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Alsup asks for answers

Some of you might have read about the lawsuit by a number of municipalities (including San Francisco and Oakland) against the major oil companies for damages (related primarily to sea level rise) caused by anthropogenic climate change. The legal details on standing, jurisdiction, etc. are all very interesting (follow @ColumbiaClimate for those details), but somewhat uniquely, the judge (William Alsup) has asked for a tutorial on climate science (2 hours of evidence from the plaintiffs and the defendents). Furthermore, he has posted a list of eight questions that he’d like the teams to answer.

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What did NASA know? and when did they know it?

Filed under: — gavin @ 24 December 2017

If you think you know why NASA did not report the discovery of the Antarctic polar ozone hole in 1984 before the publication of Farman et al in May 1985, you might well be wrong.

One of the most fun things in research is what happens when you try and find a reference to a commonly-known fact and slowly discover that your “fact” is not actually that factual, and that the real story is more interesting than you imagined…

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  1. J.C. Farman, B.G. Gardiner, and J.D. Shanklin, "Large losses of total ozone in Antarctica reveal seasonal ClO x /NO x interaction", Nature, vol. 315, pp. 207-210, 1985.

Fall AGU 2017

It’s that time of year again. #AGU17 is from Dec 11 to Dec 16 in New Orleans (the traditional venue in San Francisco is undergoing renovations).

As in previous years, there will be extensive live streams from “AGU On Demand” (free, but an online registration is required) of interesting sessions and the keynote lectures from prize-winners and awardees.

Some potential highlights will be Dan Rather, Baba Brinkman, and Joanna Morgan. The E-lightning sessions are already filled with posters covering many aspects of AGU science. Clara Deser, Bjorn Stevens, David Neelin, Linda Mearns and Thomas Stocker are giving some the key climate-related named lectures. The Tyndall Lecture by Jim Fleming might also be of interest.

As usual there are plenty of sessions devoted to public affairs and science communication, including one focused on the use of humour in #scicomm (on Friday at 4pm to encourage people to stay to the end I imagine), and a workshop on Tuesday (joint with the ACLU and CSLDF) on legal issues for scientist activists and advocates.

AGU is also a great place to apply for jobs, get free legal advice, mingle, and network.

A couple of us will be there – and we might find time to post on anything interesting we see. If any readers spot us, say hi!

Data rescue projects

Filed under: — gavin @ 17 August 2017

It’s often been said that while we can only gather new data about the planet at the rate of one year per year, rescuing old data can add far more data more quickly. Data rescue is however extremely labor intensive. Nonetheless there are multiple data rescue projects and citizen science efforts ongoing, some of which we have highlighted here before. For those looking for an intro into the subject, this 2014 article is an great introduction.

Weather diary from the the Observatoire de Paris, written by Giovanni Cassini on 18th January 1789.

I was asked this week whether there was a list of these projects, and with a bit of help from Twitter, we came up with the following:

(If you know of any more, please add them in the comments, and I’ll try and keep this list up to date).

Observations, Reanalyses and the Elusive Absolute Global Mean Temperature

One of the most common questions that arises from analyses of the global surface temperature data sets is why they are almost always plotted as anomalies and not as absolute temperatures.

There are two very basic answers: First, looking at changes in data gets rid of biases at individual stations that don’t change in time (such as station location), and second, for surface temperatures at least, the correlation scale for anomalies is much larger (100’s km) than for absolute temperatures. The combination of these factors means it’s much easier to interpolate anomalies and estimate the global mean, than it would be if you were averaging absolute temperatures. This was explained many years ago (and again here).

Of course, the absolute temperature does matter in many situations (the freezing point of ice, emitted radiation, convection, health and ecosystem impacts, etc.) and so it’s worth calculating as well – even at the global scale. However, and this is important, because of the biases and the difficulty in interpolating, the estimates of the global mean absolute temperature are not as accurate as the year to year changes.

This means we need to very careful in combining these two analyses – and unfortunately, historically, we haven’t been and that is a continuing problem.

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