## (reblog) Bill Ritter, Jr, Colorado State University: “Market forces are driving a clean energy revolution in the U.S.”

Transforming U.S. energy systems away from coal and toward clean renewable energy was once a vision touted mainly by environmentalists. Now it is shared by market purists.

Today, renewable energy resources like wind and solar power are so affordable that they’re driving coal production and coal-fired generation out of business. Lower-cost natural gas is helping, too.

I direct Colorado State University’s Center for the New Energy Economy, which works with states to facilitate the transition toward a clean energy economy. In my view, today’s energy market reflects years of federal and state support for clean energy research, development and deployment.

And, despite the Trump administration’s support of coal, a recent survey of industry leaders shows that utilities are not changing their plans significantly.

## on turbulent eddies in oceans

Oceanic eddies are not negligible, especially in climate modeling. There’s the work of Dr Emily Shuckburgh of the BAS on this, but more specifically there’s section 6.3.3 of Gettelman and Rood, Demystifying Climate Models: A Users Guide to Earth System Models, 2016, an open source book. Generally speaking, oceans transport otherwise un-transportable heat energy from tropics north. As Gettelman and Rood say, “It is as if the large scales (think of the highway or the concrete drainage ditch) require the small scales to handle the ﬂow (or energy) of the circulation” (6.3.3, on page 97).

And while climate models are the best we’ve got, they need a lot more work, and Gettelman and Rood cover areas for improvement. There’s also:

This is not to say model projections are useless. As many say, Uncertainty is not our friend, and that’s what I mean when I write here and elsewhere that forecasts based upon climate models might well underestimate rates of climate change.

Facts are, especially when used in ensembles, numerical climate models have to be fast enough to be able to be run many times simulating Earth’s climate over many years. Even with the fastest computers and specialized hardware, this means compromises are inevitably necessary. For example, although variable grids are common, these are static, and the best dynamical models of fluids (e.g., FVCOM, and see also) use variable mesh grids where the fineness of the grid gets dropped when gradients have too large magnitudes. On the large specialized hardware, such software architectures are presently unworkable because they mean cores have to communicate with one another too much.

Then there’s the interaction with ice sheets, and various simplifications of oceans.

So, my point is, while I certainly would not feel assured that outcomes could be better than they are projected by CMIP5 going on CMIP6, I wouldn’t feel assured either that they are no worse than the models say.

## What a piece of the Internet really looks like: Hurricane Electric (AS6939)

###### (For a larger view, click on the image, and use your browser Back Button to return to the blog.)

To see more, go to Hurricane Electric’s manipulable 3D map here.

## storage

And, an aside on PV,

## Crocus tommasinianus via Google Pixel 2

Crocus tommasinianus are out, and are glorious.

Here are two photos of blooms in our yard taken with my new Google Pixel 2:

Some reviews of the Pixel 2:

## a microgrid with dynamic boundaries

###### (Updated 2018-04-05, 23:53 EDT.)

Now here’s a thought: A microgrid with dynamic boundaries.

Basic ideas were conceived by Nassar and Salama, “Adaptive self-adequate microgrids with dynamic boundaries”:

Abstract

Intensive research is being directed at microgrids because of their numerous beneﬁts, such as their ability to enhance the reliability of a power system and reduce its environmental impact. Past research has focused on microgrids that have predeﬁned boundaries. However, a recently suggested methodology enables the determination of ﬁctitious boundaries that divide existing bulky grids into smaller microgrids, thereby facilitating the use of a smart grid paradigm in large-scale systems. These boundaries are ﬁxed and do not change with the power system operating conditions. In this paper, we propose a new microgrid concept that incorporates ﬂexible ﬁctitious boundaries: “dynamic microgrids.” The proposed method is based on the allocation and coordination of agents in order to achieve boundary mobility. The stochastic behavior of loads and renewable-based generators are considered, and a novel model that represents wind, solar, and load power based on historical data has been developed. The PG&E 69-bus system has been used for testing and validating the proposed concept. Compared with the ﬁxed bound-
ary microgrids, our results show the superior effectiveness of the dynamic microgrid concept for addressing the self-adequacy of microgrids in the presence of stochastically varying loads and generation.

Applications? Jasper, a sonnenCommunity. That’s an islanded microgrid.

This is encouraging. Because it means, at least, that if people want grid defection to pursue energy democracy, this new option is moving to a community which is already islanded from the grid. With dynamic boundaries, it’s possible one could dynamically assemble groups of communities during the day. And, in fact, there might be a new business model there: An intelligent, rapidly switchable transmission network that could group, regroup, drop, and reconfigure a number of microgrids, for fees.

Oncor‘s microgrid. (Oncor is a Texas utility!)

I love the litany of limits of the supergrid vision in the following talk by Dr Chris Marnay of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

I also like the designation of renewable energies as being grid hostile.

### Update, 2018-04-05

Siemens, in cooperation with Chicago-based ComEd and the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), is working to support microgrids as integral operating components within a 20th century-style command-and-control grid. Note:

The dual-pronged pilot is focused on developing next-generation microgrid controller logic that can handle complex, grid-supportive situations as well as a parallel effort to explore the potential for large volumes of photovoltaic solar on microgrids, when paired with stationary storage. To get the inside scoop on the project, I spoke with vice president of strategy for Siemens Digital Grid, Ken Geisler.

Ultimately, Mr. Geisler envisions the grid of the future as a patchwork of smaller microgrids that all intelligently, intuitively work together, saying “These clusters of resources in a coherent area might be able to support more of what I would call a patchwork quilt of microgrids such that the utility has some level of control that helps offset their costs and manage their rates as well as allows third parties to come in and provide resources at some level like rooftop solar or other microgrids that could pop up for the sole purpose for the C&I industry in the area.”

## fossil fuels are done

There’s a discussion way off at Energy Institute at Haas about how unfair solar owners are, under current government policies, to electrical customers who do not have PV accessible.

It’s irrelevant.

Fossil fuels are done, stranded, the walking dead. Boss Trump or no Trump. Clinton or no Clinton.

This is an irreversible, nonlinear phenomenon, an observable of a coupled set of differential equations. It’s inexorable.

And it makes sense. Technological innovations at this scale are part of Nature.

### Update, 2018-03-30

From Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “Fossil Fuels Squeezed by Plunge in Cost of Renewables, BNEF Says”.

### Update, 2018-04-01: `Solar Surprise: Small-Scale Solar a Better Deal than Big’

The relevant findings are published by ILSR in an article from 29th March 2018.

## forecast for 27th March 2018

Today is the 21st of March, 2018. We are supposed to get our fourth nor’easter tomorrow this late Winter, and the third nor’easter in nearly as many weeks.

ECMWF hosted, in this incarnation, at the Meteocentre UQAM in Montreal created this projection for next Tuesday, the 27th of March:

That’s a low pressure cell off the East Coast, another nor’easter. Except this one has a central pressure about 10 millibars lower than any we’ve experienced so far. Don’t know anything at this range about the nature of the precipitation, or closest approach timing with respect to tide levels.

But, still, this recurrence is getting pretty interesting.

By the way, ECMWF is sometimes referred to as “the European model”. It has a reputation of being pretty good, in large measure, because its ab initio physics are very good.

## Remember. But remember, too, we are no longer in the 19th century. Our risks today are much bigger.

###### Hat tip to Tamino.

Thoreau’s “Slavery in Massachusetts”.

But, recall, the stakes we gamble upon today are much bigger than those, as big as they were.

See here for further details. But watch the episode if you really want to understand what may be at stake.

The response should be proportionate.

## Sea-level report cards, contingency upon model character, and ensemble methods

Done by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, new sea-level report cards offer a look at current sea-level rise rates, and projections. What’s interesting to me is making the projections conditional upon the character of the model used to project. In particular, this “character” is there simple — they show differences between linear and quadratic projections — but the 2050 projection is in most cases markedly different depending upon which model is chosen.

This is very good, because it shows how modeling matters, and how, as Tamino and others have noted elsewhere, proper model criticism and treatment of uncertainties are key.

I think the VIMS presentation is exactly right for public consumption.

For a more technical audience, one familiar with, say, the “advanced” level of presentation at SkepticalScience, I am increasingly fond of ensemble methods(*), like spaghetti plots. These are very flexible, and can even support a model averaged version of, say, linear and quadratic projections, even if, I think, neither is necessarily defensible on its own.

## “Eon and RWE just killed the utility as we know it”

By the way, I often post smaller things and comment upon them, typically items having to do with economic, financial, business, or solid waste management matters, at my site on LinkedIn.

## and Then There’s Physics does “Talking solutions and motivating action”

And Then There’s Physics does a fine post about scientists “talking about solutions and motivating action”.

But I felt the figure from Dr Glen Peters needed to be updated a bit, with a status briefing. So, below:

###### (Click on image to see a larger figure and use your browser Back Button to return to blog.)

The problem isn’t that there aren’t solutions. The problem is that we are rapidly running out of time, and some people still think we have time to consider using, for instance, natural gas as a “bridge fuel”.

And I just discussed what begins to happen if we miss the temperature limit.

## Uh, oh: Loss of control ahead …

In the technical summary from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory based at the California Institute of Technology titled “Far northern permafrost may unleash Carbon within decades”,

An excerpt:

Permafrost in the coldest northern Arctic — formerly thought to be at least temporarily shielded from global warming by its extreme environment — will thaw enough to become a permanent source of carbon to the atmosphere in this century, with the peak transition occurring in 40 to 60 years, according to a new NASA-led study.

The study calculated that as thawing continues, by the year 2300, total carbon emissions from this region will be 10 times as much as all human-produced fossil fuel emissions in 2016.

This paper, one of a long series of studies of the permafrost, including field assays of emissions using NASA and other aircraft, is titled:

 N. C. Parazoo, C. D. Koven, D. M. Lawrence, V. Romanovsky, C. E. Miller, “Detecting the permafrost carbon feedback: talik formation and increased cold-season respiration as precursors to sink-to-source transitions”, The Cryosphere, 12, 123-144, 2018.

It is the first definitive example of a long held fear apparent to anyone familiar with climate science and who thinks deeply about it. While initial forcings off the climate optimum within which civilization has developed are caused completely and entirely by human emissions and actions, the effects of such emissions are, increasingly, amplified by natural forcings. The most direct one is from water vapor which, due to the Clausius-Clapeyron relation, and the fact that water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas, means, roughly, that for each part of warming due to CO2 emissions there’s a comparable part due to water vapor, resulting in a doubling of effect. As warming progresses, there are stores of organic and other Carbon which are frozen out of circulation and microbial activity because of temperature, principally in polar regions. As the Earth warms — and noting that polar regions, percentage-wise, warm more than temperate or tropical ones — these stores are challenged and, eventually, begin to ferment once more. This results in additional emissions of greenhouse gases, CO2 but sometimes CH4.

The implication of all this is that while, at present, we control nearly all of emissions and could, in principle, reverse them by our choice of energy and other deliberate designs, in time, an increasing fraction of emissions will come from natural sources, temperature dependent, over which we have no control whatsoever. Accordingly, if, someday, humanity wished to contain climate change by reducing emissions, while they could zero their own contributions, as time goes, there is no capability of zeroing these natural ones, because they respond to increased temperatures, and that is all. Even Solar Radiation Management, which, in my opinion, is a really bad idea, basically, in its designs, maintains temperatures at whatever they are, preventing increases. It does not cool Earth’s surface.

What’s worse is that even if humanity decided, because of the consequences, to try to scrub atmosphere of emissions, this project is only reasonable, if astronomically expensive, if human emissions are nearly zeroed. It is not possible to keep up with human emissions as they are at present. Human emissions cannot be zero because of those inherent in agriculture and food production, even if these were managed with vehicles and processes which themselves were zero emitting. Accordingly, to the degree to which natural sources increase and dominate, they might, at some point, render any project for direct capture of CO2 futile, closing the door on our climate fate, even if we wanted to spend huge amounts of financial and human capital to make it happen. This is well beyond the ability of any market incentives or technology or engineering to contain.

Researchers Ben Jones, left, Laurence Plug and Guido Grosse pierce and ignite bubbles of methane gas that are frozen near the surface of a tundra lake on Alaska’s Seward Penisula. Methane has 72 times the heating effect of carbon dioxide (CO2), and its emission from arctic lakes was a major contributor to a period of global warming more than 11,000 years ago Nowhere is the evidence of a heating planet more dramatic than in the polar regions. Over the past 50 years, the arctic has warmed twice as fast as the rest of the globe. (Photo by Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Thus, humanity could, in these circumstance, lose control. Certainly, such natural sources of emissions will make it increasingly more expensive to manage the effects of our emissions. At some point, we tip into a world which is hurling itself headlong into a climate destiny we cannot even imagine.

This is another, perhaps dominant reasons why keeping mean surface temperature changes to but +2 Celsius is so important.

We’re failing to do that.

## Boston, and nearby, 2nd March 2018

That’s Atlantic Avenue near the Aquarium.

That’s Essex, in Cape Ann.

That’s the Sargent’s Wharf parking lot.

That’s is where General Electric wants to build their new headquarters (!).

That’s Columbus Park, near the Aquarium.

That’s Neponset Circle.

That’s Plymouth Rock in Plymouth.

That’s Sandwich.

That’s Quincy.

Yeah, developing on Atlantic Avenue is really smahhht!.

And this is not a hurricane.

## Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Letter: “…does this government think that the people of the United States are become savage and mad? ”

From this source, heart-rending.

Letter to Martin Van Buren President of the United States
1836

Sir:

The seat you fill places you in a relation of credit and nearness to every citizen. By right and natural position, every citizen is your friend. Before any acts contrary to his own judgment or interest have repelled the affections of any man, each may look with trust and living anticipation to your government. Each has the highest right to call your attention to such subjects as are of a public nature, and properly belong to the chief magistrate; and the good magistrate will feel a joy in meeting such confidence. In this belief and at the instance of a few of my friends and neighbors, I crave of your patience a short hearing for their sentiments and my own: and the circumstances that my name will be utterly unknown to you will only give the fairer chance to your equitable construction of what I have to say.

Sir, my communication respects the sinister rumors that fill this part of the country concerning the Cherokee people. The interest always felt in the aboriginal population an interest naturally growing as that decays has been heightened in regard to this tribe. Even in our distant State some good rumor of their worth and civility has arrived. We have learned with joy their improvement in the social arts. We have read their newspapers. We have seen some of them in our schools and colleges. In common with the great body of the American people, we have witnessed with sympathy the painful labors of these red men to redeem their own race from the doom of eternal inferiority, and to borrow and domesticate in the tribe the arts and customs of the Caucasian race. And notwithstanding the unaccountable apathy with which of late years the Indians have been sometimes abandoned to their enemies, it is not to be doubted that it is the good pleasure and the understanding of all humane persons in the Republic, of the men and the matrons sitting in the thriving independent families all over the land, that they shall be duly cared for; that they shall taste justice and love from all to whom we have delegated the office of dealing with them.

The newspapers now inform us that, in December, 1835, a treaty contracting for the exchange of all the Cherokee territory was pretended to be made by an agent on the part of the United States with some persons appearing on the part of the Cherokees; that the fact afterwards transpired that these deputies did by no means represent the will of the nation; and that, out of eighteen thousand souls composing the nation, fifteen thousand six hundred and sixty-eight have protested against the so-called treaty. It now appears that the government of the United States choose to hold the Cherokees to this sham treaty, and are proceeding to execute the same. Almost the entire Cherokee Nation stand up and say, This is not our act. Behold us. Here are we. Do not mistake that handful of deserters for us; and the American President and the Cabinet, the Senate and the House of Representatives, neither hear these men nor see them, and are contracting to put this active nation into carts and boats, and to drag them over mountains and rivers to a wilderness at a vast distance beyond the Mississippi. As a paper purporting to be an army order fixes a month from this day as the hour for this doleful removal.

In the name of God, sir, we ask you if this be so. Do the newspapers rightly inform us? Man and women with pale and perplexed faces meet one another in the streets and churches here, and ask if this be so. We have inquired if this be a gross misrepresentation from the party opposed to the government and anxious to blacken it with the people. We have looked at the newspapers of different parties and find a horrid confirmation of the tale. We are slow to believe it. We hoped the Indians were misinformed, and that their remonstrance was premature, and will turn out to be a needless act of terror.

The piety, the principle that is left in the United States, if only in its coarsest form, a regard to the speech of men, forbid us to entertain it as a fact. Such a dereliction of all faith and virtue, such a denial of justice, and such deafness to screams for mercy were never heard of in times of peace and in the dealing of a nation with its own allies and wards, since the earth was made. Sir, does this government think that the people of the United States are become savage and mad? From their mind are the sentiments of love and a good nature wiped clean out? The soul of man, the justice, the mercy that is the heart in all men from Maine to Georgia, does abhor this business.

In speaking thus the sentiments of my neighbors and my own, perhaps I overstep the bounds of decorum. But would it not be a higher indecorum coldly to argue a matter like this? We only state the fact that a crime is projected that confounds our understanding by its magnitude, a crime that really deprives us as well as the Cherokees of a country for how could we call the conspiracy that should crush these poor Indians our government, or the land that was cursed by their parting and dying imprecations our country, any more? You, sir, will bring down that renowned chair in which you sit into infamy if your seal is set to this instrument of perfidy; and the name of this nation, hitherto the sweet omen of religion and liberty, will stink to the world.

You will not do us the injustice of connecting this remonstrance with any sectional and party feeling. It is in our hearts the simplest commandment of brotherly love. We will not have this great and solemn claim upon national and human justice huddled aside under the flimsy plea of its being a party act. Sir, to us the questions upon which the government and the people have been agitated during the past year, touching the prostration of the currency and of trade, seem but motes in comparison. These hard times, it is true, have brought the discussion home to every farmhouse and poor mans house in this town; but it is the chirping of grasshoppers beside the immortal question whether justice shall be done by the race of civilized to the race of savage man, whether all the attributes of reason, of civility, of justice, and even of mercy, shall be put off by the American people, and so vast an outrage upon the Cherokee Nation and upon human nature shall be consummated.

One circumstance lessens the reluctance with which I intrude at this time on your attention my conviction that the government ought to be admonished of a new historical fact, which the discussion of this question has disclosed, namely, that there exists in a great part of the Northern people a gloomy diffidence in the moral character of the government.

On the broaching of this question, a general expression of despondency, of disbelief that any good will accrue from a remonstrance on an act of fraud and robbery, appeared in those men to whom we naturally turn for aid and counsel. Will the American government steal? Will it lie? Will it kill? We ask triumphantly. Our counselors and old statesmen here say that ten years ago they would have staked their lives on the affirmation that the proposed Indian measures could not be executed; that the unanimous country would put them down. And now the steps of this crime follow each other so fast, at such fatally quick time, that the millions of virtuous citizens, whose agents the government are, have no place to interpose, and must shut their eyes until the last howl and wailing of these tormented villages and tribes shall afflict the ear of the world.

I will not hide from you, as an indication of the alarming distrust, that a letter addressed as mine is, and suggesting to the mind of the Executive the plain obligations of man, has a burlesque character in the apprehensions of some of my friends. I, sir, will not beforehand treat you with the contumely of this distrust. I will at least state to you this fact, and show you how plain and humane people, whose love would be honor, regard the policy of the government, and what injurious inferences they draw as to the minds of the governors. A man with your experience in affairs must have seen cause to appreciate the futility of opposition to the moral sentiment. However feeble the sufferer and however great the oppressor, it is in the nature of things that the blow should recoil upon the aggressor. For God is in the sentiment, and it cannot be withstood. The potentate and the people perish before it; but with it, and its executor, they are omnipotent.

I write thus, sir, to inform you of the state of mind these Indian tidings have awakened here, and to pray with one voice more that you, whose hands are strong with the delegated power of fifteen millions of men, will avert with that might the terrific injury which threatens the Cherokee tribe.

With great respect, sir, I am your fellow citizen,

Ralph Waldo Emerson

## Banner day for solar generation this early in the late Winter/early Spring season!

###### (Click on image to see a larger figure, and use browser Back Button to return to blog.)

Our system, and its supporting cast.

This is about energy democracy, as much as it is about other things.

## M.G.L. 40A §3, next-to-last paragraph

“No zoning ordinance or by-law shall prohibit or unreasonably regulate the installation of solar energy systems or the building of structures that facilitate the collection of solar energy, except where necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare.”

That’s from the Massachusetts General Laws. I added emphasis.

## Certainly not “clean coal”, but is zero emission natural gas combustion a key to a zero Carbon future?

And I particularly like the directions which commentators Russell Seitz and John O’Neill are going with it. Hmmm, Dimethyl ether as a fuel?

##### Update, 2018-02-25, 00:34 ET

Key to Eli’s suggestion is the Chaudhary-Bhaskarwar paper, which I did not highlight sufficiently in the above.

Also, there already are patents declared in this space:

##### Update, 2018-02-27

Per David B Benson, the original proposal by Eli is apparently something called the Allam power cycle, there is an update about it by its developer, and there is a project trying it nearing completion.

By the way, NetPower is the company developing the process and project.

## Will soils hang on to their Carbon?

This is essentially no analysis, simply an index to recent research on the the matter of the soils reservoir for Carbon, and a little reaction.

To begin, here’s the part of the Carbon Cycle that’s involved:

Should this production increase, particularly if CO2 uptake of terrestrial plants wane, the 45% sink we’ve fortunately lived with could lessen, making our situation worse.

Here are some papers, including reports of large scale experiments. I follow with some thoughts and questions.

I am particularly intrigued with Metcalfe, and van Groenigen, Osenberg, Luo, and Hungate. Recent studies examining options to rebalance the Carbon Cycle by means such as enhanced weathering and afforestation by planting large numbers of plants like Jatropha curcas (see more) have revealed the resulting albedo change and moisture capture can change the climate of entire regions. If microbial communities reorganize in a big way, whether in temperate forests, in deserts, or in tundra, could they by themselves achieve change of regional climate? Could they be bioengineered? Do we understand that ecosystem well enough to predict how it would develop? Are there nonlinear surprises lurking there?

## “It should be illegal to deceive a country’s heart”

“I didn’t mean for this to happen.”

Intentions are irrelevant, despite what the law in one or more countries says.

Outcome and results are what matter.

Guns.

As I wrote,

Oh, I am frustrated, because a lot of this discussion is pure deflection, nothing more.

Facts are, there are technologies available, which are difficult to defeat, and detectable if defeated, which can guarantee that the only user of a gun is the authorized owner of a gun. While I am not a gun owner, nor would I be, I understand that people want guns for hunting, whether game or humans (“in self defense”). Still, public safety and public health seem adequate justifications for imposing technological controls, backed up by legal measures for incriminating those who try to defeat those controls.

Guns should be available to those who want them, for legal purposes, but the rest of us should have the right to know who they are, and the authorities we assign with responsibility should have the right to intervene when public safety is threatened.

And the rest of the “self defense against tyranny” is nonsense, not supported by the Constitution, although one could cobble together some legal theory along those lines from circumstantial historical evidence, I admit.

Americans are not exceptional, no matter what they think. To the degree they do, quality of living here is worse than in the rest of the world, despite the audacious earnings per capita we so champion. Try to attract the Best And The Brightest in the world with that!

This is a completely artificially hepped and hyped and parochial issue, disconnected from reality. It is the worst shame the United States is capable of indulging, making everything in its history hypocrisy and a laughingstock. Securing the world against Nazism but allowing random empowered-with-guns nutcases to assault schools and churches, leaving surviving innocents with psychological trauma? What in the world are you defending if that’s what you want to allow?

I’ve offered my recommendations. Gun violence is a disease. It should be treated like any other disease.

#### Update, 2018-02-23

Dr Heather Sher remarks at The Atlantic why AR-15 weapons and similar ought not be owned by civilians.

## The fate of Antarctica

###### That’s from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at CalTech in Pasedena, CA.

The source article is:

A. S. Gardner, G. Moholdt, T. Scambos, M. Fahnstock, S. Ligtenberg, M. van den Broeke, J. Nilsson, “Increased West Antarctic and unchanged East Antarctic ice discharge over the last 7 years”, The Cryosphere, 12, 521-547, 2018.

How lucky do you feel, folks?

## The global vegetative biosphere

###### (Click on figure to see a larger image, and use browser Back Button to return to blog)

Data derived in part from SeaWIFS and image is from the NASA Earth Observatory here.

Curiously, the SeaWIFS mission site has been mothballed by NASA under the urgings of the present political administration in Washington. This is why, in part, I participated in this project in advance of their taking charge.

## Gun violence is a disease. It should be treated and managed as a disease.

David Hemenway spoke on this at last year’s annual meeting of the Boston Chapter of the American Statistical Association.

There are resources, as well as here.

Statistics as a field began squarely within the bounds of Epidemiology. Surely, this is a problem worthy of Statistics, Data Science, and Machine Learning.

Update, 2018-02-16, 09:54 ET

The Editors, Bloomberg: “The end of gun massacres begins with you”.

Update, 2018-02-19, 10:58 ET

And it can work.

Posted in epidemic of mass slaughter, ethics, evidence, firearms, guns | 1 Comment

## Less evidence for a global warming hiatus, and urging more use of Bayesian model averaging in climate science

###### (This post has been significantly updated midday 15th February 2018.)

I’ve written about the supposed global warming hiatus of 2001-2014 before:

The current issue of the joint publication Significance from the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association has a nice paper by Professor Niamh Cahill of University College, Dublin. Professor Cahill is a colleague of Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, Dr Grant Foster (“Tamino”), and Professor Andrew Parnell. (Parnell is also from University College.) I’ll list a related history of their papers in a moment.

It’s good to see climate science and data treated well by statisticians, even though many geophysicists, oceanographers, and atmospheric scientists know something about statistics and data analysis (*). There is this paper by Professor Cahill, and the November 2017 issue of CHANCE was devoted to the subject. This is great, because the relationship between professional statisticians and climate scientists has been rocky at times. Notice some of the comments here and this rant. There is also some distrust of statistical methods from the geophysics side or, at least, from some atmospheric scientists. The great Jule Charney reportedly dismissed an analysis once by dubbing it “just curve fitting”, since the standard in his field was ab initio physics. And squarely within the margins of the present discussion, there is this gentle admonition from Drs Fyfe, Meehl, England, Mann, Santer, Flato, Hawkins, Gillett, Xie, Kosaka, and Swart that

The warming slowdown as a statistically robust phenomenon has also been questioned. Recent studies have assessed whether or not trends during the slowdown are statistically different from trends over some earlier period. These investigations have led to statements such as “further evidence against the notion of a recent warming hiatus” [Karl, T. R. et al. Science 348, 1469–1472 (2015)] or “claims of a hiatus in global warming lack sound scientific basis” [Rajaratnam, B., Romano, J., Tsiang, M. & Diffenbaugh, N. S. Climatic Change 133, 129–140 (2015)]. While these analyses are statistically sound, they benchmark the recent slowdown against a baseline period that includes times with a lower rate of increase in greenhouse forcing [Flato, G. et al. in Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis (eds Stocker, T. F. et al.) Ch. 9 (IPCC, Cambridge Univ. Press, 2013)], as we discuss below.Our goal here is to move beyond purely statistical aspects of the slowdown, and to focus instead on improving process understanding and assessing whether the observed trends are consistent with our expectations based on climate models.

###### (Emphasis and references added to original text. That’s from the Fyfe, et al‘s paper “Making sense of the the early-2000s warming slowdown”.)

Professor Cahill’s article is an entirely plausible interpretation of the datasets NOAA, GISTEMP, HadCRUT4, and BEST, from a statistician’s perspective. That perspective includes the idea that if there is no information below some level in a signal to explain, assigning an interpretation to that residual provides no support to the interpretation. In other words, if properly extracted warming trends are subtracted from warming data, it is no doubt possible to fit, say, an atmospheric model to the residual. But if the residual contains no information, there are many processes which will fit it as well, even if the processes do not have a physical science basis. It is a standard problem in Bayesian analysis to do inference or modeling using multiple models choices, each having a prior weight. In conventional presentations of Bayesian analysis, priors are typically reserved for parameters. Work has progress on analysis using mixture models (Stephens, 2000, The Annals of Statistics), that is, where the distribution governing a likelihood function is a linear mixture of several, simpler distributions. Putting priors on $M$ models involves $M$ sets of parameters, $\boldsymbol\theta_{j}$ and a weight, $\alpha_{j}$, with one $j$ for each of the models. Here $1 = \sum_{j=1}^{M} \alpha_{j}$, and $0 \le \alpha_{j} \le 1$. The resulting posterior of the Bayesian analysis would have an equilibrium assignment of mass to each of the $\boldsymbol\theta_{j}$ and their corresponding $\alpha_{j}$. These calculations are done using Bayesian model averaging (“BMA”), known since 1999. (See also Prof Adrian Raftery’s page on the subject.)

Fragoso and Neto (2015) have provided a survey of relevant methods along with a conceptual classification. It is no surprise some scholars have applied these methods to climate work:

These are a good deal more than “just curve fitting”, and BMA has been available since 2000. Fang and Li have been cited just 4 times (Google Scholar), and Bhat, et al just 16, and Smith, et al have 173. But Raftery, et al has been cited 1029 times. The majority of these citations are specific applications of the techniques to particular regions. The assessment paper by Weigel, Knutti, Liniger, and Appenzeller (“Risks of model weighting in multimodel climate projections”, Journal of Climate, August 2010, 23) is odd in a couple of respects: They cite the Raftery, et al paper above, but they don’t specifically discuss it. They also seem to continue to associate Bayesian methods with subjectivism, and entertain roles for both Frequentist and Bayesian methods. (That makes no sense whatsoever.) It’s not clear if the discussion is restricted to ensembles of climate models, which I suspect, or is a criticism of a wider set of methods. I agree climate ensembles like CMIP5 share components among their members, so are not independent, but, if BMA is used, that oughtn’t matter. BMA is not bootstrapping. Knutti also wrote an odd comment in Climatic Change [2010, 102(3-4), 395-404] where he seemed to downplay a role for combinations of models. Again, I think it’s important not to equivocate. Knutti’s “rain tent” analogy

We intuitively assume that the combined information from multiple sources improves our understanding and therefore our ability to decide. Now having
read one newspaper forecast already, would a second and a third one increase your confidence? That seems unlikely, because you know that all newspaper forecasts are based on one of only a few numerical weather prediction models. Now once you have decided on a set of forecasts, and irrespective of whether they agree or not, you will have to synthesize the different pieces of information and decide about the tent for the party. The optimal decision probably involves more than just the most likely prediction. If the damage without the tent is likely to be large, and if putting up the tent is easy, then you might go for the tent in a case of large prediction uncertainty even if the most likely outcome is no rain.

might apply to certain applications of multi-member climate ensembles, but certainly does not apply to uses of BMA. Here, for example, the paper of Cahill might consider alternative models to be those having different numbers and placements of breakpoints in trends. A run of a BMA consistent of such alternatives would yield a weighting for each, which could be interpreted as a plausibility score. Similar things are done in Bayesian cluster analysis, where the affinity of a data point for a particular cluster is scored rather than an absolute commitment to its membership. Indeed, without such an approach, determining the number of breakpoints in trends is pretty much ad hoc guesswork. BMA does not mean a literal average of outcomes.

Professor Cahill, along with Rahmstorf and Foster have responded to the Fyfe, et al critique in their “Global temperature evolution: recent trends and some pitfalls” [Environmental Research Letters, 12 (2017) 054001]:

We discuss some pitfalls of statistical analysis of global temperatures which have led to incorrect claims of an unexpected or significant warming
slowdown.

Cahill’s paper is readable and approachable, as are most papers in Significance.

###### (*) Knowledgeable, yes. Dated, also yes. While, according to my occasional inspections of the publications of the American Meteorological Society, people are using Bayesian methods and means of computation more frequently. That’s good. But they are not using it as much as, say, population biologists and field ecologists do. I also heard a put-down of data science and machine learning methods at a recent symposium, principally complaining about the opacity of models so derived. While surely techniques from these fields have their limitations, it’s not at all clear to me that an ensemble of climate models which have been run 1000 years in order to initialize them is any more transparent than a recurrent neural network. Moreover, the dearth of uses for Bayesian model averaging apart from the original authors and in applications, discussed in the text above, suggests a certain reticence in pursuing modern techniques.

From Citizens Climate Lobby. Great slogan. And there’s a Boston Metro West chapter, among others. They principally argue for a Carbon tax or Carbon fee-and-dividend program.

There are a couple of things to note, however.

(The basic slide above is due to Dr Glen Peters of CICERO. Embellishments emphasizing the $500/tonne and$1000/tonne hacks on the ordinate and the heading “What about a price on Carbon?” were added by this author for emphasis.)

And here are two more detailed assessments:

## “Carbon emissions and climate: Where do we stand, and what can be done if it all goes wrong?”

On Sunday, 11th February 2018, I presented an Abstract of a 3 hour talk on the subject, “Carbon emissions and climate: Where do we stand, and what can be done if it all goes wrong?” at the Needham Lyceum, hosted at the Unitarian Universalist church, First Parish, Needham, Massachusetts, of which I am a proud member.

This talk, the slides, and a longer 3 hour exposition of the talk are now available at the First Parish site. To be clear, the links there are a recording of the talk at the Lyceum, which, because of time limits, was but 45 minutes. I visited a subset of the slides for that talk, also linked from that page. I also provided a longer talk which addressed each and every slide. That longer address is also available at that page.

The basic purpose of the talk was setting up a discussion of “climate hacking” or geoengineering which seems increasingly necessary, citing, for instance, the lectures and presentations of the great Wally Broecker at BU. I have linked presentations by Broecker and colleague, Klaus Lackner, here and here before.

I am happy to answer questions about the talk, either via the email address listed on the talk at the first slide, or at this blog, in its comments.

## on nonlinear dynamics of hordes of people

I spent a bit of last week at a symposium honoring the work of Charney and Lorenz in fluid dynamics. I am no serious student of fluid dynamics. I have a friend, Klaus, an engineer, who is, and makes a living at it. I admire the people who are, principally people I read and try to understand who publish technical work on atmospheric and climate dynamics, like Professor Ray Pierrehumbert, and regarding ocean dynamics, like Dr Emily Shuckburgh, or Professor Lenny Smith.

And, today, we had a dramatic drop in the markets of the United States, notably the DJIA, which has the world abuzz in speculation. The Economist, ever the sophisticate, ponders:

The swoon set tongues to wagging, about its cause and likely effect. There can be no knowing about the former. Markets may have worried that rising wages would crimp profits or trigger a faster pace of growth-squelching interest-rate increases, but a butterfly flapping its wings in Indonesia might just as well be to blame. There is little more certainty regarding the latter. Commentators have been quick to pull out the cliches: that “the stock market is not the economy”, and that “stocks have predicted nine out of the past five recessions”. These points have merit. A big move in stock prices can signify some change in economic fundamentals, but it can just as easily signify nothing at all. For those not invested in the market, or whose investments consist mostly of retirement savings plunked into index funds, Monday’s crash matters about as much as Sunday’s Super Bowl result.

Ah, the “butterfly flapping its wings”, a Lorenz-inspired metaphor. Nevermind that the basic ideas of Lorenz in fluid dynamics were anticipated by many in other fields, much earlier, such as Poincaré. I don’t mean to diss Lorenz: Many fields require people to remind them of things they never noticed or forget: There’s Wilson in Geology with plate tectonics, and Efron in my own field of Statistics.

(Predator-prey systems of this Lotka-Volterra kind are coupled nonlinear differential equations which are capable of surprising their students.)
The point is that these are expressions of coupled systems of nonlinear differential equations. It is entirely within the nature and capacity of solutions of such system to surprise. And there is no causality in their expression (*). Indeed, in such a world, the very notion of causality is laughably quaint. (See J. D. Norton for more.)

So, people might struggle and strive to explain why the DJIA dropped precipitously at 1500 ET on 5 February 2018. Sure, the tie to 1500 ET is curious, but, other than that, there are unbounded numbers of reasons why it might, and why we will never and could never understand the impetus. And it necessarily follows that, if the initiation cannot be predicted or understood, the soothing words of analysts and sage traders that there is nothing to be seen here, from this, and, so, requires no action, cannot be considered as seriously as they might want them to be. Given the circumstances and the mechanism, who really knows? The nonlinear equations are what they are. Noone has a faithful simulation of them in their pocket.

(*) I remind the audience that I am no financial advisor or counsellor, and any actions taken — or not taken — as a result of my writings here are entirely the responsibility of the reader. Thanks.