August 30, 2007

Garden Update

Here are some pictures from the yard.

These are my wife's anemonies. I never would have thought of planting these myself.

These are the grapes growing on the arbor I put up this spring. My wife gets the credit for their fine growth. Behind the grape vine is hops which have formed tiny heads that we could use to flavor tiny kegs of beer.

I have been a rich man the last two months thanks to these everlasting blueberry bushes. They won't stop producing huge ripe sweet juicy berries, day after day. The brambleberries out back a th' house ain't so bad either.

All the blueberries ask is to be planted in acidic soil-- peat moss-- same as rhododendrons.

August 19, 2007

Facts and theories

Tim writes,

I've been challenging people who question global warming (there are lots) and one argument I need help with is "human induced climate change is a theory" I need a way to explain that people making this argument don't really understand the word "theory".

The good short answer is, Yes, human induced climate change is a theory, a theory supported by the facts.

A while back I replied to Maureen Sheard's letter in the Owatonna People's Press. Her letter began: Facts on 'global warming' 1. It is a theory, not a fact.

The reply:

1. Global warming is a fact. If you and I were to look at a thermometer I think we could agree on the temperature. An observation like this is called a fact, and it's a fact that the global average surface temperature has increased by 1 F, give or take a few tenths, over the last hundred years. Theories are used to explain facts, and scientists use the word 'theory' in a special way. A scientific theory is not a guess or a hunch, but something supported by logic and evidence, and something that can be tested by experiment. Examples include the theories of gravitation and thermodynamics, and circuit theory. Current theories do a good job of explaining the global warming that has been observed since the agricultural and industrial revolutions.

Global warming is a fact, based measurements by thermometers, satellites, etc. Theories explain facts. A scientific theory is one that is supported by logic and evidence and can be tested by experiment. Accordingly intelligent design is not a scientific theory since it cannot be tested by experiment (God has forbidden us from testing him). In common usage a theory is speculative, a conjecture. In contrast, in science, facts support the succesful theory.

Some examples. Einstein's theory of relativity and has made all kinds of predictions about everything from stars to atoms that have been confirmed by many brilliant experiments. Darwin's theory of evolution has been confirmed again and again, for example by Mendelev's peas, DDT-resistant mosquitos, the finches of the Galapagos islands and the increasing number of infections by antibiotic-resistant flesh-eating bacteria.

Can we trust climate models, that is, is climate theory a good scientific theory? One test would be to try to duplicate a past period of the climate using the model-- letting it run free, and then compare the result with what actually happened. This is one of the best viable tests, since we cannot compare the results of a simulation of the 21st century's climate with the thermometer record for another hundred years.

This figure (click on it to enlarge) shows the climate record of the 20th century for different regions, the 'thermometer record', in black. (The figure is from the Summary for Policymakers put together by the IPCC.) It also shows the results of climate model simulations that were used to predict the climate of the 20th century. The blue band shows the results using only natural climate forcings, and the red band shows the results using both natural and anthropogenic climate forcings. This demonstrates that the models work and that it is necessary to include both natural and anthropogenic effects in order to successfully predict the climate of the 20th century over each continent, over the ocean, and over the planet as a whole.

August 18, 2007

Climate models of the 1980s

We will not be able to check whether today's climate models are 'right' until after the climate has occurred. But what we can do right now is check how old climate models did, say the climate models of the 1980s. These models are rather primitive by today's standards.

These figures show what climate models of the 1980s predicted as of 1990, and what actually occured in the subsequent years.

*Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration (day by day oscillates, dark blue is running average, dashed blue and other colors are predictions) grew almost exactly as predicted in 1990.

*The Earth's temperature increased more than predicted. Red and blue points are two widely used global global data sets (one U.S., one U. K.); red and blue bold lines smooth out annual variation. The grey zone is what the climate models predicted, given specific emissions scenarios (colored dotted lines).

*Sea level (red from tide gauges and blue from satellite altimetry) has increased more than the models predicted (grey and dotted).

Conclusion: the models running in the 1980s were overly cautious in predicting changes in temperature and sea level.

August 14, 2007

Child's play

Kids today have more legos than I ever dreamed possible.

I'm taking care of our two kids (both boys, aged almost 4 and 10) for a couple of weeks while my wife is at work, up until school starts. It's not child's play, this, although sometimes it is.

We were watching Nickelodeon and a really girly cartoon came on. The young one says, 'Turn it off Dad, before we get girl germs.' He's into spider man and wants to wear his spider man t-shirt every day. He's very happy because mom bought him some spider man stickers and a spider man eraser. Now I'm drawing stuff so he can erase and trying to prepare for the first week of teaching. I would like the ability to concentrate with a three year old in the house.

August 10, 2007

Seussian flowers

Here's some flowers we saw at the botanical garden downtown. My sister thought they looked like something out of Dr. Seuss.

Significant increase in natural disasters

More news of the CGS:

The number of natural disasters in the world has increased significantly. Extreme heat waves, drought, fires and storms such as hurricanes increased from 200 to 400 per year between 2004 and 2006, according to the United Nations.

Floods increased from 60 to 100 per year during the same period. So far this year there have been 70 serious flooding events, in for example China, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Colombia.

Extreme heat waves occured more frequently than normal in four parts of the world, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America.

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