Friday, June 13, 2008

Something Must be Done!

I suppose most of you will have heard of the multiple stabbing last week in Akihabara (an area of Tokyo). As it happens I was in Tokyo that day, but we didn't go there. Well obviously Something Must be Done, and there has been much talk of new laws against carrying knives. Never mind that the miscreant in question was already breaking existing laws (I mean before he deliberately drove his truck into people). In a startlingly bone-headed knee-jerk reaction, the first concrete action has just been announced: 'Pedestrian paradise' to be suspended in Akihabara. You see, every Sunday for the last 30+ years, the main road has been closed to traffic, and it makes it a much nicer place to visit, with ample room for the crowds to walk around (Ginza in central Tokyo is the same). So what better response could they give to a mass murderer who won't be wandering around Akihabara any time soon, other than to abolish this custom? Pure brilliance.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I'm sure this will work:

Do not panic-buy petrol, PM tells motorists ahead of fuel strike.

We enjoyed the Fool Protests and the farcical "Dump the pump (but only one day a week because we don't really want to buy less fuel but just want to cause some inconvenience to others)" campaign several years ago before moving to Japan. The roads were noticeably quieter while it lasted. But all good things must come to an end, and it did not last long. (Addicts of cheap unlimited oil please note.)

As for the poor striking heart bleeds. Actually I support their right to strike if they feel like it, but I also see that their average salary (if that £39,000 quote is accurate) is well in excess of a typical scientist. Can you hear captains of industry and academia bleating about how we need to train more lorry-drivers? I thought not.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

"A complete recording would make it difficult to establish the facts"

It's a funny world where politicians can say things like that without fear of public ridicule.

The politician in question is the Japanese justic minister, and the topic is the recording of interrogation sessions by the Japanese police in order that the courts can judge how "voluntary" the resulting confessions are. There is increasing pressure for this, as the public slowly wakes up to the standard operating practice of the judicial system here (such as 3 weeks in custody before any charges are laid, during which time the victim is treated to sleep deprivation and coercive interrogations aiming at a "confession" which - contrary to the letter of the law - is itself sufficient for a conviction even if subsequently withdrawn).

He is obviously worried by the plummeting conviction rate - down to 97.1% at the last count. This politician is the same moron who recently said he is in favour of the death penalty because the Japanese place much more importance on the value of life than the barbarian Westerners and that didn't get him laughed out of a job either. For that matter, neither did his boast that his friend knew a member of Al-Quaida who regularly visited Japan, and that he had advance knowledge of the Bali bombing but did nothing about it. [That latter story was easily debunked as the delusions of a fantasist, BTW.]

Monday, June 02, 2008

More on that SST change

As expected, there have been increasing volumes of hot air expended on the blogosphere about this. RC's post seems pretty reasonable as ever and so is this comment they point to. There is probably little point in speculating in too great detail about the implications, but then again, if one is not going to speculate pointlessly on a blog, there seems little point in having one.

Steve McIntyre was quick to present a hypothetical new surface temperature record, based on slowly phasing out buckets over the 2nd half of the century.

This gives a greatly reduced warming trend over the last 50 and even 30 years, which got Roger Pielke very excited. However, even though Steve may be right about the buckets themselves, his analysis (which, to be fair, he did not present as anything authoritative) ignores the fact that SST observations have increasingly come from other sources such as satellites and buoys. (Furthermore, that graph above seems to show a change of 0.3C for the global mean temperature, which is hard to justify since the adjustment under discussion is only 0.3C for the SST measurements made by some ships, albeit most of them.) I happen to have used some satellite SST data in previous research, and on checking the details I see that the Pathfinder AVHRR were flying from late 1981 (there may even have been older missions for all I know, but I would guess not). This fleet of satellites has provided hi-res global coverage on a regular basis from 1985 (and probably something from the few years prior), so although I do not know the details of the global SST analysis it seems inconceivable that bucket measurements from ships played much of a part subsequent to that date. Turning to buoys, Wikipedia tells me that the US National Data Buoy Development Program started in 1967 and the National Data Buoy Center was formed in 1970, so it seems that at least some data was coming from this source back then too (and note that even if the volume of data was quite small, its relative accuracy may make it outweigh a lot of ship measurements).

So I don't know exactly what the charges will be, but I suspect that the graphic here attributed to CRU is a reasonable first guess.

As you should be able to see at a glance (although Roger apparently cannot), the maximum change in the smoothed record shown there is a little short of 0.2C globally, which is just as expected given a maximum change of no more than 0.3C for the ocean (70% of the earth's surface).

So how does this affect the IPCC's latest report? Well, in the Technical Summary, there is a nice figure (Figure TS.6) which gives 25, 50, 100 and 150 year trends. So let's give this a little update shall we?

Actually, I cannot reproduce either that graph or the Independent's one precisely, as I do not know exactly how they did the smoothing, or (in the case of the IPCC) which data set they used. But this seems acceptably close to both (click for larger version):

The original data are the crosses and the blue line (5 year boxcar smooth), with the new smoothed data forming the dotted blue line which trends down more slowly from 1945-1960. The adjustment I used was a linear term which falls from 70%*0.3C in 1946, to 0 in 1960. Obviously I don't claim this is authoritative but I do believe it is more plausible than a number of other graphs I have seen on the intertubes...

The solid straight lines are the trends plotted by the IPCC. The dotted ones are equivalent trends of the adjusted data. With the help of a bit of rounding, the 50 year trend (1956-2005) changes from 0.13 to 0.12C/decade. By cherry-picking the start date to be 1946 I can get a change as large as 20%, from 0.11C/decade to 0.09C/decade. Woohoo. Let the blogorrhea continue...

Update. It certainly looks like the Independent graphic attributed to CRU is smoothed over rather more than 5 years. Roger says it is a 21y binomial filter, and if that is correct then the adjustment presented in that graph there must be just a hand-drawn guess rather than the results of any realistic calculation, since a 21y smooth would smudge out any adjustment over a rather longer interval than indicated. It's even possible that the attribution to CRU is just for the original data, and the adjustment was drawn on by a journalist. So don't take any of this too seriously for now. I would guess that the data analysts may take this opportunity to have another look at the various assumptions underlying the splicing together of different data sources, and by the time they are done there may be a whole bunch of minor adjustments throughout the time series.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Corbyn's May forecast

After last month's success, I'm relieved to say that things are back to normal for May, so my hat is safe from the frying pan. Remember, Corbyn forecast a cool month (0.5 to 1C below normal) with average rainfall (90-115%). Well, it turned out rather warm at 13.6C (here and here), which is more than 2C above the normal for May (about 2 standard deviations), and the rain was also clearly above his range (currently 128% at Philip Eden's site, although there is one more day to update there, which cannot bring it into the forecast range now updated to 124% for the full month). The temperature looks like it should be among the 10 warmest on record (and it could possibly be the warmest May for 160 years), although we will have to wait for the official figures to be sure.

So now Corbyn is down to a 40% success rate for the year so far (4 hits from 10 forecasts). Even if he gets every remaining month for the rest of the year perfect for temperature and rainfall, he cannot climb back up to his claimed 80% success rate.