Tag Archives: environment

Sunspot update for May 2018: Solar activity hangs on

NOAA yesterday posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for May 2018. As I do every month, I have annotated the graph and posted it below.

The small uptick in sunspots that we saw in April after the low in March continued.

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Chinese regulations sends recycling into the trash

New Chinese regulations on what is acceptable recycled trash is causing trash companies throughout the U.S. to send the recyclables into the trash heap.

In the past, the municipalities would have shipped much of their used paper, plastics and other scrap materials to China for processing. But as part of a broad antipollution campaign, China announced last summer that it no longer wanted to import “foreign garbage.” Since Jan. 1 it has banned imports of various types of plastic and paper, and tightened standards for materials it does accept.

While some waste managers already send their recyclable materials to be processed domestically, or are shipping more to other countries, others have been unable to find a substitute for the Chinese market. “All of a sudden, material being collected on the street doesn’t have a place to go,” said Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services, one of the largest waste managers in the country.

In other words, there is no market for recycled trash. It has no value. No one wants it. Thus, even though it sounds good and allows people to make believe they are saving the environment by recycling, it is an inefficient waste of resources, as the article notes:

Recycling companies “used to get paid” by selling off recyclable materials, said Peter Spendelow, a policy analyst for the Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon. “Now they’re paying to have someone take it away.”

In some places, including parts of Idaho, Maine and Pennsylvania, waste managers are continuing to recycle but are passing higher costs on to customers, or are considering doing so. “There are some states and some markets where mixed paper is at a negative value,” said Brent Bell, vice president of recycling at Waste Management, which handles 10 million tons of recycling per year. “We’ll let our customers make that decision, if they’d like to pay more and continue to recycle or to pay less and have it go to landfill.”

Economic realities always rule. The problem is when people create fantasies that have no connection with those rules.

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Most scientific studies cannot be reproduced

A new report looking at a number of important research studies has found that almost all could not be reproduced, and that the research was often fraught with fraud and “political groupthink.”

For this study, researchers tried to reproduce the results of “53 landmark studies in oncology and hematology.” Researchers were only able to replicate the results of six studies. “People have found similar results in psychology and economics. Different fields are affected different amounts,” Randall told The College Fix. “As a rule of thumb, fields that use statistics intensively are more likely to have troubles than fields that don’t.”

The report hypothesized that there are a number of different reasons for irreproducibility that include such things as “flawed statistics, faulty data, deliberate exclusion of data, and political groupthink,” among other reasons. “Actual fraud on the part of researchers appears to be a growing problem,” the report also states.

The report also singled out the field of climate science as having significant problems along these same lines, especially in areas of its statistical research.

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Trump administration shuts down $10 million carbon measuring program at NASA

The Trump administration has shut down a $10 million ground-based carbon measuring program that was being run by NASA.

The program, dubbed Carbon Measuring System (CMS), was a collection of 65 ground-based research projects.

Although Congress fended off the budget and mission cuts [proposed by the Trump administration], a spending deal signed in March made no mention of the CMS. That allowed the administration’s move to take effect, says Steve Cole, a NASA spokesperson in Washington, D.C. Cole says existing grants will be allowed to finish up, but no new research will be supported.

The Science article takes the typical journalistic approach of the past century, innocently assuming that this research is vital and must be funded and that it is a tragedy that it is being cut. Mainstream reporters today seem incapable of exercising any skepticism when it comes to government spending.

Look, this research might be worthwhile. Then again, maybe not. More importantly, why is NASA funding this ground-based climate research? The agency’s task is the exploration of space. This work has nothing to do with that task. If environmental scientists need this work done, they need to go to the appropriate funding sources, which in the federal government would be NOAA, EPA, or the Department of Energy, not NASA.

Meanwhile, it appears that much of this work is going to be made somewhat redundant anyway, with the launch of several carbon monitoring satellites by both NASA and Europe, one of which is already in orbit, according to the article.

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Sunspot update for April 2018: Heading into solar minimum

On Sunday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for April 2018. Below is my annotated version of that graph.

While there was an uptick in sunspots in April, compared to the almost complete inactivity in March (the least active month for sunspots in a decade), the uptick did little to change the general trend. Sunspot activity is now comparable to what we saw in early 2008 (as indicated by the yellow line). This was just before the arrival of the previous solar minimum, which happened to also be one of the longest and deepest on record.

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Big earthquake in South Korea linked to geothermal power plant

South Korea’s second largest earthquake has now been linked by two different studies to the injection of water deep below the surface at a new geothermal power plant.

Perched on South Korea’s southeast coast and far from grinding tectonic plates, Pohang is an unlikely spot for a big earthquake. Before the geothermal plant’s two wells were drilled, there had never been an earthquake there of any significance, says Kwanghee Kim, a seismologist at Pusan National University in Busan, South Korea, and lead author of one study. But while Kim was monitoring the aftermath of an unrelated earthquake in 2016, he began to detect rumbles from Pohang. That prompted his lab to deploy eight temporary seismic sensors at the site, which were finally in place on 10 November 2017. He expected any quakes to be small—after all, the largest previous quake tied to enhanced geothermal power, in Basel, Switzerland, was just 3.4 in magnitude.

It took only 5 days to be proved wrong. “The Pohang earthquake was larger than any predicted by existing theories,” Kim says. Although some initial measures placed the source of the quake several kilometers away from the plant, Kim’s network revealed that the earthquake, and several of its foreshocks, all began right below the 4-kilometer-deep well used to inject water into the subsurface to create the plant’s heating reservoir. Indeed, it appears likely that the well’s high-pressure water lubricated an unknown fault in the rock, causing it to slip and triggering the quake, Kim says.

A second paper, by European scientists who used regional seismic data, reinforces the South Korean team’s results, in particular its shallow depth. That study also points out that an earlier 3.1-magnitude earthquake also took place near the well bottom, increasing the odds of a common source. Satellite measures of shifts in the surface after the November 2017 quake support that idea, says Stefan Wiemer, the second study’s lead author and director of the Swiss Seismological Service in Zurich. It’s clear the locked fault was storing energy that was waiting to be released, Wiemer says. “If that fault would have gone next Tuesday or 50 years from now, we’ll never know.”

The article notes that scientists had previously concluded that injecting water underground for geothermal purposes was okay (since it reduced use of fossil fuels) while doing the same for fracking (to obtain and use fossil fuels) was bad.. The data here actually suggests just the reverse, since fracking has never produced an earthquake as large as the 5.5 magnitude Pohang quake.

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Asian rivers produce almost all the world’s ocean pollution

A new study has found that 95% of all ocean pollution comes from only 10 rivers worldwide, and of those 8 are in Asia.

Dr Schmidt pooled data from dozens of research articles and calculated the amount in rivers was linked to the ‘mismanagement of plastic waste in their watersheds.’ He said: ‘The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88-95 per cent of the global load into the sea.’

The study follows a recent report that pointed the finger at China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for spewing out most of the plastic waste that enters the seas. The Yangtze has been estimated in previous research to dump some 727 million pounds of plastic into the sea each year. The Ganges River in India is responsible for even more – about 1.2 billion pounds. A combination of the Xi, Dong and Zhujiang Rivers (233 million lbs per year) in China as well as four Indonesian rivers: the Brantas (85 million lbs annually), Solo (71 million pounds per year), Serayu (37 million lbs per year) and Progo (28 million lbs per year), are all large contributors.

The article also notes this:

More than half of the plastic waste that flows into the oceans comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The only industrialized western country on the list of top 20 plastic polluters is the United States at No. 20.

The U.S. and Europe are not mismanaging their collected waste, so the plastic trash coming from those countries is due to litter, researchers said.

While China is responsible for 2.4 million tons of plastic that makes its way into the ocean, nearly 28 percent of the world total, the United States contributes just 77,000 tons, which is less than one percent, according to the study published in the journal Science.

So, the next time you see a wild-eyed leftwing environmentalist trying to blame western civilization, capitalism, and the U.S. for the world’s pollution, please remember this study. It is the free nations of the world that have nimbly reacted well to the problems of pollution, not communist dictatorships like China or Vietnam.

I should add that the record of democracies here is not perfect by far. The rivers of India are a big contributor to this pollution. That country needs to deal with this problem also.

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New method for scrubbing CO2 out of the air

Researchers have devised a new much more efficient technique for removing carbon dioxide from the smoke of power plants.

The memzyme meets the Department of Energy’s standards by capturing 90 percent of power plant carbon dioxide production at a relatively low cost of $40 per ton. Researchers term the membrane a “memzyme” because it acts like a filter but is near-saturated with an enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, developed by living cells over millions of years to help rid themselves of carbon dioxide efficiently and rapidly.

“To date, stripping carbon dioxide from smoke has been prohibitively expensive using the thick, solid, polymer membranes currently available,” says Jeff Brinker, a Sandia fellow, University of New Mexico regents’ professor and the paper’s lead author. “Our inexpensive method follows nature’s lead in our use of a water-based membrane only 18 nanometers thick that incorporates natural enzymes to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide released. (A nanometer is about 1/700 of the diameter of a human hair.) This is almost 70 percent better than current commercial methods, and it’s done at a fraction of the cost.”

The article also notes at the end that this technology could also be adapted to scrubbing CO2 from spacecraft atmospheres.

Hat tip to reader MarcusZ1967.

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Environmental activists to build methane-detecting satellite

What could possibly go wrong? The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), historically one of the U.S.’s most partisan and aggressive environmental activist groups, has announced that it has raised millions to build a satellite to measure atmospheric methane, with a launch aimed for 2020.

The EDF, which is based in New York City, aims to launch the satellite as early as 2020. The environmental group and its scientific partners at Harvard University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, say that their planned ‘MethaneSAT’ will make the most precise measurements of methane yet from space. Their goal is to monitor emissions from roughly 50 major oil and gas fields that account for around 80% of the world’s oil and gas production. But the satellite could also be used to estimate emissions from landfills and agriculture.

“We need good solid data so that we really can support global action on climate change, and we’ve got to do it fast,” says Steven Hamburg, the EDF’s chief scientist.

MethaneSAT is an offshoot of the EDF’s research on greenhouse-gas emissions from US oil and gas facilities. In 2012, the group spearheaded a collaboration with industry and academic scientists to better quantify methane emissions and identify leaky infrastructure, from the wellhead all the way to the urban distribution system. That work is ongoing, but suggests that methane emissions from oil and gas facilities exceed US government estimates. Last year, the EDF helped to launch another collaboration with industry partners, governments and academics to carry that research forward internationally. [emphasis mine]

While I applaud their effort to do real research, I have serious concerns about the objectivity of their work. It appears they are aiming this satellite to look specifically at oil and gas facilities, the big enemies of the global-warming community, and clearly wish to document evidence for human-caused global warming. Thus, it will not be surprising if their research results end up biased in these directions.

Nonetheless, this project’s funding, much of it from private sources, highlights the on-going shift away from government money for the funding of space missions, as did my previous post As noted at the link above,

The EDF declined to provide a precise cost estimate for its satellite because the design remains in flux, but said that it is likely to be in the tens of millions of dollars. The group is seeking extra support from philanthropists to operate the satellite once it’s in orbit. All the data will be freely available. Hamburg says that the project provides a new model for funding targeted space missions. “We’re going to be the first, but I think we’re going to see this approach be used by others as well,” he says.

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Sunspot update for March 2018: the sun crashes!

It surely looks like the solar minimum has arrived, and it has done so far earlier than expected! On Sunday NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for March 2018. Below is my annotated version of that graph.

March 2018 was the least active month for sunspots since the middle of 2009, almost nine years ago. In fact, activity in the past few months has been so low it matches the low activity seen in late 2007 and early 2008, ten years ago when the last solar minimum began and indicated by the yellow line that I have added to the graph below. If the solar minimum has actually arrived now, this would make this cycle only ten years long, one of the shortest solar cycles on record. More important, it is a weak cycle. In the past, all short cycles were active cycles. This is the first time we have seen a short and weak cycle since scientists began tracking the solar cycle in the 1700s, following the last grand minimum in the 1600s when there were almost no sunspots.
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North American mountains get 3Xs the snow previously estimated

The uncertainty of science: A new analysis based on computer models suggests that the mountains of North America get three times more snow each year than scientists has previously estimated.

Those figures come thanks to a new analysis in which researchers used computer simulations to estimate the typical annual snowfall in each of 11 North American mountain ranges. After supercomputer simulations of regional climate that would have taken 50 years on the average laptop, the team found that those mountain ranges receive about 3018 cubic kilometers of snow a year. Although those ranges together cover only about 25% of the area stretching from the Arctic Ocean down to Mexico’s southern border, they get about 60% of its snow, the researchers report in Geophysical Research Letters. That’s nearly three times the estimate for mountain snow from one previous study, the team notes.

First, this is based on computer simulations, not actual data in the field. I wouldn’t put much money on it. Second, it does show us how little climate scientists really know about the climate, as this simulation is still using all the knowledge they have, and it comes up with a conclusion that confounds them. Third, I was astonished the article didn’t try to push the idea that this larger estimate should be blamed on human-caused global warming. It didn’t, which I suppose is a sign of some progress.

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More evidence of data tampering at NOAA

A close review of NOAA’s historic temperature data for New York shows that the agency appears to have been adjusting its records to cool past records or warm recent ones, without any explanation.

The author took a look at NOAA’s graph this year showing New York’s average January temperatures going back to 1890, and noticed that, according to that graph, 1943 was 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2014. Yet, a close look at the actual data from 1943 strongly suggested that 1943 was actually 2.7F warmer, not 0.9F. Somehow, NOAA had adjusted the numbers, either in 1943 or in 2014, to make the present warmer or the past colder. Further analysis, removing the one station that appears to have experienced the most heat island influence, thus distorting its long term record, suggested the adjustments might actually be worse.

These results, while certainly not covering all weather stations and years, are still consistent with every other close look at NOAA’s adjustments. Those adjustments always cool the past and warm the present, so as to provide confirmation of the theory of global warming. More important, there is never any explanation for those adjustments.

Of the seven sites, six have remained at the same locations, within a few yards. The station at Auburn has moved by a couple of miles, but is still in similar terrain.

There is no reason then why any major adjustments should have been required at any site.

Apologists for temperature tampering usually say it is all due to TOBS (Time of Observation). Yet the station at Ithaca, based at Cornell University, has used morning readings throughout. With a temperature difference of 2.9C, this is typical of the other sites, suggesting that any bias from TOBS is minor.

Either there is outright fraud going on here in the climate divisions at NOAA, or they are entirely blind to their own confirmation bias. Either way, this data once again illustrates why there is great distrust in their results. Global warming might be happening, and human activity might be causing it, but these strange adjustments in the data leave many in doubt.

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Sunspot update for January 2018

Today NOAA posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for January 2018. Below is my annotated version of that graph.

As you can see, the low sunspot activity of the past two months continued in January. November 2017 remains the most inactive month for sunspots since the middle of 2009. January is now the second most inactive month, with December a very close third.

January 2018 Solar Cycle graph

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

Though activity continues to track close to but considerably below the 2007 weak prediction, the difference appears to be increasing as the ramp down to solar minimum continues. While I have said in past updates that the trend suggests an early arrival of the solar minimum, a close look at the previous ramp down in 2007 and 2008 shows that when activity became this weak, the ramp down slowed considerably. This previous pattern suggests that we could see another year or two of similarly low activity before the minimum arrives.

Regardless, the low activity, this soon, continues to suggest that the next maximum will also be weak, and might even not come at all, as some solar scientists have proposed. Instead, we might be heading toward another Grand Minimum, with no significant sunspots for decades.

Will that Grand Minimum produce cold weather worldwide, as it appears to have done during the last Grand Minimum in the 1600s? There is circumstantial evidence in the past decade that it might. We will not know, however, until it happens, and that possibility remains very uncertain.

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Polar bears are starving! (NOT)

Fake science: Two articles yesterday from the so-called science journals Nature and Science today illustrate once again how pervasive the corruption in the climate field has now spread to almost anything that relates to climate.

Both articles refer to a paper published this week in Science, though the Nature article is far more detailed and longer. Researchers had tracked 9 polar bears during the spring months in three separate years, and had found that 5 of them had lost weight during this time period. From the Nature article:

Polar bear calorie use in spring

On average, the bears needed nearly 12,325 kilocalories per day — 1.6 times more energy than previously thought. To meet such energy demands, a female bear on the spring sea ice should eat either one adult or 19 newborn ringed seals every 10 to 12 days, the scientists concluded.

But nearly half of the bears didn’t catch enough food — and were forced to fast or scavenge carcasses. These animals lost 10% of their body mass over about 10 days. “That’s dramatic,” says physiologist John Whiteman at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. It’s as if a person weighing 80 kilograms shed 8 kilograms in just over a week, he says.

Catching enough to eat isn’t the only challenge polar bears face. As rising temperatures thin the sea ice, wind and currents make it drift faster on the ocean surface. “Think about a treadmill,” says Merav Ben-David, a wildlife ecologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. If the sea ice moves faster under their paws, polar bears have to walk faster — or for longer — to remain in the same spot3, which forces them to expend more energy, she says. [emphasis mine]

Oh my god! The polar bears are dying! And global warming is killing them!

What a joke. A quick look at the graph above, captured from the Science video, reveals that what the researchers really found is that four bears lost weight, four bears gained weight, and one stayed about the same. The bears studied weren’t “starving,” they represented what looks like an ordinary cross-section of population.

Moreover, this study is incredibly uncertain in that it only studied 9 bears, and only during the spring months during three years. What happens during the rest of the year? What would happen if they studied a larger population? While the data here teaches us something about the polar bear’s diet, calorie intake and calorie requirements, it is absolutely insufficient to provide any conclusions about the future of the bear population.

Worse, while both articles were quick to mention the threat from global warming, neither mentioned that the polar bear population continues to thrive, and has been doing so for the past decade, with no declines in almost all Arctic regions.

Further compounding the bad reporting here, while both articles repeated their religious belief in global warming and the impending disappearance of the Arctic icecap, there remains zero evidence in all data gathered of the ice pack by satellites and ground research that the icecap is shrinking significantly. In fact, while it had shown a steady decline through the first decade of the 21st century, in the past few years there has been a marked recovery. While these scientists might want the ice cap to disappear for political reasons, it simply isn’t doing so.

This is junk journalism and fake science. In fact, it is downright pitiful. That the reporting at such important science journals as these has become so slipshod speaks badly for the future of science in general.

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Almost 500 science papers in 2017 challenge “global-warming consensus”

The uncertainty of science: A survey of climate papers published in 2017 shows that 485 directly challenged the so-called “consensus” that activists claim exists about global warming.

Author Kenneth Richard found that during the course of the year 2017, at least 485 scientific papers were published that in some way questioned the supposed consensus regarding the perils of human CO2 emissions or the efficacy of climate models to predict the future.

According to Richard’s analysis, the 485 new papers underscore the “significant limitations and uncertainties inherent in our understanding of climate and climate changes,” which in turn suggests that climate science is not nearly as settled as media reports and some policymakers would have people believe.

This really is not a surprise for anyone who spends even a little time reading actual climate research. If you do, you immediately realize that the absurd claims of politicians (mostly Democrats) and activists about the certainty of human-caused global warming are based on their complete ignorance of the science. Some examples:

My point isn’t to say that human-caused global warming isn’t happening. We simply don’t know. The evidence so far is very inconclusive. And for those who advocate this theory, their own models have consistently failed to match the data. Skepticism is called for, which by the way is actually the hallmark of good science.

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Sunspot update for December 2017

The precipitous decline in sunspots continues. While November 2017 remains the most inactive month for sunspots since the middle of 2009, December was a very close second.

Below is my annotated version of NOAA’s monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for December, which they posted on Sunday.

December 2017 Solar Cycle graph

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

December 2017 sunspot record

The graph on the right, produced by SILSO (Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observations) on December 31, shows only 14 days during the month when there were sunspots active on the Sun’s visible hemisphere. This is only four more days then seen in November. And like November, the few sunspots were weak, resulting in tiny sunspot numbers total.

The first graph above illustrates how weak this on-going sunspot cycle has been. While the curve most closely matches the 2007 weak prediction of half the solar science community, it has one very notable difference. The actual ramp up to solar maximum started two years later than predicted, even though it appears to be ending when that prediction expected. The result is a very very short solar cycle, something that has historically always been associated with very active and intense sunspot activity. Instead, this short cycle has only seen weak activity, generally below all the predictions.

All signs continue to point to an early arrival of solar minimum. They also suggest that the next maximum will also be weak, and might even not come at all, as some solar scientists have proposed. Instead, we might be heading toward another Grand Minimum, with no significant sunspots for decades.

So, is it cold outside right now? Well, that’s weather, not climate. Nonetheless, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that few sunspots correspond with a cooling climate on Earth. (The last grand minimum occurred in the 1600s, during what was called the Little Ice Age.) There is even some preliminary evidence to suggest that cosmic rays might be a cause. (Watch the video at the end of this link.).

Whether any of this will happen however remains unknown. We will need to wait to find out.

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More data tampering to prove global warming, this time with tidal gauges

An analysis of the adjustments made to three Indian Ocean tidal gauges suggests that this was not to correct errors but to tamper with the data to prove global warming and an accelerating rise in sea level because of it.

The authors do not mince their words. They refer to these adjustments as “highly questionable” and “suspicious.”

That’s because they can find no plausible scientific explanation for the adjustments.

The last sentence is the bottom line. At no time are such adjustments ever justified with any credible or plausible scientific evidence. They are always “arbitrary,” a word used repeatedly in the paper. And as the paper’s author’s also note,

It is always highly questionable to shift data collected in the far past without any proven new supporting material.

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Argentine scientist indicted for creating census of glaciers

An Argentinian scientist has been indicted on criminal charges for the standard manner in which he designed Argentine’s glacier census.

The lawsuit was filed by a grassroots group after the Veladero mine in northwestern Argentina spilled cyanide into the Jáchal watershed in September 2015. Another spill in the same area occurred this past September.

[Ricardo] Villalba, who led the National Institute of Snow, Ice and Environmental Research (IANIGLA) in Mendoza from 2005 to 2015, launched Argentina’s first comprehensive glacier inventory in 2012. Based on satellite images, the inventory set a minimum glacier size of 1 hectare. “The process of making that inventory wasn’t unusual. That size cutoff is standard practice,” says Bruce Raup of the University of Colorado in Boulder, who is also director of the Global Land Ice Measurements from Space project, an international glacier monitoring project. Argentina’s inventory includes 30 ice masses covering about 400 hectares in the Veladero area, Villalba says.

The indictment argues that the 1-hectare limit and the lack of an on-site inspection led to “the exclusion—and resulting lack of protection—of many bodies of ice” around Veladero that should have been considered priorities because of their importance as water sources.

I would say that this is an example of the dog biting the hand that feeds it. The article notes that Villalba is “sympathic” to the activists who filed the lawsuit. They however don’t care about that. They instead want to use his research and the law to distort how glacier research is done in order to gain power over water use that actually has little if anything to do with glaciers.

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The Sun goes quiet! Sunspot update for November 2017

The past month was the most inactive month for sunspots since the middle of 2009, when the last solar minimum was just ending and the Sun was beginning its ramp up to solar maximum.

NOAA on Sunday posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for November. As I have done every month since 2010, I have posted that graph below, with annotations.

November 2017 Solar Cycle graph

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

I have also added a straight yellow line near the bottom of the graph, indicating how the lack of activity this past month corresponds with the lack of activity in the summer of 2009, just when that unusually long and deep solar minimum was beginning to end.

November 2017 sunspot record

To get an idea how few sunspots were seen in November, the graph on the right, produced by SILSO (Sunspot Index and Long-term Solar Observations) on December 1, shows only 10 days during the entire month when any sunspots were active on the Sun’s visible hemisphere. And even those sunspot were few and weak, resulting in tiny sunspot numbers total.

Nor is December looking any different, with no sunspots recorded so far, four days into the month.

The plunge to solar minimum continues to appear to be happening faster than normal. At this pace, solar minimum will arrive in early 2018, making this one of the shortest solar cycles on record. That in itself would be unprecedented, as short cycles in the past have always accompanied very active solar maximums, not weak maximums like the maximum we have just seen.

I still expect the ramp down to solar minimum to slow down and stretch out to 2019, as would be more normal, but I also would not bet any money on this expectation, at this point.

The big question remains: Will the solar cycle continue as normal after this upcoming solar minimum, or will we instead see our first grand minimum since the Maunder Minimum in the 1600s, a period lasting for about a century with no obvious sunspots that also corresponded to the Little Ice Age?

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Sacrificing Scientific Skepticism

Phil Berardelli, who periodically comments here and who is a veteran science journalist who worked for the journal Science for a number of years, has written a very cogent four part essay on the subject of climate change for the think tank Capital Research Center.

Berardelli very carefully outlines the uncertainties that dominate our knowledge of the Earth’s climate, while explaining clearly why consensus is never what good science relies upon. As he notes,

Science is not primarily about proof; science is about disproof. Nothing in science, absolutely nothing, should ever be taken at face value. This view isn’t new; it’s age old.

Read it all, especially if you are one of the people who reads my writing and questions my skepticism about much of what I see in the climate field, especially coming from NASA and NOAA. Berardelli illustrates how doubt and skepticism are the hallmarks of science, and should always be honored, not denigrated with slurs like “denier.”

Full disclosure: Phil Berardelli was also my editor when I did a weekly column for UPI called Space Watch for six months in 2005.

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Physicists once again fail to detect dark matter

The uncertainty of science: The most sensitive detector yet created by physicists has once again failed to detect dark matter, casting strong doubt on all present theories for its existence.

The latest results from an experiment called XENON1T at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, published on 30 October, continue a dry spell stretching back 30 years in the quest to nab dark-matter particles. An attempt by a Chinese team to detect the elusive stuff, the results of which were published on the same day, also came up empty-handed. Ongoing attempts by space-based telescopes, as well as at CERN, the European particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, have also not spotted any hints of dark-matter particles.

The findings have left researchers struggling for answers. “We do not understand how the Universe works at a deeper and more profound level than most of us care to admit,” says Stacy McGaugh, an astrophysicist at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

The process here has been a good demonstration of the scientific method. Observers detect a phenomenon that does not make sense, which in this case was that the outer regions of galaxies rotate so fast that they should fly apart. Theorists then come up with a hypothesis to explain the phenomenon, which here was dark matter, subatomic particles that have weight but do not generally interact with the rest of the universe except by their mass, which acts to hold the galaxies together. Observers than try to prove the hypothesis by finding these theorized particles.

When the particles are not found, the theorists begin to rethink their theories. Maybe dark matter does not exist. Maybe (as is mentioned near the end of the article) a rethinking of the nature of gravity itself might be necessary. Or possibly the unseen matter is not subatomic, but ordinary matter not yet detected.

If only the climate field would apply this basic scientific method to its work. There, scientists found that carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere. Some theorists posited an hypothesis that said that this increase might cause the climate to warm, and created numerous (almost a hundred) models to predict this warming. After more than thirty years, however, none of those models has successfully worked. The climate has not warmed as predicted, which suggests the hypothesis is flawed, and needs rethinking. Sadly, the leaders in the climate field refuse to do this rethinking. Instead, they appear willing to adjust and change their data to make it fit, sometimes in ways that are downright fraudulent.

This is not how science is done, and it is doing a terrible disservice to both science and society in general.

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Sunspot update for October 2017

NOAA today posted its monthly update of the solar cycle, covering sunspot activity for October. That graph is posted below, with annotations.

October 2017 Solar Cycle graph

The graph above has been modified to show the predictions of the solar science community. The green curves show the community’s two original predictions from April 2007, with half the scientists predicting a very strong maximum and half predicting a weak one. The red curve is their revised May 2009 prediction.

After two straight months of rising sunspot activity, the number of sunspots plunged in October, returning the numbers almost exactly back to the general trend we have seen since 2014 when the solar maximum ended. While the short two month increase indicated that the minimum will not occur as soon as this long term trend suggests, the quick return to that trend this month suggests that it will.

Meanwhile, November is six days old and has yet to see any sunspots at all.

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Tesla stock crashes due to possible loss of tax credit

The stock of Elon Musk’s Tesla electric car company crashed this week, dropping 7% on Wednesday, with the revelation that the Republican tax plan proposes eliminating the $7,500 tax credit for buying an electric car.

Its share price fell more than seven per cent to about $296 apiece from Wednesday’s $321. The draft law emerged as the Elon-Musk-led automaker announced its worst-ever quarter, recording a $671m loss and admitting it had not met its production target for its new Model 3 car, producing just 220 of them against its 1,500 target.

Economists believe that the tax credit is a key driver for electric car sales, and cite the example of when the state of Georgia cut its $5,000 tax credit and saw sales of electric cars slump from 1,400 a month to just 100 a month in response.

What this story highlights is that electric cars are simply not economical at this time, and that the government is distorting the market by pushing them. Without government aid, practically no one would buy them.

It would be far better for everyone to let the market decide. Not only would this save us tax dollars, it would allow the industry to focus its innovative efforts on upgrades that are cost effective and profitable, rather than on pie-in-the-sky fantasies that actually do no good at all.

Hat tip Wayne DeVette for pointing me to this story.

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Scientists receiving EPA grants will no longer serve on EPA advisory panels

EPA head Scott Pruitt today announced that any scientist receiving EPA grants will no longer be allowed to serve on three EPA science advisory panels.

In the past three years, members of the Science Advisory Board, the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, and the Board of Scientific Counselors received about $77 million in direct EPA grants while serving, according to agency calculations. “Strengthening independence from EPA; increasing state, tribal, and local government participation; and adding geographic diversity and fresh perspectives will improve the integrity of EPA’s scientific advisory committees,” Pruitt told reporters, government officials, and policy analysts in attendance.

The issue is a conflict of interest. These same scientists could not fairly advise EPA since they depended on that agency for major funding. The result was that these panels would often recommend the EPA to fund research that these scientists favored and were known to focus on, thus giving them an advantage in obtaining grants. Not surprisingly, this research often pushed the theory of global-warming and anti-industry regulation. This old-boy network for funneling funds to the right people, regardless of its legitimacy, is now hopefully cut off.

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Scientists propose adding smog to atmosphere to fight global warming

What could possibly go wrong? Global warming scientists have proposed injecting sulphate aerosols (another name for pollution) into the upper atmosphere in order to counter their predicted global temperature rise.

Experts are considering ploughing sulphate aerosols into the upper atmosphere which would cause some of the suns rays to be reflected back out into space. This could potentially cool the Earth down and help counter the effects of climate change, scientists say.

The move would also help reduce coral bleaching and help calm powerful storms.

James Crabbe, from the University of Bedfordshire, is leading the study and his initial results suggest the plan could help cool the planet.

This proposal is based on such flimsy science it appalls me that any scientist would even consider it, especially when you think about the unknown consequences.

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Since 2016 almost a 1000 published papers have challenged the theory of human-caused climate change

Link here. What the author does is quote from numerous scientific papers where they either note the lack of evidence that human activity has caused the recent warming of the climate since the 1600s, or note other natural phenomenon where the evidence of influence is far stronger. Here’s one example:

Rosenblum and Eisenman, 2017

Observations indicate that the Arctic sea ice cover is rapidly retreating while the Antarctic sea ice cover is steadily expanding. State-of-the-art climate models, by contrast, typically simulate a moderate decrease in both the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice covers.

Here’s another, with a link to the actual peer-reviewed published paper:

Blaauw, 2017 [pdf]

This paper demonstrates that global warming can be explained without recourse to the greenhouse theory

He quotes many more, and has found 900 papers since 2016 that challenge the accepted-wisdoms pushed by global-warming theories.

The point here is not to say the climate doesn’t change, or that increased CO2 is not a concern, but to point out that the science is not settled, and anyone who makes that claim is either ignorant, or lying.

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WHO fakes data to claim weedkiller causes cancer

Par for the course: IARC, the agency of the World Health Organization (WHO) that focuses on cancer research, has apparently faked data so that it could make the claim — in opposition to every other published paper in the world — that a commonly used weedkiller causes cancer.

This detail about the man in charge might explain what happened:

The chairman of the IARC sub-group tasked with reviewing evidence of glyphosate’s effect on laboratory animals was Charles Jameson, an American toxicologist. In testimony as part of personal-injury lawsuits against Monsanto in the United States, Jameson told lawyers for Monsanto he did not know when, why or by whom the edits had been made.

Monsanto is facing multiple legal claims in the U.S. from plaintiffs who allege glyphosate gave them or their loved ones cancer. Jameson is an expert witness for the plaintiffs. He did not respond to questions for this article. [emphasis mine]

If you want to read the whole ugly story, go to the second link above. This report cites numerous examples where IARC clearly fudged their reports to hide the fact that their conclusions were consistently debunked by other research.

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Trump administration backs off plans to end or reduce ethanol policy

The swamp wins: Scott Pruitt, EPA head, has retreated from his plans to reduce or end the program that subsidizes and encourages the use of ethanol in automobile gasoline.

After heavy pressure from lawmakers and other stakeholders, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Thursday night sided with pro-ethanol lawmakers and said his agency will abandon many controversial changes to the nation’s ethanol mandate — prompting a top biofuels leader to claim that Mr. Pruitt apparently has had an “epiphany” over the past few days.

In a letter to seven key senators, Mr. Pruitt — who had been critical of ethanol during his time as Oklahoma attorney general — shot down several major concerns about looming adjustments to the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), the federal law that requires the blending of ethanol with gasoline.

The letter comes just days after Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and perhaps the loudest pro-ethanol voice in Congress, threatened to hold up nominees for top-level EPA posts if Mr. Pruitt didn’t acquiesce to their demands on the RFS.

It is going to take many years to drain the swamp, since it presently holds great power and is willing to use it to maintain its corrupt control over taxpayer money.

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NOAA declares record-setting warming where it has no data

NOAA’s September update on the climate has declared that central and southern Africa experienced “record warmth,” even though NOAA itself admits it has no ground data for this region, and the satellite data shows temperatures normal.

Except for the satellite data, which comes from a different research source, all the graphs at the second link are from NOAA itself. Despite admitting in one graph that they have zero data for most of Africa, they declare in a different graph that most of Africa experienced record-setting warming.

This is not the first time NOAA has done this. I noted similar intellectual dishonesty by NOAA two years ago. In the interim they have followed this pattern repeatedly, claiming new warming records all over the globe in many areas where they have absolutely no surface data and the satellite data remains inconclusive.

There is an intellectual corruption in the climate field, especially within government agencies like NOAA, that is ruining our ability to really learn what is going on with the climate. And until someone in power steps in and either demands a forthright explanation that justifies these actions (something that I think is impossible) or demands that it stop, this corruption is only going to get worse.

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EPA will no longer quickly settle lawsuits with environmental activists

The Trump administration has decided that it will no longer quickly settle lawsuits from environmental activist groups, an Obama policy that not only provided these groups a significant amount of easy funding from the federal government but also allowed them control over the regulatory process.

This is a step in the right direction but the article suggests that EPA head Scott Pruitt set a limit on the number of lawsuits the EPA can settle. This means it can settle some suits. It also suggests that the EPA will be able to argue for settling additional suits on a case-by-case basis.

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