Telegraph(UK) says Mossad behind Iranian scientist hit

December 6, 2010 · Posted in Uncategorized · Comments Off 

From the Telegraph (UK):

Inside a secret bomb-proof building in a Tel Aviv suburb, which Google Earth does not include on its website, some of the occupants last week exchanged high-fives at their work stations. According to insiders, several sent each other the same message: The Chief’s Last Hit.

That “chief” was Meir Dagan, the outgoing head of Mossad. On his first day in office eight years ago, Mr Dagan had stood on a table in the organisation’s canteen and promised to support any operation against any of Israel’s enemies, with every means he had — legal or illegal.

He could allow his field agents to use prescribed nerve toxins, dumdum bullets and methods of killing that even the Russian or Chinese secret services would not use.

“We are like the hangman, or the doctor on Death Row who administers the lethal injection,” he said, as – by his own account – his agents listened, enthralled.

“Our actions are all endorsed by the state of Israel. When we kill we are not breaking the law. We are fulfilling a sentence sanctioned by the prime minister of the day.”

Earlier this month, “the chief” and a small team of specialists — analysts, weapons experts and psychologists – met in a conference room adjoining his office. With them was a brigadier-general, the head of the kidon. Named after the Hebrew word for bayonet, the kidon is a unit with 38 elite assassins at its disposal, including five women.

Operating out of a military base in the Negev Desert, all are in their twenties, and trained both as expert killers and as expert linguists: a number are fluent in Persian.

Last Monday, a thousand miles further east in the Iranian capital, Tehran, it appears that the kidon put both of those skills into practice, killing a top nuclear scientist and critically injuring a second as they drove through the rush-hour traffic.

Both were key figures in the Iranian nuclear programme, which Tehran insists is for civilian use only, but which Mossad has long perceived as the ultimate expression of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s threat to “wipe Israel off the map”.

In one car was 45-year-old Majid Shahriyari, Iran’s leading expert in designing nuclear switches, a key part in the construction of nuclear weapons. Ali Alker Saler, an Iranian nuclear official, has described Shahriyari’s work as “only handling the big projects”.

The week before he was assassinated, the nuclear scientist had returned from North Korea. Intelligence sources in Seoul have suggested that Mr Shahriyari had gone to Pyongyang to discuss a co-production deal over nuclear centrifuges.

Claims have also emerged that on his flight home via Syria, a Mossad deep cover agent had spotted Mr Shahriyari at Damascus International Airport as he waited for a connecting flight to Tehran.

In another quarter of Tehran, another top nuclear scientist, Fareydoun Abbasi-Davani, was also on his way to work at his laboratory at Shahid Beheshti University.

A world expert on isotope separation, he was routinely driven around by a member of the Revolutionary Guards and, like Mr Shahriyari, had a phone link on his car to Tehran’s security headquarters. That, however, was the only protection the car had.

To assist in the attack, Persian-speaking Mossad deep cover agents have been steadily infiltrating Iran for years. How exactly they helped the hitmen flit in and out of the country remains a secret.

But clues to their methods have been provided by Hossein Sajedina, Tehran’s police chief. He confirmed last week how Shahriyari was killed and Abbasi-Davani seriously injured. “Two motorcyclists had approached their cars and attached bombs on the vehicle which exploded at once,” he said.

There have been unconfirmed reports that the bombs had suction pads fitted to them which had enabled them to be attached to the windscreen of each car.

Within hours Mr Sajedina had accused Mossad of the crimes. In Tel Aviv a government spokesman said Israel had not been involved.

When the news reached Mossad headquarters, the high-fives started, I am told. Yet the day the attack was carried out had also been chosen by “the chief” to formally announce his resignation.

Elder of Ziyon

HUH???? Scientist Says Global Warming is Causing Harsh British Winter.

December 3, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comments Off 

Time to add another one to the list! Those Global Warming Moonbats figure out ways to blame the dumbest things on global warming. Some of may favorites include, Incredible shrinking sheep, Invasion of jellyfish in the Mediterranean, Surge in fatal shark attack, Boy Scout tornado deaths, Severe acne, Global conflictBeer tasting different, Suicide of farmers in Australia, Bigger tuna fish,Longer days, Shorter daysCollapse of gingerbread houses in Sweden, Cow infertility, UFO sightings in the UK, Rise in insurance premiums, and Heroin addiction and a rise in bear attacks in Japan  just to name a few. The only thing they haven’t blamed on global warming so far are the TSA wanting to touch our “junk”, Obama’s Basketball injury and the fact that unemployment is not up to 9.8%

Just when you think that they can’t come up with anything else, the global warming moonbats come up with something new and even more creative.  The latest piece of propaganda from Al Gore’s army is incredibly simple.  The new claim is that the reason Great Britain is suffering through its second straight record cold winter is…you guessed it, global warming.

Yesterday, the World Meteorological Organisation announced that 2010 is almost certain to rank among the three warmest years since records began in 1850 – and it has long been accepted that one of the effects of climate change could be an increase in the frequency of harsher, Continental-style winters.

Long accepted? Yes ever since the moonbats realized that the temperatures were actually going down and the latest reports from the ice stations in Greenland show that everything was pretty cool (pun intended).

Well, the most alarming way in which temperatures in Britain could fall significantly is through a decline in the warm Atlantic current that maintains our mild climate. Although our weather depends on turbulent events in the atmosphere, these are shaped – in the long term – by the oceans, whose currents transport vast amounts of heat around the planet. Ancient records show that if these slowed or stopped, temperatures could drop by up to 10C within decades.

The Gulf Stream relies on the fact that as the water loses its heat in the north Atlantic, it cools, sinks and flows back to the south. The fear has been that, as the planet warms, melting Arctic ice will weaken these currents, plunging Europe into the cooler.

But that’s happening:

On this count, however, there is good news. According to Prof Mark Maslin, of University College London, there seems – at present – “to be no evidence of changes in the Atlantic circulation which could account for the last two harsh winters”. There are, he says, shorter-term patterns in ocean circulation which have a major effect, and have been linked to the severe winters in the 1940s and 1960s. But again, that is probably not the case today.

 So whats going on? How come you can’t use the usual global warming “Chicken Crap?” (Thank you Speaker Boehner).

Well, Prof Maslin thinks the cause of the big freeze can be found in the atmosphere. As Ewen McCallum, the chief meteorologist at the Met Office, explains, this year and last have seen large areas of high pressure develop in the Atlantic, blocking the westerly winds and allowing chilly Arctic air to move south across Europe.

Why the Arctic high pressure has strayed so far south. And here, says Prof Maslin, is the more likely, and more subtle, link with climate change. “For me,” he says, “this shows that the climate is becoming more dynamic, and thus large shifts in the wind patterns are possible – in this case, sub-tropical air being trapped further south than usual.”

AH! Now it makes sense.  All of the traditional scare tactics don’t work, so lets pull something out our arse and call it global warming.  Such are the ways of the climate moonbats.


The Iranian Nuclear Scientist Murder Mystery

November 30, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Ed Morrissey writes at Hot Air about another attempt to delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear power-killing their scientists:

Fresh off the revelation that Iran’s Sunni neighbors urged the US to attack Iran and decapitate its regime, two bombs targeting scientists in Iran’s nuclear program killed one and wounded another today in separate but apparently linked blasts. These attacks follow earlier apparent assassinations that killed two other researchers in their nuclear program. The Iranians, however, have chosen not to blame its neighbors but instead put the blame on Israel

Just 24 hours ago, Israel would have been the logical choice.
Of course, in the aftermath of the Wikileaks revelations, it has now been confirmed that the Arab world in general is anxious about Iran’s plans. If anything, considering how little impact the murder of the scientist is likely to have on Iran’s program, it is more likely that one of Iran’s neighbors is behind the bombing.

So, whodunit?

Morrissey has a favorite scenario for the solving of this mystery:

In fact, this might be an Agatha Christie whodunit. I’d love to think that the climax would be similar to Murder on the Orient Express, but I suspect that the actual plotters aren’t sharing information or control of the plot.

Considering the Wikileaks revelations, that would not be so far-fetched.

The question is what the longer term effects of this batch of leaked documents will have on the Middle East in terms of policy.

As Morrissey points out, it is unlikely that the US was behind the blast, but that doesn’t mean that the US cannot turn around and become more assertive in the options it chooses against Iran.

Unfortunately, given the path the Obama administration has staked out for itself, that possibility is more far-fetched than an Agathie Chrisite story.

Technorati Tag: .

Daled Amos

Another extreme drought hits the Amazon, raising climate change concerns - With exclusive commentary by forest scientist Simon Lewis

November 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Drought in the Amazon (1 month assesment period, through 16  October 2010).  Source: University College London,

We know from simple on-the-ground knowledge that the 2010 drought was extreme, leading to record lows on some major rivers in the Amazon region and an upsurge in the number of forest fires. Preliminary analyses suggest that the 2010 drought was more widespread and severe than the 2005 event. The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event.

That’s from an email to CP by forest scientist Simon Lewis, a leading expert on the Amazon (see Scientists: “There are multiple, consistent lines of evidence from ground-based studies published in the peer-reviewed literature that Amazon forests are, indeed, very susceptible to drought stress”).

The figure above is from the University College London Global Drought Monitor via a post by WWF’s Nick Sundt, that I am reposting below.  It represents a 1-month assessment period, through 16 October 2010.

Amazon drought, BrazilBut first, here’s a excerpt from an article (with a video) by the Global Post that Lewis recommends, “Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon: Droughts are growing more severe. Has the world’s largest rain forest reached its tipping point?”  In the photo, “Brazilians cross the muddy bottom of the Rio Negro, a major tributary to the Amazon River, in the city of Manaus, Oct. 26, 2010.”

The world’s largest rain forest was dangerously dry, and may well be drying out.

October marked the end of one of the worst Amazon droughts on record — a period of tinder-dry forests, dusty cropland and rivers falling to unprecedented lows. Streams are the highways of the deep jungle and they’re also graveyards for dead trees, usually hidden safely under fathoms of navigable water.

But not this year, and the drought’s significance extends far beyond impeded boats.

While the region has seen dry spells before, locals and experts say droughts have grown more frequent and severe. Scientists say there’s mounting evidence the Amazon’s shifting weather may be caused by global climate change.

The world’s largest rain forest has long been a bulwark of hope for a planet troubled by climate change. Covering an area the size of the continental United States, the Amazon holds 20 percent of Earth’s fresh water and generates a fifth of its oxygen. With the planet’s climate increasingly threatened by surging carbon emissions, the Amazon has been one of the few forces keeping them in check. But the latest scientific evidence suggests the forest may be unable to shield us from a hotter world.

“Every ecosystem has some point beyond which it can’t go,” said Oliver Phillips, a tropical ecology professor at the University of Leeds who has spent decades studying how forests react to changing weather. “The concern now is that parts of the Amazon may be approaching that threshold.”

Phillips led a team of dozens of researchers who studied the damage caused by a severe 2005 drought to trees and undergrowth at more than 100 sites across the Amazon. His findings, published in the journal Science, are troubling.

Through photosynthesis, the rain forest absorbs 2 billion tons of atmospheric carbon dioxide each year. But the 2005 drought caused a massive die-off of trees and inverted the process. Like a vacuum cleaner expelling its dust, the Amazon released 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in 2005. All told, the drought caused an extra 5 billion tons of heat-trapping gases to end up in the atmosphere — more than the combined annual emissions of Europe and Japan.

It still remains to be seen whether the rain forest’s ability to absorb greenhouse gases has been permanently harmed. “We can’t say for sure — it could be happening now,” Phillips said. “Often you don’t know you’ve passed a turning point until you’ve already passed it.”

Phillips said he’s worried about yet another drought following so closely after the last. Along the edge of the forest in Peru and Bolivia, there were more fires this year than any year on record, he said, along with reports of substantial damage to plants in the normally wet northwestern Amazon.

“The humid tropical forests have evolved at pretty high temperatures but there’s a temperature at which you don’t see them on the planet,” said Greg Asner, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science. “And some tropical forests in the world now are starting to be exposed to temperatures they’ve never experienced.”

(Courtesy Greg Asner.)

Asner recently completed a study of world rain forests showing just how extensive the damage could be. He took 16 leading models for predicting the next century of climate change and essentially created a map — showing hotspots where they all agreed rising greenhouse gases would substantially change the forest.

He found that higher temperatures and shifts in rainfall could leave as much as 37 percent of the Amazon so radically altered that the plants and animals living there now would be forced to adapt, move or die. When other man-made factors like logging are taken into account, the portion of affected forest could be as high as 81 percent.

Asner said melting polar ice sheets aren’t the only climate change sentinels out there. The world’s largest rain forest — drained, drying, sometimes burning — is on the front lines, too, and just as threatened.

“I hate to pit myself against the polar bears,” he said. “But we’re talking about the Amazon, the majority of the biodiversity on the planet is in the humid tropical forests.”

Locals call the Amazon’s annual dry spells “the burning season,” named for the forest fires landholders regularly set to make room for crops and cows. In past decades, fires kindled on the jungle’s edges burned themselves out once they advanced a few yards into permanently damp virgin forest.

But that changed with the 2005 drought, said Foster Brown, an environmental scientist at the federal university in the Brazilian state of Acre….

“The ecosystems here have become so dry that instead of a being a barrier to fire, the forest became kindling,” he said. “We’ve changed from a situation where a relatively small part of the region would be susceptible to fire to the entire region being susceptible to fire.”

Burned forests aren’t the only evidence of drought. This year, one of the Amazon River’s biggest tributaries, the Rio Negro, dropped 13 feet below its dry-season average — to the lowest level on record. Channels in some areas have become little more than winding belts of mud — leaving boats stranded and remote communities cut off from supplies….

“Everything has changed. We don’t know when we can plant. We plant and then the sun kills everything,” Mariazinha said. “If it continues like this, we expect a tragedy.”

And the point she pressed upon her visitors was, perhaps they should be worried, too.

“I ask you,” she said, “as someone who lives in the outside world who knows the tragedy that’s happening there — is there anything we can do?”

Here is what Lewis has to say about the drought:

We need to be a little cautious when looking at these unpublished results as we don’t know the exact details of the techniques used to generate the maps. But, we know from simple on-the-ground knowledge that the 2010 drought was extreme, leading to record lows on some major rivers in the Amazon region and an upsurge in the number of forest fires. Preliminary analyses suggest that the 2010 drought was more widespread and severe than the 2005 event. The 2005 drought was identified as a 1-in-100 year type event, was anomalous as did not occur in a El Nino year, hit South-Western Amazonia hardest (a different pattern to El Nino related droughts), and was associated with high Atlantic sea surface temperatures (not Pacific sea surface temperatures as in El Nino years). Now in 2010, we again have a severe drought, again hitting South-Western Amazonia hard. Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and the north-west movement of the inter-tropical convergence zone seem ripe for careful study to improve our understanding of the 2010 drought.

The good news for the Amazon is that deforestation rates have been radically reduced since 2005, so in that sense the Amazon is doing well. The bad news is these droughts kill trees and promote fires, which are very damaging to forests and leaves them more vulnerable to fire in the future, potentially leading to a drought-fire-carbon emissions feedback and widespread forest collapse.  Most concerning of all is that while two unusual droughts clearly don’t make a trend, they are consistent with some model projections made well before 2005: that higher sea surface temperatures increase drought frequency and intensity, leading later this century to substantial Amazon forest die-back.

We ought to remember that every ecosystem has it limits, a point of where they radically change. The open question is whether such a point is being reached in some parts of the Amazon. While little is expected of the climate change talks in Cancun next week, the stakes, in terms of the fate of the Amazon are much higher than they were a year ago in Copenhagen.

And here is an excerpt from a World Wildlife Foundation post by Nick Sundt.

The Amazon region is experiencing the third extreme drought in a dozen years — and it may turn out to be the worst on record. The droughts coupled with recent research findings, suggest that rising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will rapidly increase the frequency and severity of droughts in the region. The implications for people, biodiversity and climate are ominous.

As the map below shows, most of the Amazon region was afflicted by drought in mid-October 2010, with large areas in the north and west experiencing exceptional drought - beyond extreme.  Drought conditions, which now are improving, have been concentrated in Brazil, but extend into parts of neighboring countries including large areas of Bolivia, Peru, Colombia.

According to the classification system used by the University College London (UCL) Global Drought Monitor, exceptional droughts normally should not occur more than a couple of times  in a century. Typical impacts include “exceptional and widespread crop and pasture losses; exceptional fire risk; shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells, creating water emergencies.” According to UCL,  nearly 8.7 million people live in the locations shown above (which include smaller areas outside the Amazon) that are experiencing exceptional drought conditions.

The drought results from a combination of above normal temperatures over much of the region combined with low precipitation.  As the figure below illustrates, most of the Amazon region received less than 75% of normal rainfall between 1 July and 30 September.  Large areas have received far less precipitation, in many cases less than 25% of normal.

Brazil, Percent of Normal Precipitation, 1 July - 30 September  2010.  Source: NOAA.

In a press release on 22 Oct (Seca pode bater recorde na Amazônia / Drought may hit record in the Amazon), Brazil’s Amazon Environmental Research Institute (Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia or IPAM) said:

“The drought of 2010 still hasn’t ended in the Amazon and could surpass that of 2005 as the region’s worst during the past four decades. In the Western Amazon, the Solimões River reached its lowest level in recorded history. In Manaus, the level of the Rio Negro (Black River) is approaching that of 1963 – the lowest in a century. Even if this doesn’t occur, the forest will have already experienced three extreme dry spells in just 12 years, two of which occurred during the past five years: 1998, 2005 and 2010. And this is not including the drought of 2007, which affected only the Southeastern Amazon and left 10 thousand sq. km. of forest scorched in the region…`The Amazon that had wet seasons so well-defined that you could set your calendar to them – that Amazon is gone,‘ says ecologist Daniel Nepstad of IPAM…”

Among the consequences of the drought are extremely low flows on many of the region’s rivers.  On 24 October 2010, the Rio Negro, a major tributary of the Amazon, reached an all time low of 13.63 m at Manaus, edging out 1963 when water levels reached 13.64 m (Monitoramento Hidrologico: 2010, Boletim no 33 – 29/10/2010, by the Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais or CPRM).  In contrast, just last year, the river saw an all time record high of 29.77 m as the region experienced devastating floods. (Relatorio da Cheia 2009 [PDF] [2010], by CPRM).  See photos of the flood [PDF]. Records for the Rio Negro extend back 107 years.  See also Flooding Near Manaus, Brazil, NASA Earth Observatory, 19 August 2010.

Writing for the New York Times upon his return from Iquitos, Peru, Nigel Pitman reports that “people were deeply upset by the lack of rain.”  He explains: ”Long dry spells like these in Amazonia wither crops and worsen air pollution and cut off whole towns from the rest of the world, when the arm of the river they’re on turns to mud. They also destroy forests” (Drought in the Amazon, Up Close and Personal, 12 November 2010).  Satellite imagery on 19 August showed a pall of smoke concentrated over Bolivia  (see Fires in South America, NASA Earth Observatory, 8 September 2010), where drought conditions allowed fires to burn out of control, prompting the Bolivian government in mid-August to declare a state of emergency.

Dr Richard Bodmer of the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (University of Kent) and the Wildlife Conservation Society recently reported on the impacts the drought is having on the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon.  Among the species affected:  the pink river dolphin (see photo below).  “The conditions have resulted in fewer dolphins observed throughout the Samiria River,” says Dr.  Bodmer.  “Overall, pink river dolphin numbers have decreased by 47 per cent and the grey river dolphin by 49 per cent compared with previous years’ population estimates. The dolphins have been forced to leave their habitats in the Samiria River and find refuge in the larger channels of the Amazon.” See Amazon drought results in dramatic fall in pink river dolphin populations (press release from Earthwatch).

Pink river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis)  in the Rio Negro, Brazil.  © Claudio Marigo / WWF.

For an outstanding series of photographs documenting the impacts of the drought, see Estiagem na Amazônia posted by Último Segundo (22 November 2010).  See also the Reuters video (6 Nov 2010) below for discussion of some of the major consequences of the drought.

Above: Brazil Looks to Ease Amazon Drought, Reuters Video, 6 November 2010.

The 2005 Drought

Just 5 years ago — in 2005 — the Amazon experienced an extreme drought that prompted the government of Brazil to declare a state of emergency in most of the region. In The Drought of Amazonia in 2005 (by José A. Marengo, Carlos A. Nobre, Javier Tomasella in the Journal of Climate, February 2008), researchers said:

“In 2005, large sections of southwestern Amazonia experienced one of the most intense droughts of the last hundred years. The drought severely affected human population along the main channel of the Amazon River and its western and southwestern tributaries, the Solimões (also known as the Amazon River in the other Amazon countries) and the Madeira Rivers, respectively. The river levels fell to historic low levels and navigation along these rivers had to be suspended. The drought did not affect central or eastern Amazonia, a pattern different from the El Niño–related droughts in 1926, 1983, and 1998.”

The 2005 drought in the Amazon also was notable for its impacts on the global carbon cycle.  Though the exact magnitude of the impacts are a matter of debate within the science community (see Amazon drought raises research doubtsNature News, 20 July 2010), there is evidence that the drought along with elevated air temperatures sharply reduced net primary production (NPP) in the Amazon. NPP is a measure of the amount of atmospheric carbon plants pull from the atmosphere and incorporate into biomass.  Where NPP is reduced, less carbon is fixed by plants and more is left in the atmosphere to disrupt climate.

In Drought-Induced Reduction in Global Terrestrial Net Primary Production from 2000 Through 2009 (Science, 20 August 2010) researchers using satellite data found that global NPP dropped precipitously in 2005 to its lowest level of the decade.  The largest contributor to the drop was a decline of NPP in the Amazon rainforest that they attributed largely to elevated temperatures and the severe drought.

Similarly, scientists using records from long-term monitoring plots in the Amazon reported in Science a year earlier (6 March 2009) in Drought Sensitivity of the Amazon Rainforest that the drought had a large impact on carbon flows. They note that the Amazon’s old growth forests process 18 Petagrams (or Gigatons) of carbon each year — more than twice the amount emitted annually by burning fossil fuels (1 Petagram = 1015 grams = 1 billion metric tonnes = 1 Gigaton). “Relatively small changes in Amazon forest dynamics therefore have the potential to substantially affect the concentration of atmospheric CO2 and thus the rate of climate change itself,” they said.

They estimated that the drought reduced the biomass carbon balance by 1.2 to 1.6 Gigatons of carbon.  “The exceptional growth in atmospheric CO2 concentrations in 2005, the third greatest in the global record, may have been partially caused by the Amazon drought effects documented here,” they add. “Amazon forests therefore appear vulnerable to increasing moisture stress, with the potential for large carbon losses to exert feedback on climate change.”

The scale of such drought-induced changes in the Amazon’s carbon budget can be contrasted with the magnitude of Brazil’s carbon emissions from other sources, and with global carbon emissions from fossil fuels.   The Brazilian government estimates that in 2005, carbon emissions from land-use and landcover changes (including deforestation) were 1.3 gigatons of carbon and accounted for 77% of Brazil’s carbon emissions from all sources in 2005  (Segunda Comunicação Nacional do Brasil à Convenção-Quadro das Nações Unidas sobre Mudança do Clima [PDF], Coordenação-Geral de Mudanças Globais do Clima, Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia, Brasília, 2010).

That is at the low-end of the range of 1.2-1.6 gigatons of carbon that may have shifted to the atmosphere in 2005 as a result of the Amazon drought.  In other words, 2005 carbon emissions associated with the drought may have equaled or  exceeded those from deforestation in Brazil that year. Furthermore, at the global level, the range of emissions that may have resulted from the 2005 drought is equivalent to roughly 16-22% of annual global carbon emissions from fossil fuel use in 2005 (about 7.4 gigatons of carbon).

The 2010 Drought

Just as the 2005 drought was preceded by an El Niño (from Apr-May-June 2002 through Feb-Mar-Apr 2003), the 2010 drought was preceded by an El Niño (May-June-July 2009 through March-April-May 2010).  Consequently, the Amazon experienced well below normal precipitation during the rainy season that normally stretches roughly from September-November through March-May.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in The South American Monsoon System Summary, July 2009-June 2010 [Powerpoint] that precipitation from July 2009 through June 2010 was well below normal over the Amazon basin, consistent with the expected impacts of an El Niño.  Furthermore, precipitation was much lower than during the 2002-2003 rainy season associated with the 2002-2003 El Niño that set the stage for the 2005 drought.

Similarly, as in 2005, sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the tropical North Atlantic ocean in 2010 were elevated during the dry season (normally April-September). The maps below show the global temperature anomalies for September 2005 and September 2010 (around the usual end of the dry season) and show that SSTs in the north tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean in both years show a similar pattern.  Likewise, the surface temperatures over the Amazon during both years were elevated — though were substantially higher in 2010.

September 2005 surface temperature anomalies.  Source: NASA

Global Surface Temperature Anomalies, September 2010. Source:  NASA.

The Monthly Tropical North Atlantic Index (TNA) (a measure of the average monthly SST anomaly in the region) has been at record high levels (and above the values for 2005) for every month of 2010 through September. The TNA for October was second only to that of 2003. The separate Caribbean SST Index (CAR) has not been at record levels for most months, but has been anomalously high and for most months has been above 2005 levels.

For both the TNA and the CAR indices, the long term trend is upward.  See for example the long-term trend for the Tropical North Atlantic Index for the month of September below.

Above: The North Tropical Atlantic SST Index for the Month of September, 1951-2010. SST anomalies (relative to 1951-2000) averaged over the region of the tropical Atlantic between Africa and the Caribbean (the region is indicated by NTA on this map) for the month of September from 1951 through 2010.

As in 2005, these high SSTs in the Tropical North Atlantic are resulting in one of the worst coral bleaching episodes on record in the Caribbean, as well as energizing one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record.  See our recent posting, Sea Surface Temperatures in Tropical North Atlantic Rise to Record Levels in 2010, With Impacts from the Amazon to Canada (16 November 2010).

Are the high SSTs — as in 2005 — also associated with the Amazon drought conditions during the 2010 dry season?  The answer is most likely “yes,” but the nature of the connection and the role of other factors (such as the 2009-2010 El Niño in the tropical Pacific) will have to await the published research results of scientists.  Similarly, we will not know the impacts of the 2010 drought on the cycling of carbon to and from the Amazon until scientific assessments are conducted and research results are published.

The Climate Change Connection

What connection might these droughts have to rising concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere and what might we expect during the course of this century as GHG  concentrations continue to rise?

The connections between rising GHG concentrations on the  El Niños is a matter of scientific interest and debate.  El Niño-Southern Oscillation patterns in the tropical Pacific appear to be changing and some research suggests the changes may be related to climate change (see El Niño in a changing climate, Nature, 24 September 2010).  However, the science is very much unsettled, so we cannot say anything definitive about the relationship between rising GHGs and the El Niños that preceeded the 2005 and 2010 droughts.

In the case of rising SSTs in the tropical Atlantic — another major contributor to the 2005 drought and likely to the 2010 drought  -  the connection to rising GHG concentrations is better understood, though there is uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the impact relative to other variables.

When asked about the degree to which rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere were contributing to the trend of rising  sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic Ocean, Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) said at a Congressional briefing on 30 June 2010 that the temperatures could not be explained without accounting for rising GHG concentrations.  He said that while some researchers thought the rising GHG levels might account for 60-80% of the temperature anomaly, he estimated that about half was due to rising GHGs.

This is consistent with research results published in Geophysical Research Letters on 29 April 2010.  In Is the basin-wide warming in the North Atlantic Ocean related to atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming?, Chunzai Wang and Shenfu Dong of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, conclude that “both global warming and AMO [Atlantic multidecadal oscillation] variability make a contribution to the recent basin-wide warming in the North Atlantic and their relative contribution is approximately equal.”

If the rise in SSTs in the tropical north Atlantic are being driven in part by rising GHG concentrations in the atmosphere, and if those SSTs are implicated in the Amazon drought of 2005 and potentially in the drought of 2010, then rising GHG concentrations are among the factors likely contributing to those droughts. However, researchers have not at this point definitively attributed either drought to rising atmospheric GHG concentrations.

More importantly rising atmospheric concentrations of GHGs in the future will continue to affect tropical sea surface temperatures in both the Pacific and the Atlantic,  and research indicates that this — in combination with rising air temperatures over the Amazon - will increasingly dry out the Amazon. In Amazon Basin climate under global warming: the role of the sea surface temperature (Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B, Biological Sciences, 27 May 2008), researchers analyze these connections.

Using a model from the UK’s Hadley Centre, they focused on a period centered around the year 2050.  The analysis suggests that SST anomalies in both the tropical Atlantic and Pacific would combine to reduce Amazon Basin rainfall, “leading to a perennial soil moisture reduction and an associated 30% reduction in annual Amazon Basin net primary productivity (NPP). A further 23% NPP reduction occurs in response to a 3.5°C warmer air temperature associated with a global mean SST warming.”

In Drought under global warming: a review (Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 19 Oct 2010) Dr Aiguo Dai of the National Center for Atmospheric Research says that models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its 2007 assessment “project increased aridity in the 21st century, with a striking pattern that suggests continued drying” over many land areas including “most of Americas.”  While acknowledging the uncertainties, he says that the model results appear “to be a robust response to increased GHGs.”  He adds: “This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling [the model results]…a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades” in Brazil and many other land areas.

Approaching — or passing — a Tipping Point

The possibility of increasingly arid conditions along with more frequent extreme droughts in the Amazon — and the regional and global implications — is a matter of growing and grave concern.  In a report to WWF, The Amazon’s Vicious Cycles: Drought and Fire in the Greenhouse [2.49 MB pdf] (Dec 2007, WWF), IPAM’s Daniel Nepstad concludes:

Synergistic trends in Amazon economies, vegetation, and climate could lead to the replacement or damaging of more than half of the closed-canopy forests of the Amazon Basin over the next 15 to 25 years, undoing many of the successes currently in progress to reduce global emissions of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Counteracting these trends are emerging changes in landholder behaviour, recent successes in establishing large blocks of protected areas in active agricultural frontiers, important market trends favouring forest stewardship, and a possible new international mechanism for compensating tropical nations for their progress in forest conservation, that could reduce the likelihood of a large-scale dieback of the Amazon forest complex. In the long term, however, the avoidance of this scenario may depend upon worldwide reductions of greenhouse gas emissions that are large enough to prevent global temperatures from rising more than a degree or two.”

More recently (in late 2009 and before the 2010 drought), in Major Tipping Points in the Earth’s Climate System and Consequences for the Insurance Sector [PDF], WWF identified the prospect of more frequent extreme droughts in the Amazon and the related rainforest dieback as being among the ”tipping points” that could be passed in coming decades, with ”significant impacts within the first half of this century.”

Given the current drought in the Amazon, the report’s discussion of the 2005 Amazon drought should raise some eyebrows:

“…until more recently, 2005-like droughts may have had a frequency of between 1-in-40 and 1-in-100-years. Recent work, however, suggests that, with the now elevated concentration of GHGs  [greenhouse gases] (currently ~430 ppmv CO2e [parts per million, volume, of carbon dioxide equivalent],compared with 280 ppmv CO2e pre-industrial), the return period is of the order of 1-in-20-years and this is likely to increase to 1-in-2 and above by between 2025 and 2050 if stabilization at 450 to 550 ppmv CO2e is achieved (with a higher probability if it is not).”

Given that the 2010 drought is comparable to the 2005 drought — and that they are only five years apart, we already may be closer to a return period of 1-in-2 years than the research suggested.

About the implications of an increase in the frequency of 2005-like droughts, the report says:

“The 2005 drought impacts were relatively severe. However, the social, environmental and economic consequences of such a significant increase in the frequency of 2005-like events are far more than the sum of 2005 impacts x drought frequency. What is currently termed ‘drought’, with such a significant increase in frequency, becomes the norm implying a potentially radical change in hydrological systems in affected regions, with knock-on effects for people, environment, and economy.”

For an excellent discussion of the 2005 and 2010 droughts, climate change and the implications for the Amazon, see the video below from GlobalPost, Rumble in the Jungle: Is the Amazon Losing the Fight Against Climate Change? by Erik German and Solana Pyne.  See also their online article, Rivers run dry as drought hits Amazon (GlobalPost, 3 November 2010).

- Nick Sundt

Climate Progress

2006 GOP Report Attacking Basis For Climate Change Plagiarized 1999 Textbook Of Scientist It Criticized

November 22, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In 2006, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), then the head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, launched a personal crusade against the science underlying global warming. The congressman dragged in climate experts for scrutiny before Congress and, along with fellow Republicans, claimed that it was “false” that there was a “consensus” about the science of man-made climate change. As a part of this crusade, House Republicans compiled a report attacking the methodology of leading climate scientists. The report, assembled by George Mason University statistician Edward Wegman, became a major piece of propoganda used by global warming deniers.

Now, a review by USA Today finds that the Wegman report, as the document came to be known, plagiarized numerous sections of the 1999 textbook Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary, written by Dr. Raymond Bradley — ironically, one of the scientists that the report criticizes. An analysis by retired computer scientist John Mashey finds that at least 35 of the report’s 91 pages are guilty of plagiarizing from Bradley’s textbook:

An influential 2006 congressional report that raised questions about the validity of global warming research was partly based on material copied from textbooks, Wikipedia and the writings of one of the scientists criticized in the report, plagiarism experts say.

Review of the 91-page report by three experts contacted by USA TODAY found repeated instances of passages lifted word for word and what appear to be thinly disguised paraphrases. [...]

In March, climate scientist Raymond Bradley of the University of Massachusetts asked GMU, based in Fairfax, Va., to investigate “clear plagiarism” of one of his textbooks.

Bradley says he learned of the copying on the Deep Climate website and through a now year-long analysis of the Wegman report made by retired computer scientist John Mashey of Portola Valley, Calif. Mashey’s analysis concludes that 35 of the report’s 91 pages “are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning.” Copying others’ text or ideas without crediting them violates universities’ standards, according to Liz Wager of the London-based Committee on Publication Ethics.

“It kind of undermines the credibility of your work criticizing others’ integrity when you don’t conform to the basic rules of scholarship,” Virginia Tech plagiarism expert Skip Garner told USA Today. “It’s nothing personal. I don’t want these guys fired or anything,” Bradley told the paper. “They should just retract or withdraw the report as you would any scientific publication that has these sort of problems.”

Last month, George Mason confirmed that Wegman was under investigation for “plagiarism and misconduct charges” related to the report. “I’m very well aware of the report,” Wegman said at the time, noting that “[s]ome litigation is underway.” “Clearly, text was just lifted verbatim from my book,” Bradley said upon news of the investigation.

Perhaps the most alarming thing about the presence of plagiarism in the GOP’s 2006 report is the the man behind document, Congressman Barton, is considered a front runner to once again become chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Many political observers expect Republicans to again pursue their witch hunts against climate scientists, and with the recent revelations about their 2006 report coming to light, one has to wonder what sort of ethical boundaries they are willing to cross in their upcoming war on science.


Wayne State evolutionary scientist dies

November 19, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Morris Goodman of the Wayne State University School of Medicine, one of the world’s foremost experts on evolutionary biology, passed away on Nov. 14 at the age of 85. He spent the last 52 years at Wayne State doing cutting edge research on the study of molecular systematics.

His research involved sequencing common proteins like hemoglobin found in a wide variety of animal species and using the degree of difference in them to retrace the patterns of ancestry among those species.

By tracking the changes in amino acid sequences among the various species, scientists can tell which ones are more closely related to one another and estimate how long ago they diverged. He once commented on a paper he and colleagues wrote in the 1970s that they had found the first “hard evidence of Darwinian evolution.”

Goodman was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was also the winner of the Charles R. Darwin Award for Lifetime Achievement from the American Association of Physical

Michigan Messenger

Vodafone drops Muslim scientist ad after Muslims complain

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

There Is No Humor In Islam* Alert: “Vodafone drops Muslim scientist ad after complaints,” from AFP, November 17 (thanks to all who sent this in):

AFP - The Egyptian unit of telecom giant Vodafone has dropped an advertisement depicting an early Muslim scientist, Abbas Ibn Firnas, as a dim man who fell off a cliff when trying to fly with feathered wings.

The Britain-based company made the decision after receiving complaints from viewers, who took to the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter to complain about what they said was an insult to the historic Islamic figure.

Vodafone said the advertisement was supposed to be funny but “due to the fact that some of our customers perceived (it) as offensive, we decided to remove this ad from YouTube and from our official Facebook fans page.”…

Ibn Firnas, a Muslim Berber scientist who died in 887, is said to have jumped from a height, wings attached and covered head to toe in feathers, in a failed attempt at flying, although he survived the jump.

The advertisement, for Vodafone’s USB internet service, shows three young men, who starred in an Egyptian time travel comedy, materialising before Firnas with a laptop and a USB stick to try talk him out of the experiment.

He grunts his refusal, even after they show him a Wikipedia entry on the Wright brothers, who pioneered aviation in the 20th century, and hurtles himself down the cliff.

In another advertisement, the trio try to persuade an imperious Richard the Lionheart, the medieval English king and crusader, not to battle the Muslim leader Salahuddin, by offering him a war game on a laptop.

Watch for the riots by Christian followers of Richard the Lionheart — no, wait…

* The Ayatollah Khomeini said that.

Jihad Watch

UH-OH!!! Scientist Discovers Global Warming Causes….GLOBAL COOLING!!!

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Here they go again! Those Global Warming Moonbats are just so creative, they figure out ways to blame the dumbest things on global warming. Some of may favorites include, Incredible shrinking sheep, Invasion of jellyfish in the Mediterranean, Surge in fatal shark attack, Boy Scout tornado deaths, Severe acne, Global conflictBeer tasting different, Suicide of farmers in Australia, Bigger tuna fish,Longer days, Shorter daysCollapse of gingerbread houses in Sweden, Cow infertility, UFO sightings in the UK, Rise in insurance premiums, and Heroin addiction and a rise in bear attacks in Japan  just to name a few. The only thing they haven’t blamed on global warming so far are the BP Oil Spill and the TSA wanting to touch our “junk” (those are Bush’s fault.

Just when you think that they can’t come up with anything else, the global warming moonbats come up with something new and even more creative.  The latest piece of propaganda from Al Gore’s army is incredibly simple.  The new claim is that if we don’t all agree to give into their hoax and destroy the economy, the winters are going to get colder.  That’s right, global warming is going to cause global cooling

 Climate change could lead to colder winters in northern regions, according to a study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research on Tuesday. Vladimir Petoukhov, lead authority of the study, said a shrinking of sea ice in the eastern Arctic causes some regional warming of lower air levels and may lead to anomalies in atmospheric airstreams, triggering an overall cooling of the northern continents. “These anomalies could triple the probability of cold winter extremes in Europe and northern Asia,” he said.

“Recent severe winters like last year’s or the one of 2005/06 do not conflict with the global warming picture but rather supplement it.” Petoukhov, whose study is entitled “A link between reduced Barents-Kara sea ice and cold winter extremes over northern continents”, said in a statement a warming of the air over the Barents-Kara Sea appeared to bring cold winter winds to Europe. “This is not what one would expect,” Petoukhov said. “Whoever thinks that the shrinking of some far away sea ice won’t bother him could be wrong.” The U.N. panel of climate scientists say a creeping rise in global temperatures will bring ever more floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels.

Lets get this straight, global warming is going to cause global cooling which is going to make the polar ice caps melt, right? Close enough.  What it really all means is the climate change mafia has come up with another excuse to explain that global warming is real despite the fact that it isn’t happening.


Zombies take New Jersey: Governor Christie questions climate science - “One of the reasons why I became a lawyer, and not a doctor, or an engineer, or a scientist, because I can’t figure this stuff out.”

November 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

In theory we elect political leaders who then consult with or even hire leading experts to help them make informed judgments on complex subjects affecting the health and well-being of their constituents.

In practice, the GOP has been taken over by the climate zombies, a condition spread by drinking tea.  Even previously smart and/or blunt people abandon any reason or clarity when it comes to climate science (see McCain drinks the Kool-Aid [iced tea?] and becomes a climate conspiracy theorist and The dumbing down of Carly Fiorina).

And so it is with the former ’straight shooter’ Chris Christie, Governor of the Garden State, which would be devastated by the impact of unrestricted emissions of greenhouse gases, especially sea level rise, as Princeton scientists have explained.

HuffPost was provided with his full remarks on climate science from a Tuesday town meeting.  To sum up in one word — Fuggedaboutit:

Mankind, is it responsible for global warming? Well I’ll tell you something. I have seen evidence on both sides of it. I’m skeptical — I’m skeptical. And you know, I think at the at the end of this, I think we’re going to need more science to prove something one way or the other.

But you know - cause I’ve seen arguments on both sides of it that at times - like I’ll watch something about man made global warming, and I go wow, that’s fairly convincing. And then I’ll go out and watch the other side of the argument, and I go huh, that’s fairly convincing too.

So, I go to be honest with you, I don’t know. And that’s probably one of the reasons why I became a lawyer, and not a doctor, or an engineer, or a scientist, because I can’t figure this stuff out. But I would say at this point, that has to be proven, and I’m a little skeptical about it. Thank you.

Cigarettes cause health problems?  Well I’ll tell you something.  I have seen evidence on both sides of it.

Like I’ll watch something about the dangers of cigarette smoking and I go, wow, you have to be suicidal to keep smoking when every doctor you’ve seen has diagnosed you with early-stage emphysema.  And then I’ll go out and listen to some scientists funded by the tobacco industry, and I go huh, that’s fairly convincing too.  So, to be honest with you, I’m simply incapable of actually figuring out what the overwhelming majority of scientists and leading scientific institutions say on this subject.

And that’s why I became a governor, who has to make crucial decisions that affect millions of people and most importantly our children, because I can’t figure this stuff out.  I would say this point, that has to be proven, so I’m just going to keep smoking — and take “the state’s entire allocation for its global warming fund ($ 65 million) to help close” the budget deficit.  Thank you.

Climate Progress

How to beat the media in the climate street fight - Forest scientist Simon Lewis in Nature: “Researchers must take a more aggressive approach to counter shoddy journalism and set the scientific record straight”

November 7, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

What lessons are there for scientists in politically charged areas who find themselves in a similar position? Do your research. What is the reporter’s track record? Anticipate that every sentence you say or write may be dissected and interpreted in the least charitable manner possible. And if things go wrong, seek advice from public-relations experts, and where necessary, media lawyers. In my experience, science-media professionals are almost as lost as scientists themselves, when dealing with topics as emotive as climate change.

That’s tropical forest researcher and Royal Society research fellow Simon Lewis in a column in the journal Nature this week, “How to beat the media in the climate street fight.”  Lewis’s headline refers to the early editorial in Nature“Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.”

Here’s the full column:

When science hits the news, researchers often moan about the quality of the coverage. A sharp reminder of the issue rolls round this month — the anniversary of the global media frenzy over the release of e-mails from climate researchers at the University of East Anglia, UK. So what should scientists do when reporting quality falls off a cliff? Earlier this year, I was seriously misrepresented by a newspaper and thrown into a political storm. Rather than take it lying down, I set the record straight. It has been an odd journey, and I think there are lessons for how we scientists should deal with the media.

In January, the absurd claim from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 launched a hunt to find other exaggerated risks of climate change. A British blogger, Richard North, found an IPCC statement that part of the Amazon rainforest may be at risk from droughts, referenced to an environment group’s report, not the scientific literature. North dubbed it Amazongate, and told the world that the IPCC view “seems to be a complete fabrication”.

As a tropical-forest expert, I found my telephone ringing for three days. Journalists asked me to comment on the IPCC line that “up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation”. My short answer was that in context, the statement was broadly correct; but the wording was not careful, and the IPCC should have cited the primary literature. My comments were broadcast across the BBC, but for most news outlets it was a non-story.

The Sunday Times saw it differently. Its reporter, Jonathan Leake, asked both leading and genuinely inquisitive questions. I sent him scientific papers, and we discussed them. He agreed to read the finished piece to me over the telephone before publication. It stated, correctly, that the future of the Amazon is very uncertain, because the available data are limited. I was quietly pleased that I had ’spun’ what I saw as a blogger’s anti-IPCC tirade into a story about the science. Yet I was wrong. The newspaper headline was “UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim”, and worse, I was the expert quoted to support it. The article had been completely rewritten, essentially parroting North’s blog, to include new quotes from me (genuine, but heavily edited and misleadingly taken out of context), and fabricated assertions about my views. An accompanying editorial called for the IPCC chairman to resign.

I was furious. Worse, the two conflicting versions of my views — on the BBC and in The Sunday Times — constituted a serious affront to my professional credibility. But what could I do? I added a comment under the online version of the article that my views were not accurately reported, and sent a letter for publication to The Sunday Times.

Weeks later the misleading article had been reproduced over 20,000 times on the Internet. My letter had been ignored and website comment deleted. Furthermore, my words and standing as an expert were being used by other newspapers to allege widespread corruption by IPCC scientists. As an Editorial on climate disinformation in this journal said at the time: “Scientists must now emphasize the science, while acknowledging that they are in a street fight.” I needed to fight back.

After advice from a friend in public relations and press officers at scientific organizations, I filed an official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission, the UK media watchdog. The commission could order the newspaper to print a correction, but would that happen and was it enough? I needed to make the complaint itself a story.

I contacted The Guardian newspaper, which published an article about my complaint. To reach the US audience, I handed the full complaint as an exclusive to perhaps the world’s most influential political climate-change blog, Joe Romm’s

JR:  See Exclusive: Forest scientist fights back against ‘distorted’ UK article on Amazon and IPCC and Exclusive audio: Sunday Times tells Simon Lewis, “it has been recognised that the story was flawed.”

For a scientist to take such an active media role was unorthodox, but it felt good. And it worked. It was widely recognized that the story was wrong and I had been badly treated. The New York Times featured me in a front-page article.

The Sunday Times offered to publish a single-line apology. I knew others had extracted greater concessions and kicked harder. It eventually agreed to remove the article from its website, and replace it with a formal correction and apology, also printed prominently in the newspaper. The retraction was reported around the world.

Environmental commentators hailed the apology as vindication for the IPCC (which it wasn’t quite, as its statements were not faultless). Climate sceptics launched a counter-attack by claiming that no apology was due because the IPCC statement was not perfect. But for me the storm had passed.

What lessons are there for scientists in politically charged areas who find themselves in a similar position? Do your research. What is the reporter’s track record? Anticipate that every sentence you say or write may be dissected and interpreted in the least charitable manner possible. And if things go wrong, seek advice from public-relations experts, and where necessary, media lawyers. In my experience, science-media professionals are almost as lost as scientists themselves, when dealing with topics as emotive as climate change.

The media dictate what most people know about contemporary scientific debates. Given the need for informed policy, scientists need to learn to better read and engage with this media landscape. Closing the newspaper with a sigh is not enough.

Hear!  Hear!

Or, as conservation ecologist CJA Bradshaw put it in on his blog, ConservationBytes, when he reprinted the column in a piece titled, Appalling behaviour of even the most influential journalists:

Amen, brother.

I’ll say it again – scientists now have the power to fight back directly – you have access to free social media like blogging, Twitter, Facebook and many others. Use them to your advantage and get the CORRECT word out there about the great science you’re doing.

Related Posts:

Climate Progress

Goodnight Scientist

October 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Chad Orzel nerds out on the children's book Goodnight Moon:

[W]e know that the full moon in the sky covers an angle of about half a degree of arc. On our big copy of the book, the diameter of the moon in the final illustration is just about 7/8" (I only have an English-unit tape measure here), while the distance from the corner of the window to the outer edge of the moon is 2 and 5/8", exactly three times the diameter. So the moon has moved through about 1.5 degrees in the course of the story.

Now, the Earth rotates through 360 degrees in just about 24 hours, which is 15 degrees per hour (the Moon's motion is slightly slower, owing to its orbital motion, but it's not a significant difference for our purposes). This suggests that the bunny's goodnight ritual takes about 0.1 hour, or six minutes. Coincidentally, this is approximately the time required to read the book to [my daughter] at bedtime, as she points out all the important features of every picture ("Mouse right there! Mouse is sneaky!").

Of course, there's another way to estimate the passage of time in the book, which is the clocks shown in the various pictures. The clock in the first picture shows almost exactly 7:00, while the clock in the final picture shows approximately 8:10, for an hour and ten minute duration. Coincidentally, this is approximately the time it takes to get [my daughter] to go to sleep after reading Goodnight Moon …

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The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Brave scientist calls out the global warming fraudsters

October 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Big money and big politics have corrupted Big Science, and global warming is the proof.
American Thinker Blog

Go, Ruth, go: Rocket scientist giving open-borders Dems a scare

October 11, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

On Sept. 27, I asked you to spread the word and support GOP upstart Ruth McClung in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District. The young, energetic conservative Republican with a physics degree and grass-roots momentum has been working non-stop on the campaign trail to defeat open-borders zealot Raul Grijalva — the entrenched Democrat who spearheaded a boycott of his own constituents over SB1070. As I noted:

The proud progressive Grijalva thinks he’s “safe” in his reliably Democratic district. But when his hometown paper condemns him as “irresponsible and beneath contempt” and protesters deride him as the “best congressman Mexico ever had,” he best not be measuring the re-election drapes. Four terms is enough for the entrenched, out-of-touch Grijalva.

Politico reports today that Dems are nervous. They damned well better be:

Four Democratic sources from different parts of the country said that there is new attention to a race that was long considered in the bag.

And a recent poll, obtained by POLITICO, found that Grijalva and Republican challenger Ruth McClung, a real-life rocket scientist, were in a dead heat, even though Washington prognosticators have declared the deep-blue seat safely Democratic.

As they work to buttress their majority against a coming Republican storm, Democrats can ill afford to spend time or resources defending incumbents in seats where they should have a clear advantage. But the Grijalva seat potentially being in play is a sign of the increasingly expanding Republican playing field for the midterm elections.

One Democratic source familiar with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said there are “whispers” about the Grijalva-McClung matchup “being a sleeper race.”

Like Ruth says: Boycott Grijalva, not Arizona!

Support her campaign here.

Michelle Malkin

Cuccinelli Revives Witchhunt Against Climate Change Scientist

October 5, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

ken_cuccinelliIn August, a Virginia state judge blocked Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s (R-VA) attempt to subpoena documents from the University of Virginia to try to discredit a leading climate scientist.  In addition to citing several amateurish errors in Cuccinelli’s document request, the judge found that Cuccinelli failed to provide even the most rudimentary explanation of just what Professor Michael Mann did “that was misleading, false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Yesterday, Cuccinelli tried to revive this witchhunt:

Cuccinelli’s new subpoena narrows the scope of the documents he’s requesting to only those related to one $ 214,700 state grant to fund a 2003 climate study. Cuccinelli claims that Mann “mislead the granter” by basing his application on flawed studies, and that UVa. has documents that his office needs to investigate that assertion. He also expands his reasoning for the request, arguing that two of Mann’s papers on global warming “have come under significant criticism” and that Mann knowingly included “false information, unsubstantiated claims and/or were otherwise misleading” in his publications.

“Specifically, but without limitation, some of the conclusions of the papers demonstrate a complete lack of rigor regarding the statistical analysis of the alleged data, meaning that the result reported lacked statistical significance without a specific statement to that effect,” the civil investigative demand from the AG’s office states.

It’s not at all clear that Cuccinelli’s office actually read the judge’s opinion tossing out its first subpoena before issuing this second one.  That opinion stated that the document request must state “[w]hat the Attorney General suspects that Dr. Mann did that was false or fraudulent in obtaining funds from the Commonwealth” in order to move forward.  Yet Cuccinelli’s doc request barely even mentions any evidence suggesting that Mann misled the state, instead largely claiming that Dr. Mann’s research lacks “rigor,” that it “was contrary to what had been previously regarded as the known historical record,” and that it engages in “inncorrect calculation[s].”  At best, most of Cuccinelli’s arguments simply suggest that Mann is a bad scientist, not that he engaged in any kind of fraud or deliberate deception.

And Cuccinelli’s attacks on Mann’s professional competence are laughable.  The primary source of his claim that Mann showed a “lack of rigor” is the so-called “Wegman Report,” an attack document commissioned by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) — the same Joe Barton who apologized to BP after the White House pressured BP to actually pay for the harm it caused in the recent oil catastrophy.  Likewise, one of Cuccinelli’s very few claims that Mann actually took misleading action misreads an independent review of climate science that actually exonerated climate scientists such as Mann.

Needless to say, it would be a disaster if a court does not reject Cuccinelli’s attempt to revive this witchhunt.  For one thing, the witchhunt is shockingly broad in scope — Cuccinelli is demanding all of Mann’s communications with 39 different scientists, as well as all his communications with all of his research assistants, secretaries and other administrative staff, and any correspondence Mann has had with UVA since he left for another university’s faculty. If an industry shill in Congress — Joe Barton — can produce a false report and then another industry shill in a state AG’s office can use that report to demand such an expansive investigation, then it will be a cakewalk for industry to cow other research institutions into silence.

Sadly, UVA has been already been forced to spend over $ 350,000 in legal fees defending against Cuccinelli’s frivolous subpoenas, so this witchhunt has already done a great deal to intimidate researchers with potential financial consequences if they dare to tell the truth about climate change.

Wonk Room

U.N. To Appoint Obscure Scientist As Official “First Contact” Representative

September 26, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Proving yet again that it is on top of addressing the top problems facing the world, the United Nations is about to deal with the crucial issue of who will respond if an extraterrestrial arrives and asks to be taken to our leaders:

The United Nations was set today to appoint an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist to act as Earth’s first contact for any aliens that may come visiting.

Mazlan Othman, the head of the UN’s little-known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa), is to describe her potential new role next week at a scientific conference at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference centre in Buckinghamshire.

She is scheduled to tell delegates that the recent discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars has made the detection of extraterrestrial life more likely than ever before - and that means the UN must be ready to coordinate humanity’s response to any “first contact”.

During a talk Othman gave recently to fellow scientists, she said: “The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials.

“When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”

Professor Richard Crowther, an expert in space law and governance at the UK Space Agency and who leads British delegations to the UN on such matters, said: “Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a ‘take me to your leader’ person.”

Except, of course, for that not actually being a leader of anything beyond, perhaps, her faculty volleyball team.

Something tells me that, if the day comes when E.T. arrives they’re not going to want to some obscure astrophysicist, and probably not to the United Nations either for that matter.

In the meantime, though, it is heartening to see that in an era of floods in Pakistan, genocide in Darfur, nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, a war in Afghanistan, and internecine conflict in areas ranging from the Caucuses to the Balkans, the United Nations is once again proving its irrelevance.

Outside the Beltway

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