is something about those climate records that keep getting broken

imrs

I think we have all become used to headlines like this - Earth Just Had Its Hottest September On Record. It’s all ho-hum to us. We just don’t notice any more – we don’t bother reading the articles.

This is the point made by Chris Mooney in his Washington Post article Climate records are breaking so often now, we’ve stopped paying attention.

But perhaps we should stop and notice something. How often do these headlines refer to “the coldest month on record?” Surely if this was just random variation, as the climate change deniers like to tell us, we should be seeing such headlines half the time. But we don’t. Doesn’t that tell us something?

We have random variation alright – but random variation on top of an increasing temperature trend. That is what we should worry about.

As Chris Mooney says:

“last September was the hottest of them all, out of 135 Septembers going back to 1880.The same was true for August 2014. And June of 2014. And May of 2014. What that means is that for each of these months, the combined average global land and ocean surface temperature has never been higher, at least since we started recording these temperatures back in the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes.”

In fact:

“for 355 months now (up through September), “every month on this planet has been warmer than the 20th century average,” according to Jessica Blunden, a scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. ThePost’s own Philip Bump, then writing at Grist, pointed out numbers like these back in November 2012, when the streak was only 332 consecutive months–but since then, every month has just added to the total. And now, we’re just shy of 30 years of unbroken warmer-than-average months. The last month that actually was not warmer than the 20th century average, according to Blunden, was February of 1985. (It was merely average, she says.)”

On top of this:

“2014 appears reasonably likely to wind up the hottest year on record, in NOAA’s accounting. In fact, to tie that record, the remainder of the year merely has to be average for the 21st century.

In climate science circles, there’s already much discussion of the likelihood of 2014 setting a new record. Climate researchers are particularly struck by the fact that prior record years, like 1998 (now the 3rd warmest overall, according to NOAA)  have often been El Nino years, which are hotter than average. But so far an official El Nino has not yet been proclaimed.

Thus, a new global average temperature record in 2014 would be all the more extraordinary. So will it happen? “As we watch daily temperature results come in, it’s becoming ever more likely,” says John Abraham, a climate scientist at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota who studies ocean warming and climate change. Abraham emphasizes, though, that there are several other global agencies besides NOAA (including our own NASA) that also track temperatures and they don’t always perfectly agree on the ranking of record years.”

I guess the climate change deniers will be yelling the news to the rooftops if one or more global agencies do not find 2014 to  be another record year. Anything to cover up the underlying trend.

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Putting politicans in their place on climate change

The US is a strange country. It has some great comedians (and some great scientists) but it also has some lousy politicians.

It’s a real mystery to me how the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology can have so many idiots on board.

These Congressmen Think They’re Smarter Than Scientists. Jon Stewart Disproves That Real Quick..

Jon Stewart would have made a great science teacher.

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Fluoridation: putting chemical contamination in context

Anti-fluoridation activists often claim fluoridating chemicals used for water treatment are contaminated with heavy metals and radionuclides. I have written about this before in Fluoridation – are we dumping toxic metals into our water supplies?Water treatment chemicals – why pick on fluoride? and Hamilton – the water is the problem, not the fluoride!  The issue was also discussed in my exchange with Paul Connett (see Fluoride debate).

Trouble is, many people have difficulty putting measured levels of contamination into context. After all, if there is a sufficiently sensitive analytical method available just about any contaminant will be detected and measured in our food and water. The important issue is the magnitude of the contamination (which is often natural anyway). That is why measured levels of contaminants must be compared with the maximum allowable values defined in regulations for food and water safety.

I have seen anti-fluoridation activists presenting submissions to councils who will flash on the screen a copy of a certificate of analysis as “evidence” of heavy metal contamination without any reference to the measured values at all! Their logic seems to be that the fact contaminant levels have been measured at all is some sort of “proof” of dangerous contamination.

Arsenic in Hamilton City water

It may help to consider the possible levels of contamination with the contamination from natural sources. In the graph below I have plotted the relative contribution of arsenic from natural and fluoridating chemicals in the treated Hamilton City (NZ) water. Arsenic is commonly mentioned by opponents of fluoridation.

As-River

The source water for Hamilton (Waikato River) contains arsenic from natural sources usually 2 or 3 times the maximum acceptable value (MAV) for drinking water (10 ppb As) (McLaren and Kim 1995). (ppb = parts per billion). In the figure the first bar represents river water arsenic content just under 30 ppb. After treatment up to 90% of the arsenic is removed so that it does not exceed the  MAV  (here 3 ppb) – red horizontal line. However, the contribution from fluoridation chemicals used (assuming about 2 ppm As in the FSA – the last batch used in Hamilton had 0.4 ppm As) is miniscule compared with that from natural sources (0.15 ppb).

Seems to me rather silly to argue against treating Hamilton water with fluoridating chemicals because they are “contaminated” with arsenic while ignoring the much large contribution of arsenic from the source Waikato River water.

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International cooperation in space serving humanity

Sentinel-1A_Liftoffw

Photo credit: SENTINEL-1 LIFTS OFF

This morning I watched the launch of the Sentinel 1A satellite. The launch was perfect and the coverage on Spaceflight Now excellent with plenty of explanation along the way.

The satellite was launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket from the European Space Agency (ESA) launch pad Kourou near the town of Sinnamary, French Guiana, on South America’s northern Atlantic coastline. Sentinel 1A was built by Thales Alenia Space of France and Italy. The satellite is now being managed from a mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

International cooperation important

Viewing this event I couldn’t help noticing the programme is a result of cooperation between several countries. First of all, countries in the European Commission and ESA, but also Russia which provided the launcher and whose companies were involved in the launch. That cooperation is obvious from the fact that English, French, German, Italian and Russian languages were being used.

I think there are two important points about this cooperation in our modern world:

  1. International cooperation is vital to the success of these scientifically important projects. They are just too big and complex to be handled by single nations.
  2. Scientific success is not an end in itself – is the basis for humanitarian success. international cooperation is vital for solving environmental, economic and security problems all countries face today.

So, alongside this good news of the Sentinel 1A success I am concerned about the bad news that NASA is to take part in the politically initiated sanctions against Russia. Yesterday, NASA released this statement:

Given Russia’s ongoing violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, NASA is suspending the majority of its ongoing engagements with the Russian Federation. NASA and Roscosmos will, however, continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation of the International Space Station. NASA is laser focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space. This has been a top priority of the Obama Administration’s for the past five years, and had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches – and the jobs they support – back to the United States next year. With the reduced level of funding approved by Congress, we’re now looking at launching from U.S. soil in 2017. The choice here is between fully funding the plan to bring space launches back to America or continuing to send millions of dollars to the Russians. It’s that simple. The Obama Administration chooses to invest in America – and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same.

Any long-term operation of these sanctions, despite the exclusion of the International Space Station work, will inevitable have a negative effect on international scientific cooperation. And will inevitably retard humanity’s work on alleviating our environmental, economic and security problems.

Frankly I think these sanction are cynical measures resulting from inevitable geopolitical frictions and should only have a relatively short lifetime.

Let us hope so.

Copernicus and Sentinel 1A

Sentinel 1A is the first of 17 satellites to be launched over the next decade in the Copernicus programme – described as “the largest Earth-observation program in history.”

“When all of the Sentinel satellites have been launched, they will form a network tasked with gathering an unprecedented amount of data regarding the planet. . . Using a wide variety of instrumentation, the Copernicus program will be able to provide scientists, government agencies and other parties with the necessary data to precisely determine the exact current state of the planet. Moreover, the data will also be useful in creating simulations and predictions of future climate and weather trends.”

Have a look at this infographic for a summary of the Copernicus programme and the satellites involved.

airbus_infographic

Click on image to enlarge

An overview of the Copernicus programme describes it this way:

“Copernicus provides a unified system through which vast amounts of data, acquired from space and from a multitude of in situ sensors, are fed into a range of thematic information services designed to benefit the environment, the way we live, humanitarian needs and support effective policy-making for a more sustainable future.

These services fall into six main categories: land management, the marine environment, atmosphere, emergency response, security and climate change.

In essence, Copernicus will help shape the future of our planet for the benefit of all. ESA is contributing by providing a proven framework for the development of operational systems on behalf of the user community, paving the way for investment in future generation systems. ESA is exploiting its 30 years of expertise in space programme development and management to contribute to the success of Copernicus.”

See also: European Earth observing craft prepared for launch.

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Our Far South – time we learned about it

I am spending some time dealing with family business so I am reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days. These could be useful with Christmas coming up.

This is Gareth Morgan’s second to last book. It is very relevant to new Zealanders – and timely – because it deals with part of the world, our Far South, which is very important but often ignored. Well written and informative.


Book review: Ice, Mice and Men: The Issues Facing Our Far South by Geoff Simmons & Gareth Morgan

Price: NZ$35; Epub/Mobi NZ$15.
ISBN: 9780987666628
Barcode: 9780987666628
Published: 12 July 2012 by Public Interest Publishing Ltd

Antarctica brings to mind nature documentaries and penguins. Beautiful snowscapes and adventure. Maybe even of science and scientists working in harsh conditions.

But what about its ecological and political importance? Well, some climate change deniers/contrarians/sceptics/cranks have lately turned their attention to Antarctica in an attempt to “balance” the record breaking summer ice loss in the Arctic. I guess that’s a start – but what role do the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean really play in climate change. What about its natural resources and unique species? What are the governance issues – so many countries are interested in the area and many have a presence? And what does this all mean for New Zealand?

The first figure in this book (see below) shows our political and economic territorial interests in this area and suggest why we should perhaps pay more attention. Especially as the rest of the world is.

Territory of our Far South (All figures from book)

But there is also climate change – which interests all of us. Geoff Simmons & Gareth Morgandescribe the Southern ocean as:

“the engine room of the global ocean, and of the world’s climate. That is what many of us don’t realise and in our ignorance we’re complacent about the changes it is undergoing.”

So it’s about time the world, and New Zealand in particular, learned more about this region because the political, economic and ecological changes will eventually effect all of us. That makes this book very timely.

The book proves to be successful in its aim. It provides a very readable overview of the important issues: the history of the region; its resources and the battle to exploit them; international governance – the nature of the treaties covering the region and their problems; the ecology of the region – the threats to rare species, management of fisheries and problems with introduced species; climate change – the key role of the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) in circulating nutrients around the world’s oceans and as an important sink for heat and carbon dioxide (CO2).

Climate change

The book describes the formation of the ACC this way:

“Some 34 million years ago, Australia and Zealandia separated from Antarctica, and along with a mobile South America created a passage of deep water all the way around the Southern Hemisphere. The opening of this last gap, between the tip of South America and the Antarctic Peninsula (known as the Drake Passage) allowed the westerly winds and currents an unimpeded romp around the globe. This accident of geography created the world’s greatest current system – the ACC. And it was the inauguration of the ACC that directly contributed to a massive shift in the Earth’s climate from hot to cold, . . “

The Antarctic Circumpolar Current -
The ACC area is shaded orange (All figures from book)

This current, together with churning of the sea by wind, resulted in removal of carbon dioxide and heat from the atmosphere as well as transport of nutrients from the sea bed. The result, a cooling of the global climate, appearance of ice sheets in Antarctica, and a key role for the ACC in nutrient supply to the world oceans. As the authors say: without the ACC “we would have a much warmer planet, which means higher sea levels, and less land – and frankly, it’s quite likely we wouldn’t exist.”

The key role of the ACC in global climate, the world’s weather systems and insulation of the Antarctica continues today. The churning of sea by the wind and the low temperature of the water enables the current to carry heat and CO2 to middle depths and transport them around the world. The result: “40% of the carbon stored in the ocean is taken in between 30 degrees south and 50 degrees south.”

The ACC needs to be monitored closely – it’s important and climate change seems to be changing the workings of the ACC itself. There have been changes of wind and current speed and of location of the ACC which could have global consequences

Simmons and  Morgan summarise it this way:

Our Far South “is a place of incalculable importance to New Zealand and to the entire world. The ecosystem, climate and the actions of humankind are irrevocably intertwined – maybe here more than anywhere else on the planet. . . having a continent on our southern pole, surrounded by ocean and carrying an immense quantity of ice is part of what makes our planet’s current climate so hospitable”

Even from the perspective of climate change alone we need to be more aware of what is happening in our Southern Oceans.

Ecology

Although the sea floor of the Ross Sea and similar places are exceptions, most of Our Far south is not very diverse biologically. This makes it sensitive to losses of even a few species. Differences between the Southern Ocean and Northern Hemisphere add to this sensitivity. For example the lack of land mean there are no terrestrial sources of iron, no dust blowing of deserts. Algae require iron and even trace amounts make a huge difference to biological production. Circulation of nutrients to the global ocean by the ACC means conservation and study of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica is important. Unfortunately scientific research is under pressure to support commercial exploitation of the resources, rather than conservation.

One area New Zealand scientists has had success is in eradication of introduced pests from islands to our south. And this work is continuing. One of the authors, Gareth Morgan, supports this work through a charitable trust. So it’s fitting that he gives an invitation to readers at the end of the book:

“If you would like to help make a difference to Our Far South you can contribute to the Million Dollar Mouse project at www.milliondollarmouse.org”

The rush to exploit resources

Antarctica and the Southern Oceans have probably fared better than the Arctic region in the race for territory and resources. Nevertheless, there has been a rush here and New Zealand has contributed to this, as well as benefited from it:

“Thanks to our rapacious sealing, whaling and farming in the subantarctic islands (a legacy from which they are still recovering), New Zealand was able to secure sovereignty over those rocky isles. This in turn gained us one of the largest areas of EEZ (Extended Economic Zone) in the world.

I am old enough to remember the scientific activity and the cooperative spirit behind it during the International Geophysical Year in 1957. This enthusiasm provided political support for an international agreement on management of Antarctica and a Treaty was signed in 1959.

The Antarctic Treaty temporarily resolved territorial disputes on that continent by agreeing to disagree over sovereignty. This Treaty has proved incredibly successful at ensuring the continent is dedicated to peace and science. This is in our interest: we are just too small to get into a turf war. It left New Zealand with the Ross dependency. That, together with our EEZ, one of the largest in the world, and our extended continental shelf (see first figure) makes us an important player in the region, politically and economically. But the Treaty simply froze the status quo from the 1950s and the balance of world power is changing.

Of course this means New Zealand also has huge responsibilities in the political future of the region and exploitation of its natural resources. We really should be paying more attention here.

Whaling, and the threat of extinction to some species, has reached the attention of the New Zealand public which has an awareness of its relevance to our region and the Southern Ocean. While international negotiation and political protest action concentrate on whaling itself, and those nations which still kill whales, there is also a threat to whales in the region from climate change. The subtle change in nutrient flows influence the populations of species which whales feed on.

Many of us are also vaguely conscious of an ongoing struggle between conversation and exploitation of fish in Our Far South.* This is hugely controversial because science is used to manage fisheries, but also to exploit the same fisheries. It’s often hard to know who is winning – but most of us suspect commercial and not conservation interests prevail. On the other hand it is true that sensible conservation must often allow for controlled exploitation.

Toothfish in the Southern oceans has been very much in the news lately. Some scientists are very critical of it’s commercial exploitation because so little is known about the species. However, others believe it to be one of New Zealand’s  success stories. The authors discuss the controversy and their sympathies lie with the fisheries. They say

“Our fishing industry is by no means perfect, but the toothfish fishery really is an example of them at their best”

Despite the success of the Antarctic Treaty it does present problems because of the presence of so many countries and interests in the region and unresolved differences over sovereignty. The book discusses these current problems as well as the future problems we must grapple with as treaties and agreements are renegotiated.

Conclusions

This book provides an excellent resource for information on the Southern Oceans, our subarctic islands and Antarctica. It will provide students and layperson New Zealanders with an access to wide-ranging material on the history, politics, economics, ecology and natural and mineral resources of the region. References provide avenues for deeper study.

But it’s also very readable. There is an absolute minimum of technical language – and what there is often gets treated with humour. Mind you, it’s Kiwi humour so some overseas readers may miss the occasional digs against the Aussies.

Some advice for the reader, though. I read this book on an eReader and learned again that such devices are currently not always suitable for technical books, even those written in a popular style like this one. In this case only because many of the figures are colour coded. I can see a real need for colour eInk screens in eReaders – which can’t be far off anyway. And tablets such as the iPad are ideal for this book.

In summary, this book is important because it’s about an important region of the world which influences the globe. It’s especially important for New Zealanders because it’s our backyard – we have territorial rights to large parts of it. And finally it’s important because most of us, including most New Zealanders, are ignorant of the important role it plays.  It’s the most important place you didn’t know about.

Fortunately this readable and informative book will help overcome that problem.

*See also:
Prime TV: The Last Ocean  Next Tuesday 8:30 pm
“The Ross Sea, Antarctica, is the most pristine stretch of ocean on Earth. But the fishing industry is targeting the lucrative Antarctic toothfish, and unless stopped, will destroy its ecosystem.”

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Cyber bullying of science

cyberbullyingI am always amazed at how easily public discussion about scientific issues can degenerate into childish and nasty attacks on science, and scientists. This is especially true for internet discussion – this medium really does seem to bring out the worst in some people.

Over the last few years we have seen climate science, and climate scientists treated this way. I have always tried to support that science, and those scientists, from afar and never thought I would become a victim of such nastiness myself.

Then I got involved in the fluoridation issue.

I am not critical of everyone who opposes fluoridation – some of my best friends oppose it. I can understand why some people will advocate personal freedom over social good. I can even understand the chemophobia and other misunderstanding which can make the less scientifically literate person a bit wary of fluoridation.

Anti-fluoridationists – a strange social mixture

But the anti-fluoridationists are a strange social mixture. Amongst the well-meaning environmentalists and health advocates there are some really irrational people. Conspiracy theorists are common. Some are concerned about chemtrails, others about Agenda 21 and attempts by the UN to control birth rates! Then there are the right-wing extremists, supporters of the US Tea Party Republicans, absolutely opposed to any community measure for social good.

The anti-fluoridation movement is a strange mixture of left and right, concerned greenies and outright libertarians. One wonders what would happen to these groups if the fluoride issue disappeared and internal strife broke out.

Unfortunately, it seems that quite often in the current controversy the more extreme conspiracy theorists and anti-science elements seem to be making the running. Speaking and acting for the more genuine members of the anti-fluoridation groups.

Internet bullying

I thought this only happened with teenage schoolgirls, or young female celebrities, but now find that even someone my age can become a victim. This video demonstrates the sort of attacks people who speak out about the science underpinning fluoridation can be exposed to. It really does put into context the decisions by local Health Boards not to participate in political meetings on fluoridation because of threats to, and attacks on, their staff.

VINNY EASTWOOD ATTACKS PRO FLUORIDE SCUM 23Sep2013 

In a way, this sort of bullying is a bit of a compliment. Perhaps I have done something right to have upset these anti-science extremists. But it is not about me. This sort of thing illustrates the sort of nasty hysterical anti-science propoganda out there on the internet. The worrying thing is that this guy actually does have a following (about 9500 subscribers to his YouTube channel). When I expressed ignorance of who he is one commenter told me that “everyone” in Australia and New Zealand has heard of him!

Yeah, right. But he is obviously popular with a certian group of people.

Image credit: uknowkids 

See also:

Similar articles on fluoridation
Making sense of fluoride Facebook page
Fluoridate our water Facebook page
New Zealanders for fluoridation Facebook page

Hamilton – the water is the problem, not the fluoride!

Saw this on Facebook the other night – together with the comment:

“If Hamilton don’t want fluoride in the water, how about we replace the water”

wine

Yes, that would be convenient, wouldn’t it. Instead of Hot and Cold taps, why not Red and White?

However, there is an element of truth in the joke. To some extent, the Waikato water is the problem, rather than fluoride added during fluoridation. Anti-fluoridationists are concentrating on the “evils” of the fluoridation agent, fluorosilicic acid, without realising that the source for our water supply in Hamilton introduces more contamination than the fluoridation chemicals.

Have a look at this graphic showing the levels of arsenic (As) in the Waikato River. Through almost the entire length of the river As levels are several times higher than the recommended maximum concentration for human consumption which is 0.01 parts per million (ppm).

The source water for the Hamilton water treatment plant is 2 or 3 times that recommended maximum As concentration.

Fortunately the treatment process remove about 80% of the As.

Let’s compare that with the contamination introduced by fluoridation chemicals.

A typical concentration of As in fluorosilicic acid is 2 ppm (see Fluoridation – are we dumping toxic metals into our water supplies?  and Water treatment chemicals – why pick on fluoride?). There is a large amount of dilution of the fluorosilicic acid when added to water at the recommended dose (0.7 – 1.0 ppm). The final concentration in our drinking water is 0.0001 ppm As. Several orders of magnitude lower than the maximum recommended concentration for human consumption.

In reality, even after removal of 80% of As from the source water the major contribution to any As contamination in Hamilton’s public water supply is the Waikato River itself – not the fluoridation chemicals. By several orders of magnitude.

  Original Arsenic (ppm As) Dilution Contribution to finished water (ppm)
Recommended maximum As (ppm)     0.01
Waikato River water ~0.025 None ~0.005
Fluorosilicic acid 2* ~200,000 ~0.0001

* see Fluoridation – are we dumping toxic metals into our water supplies?  and Water treatment chemicals – why pick on fluoride?

Haven’t the Hamilton anti-fluoridation campaigners got their priorities wrong when they complain about contamination of the fluoridation chemicals used?

See also:

Making sense of fluoride Facebook page
Other Fluoridation articles

Global warning in science fiction

While browsing I have noticed the term “cli-fi” as a book genre – but hadn’t paid much attention. I think I must have assumed it was a sub genre of erotica, or something similar. However, the article Global warning: the rise of ‘cli-fi’ by in the Guardian, cleared up my misunderstanding.

“Cli-fi” is that genre of fictional writing about climate change. More a sub genre of science fiction than erotica!

The comments on this Guardian article are interesting – they mostly suggest titles of books the commenter considers part of this new genre. But also interesting was that several commenters mentioned fellow SciBlogger Gareth Renowden’s book The Aviator. My impression was that it was actually the most mentioned example of ‘cli-fi’ so it’s obviously developing  a readership. Comments about the book were favourable – as was my review (see Kiwi science fiction with a message).

Among the other mentions was the series Science in the City by Kim Stanley Robinson. These are  Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below  and Sixty Days and Counting.
Each of these is rather long – but I have listened to the audiobook versions and actually quite enjoying them. They won’t be to everyone’s taste – for example, some of the characters indulge in a lot of introspection. But this does mean the books cover personal and relationship issues, as well as reflections on the nature of science and politics. And there is some action – even spies. However, the books are realistic science fiction, set in the near future, within the political and science bureaucracies of Washington, DC. The natural calamities are credible and realistic. As are discussion of projects for slowing climate change.

An interesting series of books.

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Potty Peer in Waikato

Well, Christopher Monckton’s “Freedom Tour” totters on. Peter Griffins has given an initial summary in his blog post Monckton’s nightmare week in New Zealand. This has links to some of the press coverage – which, as we might expect with the Potty Peer, is rather humorous.

Flate-earthers-2

Percy the Astrologer and Mavis the Comely Wench representing the NZ Flat Earth Society came to support Lord Monckton’s Waikato meetings

The good Lord was in the Waikato yesterday. He “wowed” a largely passive, and I suspect largely apathetic, “crowd’ of a couple of dozen people at his  lunchtime presentation to a student forum at the Waikato University. A high point (for me) was the applause and speeches from members of the NZ Flat Earth Society, who are, apparently, the Lord’s most enthusiastic supporters.

While Monckton was challenged on some of his cherry picking he seemed to want to hide his political message about the international conspiracy which is using climate change and scientists to impose a one world government and preparing concentration camps. I thought this was meant to be the main message of his “Freedom Tour.” But he really overdid his claim that, despite his lack of a scientific education, he was well skilled in science and had the support of most scientists. There was something about classical architecture (his education is in classics) and his skill with differential equations. People from all over the world contract him as a consultant. Bloody hell, wonder he has time for all the travelling and talking tours.

He assured us that he gets on well with scientists, works well with them, gives advice to them, and is even himself publishing peer-reviewed papers. There were just one or two individuals he seemed angry with – scientists who were “controversial” and unsupported by their colleagues. Hmm.

Poor guy, though. He wouldn’t just modestly accept the flattery from Percy the Astrologer (see photo), who listed some of Mockton’s immense achievements. He felt the need to respond in detail, repeating and describing these achievements himself. This impressed one of the bystanders who commented that the man suffered from narcissism. Had to look up that word when I got home – it describes “a generalized personality trait characterized by egotism, vanity, pride, or selfishness.” Hmm, actually seems quite correct.

A very low-key forum. Students seemed not to have heard of the guy before (except a suspicious few elderly types who heckled scientists) – one student even referred to him as “that man in the suit.” Don’t know if that is just modern student apathy, or a healthy disregard of minority personalities. Perhaps these students have a fuller life than I do.

Later in the evening Monckton spoke to a meeting sponsored by the NZ Institute of International Affairs (Waikato Branch). I think their support is just local, and I wonder if their political orientation is somewhat unrepresentative.

I didn’t bother with that meeting but followed it on Twitter. It sounded rather humorous. I have put together below some of the tweets using Storify (see Potty peer in the Waikato or follow the hashtag #MoncktonLive).

Wish I had gone now!


Some of Joshua Drummond’s tweets from Monckton’s Monday Night Waikato meeting. This was sponsored by the NZ Institute of International Affairs (Waikato Branch) – I think the support was purely local.

Of course, there was the usual cherry picking and misinformation

cakeburgerJoshua Drummond@cakeburger Drought’s nothing to worry about. That’s good. I think he should tell that to Waikato farmers. They’d laugh. #MoncktonLive
cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Antarctic glaciers aren’t retreating, therefore glaciers aren’t retreating. #MoncktonLive

Is he still claiming he is a member of the House of Lords?

cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger I read the letter from the House of Lords at him. Audience: When did you write that? #MoncktonLive

cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger That was interesting. He didn’t like being told he wasn’t a member of the House of Lords. He says he is. #MoncktonLive

cakeburger Joshua Drummond@cakeburger .@ImperatorFish When I pressed him after event he refused to give yes or no, just repeated “learned opinion is that I am” #MoncktonLive

Seems much of the audience was pretty much in awe of the Potty Peer.What does this say about the members of the NZ Institute of International Affairs (Waikato Branch)? Is this a local libertarian coven?

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Monkton on biofuels = mass death. Guy behind mutters “That’s the agenda. That’s the agenda.” #MoncktonLive

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Audience member to me, after #MoncktonLive “I was very disappointed with your disrespect towards Lord Monckton.”

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Things just got VERY shouty. At me, again. Now I know how poor Richard Prosser feels #MoncktonLive

This final drama sounds intriguing. Would love to see a video. or perhaps a circus presentation by clowns.

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger #MoncktonLive Got a brief 1-on-1 with the man himself. Ended with him grabbing my laptop, me saying “No, MY laptop. Mine. Mine.” #TrueStory

cakeburger
Joshua Drummond@cakeburger Final #MoncktonLive: Monckton says to security guard “Please escort this man [me] from the premises”.

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What is global temperature?

When I write here about climate change you can be sure one or more trolls will pop up and tell me about the snow in the UK. Or accuse scientists of relying on this year’s New Zealand drought in their claims of climate change. It seems surprising that no matter how many times we point out the climate is not the same as weather, and global climate change is not the same as local or regional weather, some people seem to think such arguments are valid.

I have illustrated the difference before here – but here’s another example I picked up from Real Climate (see Response by Marcott et al.). The illustration is in response to the question of what is meant by global Temperature. Here’s what they say:

“Global average surface temperature is perhaps the single most representative measure of a planet’s climate since it reflects how much heat is at the planet’s surface. Local temperature changes can differ markedly from the global average. One reason for this is that heat moves around with the winds and ocean currents, warming one region while cooling another, but these regional effects might not cause a significant change in the global average temperature. A second reason is that local feedbacks, such as changes in snow or vegetation cover that affect how a region reflects or absorbs sunlight, can cause large local temperature changes that are not mirrored in the global average. We therefore cannot rely on any single location as being representative of global temperature change. This is why our study includes data from around the world.

We can illustrate this concept with temperature anomaly data based on instrumental records for the past 130 years from the National Climatic Data Center (http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cmb-faq/anomalies.php#anomalies). Over this time interval, an increase in the global average temperature is documented by thermometer records, rising sea levels, retreating glaciers, and increasing ocean heat content, among other indicators. Yet if we plot temperature anomaly data since 1880 at the same locations as the 73 sites used in our paleotemperature study, we see that the data are scattered and the trend is unclear. When these same 73 historical temperature records are averaged together, we see a clear warming signal that is very similar to the global average documented from many more sites (Figure 1). Averaging reduces local noise and provides a clearer perspective on global climate.”

ProxySites_vs_Global1-1024x907

Temperature anomaly data (thin colored lines) at the same locations as the 73 paleotemperature records used in Marcott et al. (2013), the average of these 73 temperature anomaly series (bold black line), and the global average temperature from the National Climatic Data Center blended land and ocean dataset (bold red line) (data from Smith et al., 2008).

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