The UnAustralian

Thursday, June 24, 2004
Climate Models

A new climate model, CCSM3 has just been released.

No doubt, the climate change skeptics, who don't believe that climate models are relevant to the real world will be downloading it* and generating some results which support their case... Hang on, that would be in a world where the climate change skeptics actually have some integrity. They simply sit around asserting that climate models aren't relevant to the real world.

* or an earlier version, if they don't have a supercomputer at home.
| 7:24 PM
Quote of the Day

Political Scientist Christopher Carney, who was brought in to look at documents by Doug Feith's Office of Special Plans so as to second-guess trained analysts at the CIA who actually know Arabic, first made the mistake of identifying the two. Carney is an Americanist at Penn State and had no business butting in.

The family name (here, nisba) of the al-Qaeda guy in Malaysia is Azzawi.

The family name of the guy in Iraqi intelligence is Ahmad.

Do you notice how they are not the same?

The personal or first name of the al-Qaeda guy is Ahmad.

The personal or first name of the Iraqi intelligence agent is Hikmat.

Do you notice how it is not the same?

So, Ahmad Azzawi is not Hikmat Ahmad. See how easy that is?

Mr. Ahmad Azzawi has a couple of middle names, to wit, Hikmat Shakir. Having a couple of middle names is common in the Arab world.

Lt. Col. Hikmat Ahmad just has one middle name, Shakir. This is the only place at which there is any overlap between them at all. They share a middle name. And, o.k., one of Azzawi's middle names is the same as Lt. Col. Ahmad's first name.

--Juan Cole brutally takes Christopher Carney apart
| 7:14 PM
The Day After Tomorrow... Again

Pharyngula gives The Day After Tomorrow a serve. Can't find much to disagree with, apart from the part about it being worse than Van Helsing - I thought that the movie was simply typical Hollywood crap.
| 7:07 PM

Another article in today's Oz is John Hirst advocating for more flags in schools and all of the associated junk (my words, not his) that go along with it.

I have very little sympathy for his viewpoint. I feel that oaths, saluting flags etc is worthless, unless the adult (not child) who is doing the swearing/saluting is doing it because they feel that it is worthwhile, not because they have to.

If it had have been an option when I was a child, I (along with all of my friends) would have mocked the whole process mercilessly. Upon reflection, a bit of skepticism and sarcasm towards authority isn't a bad thing.

As an aside, how ridiculous would Hirst's old school oath sound now;

I am an Australian
I love my country the British Empire
I honour the King
I salute his flag the Union Jack
I promise cheerfully to obey his laws.

| 6:55 PM

Ross Terrill has an interesting article in today's Australian on Taiwan.

While I don't know to much on recent Chinese history, I'm sympathetic towards the Taiwanese independent leaders. My general philosophy is that if the people of a region want to breakaway (subject to referenda etc), then so be it.
| 6:49 PM
Sunday, June 20, 2004
The Day After Tomorrow

It seems that all blogs which comment on climate change need a post on the movie, The Day After Tomorrow, and now that I've seen it; here's mine.

The movie is based off a book, The Coming Global Superstorm by Art Bell and Whitley Strieber. These two authors are a class act. When not covering climate change, they look into subjects such as alien abductions and government conspiracies. The science in the movie, is about what you'd expect for this type of author.

The movie itself is enjoyable, but has about as much science in it as any typical blockbuster.

Personally, abrupt climate change doesn't really worry me that much (at least not in the short-term). While a possibility, it is unlikely to occur until the climate has warmed significantly (perhaps in the region of 4 degrees). And if it does happen, the consequences should be much less than what is portrayed in the movie. By that time, our knowledge of climate systems will be orders of magnitude better than what it is now, so will our ability to cope with the changes. Abrupt climate change, is an important issue, but it frequently gets too much attention relative to other climate problems.

Of course if you, like Strieber and Bell, believe that climate scientists have got it wrong, then perhaps you should worry...
| 6:59 PM
Back from the Dead

One of my blogrolled blogs, A Token Lefty, has come back from the dead.

Unfortunately this blog, The Unaustralian, can't decide whether it is back from the dead or just twitching...
| 6:51 PM
Website of the Day

Exxon Secrets profiles all (hopefully) of Exxon's contributions to the climate skeptic industry.
| 6:47 PM
Thursday, June 03, 2004
Quote of the Day

It's not wise to try to parody wingers. You risk ending up with new, disturbing friends that are hard to safely and tactfully get rid of.

--Zizka, in the comments of this thread.
| 6:43 PM
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
Death of the Dinosaurs - A New Theory

What killed the dinosaurs is a question which interests many. It now seems that a asteroid strike played a contributing role, however, how exactly it did this is a matter for debate. Firestorms, global warming and global cooling have all been suggested. Now a new theory has been proposed.

This theory is primarily based on two different observations; the pattern of extinction among vertebrates, and the discovery of tiny particles known as spherules at the K-T boundary (this is a geological layer which was caused by the asteroid impact).

It appears that the event which killed the dinosaurs didn't kill at random. While the dinosaurs died, many other groups survived. The survivors include fish, amphibians, lizards, snakes, turtles, crocodiles, birds and mammals (placental, monotreme, multituberculate, Gondwanatherian, dryolestoid and marsupials).

Spherules, on the other hand, are "formed from ejecta particles as they melt and incandesce on reentry". They have been found all over the world (well, techically, there are many unsampled areas of the global, but they have been found in places like New Zealand which are pretty far from the impact) at the K-T boundary.

So how do these two obervations link together? The authors suggest that the asteroid through massive quantities of material into the upper atmosphere. They then heated up emitting large amounts of infra-red radiation. The authors write:

The intense IR radiation would have originated from the entire sky. Darkness would have been eliminated worldwide for several hours and shadows curtailed. Shadowing effects would have been restricted to a direct proportion of the fraction of the sky blocked by a massive object. An organism at the foot of a lengthy vertical cliff, for example, would have been spared radiation from just under half the sky. It would not have been sufficient to shelter in a gully, under an isolated tree, or even uder a sparsely forested canopy. Life confined to Earth's surface would have perished well before incineration. After ignition temperature was reached, fires would not have spread from one area to another in the usual way. Rather fires would have ignited nearly simultaneously at places having available fuel... The fires (on land with sufficient fuel) would have been especially intense because IR radiation coming from the entire sky continued to add heat even as the fires burned.

Sounds pretty bad. Fortunally, it is possible to live through a intense IR blast lasting a couple of hours + associated firestorm. The key is to get something between you and radiation. Soil and water are both quite good at this. So animals which burrow, or swim can survive. Meanwhile, animals which can't die. This was pretty bad news for the dinosaurs. Mammals, lizards, birds and so on, survived the initial firestorm. This in itself doesn't mean an escape from extinction, but rather, it does give the species a fighting change.

Source: Douglas Robertson, Malcolm McKenna, Owen Toon, Sylvia Hope and Jason Lillegraven Survival in the first hours of the Cenozoic GSA Bulletin May/June 2004. Pages 760 - 768).
| 7:40 PM
More on Castles and Henderson

Long time readers of this blog will be aware that the criticisms of the economic modeling of the IPCC's various scenarios by Ian Castles and David Henderson have been covered a number of times. Now, a (peer reviewed, incidentally) article has appeared (or more precisely, a preprint has appeared on the journal's website) in Climatic Change by Bjart Holtsmark and Knut Alfsen of Statistics Norway (PPP Correction of the IPCC Emission Scenarios - Does It Matter?).

The authors point out that while using market exchange rates does increase the income differences between rich and poor countries, this increase is effectively neutralised because the same market exchange rates also overstate the emission-intensity gap.

What this boils down to is this; market exchange rates aren't a good indicator when comparing standards of living in different countries, however, this doesn't make a difference to the economic modeling used by the IPCC.

Of course, this hasn't stopped people, such as Alan Wood (economics editor of The Australian) taking everything which Castles and Henderson produce as gospel.
| 7:09 PM