Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Climate of Fraud Part 2

Here’s a pair of letters that appeared in The Australian. First, one from me:
MARC Hendrickx (Letters, 17-18/10) alleges that Pen Hadow “had to be rescued in the Arctic in 2003 due to the extreme cold and excessive ice”. Hadow in fact had always planned to be airlifted off once he arrived at the Pole, and the only issue was that he started his solo walk from Canada to the North Pole late in the season, when a pick up was risky because the ice was breaking up.

If it’s impossible to support an argument without resorting to fabrication or ad hominem attack, you don’t have a case. Every global warming denial theory falls apart when examined against the evidence, so the denial cult has given up arguing the facts.

Here’s one they won’t like. Despite the fact that we are in the deepest solar minimum—the period of least solar activity in the solar cycle of the sun—in almost a century, temperatures remain close to record highs. Had the “it’s all the sun” crew been right, we should have seen temperatures close to 100-year lows over the past few years.

As for the actual state of the Arctic, Hadow is not the only authority who has Arctic summer sea ice disappearing in the next 20 to 30 years. Several papers and reports have backed this conclusion. I’ve been working in science for nearly 30 years, and I have yet to encounter a situation where wishful thinking overturns a theory, especially when that wishful thinking runs counter to well-established physics (as is the theory of greenhouse gas warming).

If there are genuine climate-change sceptics who have alternative theories that explain the facts better than the mainstream theory, let’s hear them by all means. That’s how science works. But if the accepted theory is right, we are running out of time fast. The alternative theories have all failed any reasonable scientific test, while the mainstream has held up pretty well against the most concerted political attack on any scientific theory since the Inquisition stopped burning scientists at the stake. It’s time to move on and start addressing the real problems.

Philip Machanick

Then, a day later, a response:
USING dubious observations to bolster a preferred hypothesis is not how science works. Philip Machanick (Letters, 20/10) is on thin ice when he suggests that the human-caused global warming scenario is the only plausible explanation for our recent climate history. There is a plethora of contradictory data.

Reconstructions of the solar intensity record for recent centuries, referred to by Machanick, are speculative. Prior to 1978 there were no direct observations from outside the atmosphere and estimates of changing intensity have been made from proxies, such as sun spot numbers. As reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even the successive satellites have calibration uncertainty. It is therefore a matter of dispute as to whether or not we are in the deepest solar minimum in almost a century, as Machanick claims.

If melting of Arctic sea ice is to be taken as the canary in the coal mine for human-caused global warming, then there are relevant reputable data extending over hundreds of thousands of years from which to draw comfort. Oxygen isotope ratios from Greenland ice cores and pollen analysis from sea-bed sediment cores off southern Greenland independently show a consistent pattern.

Over the past half-million years the Arctic has oscillated through glacial cycles, each of about 100,000-year duration, and we are currently in a relatively warm interglacial phase. During each of the previous interglacials the Arctic was warmer than at present. The pollen and isotope records also suggest that the Arctic was warmer during the current interglacial between 4000 and 8000 years ago, when the carbon dioxide concentration was much less than now, and well before industrialisation.

William Kininmonth

Kininmoth is accusing me of gross misconceptions about how science works (note the bits I’ve highlighted). Heavy. I should return my PhD, and stop working as a researcher. Or, maybe I should do what a researcher does, and re-examine the evidence – starting from the pronouncements of Kininmoth himself. My original letter did not come out of nowhere: I was attempting to demonstrate how the data the denialists use directly contradicts the evidence. Well, here’s another Kininmonthian contribution from December 2008:

THE attempt by Professor Marvin Geller to discredit scientists who do not follow the climate alarmist agenda only highlights the inconsistencies of his case ("Professor sheds light for climate sceptics”, 4/12).

The evidence of solar influences on climate is well documented, especially the relationships established over many centuries of observations, that link sunspot numbers and cosmic ray activity to global temperature.

The lack of a creditable explanation for the relationships should be reason for more research, not dismissal of the mechanisms.

It is wrong to claim that the past few decades of warming cannot be explained without including human influences.

The error of his statement is obvious from his own explanation for the temperature peak of 1998 as a massive El Nino event. The El Nino is a temporary reduction of upwelling in the surface layer of the tropical Pacific Ocean that decreases the entrainment of cold subsurface water; the warmer tropical waters provide additional energy to warm the planet during an El Nino event.

Research by Michael McPhaden and Dongxiao Zhang, published in the journal Nature in 2002, identified a major and sustained reduction in Pacific Ocean upwelling and warmer ocean surface temperatures that became established in 1976.

This was at the beginning of the most recent global warming episode that the alarmists mistakenly attribute to human-caused carbon dioxide.

Interactions between the ocean and atmosphere, the two fluids that regulate Earth’s climate, are now widely recognised as contributing to climate variability on a range of timescales.

William Kininmonth

Note again my highlighting.

What was that again, about “Using dubious observations to bolster a preferred hypothesis”? Is that not a vaguely similar methodological flaw to changing your degree of support for the validity of a data set when it no longer supports your “preferred hypothesis”?

I could also dispute other points he makes, but this to me is sufficient. If you want to accuse others of unscientific practice, make sure your own approach is beyond reproach.


The WCC3 conference has downloads of speakers’ slides, and a voice recording. Latif’s talk (about a third of the way into the audio) is especially interesting since it has been so widely misreported. In particular, he addresses the need to get better resolution and accuracy for decadal predictions; this has somehow been interpreted as his saying that it will get cooler over the next two decades. If you want to get the best out of his talk, download Latif’s slides and follow them while listening to his part of the audio. I’ve posted a longer article elsewhere on how Latif has been misinterpreted.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Lazy Sunday Cuisine

A lazy wet Sunday: what’s for lunch?

I have some nice organic tomatoes from a farmer’s market, a little left over Regianno Parmesan and some supermarket spinach and ricotta tortellini (the fresh kind, not died). On a less lazy day, I’d crank up the pasta machine – but not today. For dessert I have about 200g of good fair trade dark cooking chocolate, and some milk and eggs in the fridge.

To get started, how about a nice sauce for the pasta? Let’s see what else I have and put it together (enough for two serves):

  • a splash of olive oil
  • a shredded clove of garlic
  • bottled herbs (basil, parsley) – it’s raining, I’m not going to the garden this once
  • a sprinkling of macadamia halves
  • 4 smallish tomatoes
  • a hint of red pepper seeds
  • finely shredded Parmesan

The trick with a tomato-based sauce is to squeeze out the juice and seeds. This way you don’t have to cook it down so much and end up with a fresher taste. Start with heating the oil, toss in the garlic then the tomato, herbs and spices. Then the tomato has almost fallen apart, add in the macadamias.

At this point, you may want to add in a splash of good red wine: not too much, you’ll want to drink the rest.

Once the sauce is making good progress, cook the pasta. The brand I’m using (a local one, San Remo) is not half bad if you ignore the package directions to cook to death for 6 minutes. My rule for any filled pasta or gnocchi is (based on instructions from an Italian cook): “cook them until they give up” – when they float to the surface and turn upside down. This time, it’s about 2 minutes. The result: a good chewy texture, and a filling that still has plenty of taste. Australians (judging from the package instructions) share the South African and British taste for flavourless mush.

Toss the pasta in the sauce, add Parmesan and you’re ready to serve.

On to dessert. This needs a little planning ahead of time. I like to make meringues at the same time as I make ice cream because you can use the egg yolks for the ice cream. There are a few simple basics for making good meringues:

  1. never use chilled eggs: let them warm to room temperature
  2. use a copper mixing bowl: this seems to result in getting a stiffer texture much faster (I doubt very much a little copper is toxic: think of what they replaced lead with in water pipes)
  3. cook at low heat (90°C or 190°F for the neoliths): you are drying the meringues more than cooking them

Here’s another interesting trick I discovered. I recently found brown caster sugar in a supermarket and bought it wondering why you’d want something like that. The answer is, you get extra crispy meringues that whip up easier. The colour is a pale gold rather than snowy white, but they taste great.

OK, so the ice cream. The basic idea is to make an egg custard, let it cool, chill it, add whipped cream then churn in an ice cream maker.

Here’s an example:

  • 400 ml milk
  • quarter cup of sugar (double this if not adding something sweetened)
  • 3 egg yolks (reserve the whites)
  • 200g good dark chocolate (fair trade please: if you are going to die of death by chocolate feel good about it)
  • 200 ml good whipping cream

Shred the chocolate. I do this by slicking it finely: it shreds as you slice.

Whip up the egg yolks, gradually adding the sugar, until you have a light consistency.

Scald the milk in a microwave (2 minutes in mine; it needs to be just short of boiling). Add some of the milk into the egg mixture, mix well and whisk into the rest of the milk. Heat again in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, watching for the point where it starts to froth up. Stop and whisk vigorously as soon as this happens, and repeat until you have a thick custard. If you take it too far, you end up with sweet scrambled egg, so take care.

At this point, patience is called for, otherwise you might as well decant into mugs and serve as the world’s best hot chocolate. If you can resist, put the custard aside to cool off, then refrigerate it. Lunch is developing into an all-day affair.

While you have nothing else to do, work on the meringues:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 125 g sugar

Whip the egg whites to a froth, then gradually add the sugar. Whip until the mixture can hold its shape, then drop about half a tablespoonful at a time onto a nonstick baking sheet in a baking tray (I use the baking sheet as anti-crunch packing when I store the meringues, and reuse it a few times for future batches). Put in a cool oven (90°C) on the middle shelf for 3 hours, and leave in the oven after turning off the heat to continue drying.

Back to the ice cream. Once it’s thoroughly chilled, whip the cream fairly stiff, fold it in then put the mixture in an ice cream maker (mine is hand-churned). Work the machine the usual way. Although ice cream is one of the few things I eat from frozen, it’s best eaten fresh.