Saturday, October 4, 2014

LaPlata County Commissioners wanting to close rural libraries?

La Plata County Commissioners are actively considering axing La Plata County's two rural Public Library satellite branches.  I'd heard the rumors, then after reading an October 3rd Durango Herald article outlining the situation I was so unsettled by the prospect that I decided to write a Letter to the Editor and County Commissioners.

The following post is based on that letter along with quotes from the informative Durango Herald article and since I'm hoping this may inspire some others to contact our County Commissioners I've included their contact information at the end.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

How much is a library worth?
Sunnyside, Fort Lewis Mesa satellites under review
By Ann Butler Herald staff writer
Published: - Last modified: October 03. 2014 8:43PM

Durango Herald's Ann Butler writes: 
"That’s a question La Plata County commissioners are asking as they enter the budget process for 2015 and analyze the viability of keeping satellite public libraries open at Fort Lewis Mesa and Sunnyside elementary schools.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why bother to vote in USA's Nov 4th Election?

{Check out the informative links at the end of this article}  
Recently I received a call from a local Democratic Party worker that went something like this: Hey Pete, how's it going?  Haven't seen you around this campaign, we could really use some help at the office, any chance we can count on you coming down to lend a hand?

You see I'd been a slightly active Democrat, particularly the past decade, even attending the State Assembly and Convention thrice, twice as a delegate representing Hermosa, La Plata County, but this year nothing.

My friend was curious why the depression and lack of interest, what happened to me?

Well, Obama happened, yet another crushing disappointment for those who believed in his campaign talk.  The man made assurances to We The People, but seldom fought for them once in office.  

Admittedly, I believe that had we the people - I'm talking about regular educated citizens who possess humanist and rationalist instincts - been busy putting pressure on the President, he'd have acted more valiantly. 

After all, it's the votes and vocal grassroots voters who put The Backbone into our representatives but it seems we the people abandon our newly elected leaders as fast as our government abandons it's peaceful foreign commitments.  Reminds me of the saying, "we get the government we deserve."

Of course there's also the Republican Party, our one time loyal opposition which has morphed into some malicious hulk possessed by the single-minded desire to wreck Democratic Presidencies and to heck with our nation's problems.

Think I'm exaggerating?  For an introduction to the GOP's disregard for our nation's best interests you'll find Robert Draper's "Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives" an interesting read. 

Well then... having written all this, why am I not marching down to the Democratic Office to lend a hand and some cash? 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

;- )

This is just a test.

Oh and that's Chili contemplating the iron curtain installation.

If you're curious what this is all about visit

Saturday, September 6, 2014

global warming hiatus? . . . where's the heat?

I'm truly amazed and saddened by how often I hear people claim they believe there has been a slow down in global warming.  That is simply not true, but you have to understand a little about our global climate system to understand why that is.  Admittedly, it's complex and scientists don't have all the answers, but what they have learned explains a lot.  
Here Rob Painting does an admirable job of explaining the latest findings along with new details about the various ocean circulation currents involved in moving heat from the air into the deeper layers of the ocean.
I'm reposting it here to add to my collection of valuable global warming information for the sharing and with thanks to John Cook and the team of volunteers who allow their work to be reposted.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Posted on 5 September 2014 by Rob Painting

Key Points:
  • Even though the ocean has warmed strongly, global 'surface' warming in the 21st century has been slower than previous decades. One of the prime suspects for this has been an increase in trade winds which help to mix heat into the subsurface ocean - part of a natural oscillation known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO).
  • A recently published research paper, Chen & Tung (2014), claim that changes in the saltiness (salinity) of seawater in the North Atlantic is responsible for the decadal-scale variation in ocean heat uptake, rather than the IPO, as increased saltiness makes surface water denser and therefore facilitates the sinking of water transported poleward.
  • Chen & Tung's  own analysis, however, shows that North Atlantic Ocean warming peaked in 2006 and has declined since that time whereas deep ocean warming, as a whole, has not. 
  • This new research affirms earlier work (Meehl et [2011] & Meehl et al [2013]) implicating the increased, albeit likely temporary, mixing of heat down into deeper ocean layers as a key contributor to the slower rate of surface warming in the 21st century.

Figure 1 - Ocean heating rates for the global ocean and individual ocean basins down to 1500 metres. The coloured lines represent the various ocean layers. Notably the observations show greater warming in the deeper layers, with the strongest deep ocean warming occurring in the Atlantic & Southern Ocean. Image from Chen & Tung (2014). 

Ocean Warming: Background Context
The oceans are currently warming because of the extra greenhouse gases that human industrial activity has added to the atmosphere. Not only do greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, but they alter the gradient in the cool-skin layer of the ocean, which results in less heat escaping the ocean and thus warming over time.
Despite this increasing greenhouse gas-induced warming of the oceans, the ocean doesn't warm in a linear manner due to a number of factors, one of these being a natural decadal-scale variation in the way heat is mixed into the oceans by winds - the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). The IPO is, essentially, an oscillation in the strength of winds (primarily the tropical Trade Winds) which promote the mixing of heat down into the ocean interior and thus affect sea surface temperatures.
The main mechanism for wind-driven mixing into the deep ocean (down to around 2000 metres) is via convergence of warm tropical surface water in the subtropical ocean gyres. These subtropical ocean gyres are large rotating masses of surface water which occupy the mid-latitudes of each ocean basin. Surface water is transported to the subtropical gyres because of the winds drag on the sea surface. Rather than travelling in the same direction as the trade winds, the net flow of water in the surface layers affected by the wind are 90 degrees to the direction of travel - to the right in the Northern Hemisphere, and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. This occurs because the Earth is rapidly rotating beneath the surface currents and results in an 'apparent deflection'. The impact this has is very real however.

Figure 2 - annual wind stress (i.e. the average wind) for the global oceans between 1982-2004. The lime green splotches near the equator in each hemisphere depict the trade winds, and the areas from about 35° poleward show dominant mid-latitudes westerlies. From the location and direction of these dominant winds we get convergence of ocean currents at around 30-40° in each hemisphere. Image from NOAA GODAS

As the warm tropical surface waters travel poleward they encounter an equatorward flowing current created by the mid-latitude westerlies and this surface convergence causes the centre of the gyre to pile up water mass. With nowhere else to go, the surface convergence forms a vertical current known as Ekman pumping (Ekman [1905]) which transports heat down to the depths. In order to maintain a balance, there is a return flow of water, at depth, back toward the equator and poles. Note that there is also poleward transport in the shallow currents at the western edge of each subtropical ocean gyre - known as western boundary currents.     

Figure 3 - A strengthening of the gyre circulation between 2004-2008 is indicated by the gain in steric height for the 500 decibar pressure level (near 500m) relative to 2000 decibar (near 2000m). Image adapted from Roemmich & Gilson (2009).       

The Atlantic Ocean: A Driver, or a Passenger?
Chen and Tung (2014) analyse the ocean heat content data maintained by a Japanese research group, Ishii et al (2005), and make a number of statements about the cause of multi-decadal fluctuations in ocean heat mixing rates. Chief among these claims is that the change in salinity in the North Atlantic ocean is responsible for the decadal fluctuations, not changes in the trade winds and mid-latitude westerlies (the IPO) - as suggested by Meehl et al (2011), Meehl et al (2013) and England et al (2014) for instance. One of the rationales given by Chen & Tung for dismissing the role of the IPO in deep ocean warming is the expectation that the Pacific Ocean basin should have warmed more during the current (2000-to present) IPO negative phase. In a press release Tung states:
The finding is a surprise, since the current theories had pointed to the Pacific Ocean as the culprit for hiding heat
And in the paper itself the authors write:
"Nevertheless, neither data set supports the model result of Meehl et al. that the heat uptake in this layer (300-700m) in the Pacific dominates over other ocean basins during hiatus periods."
This is not quite correct. As shown in figure 4, Meehl et al's climate model simulations had the bulk of the ocean heat storage occurring in the Southern Ocean and the Pacific, but most deep ocean storage during IPO-equivalent decades was in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans. Two reasons why this should be so in the real world are that, first, the Southern Hemisphere subtropical gyres are situated mostly in the Southern Ocean and South Atlantic, and second, that some of the heat coming into the Pacific Ocean basin doesn't actually stay there. Not only is heat transported poleward to, and via, the gyres, and there's only one subtropical gyre in the Pacific (the North Pacific), but there is 'leakage' out of the Pacific with currents travelling through the Indonesian Archipelago into the Indian Ocean. And 'leakage' out of the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean (via the Drake Passage) into the Atlantic (Dong et al [2011]Backeberg et al [2012]). Additionally, the Atlantic Ocean is the only basin in which there is an equatorward warm surface current (part of the Meridional Overturning Circulation) and this ultimately carries heat to the North Atlantic - where it sinks.

Figure 4 - ocean heating rates for each ocean basin for hiatus decades (little or no warming) and all other decades in the climate model experiments carried out in Meehl (2011).     

So, despite most of the heat entering into the ocean via the Pacific, there's no realistic expectation that all the heat storage during the current negative phase of the IPO would be stored there. The NCAR climate model used by Meehl et al may not simulate the duration of the IPO (each phase being only around 10 years long instead of 25-30 years) and the exact manner of ocean heat storage correctly, but it has simulated the majority of deep ocean storage taking place in the Southern and Atlantic Oceans. The extraordinary intensity of the trade winds in recent times (Merrifield [2011], England et al [2014]) may go some way toward explaining these discrepancies, or maybe the climate model is just deficient in this regard.  
The Salinity Mechanism
Chen & Tung claim that changes in salinity in the North Atlantic is the driver of decadal variation in ocean mixing, rather than the IPO. Unfortunately the authors provide no analysis or specifics to back up this claim. Nor do they provide an explanation as to why, when North Atlantic warming and salinity has decreased since 2006, total deep ocean warming has continued. The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) - the transport of warm tropical surface water northward - is indeed propelled by dense water sinking in the North Atlantic and travelling equatorward in the deeper layers, but it also has a wind-driven component to it.
A more likely explanation for strong warming in the North Atlantic, and one that would explain many of the worldwide observations, is that the strengthening trade winds from the mid-1990's onwards are mainly responsible. As the North Atlantic subtropical gyre spun-up in response to the trade wind-forcing, the gulfstream, the powerful ribbon-like western boundary current travelling north along the North American coast at the edge of the gyre, intensified. A greater-than-normal volume of warm salty tropical water was transported north with the current and this was drawn down into the ocean in the region around 60°N - where dense water sinking occurs.
In a negative IPO phase we should expect to see two regions of heat downwelling in the North Atlantic; in the area where dense water sinking takes place (near 60°N), and beneath the North Atlantic subtropical gyre (between 30-40°N) where surface convergence occurs. This is shown to be the case in Chen & Tung's analysis.

Figure 5 - Atlantic ocean warming down to 1500 metres for the 1999-2012, a period covering the majority of the current negative IPO phase. Image adapted from Chen & Tung (2014).  

Accelerated Surface Warming May Come Sooner Than Expected
In the concluding paragraph of their paper, Chen and Tung write:
"The next El Nino, when it occurs in a year or so, may temporarily interrupt the hiatus, but, because the planetary heat sinks in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans remain intact, the hiatus should continue on a decadal scale"  
The authors are referring to the slowed rate of surface warming since 2000. They maybe right about it continuing for a while yet, but their analysis may also suggest a rather different outcome. As mentioned previously, the North Atlantic warming and salinity anomaly peaked in 2006 and declined up to 2012 - the end of the analysis period. As Chen & Tung quite rightly point out, the extensive warming in the North Atlantic ocean (and the ongoing disintegration of the Greenland ice sheet) should have caused an influx of freshwater and made surface waters there more buoyant - perhaps slowing the sinking of dense water. This could help explain the slowdown of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) from 2006 onwards, but regardless, the slow down of the AMOC might help shift the climate system back toward the positive IPO phase.
Perhaps the quickest way of illustrating this, without going into a long-winded explanation, is to look at the 'accelerated warming decades' from Meehl (2013) - an analogue for the positive phase of the IPO. Characteristic features of 'accelerated warming decades' are anomalous cooling on the surface of the North Atlantic subpolar gyre (a clockwise circulating gyre south of Greenland), and cooling of all the subtropical ocean gyres as they begin to spin-down in response to the weak wind-forcing. The reason for the decline in sea surface temperatures at these locations is because of the reduced heat transport along the ocean surface from the tropics - where solar heating is most intense.

Figure 6 - surface temperatures for accelerated warming decades (positive IPO phase) in the CCSM4 climate model. Image adapted from Meehl (2013).            

Not only has the AMOC slowed down (Cunningham et al [2013]), but sea surface temperatures in North Atlantic subpolar gyre have begun falling, as have sea surface temperatures in the North Pacific subtropical gyre - best illustrated by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) being strongly positive this year. These observations hint at a slow down in the transport of heat from the tropics - at least in the North Atlantic and North Pacific. Whether they are just aberrations or an indication of a forthcoming change in phase of the IPO will become clearer in time.
Global Warming Stuck on 'Play'
The global oceans comprise some 93.4% of Earth's global heat reservoirs, and despite a slower rate of surface warming over the last 16 years, the atmosphere has still warmed and the oceans have warmed even more strongly than before. As revealed by earlier research (Levitus [2012], Nuccitelli [2012] & Balmaseda [2013]), not only are the oceans warming, but the deep ocean is warming in an unprecedented manner.
Building on earlier work, the climate model examined by Meehl et al (2011) & (2013) demonstrated that hiatus decades (decades in the model with little or no surface warming) occurred when anomalous heat was being taken up by the deep ocean. The pattern of surface temperatures in the hiatus decades is very similar to the negative phase of the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). So, despite some discrepancies, the model implicates the IPO as one of the causes for the slower surface warming.

Since Meehl et al's initial study, a handful of papers have been published tending to support their key findings (e.g. Kosaka & Xie [2013]) Although these authors intimate otherwise, Chen & Tung (2014) is another paper in that vein. They confirmed that the oceans have warmed substantially, most notably in the deeper layers, and that the strongest warming during this current negative IPO phase has been in the deep of the Southern and Atlantic Oceans. In so far as their proposed salinity mechanism as a driver for the decadal variation in ocean heat mixing is concerned, they provide little in this paper to support it. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pascal Bruckner Against Environmental Panic ???

I've read a few writings by a popular media philosopher named Pascal Bruckner who spends a lot of time insinuating motivations onto other's - but, never establishing any sort of firm case.  I am offended that he has chosen to attack science in a most childish manner, dressed up behind fancy words and fanciful notions that are never supported with any sort of case study grounded in real world events.  

Heck, Pascal clearly demonstrates he doesn't even understand the difference between substantial and insubstantial, see ¶3.  Though it doesn't slow down his distain for the professionals who study our planet and the information they share.

Last year over at I wrote up a detailed critique on "Essay: Carbon footprint as 'original sin'."  I've now come across another article based on his book "Fanaticism of the Apocalypse."  Here again Bruckner weaves a cynical tale supported by nothing but his own muse.

Bruckner displays not the slightest understanding of what Earth scientists do, or the information they gather, nor the real life implications of that research.  Instead he feeds right into the Libertarian/Republican handbook of smug disregard for down to earth facts with an astounding amount of unjustified self-certitude.

Since Pascal Bruckner has decided to become a pawn in their strategic attack on science and rational learning - his words deserve to be examined and exposed for the farce they are.
Admittedly I'm no scholar, and it would be great if someone of more credibility take on the task - but until then, here is this layperson's critical review of Pascal Bruckner's fantasy as displayed in his The Chronicle of Higher Education article "Against Environmental Panic

{originally published at my}  
{I have informed The Chronicle of Higher Education... 
no response so far.}
{If anyone wants, feel free to copy and use as you see fit.}


June 17, 2013
Against Environmental Panic

By Pascal Bruckner (4200words)

¶1  In Jesuit schools we were urged to strengthen our faith by spending time in monasteries. We were assigned spiritual exercises to be dutifully written in little notebooks that were supposed to renew the promises made at baptism and to celebrate the virtues of Christian love and succor for the weak. It wasn't enough just to believe;

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Human Knowledge, Reliability and Fallibilism by Mariano Artigas

Reposted from WUWTW:

In doing some research on my next post I came across an essay by  Mariano Artigas.  Although not intended as such, it is an eye opener to the various ways contrarians have been able to misrepresent Popperian philosophy with their disingenuously contorted "necessary and sufficient falsifiable hypothesis statements" argument.

I am reposting the following essay complete and unaltered {except for adding paragraph #s, some line breaks and highlights} and hope some will find it informative and helpful in their own educational process.

For a look at Mariano Artigas' larger body of work regarding Popper visit:

The Ethical Roots of Karl Popper's Epistemology 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

This article appears at the website of the 
University of Navarra Group of Research on Science, Reason and Faith (CRYF)

Reposted under authority of CreativeCommons license NC-ND3.0 
along with much thanks to the University of Navarra.

"Human Knowledge, Reliability and Fallibilism"

by Mariano Artigas 
Napoli, 1992

¶1  One of the main subjects that we must face when we consider the image of man in our scientific age is the value of human knowledge which, in its turn, appears to be strongly dependent on our evaluation of empirical science. In this context, questions about the reliability of science occupy a central place. J├╝rgen Habermas has written that if we were to reconstruct the philosophical discussion of modern times as a judicial process, the only question that should be decided would be this: how can we obtain reliable knowledge? [Habermas 1968, p. 11].

¶2  It is well known that fallibilism is one of the main ideas of the Popperian philosophy and that it implies the negation of any kind of reliability.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Port Authorities waking up to rising sea levels

While climate science denialists continue cranking out their increasingly disconnected con-jobs on the public, folks that have to deal in the real world are starting to appreciate the increasing impacts manmade global warming is having on the infrastructure our society depends on.  
On the front line we have Port Authorities who know they must accommodate the reality of sea level rise, or find themselves underwater and out of business in the not too distant future.  It's real and it's happening and I'll let John Englander take it from here . . .
Climate Change / Ocean Impacts Blog

SEAPORTS Magazine feature about Rising Sea Level and Superstorms
John Englander on Sat, 07/12/2014

SEAPORTS Magazine has a feature article by Dr. Austin Becker and me, "Superstorms and Rising Sea Level Present a New Challenge for Ports"* in the Summer 2014 issue. Austin Becker teaches as the University of Rhode Island. His PhD thesis from Stanford was about Ports and vulnerability to climate change. 
* Becker and Englander on Superstorms and Rising Sea Level Present a New Challenge for Ports 
Austin Becker / Becker Group News, NEWS / 
Dr. Becker teamed up with John Englander to contribute an opinion piece to the American Association of Port Authorities. 
Download it HERE.