Wednesday, February 03, 2016

More Catniss

Should probably be blogging about our little paper in review at Climate of the Past.

But bugger that:  new catz have arrived!

Archie and Alfie grew to be large and elegant beasts, and went to a new home in mid-January. They went together, which was fortunate, as they were highly entangled. Hopefully they will provide many years of fun and friendship for their new Ma and Pa in Kendal.

After this, we got to rest from cats, as the rescue itself was on hols. They put all 25 kitties into kennels for a month. Fair enough - it is important that their primary carer doesn't get compassion fatigue! Holidays over, new cats arrived hot from the kennels two days ago. They were grubby, but luckily they like being brushed and are polishing up nicely. They are also eating like anything considering their minuscule size. I guess they didn't enjoy the kennels much. These ones are females and are of the QUIET kind. shhhh.

Prettiest ever is probably Spice (3.45kg).

But, if I were picking one, it might be time Pepper (2.75kg), as she seems friendlier and perhaps a bit more bent on having fun. She certainly won't cost much to feed! Rat sized, really. She looks quite stupidly small sitting on James' huge lap.

They are friendly, but seem unadventurous, spending most of their time in their room playing about in the cat tree. Early days, but I reckon they don't need their new owner to have a large house! 

Someone saw them advertised at the vets yesterday and she came to visit them last night. They were on good form (830pm is a great time to visit cats!). They really liked her, and so they have got their paws crossed that they may have new real parents very soon. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

So what did he actually do?

De mortuis nihil nisi bonum and all that, but appropos of this post, which generated lots of hot air, would any Bob Carter fans like to say anything about his work in climate science? I think the only time I came across him was as an author on the execrable McLean et al paper, which was comprehensively debunked many times (including by yours truly). Carter isn't the easiest name to look up (too common) and I haven't really found anything significant in his publication record related to anthropogenic climate change.

Of note perhaps is that McIntyre declined to comment on his friend's scientific achievements. I'm shocked indeed that he wasn't eager to audit Carter's climate-related publications. De mortuis nil nisi bonum indeed, or perhaps in this case it would be more precise to say "De mortuis nil nisi dicendum". No, I don't speak Latin, it's on wikipedia. 

So, has anyone else got anything to say?

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Happy 10*9*8*7*6/(5+4+3+2+1)

Alex Bellos writes an occasional puzzle column for the Grauniad. Yesterday he was asking for ways of inserting maths symbols into the list of numbers 10 9 8 7 ... 1 so as to make the expression evaluate to 2016. I quickly got an answer (10+9)*8*(7+6)+5*(4+3+2-1) but jules said I could only tweet it if I found three ways of doing it. A second solution is reached by noting that 10*9*(8+7+6) is 1890 and 6*(5*4+(3-2)*1) makes the remaining 126 to bring the total to 2016. Finally, 10*9*8*7*6/(5*(4-3)*(2+1)) works too.

I was writing the tweet and checking the numbers when I spotted that I'd used the 6 twice in the second solution. So that's how I found the most elegant solution at the top. Sadly, the prize was for obscurantism instead.

Talking of winning, I've also won a climate bet! Chris Hope (of IPCC WG2 fame) owes me £666 in view of 2015 being not more than 0.1C colder than 2008. It may seem like a strange bet for him to take, since even in 2011 when the bet was placed, there seemed little prospect of such strong cooling. However, I gave him decent odds of 5:1 (ie I stood to lose £3333 if the improbable cooling had occurred). Of course Chris didn't really expect the world to cool so sharply, but he already had established two bets the other way round (at evens with stakes of £1000) with Iam Plimer and Sir Alan Rudge, and was simply hedging his risk. In fact Chris was really taking the place of a bookmaker rather than gambler, and you can easily check that he was going to win a handy sum whatever the temperature did. I hope he manages to collect his winnings once the data are officially announced.

Of course the odds also look pretty good for my original $10,000 bet. I just checked (cos someone asked) that if this year is as warm as the one just past, then 2017 would have to be a full 1C colder for me to lose. There is certainly no year on record where such a dramatic year to year cooling has happened, even after a volcanic eruption, so perhaps we are in the realm of a large asteroid strike being required. Collecting, on the other hand, is a bit less clear-cut as I've not had any reply to the emails I have occasionally sent to my adversaries in recent years.

Friday, January 01, 2016

[jules' pics] Happy New Year

To celebrate New Year, we went on a group walk from Settle to the tea shoppe in the ipsy wipsy village of Feizor. About 9.6 miles in total. ShoCKInglY it DiD NOt RAin!

limestone pavement and tree

man and whippet


Posted By Blogger to jules' pics at 1/01/2016 08:09:00 PM

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Cop out or tipping point?

Jim Hansen isn't right about everything these days - this paper has rightly had a rough ride (ignoring the delusional nonsense) and I wait with interest to see what transpires. But on the Paris talks, he's pretty much right. He's worth quoting in full (as reported in the Guardian and elsewhere):

It’s a fraud really, a fake. It’s just bullshit for them to say: “We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.” It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will continue to be burned.
James Hansen, Columbia University

It is also interesting to see that, just as most scientists have regretfully given up on 2C as a plausible target (maybe we could still just about do it in theory, but we certainly won't without lots of serious and immediate effort), the politicians decide they will aim at 1.5C instead. I predict a lot of Canute analogies and cartoons as the temperature continues to rise steadily.

On the other hand, it could be seen as a positive sign that at least the politicians are talking seriously about the need to cut carbon emissions, even if it is merely talk. It's not beyond the bounds of possibility that at least some nations might act in accordance with their words and put their money where their mouths are. If we really did achieve carbon neutrality before the end of the century, I'd regard that as a pretty positive outcome. But it's a long way off from here. Of course a carbon tax/fee/whatever as espoused by just about everyone who's thought about the problem and who does not have a vested interest in it would be the obvious starting point, and what matters from here is the start rather than the endpoint. What does everyone else think?

Friday, December 11, 2015

The benefits of an informed prior

Since Bayesian priors seem to have come up on a couple of blogs recently...

A few weeks ago I got a rather spammy email about a “climate change challenge” from someone I'd not come across before. Looking at his “publication list”, that is perhaps not so surprising (the most recent ACP submission listed there was rejected without review, so cannot be found on their web site). Anyway, it's just a typical kooky site full of claims about how everyone else is wrong apart from the author who cannot get his groundbreaking theories published, move along nothing to see etc...

Shortly afterwards, Doug Keenan announced a “contest” wherein all and sundry were challenged to identify from a large set of random time series which of them had been generated by a trendless random process, and which were generated by one with a known trend. Of course the trivial trick underlying his game is to make the trend small relative to the inherent variability of the random time series. For a simple example, consider if I generate a set A consisting of 500 samples from N(0,1) and a set B of 500 samples from N(1,1). If I publish the 1000 values, no-one could possibly hope to identify correctly which were from A and which were from B, because any value like 0.3 or 0.8 could easily have come from either set. If I'd used N(0,0.1) and N(1,0.1) for the two sets, on the other hand, it would have been rather different...

Amusingly, “I'm a genius time series analyst” Keenan bungled his calculations, as is documented in the comments here. His original set of trendless and trended series were sufficiently well separated that a successful partitioning might have been possible, at least with a bit of luck. Of course, his “$100,000” prize was “based on the honor system” so any entrant's chance of collecting would have to factor in their opinion of how honourable he is. I suggest that his juxtaposition of “My name would be mud if I reneged”, with the fact that he actually has reneged on his challenge by withdrawing the original set of samples and replacing it with another, might be usefully considered as evidence on the matter.

As for the Bayesian prior, that's what got me to the same answer as Andrew Gelman without the need to do all the calculations...

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

As I was saying....

So someone asked Andrew Gelman about Nic Lewis' work on climate sensitivity. And he replied:

“Despite what the Wikipedia entry says, there’s no objective prior or subjective prior, nor is there any reason to think the Jeffreys prior is a good idea in any particular example. A prior distribution, like a data distribution, is a model of the world. It encodes information and must be taken as such. Inferences can be sensitive to the prior distribution, just as they can be sensitive to the data model. That’s just life (and science): we’re always trying to learn what we can from our data.”

Which, enouragingly, is pretty much what I have been saying to Nic over a long period of time, both in person and perhaps once or twice as a reviewer of manuscripts. I am, however, not optimistic that the message will ever get through to him, as he seems completely impervious. But perhaps the rest of us can just carry on with life regardless.

Edit: having just had another glance at ATTP's post, and the still-growing comment thread, I see no reason to change my opinion about the message getting through... 

Monday, December 07, 2015

[jules pics] Getting wet

Gavin sent me a nice message yesterday with the curious title, "Stay Dry". Then I remembered that he is an American these days and one should not take these things literally. I interpreted it as a version of that "Stay Safe" phrase they love to use. Naturally it is not possible to literally Stay Dry in Yorkshire. It is always raining outside, and inside the new houses leak because they are new, and the old ones leak because they are old. However, recently, it has been quite a bit wetter than is normal! Even wetter than normal wet flood weather!! Apparently the water has invaded the homes of more than 5000 people in this part of the country, and the town where I went to ("high") school is now a Zombie Apocalypse. To be honest it never has been that cheery a place... 

I'm not one for disaster photography. Today the sun came out for a moment, so I cycled up to the local waterfall, Scaleber Force, which was in great form.


I suppose I missed the best one - apparently, for the first time evs, the waterfall has started flowing over Malham Cove. That's just a few miles away from Scaleber, on the other side of the watershed.

Meanwhile, James is practising his lime mortaring on some of the places where leaks sprung in our house. We avoided buying one of the newish houses nearby that, although favourably priced, seemed to me to be rather close to the flood plain. Ours is over 100 years old, but that alone doesn't offer much in the way of guarantees for dry toes if we are to have frequent 100 year events. 

Posted By Blogger from jules' pics.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

[jules pics] Sand Dunes #2

This one has been the front page picture on my iPad ever since...

The next morning, James and I climbed the nearest dune peak.
The wind had done a good job of smoothing out all the footprints of the day before, and ours were the first footsteps of the day.

Back to the lodge for a traditional US-stylee breakfast (pancakes etc), and we were back in Boulder that afternoon.

Posted By Blogger from jules' pics.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Trivial pursuits

So for some reason I got invited to participate in the latest Bray and von Storch survey of climate scientists, having not (IIRC) been asked previously. I barely got started on the meat of it before giving up. Screeds of hopelessly vague multi-choice questions with no context, like: how well do you think climate models can deal with clouds (answer from "very adequate" to "very inadequate"). Can or do deal with? Adequate for what? I'm not impressed.

More interestingly, I swapped a couple of emails with the author of this article over the past couple of weeks while he was writing it. Seems that I didn't say anything quotable enough to get quoted in it, but it looks pretty good to me.

Edit: Oops, first time round I was focussing on the quotable quotes to see if I disagreed with them. On a more careful re-read the author seems to think the last glacial maximum was only 1C colder than the present. No, it was 4C colder (than pre-industrial, ie 5C colder than now).