Tuesday, August 10, 2021

part 2: National Public Radio’s Misinformation on Wildfires and Climate

In 1994 the Harvard Business Review insightfully wrote, “The news media and the government are entwined in a vicious circle of mutual manipulation, mythmaking, and self-interest. Journalists need crises to dramatize news, and government officials need to appear to be responding to crises.” So it’s no surprise that NPR headlines hyped, Climate Change Is Driving Deadly Weather Disasters From Arizona To Mumbai claiming, “Heat waves. Floods. Wildfires…We know that climate change is to blame.” Nor is it surprising that the New York Times wrote, “climate change is a key culprit” for the American west’s wildfire disasters. And right on cue, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns “It’s code red for humanity”. But governments promise to fix the “crisis” by controlling your energy and social policies.

Is the media honestly following the science, or once again engaging in “mutual manipulation, mythmaking, and self-interest”?

We ecologists know that wildfires and climate change are extremely complex issues with many contributing variables. Bigger, more intense, and more frequent wildfires and a longer fire season are similarly produced by different variables. Distinguishing the “key culprit” is not as easy as a NY Times’ opinion suggests. Thus, ecologists are trained to maintain multiple working hypotheses to determine which hypothesis best fits the evidence. This scientific process has grave social importance. Wrong analyses always produce wrong remedies, and bad remedies can be worse than the problems they seek to fix. So here are some major competing hypotheses explaining recent upticks in wildfires.

1. Wildfire Suppression

In the 1800s the western USA landscape was a mosaic of open meadows and patchy forests. That mosaic was maintained by frequent wildfires, either ignited naturally or by native Americans. The patchy mosaic created natural fire breaks that prevented the spread of megafires. Frequent fires also reduced both ground fuels that cause more intense fires and ladder fuels that carry fire into the canopies. All wildfire experts agree the policy of wildfire suppression from 1900 to 1970 allowed a) the explosive accumulation of ground fuels and ladder fuels and b) reduced patchiness which allowed fuel continuity across larger swathes of forests. The increase in wildfires since 1970 coincides with the relaxation of fire suppression policies when ecologists emphasized that low-intensity frequent fires are needed to maintain forest health and biodiversity.

A US Forest Service report provides photographic evidence of the landscape patchiness in 1909 before wildfire suppression began versus the increase in ground and ladder fuels and dense connected forests that evolved by 1979 due to fire exclusion.

2. Human Ignitions

Since 1900, California’s population increased from 1.5 million people to more than 39 million. More people inevitably produce to more accidental ignitions. Eighty-four percent of all USA fires are ignited by people. A larger population also requires a larger electrical grid. California’s 2nd largest fire (Dixie) was ignited by an electrical spark, as was the deadliest ever Camp fire and the 4th deadliest Tubbs fire. Three of California’s largest fires (Mendocino, Rim, & Carr fires) were caused by other human accidents.

While the natural fire season, ignited by lightning, extends from May through September, peaking in hot and dry July, human ignitions extend the fire season throughout the entire year. In California this is especially dangerous, as ignitions during the winter are rapidly spread by fierce Santa Anna and Diablo winds. These winds begin to ramp up in October as increasingly cold seasonal temperatures in the high mountain deserts push dry air down across California towards a relatively warmer Pacific Ocean. A downed powerline in December ignited a fire spread by the Santa Ana winds that devastated southern California with its 8th largest fire (Thomas Fire). California’s 4 deadliest fires, Camp, Griffith Park, Tunnel, and the Tubbs wine country fires were all rapidly spread by October and November winds. The 2nd deadliest Griffith Park fire was accidentally started in October 1933.

3. Altered Grasslands

Grasses and shrubs produce small diameter “fine fuels” that rapidly dry within 1 to 10 hours of dry weather. As discussed in part 1, those 1 hour fuels are highly flammable even during freezing temperatures and easily ignited. As seen in Fig 3. (from Keeley, 2015) grassland fires account for the largest burnt areas. Some fire experts argue the tremendous drop in wildfires during the early 20th century was not only due to fire suppression policies, but severe overgrazing that reduced the grasslands ability to spread fire. Similarly, a recent NASA report determined wildfires globally had “declined by 24 percent between 1998 and 2015.” They attributed this global decline to a change in landscapes across the African savannahs. Before, to support grazing, fires had been intentionally set to keep grasslands free from invading shrubs and trees. As villages and homes intruded into the savannah and cultivation of permanent crop fields replaced grassland, the use of fire was reduced.

In 1992, ecologists from UC Berkeley and Stanford University wrote the seminal Biological Invasions by Exotic Grasses, the Grass/Fire Cycle and Global Change. Grasses create conditions that favor fire by producing a “microclimate in which surface temperatures are hotter, vapor pressure deficits are larger, and the drying of tissues more rapid than in forests or woodlands.” An invasion of alien grass species “provides the fine fuel necessary for the initiation and propagation of fire. Fires then increase in frequency, area, and perhaps intensity. Following these grass-fueled fires, alien grasses recover more rapidly than native species and cause a further increase in susceptibility to fire.” This cycle had been well known to land managers who seeded alien grasses to increase fire frequency and intensity to suppress woody species.

The grass/fire cycle has altered landscapes across the world. In Hawaii alien grasses thoroughly filled the spaces between native shrubs, providing continuous layers of fine fuel. Prior to a 1960’s invasion, only 27 fires were recorded in 48 years, each burning an equivalent of 8 football fields. In the 20 years following invasion, twice as many fires ignited each burning an average of 400 football fields. In western North America the invasion of cheat grass increased the frequency of fires in Idaho shrublands from once every 60-110 years to every 3-5 years. In eastern Oregon land dominated by cheatgrass is considered 500 times more likely to bum than other landscapes. 

In the Great Basin deserts, due to low fuel abundance, sagebrush ecosystems burned just once every 60 -100 years. Now cheat grass-dominated sagebrush habitat burns every 3-5 years, up to 20 times more frequently than historic natural conditions. Eleven of the USA’s 50 biggest fires in last 20 years have been in Great Basin sagebrush habitats, where invasive cheatgrass is spreading. Nevada’s largest fire was the 2018 Martin Fire. Rapidly spreading through the cheat grass, it burned 439,000 acres, a burned area rivaling California’s 4th largest fire in recorded history. Additionally, a greater frequency of fires due to the combination of the grass/fire cycle and increased human ignitions has caused large areas of California shrublands to convert to grasslands.

4. Natural Climate Cycles

Most media, like the NY Times, seek out the researchers whose research focuses on finding a connection between a climate change crisis and wildfire crises. So typically the media quote Park Williams, John Abatzoglou, Daniel Swain, or Kevin Trenberth. Park Williams summarizes, “This climate-change connection is straightforward: warmer temperatures dry out fuels. That statement is true, but so is the converse. Drier conditions also dry out fuels and raise temperatures. So, blaming warmer temperatures maybe the tail wagging the dog. Furthermore, it is bad science to apply a 2°F rise in global temperatures to the measured local temperatures where fires ignite. In the USA, 36% of the weather stations with 70+ years of data report cooling trends. It’s also bad science to use average daily temperatures. Rising minimum temperatures are associated with growing populations and may still be below the dew point which would moisten ground fuels. It’s the maximum temperatures that dry out fuels.

For example, in the region of the huge Mendocino-Complex fire, which was accidentally ignited in dry grasses, annual maximum temperatures have cooled since the 1930s as recorded in the US Historical Climate network. Cooling maximum temperatures holds true throughout northern California.

Contrary to Williams’ suggestion, dryness does not depend on temperature as witnessed by the warm wet tropics or cold dry tundra. The Sahara Desert was driest during the depth of the Ice Age but converted to the moist Green Sahara as temperatures warmed. Dry conditions are mostly a function of how atmospheric circulation transports moisture from the oceans to the land, and its atmospheric circulation that makes the American west so dry and the eastern USA so moist. The most important modulator of that circulation is the natural El Nino cycles (ENSO) and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) that shift rains and drought northward and southward. Researchers found “combined warm phases (positive PDO during El Nino) co-occurred with large fires in the central and northern Rockies, while the combined cool phases (negative PDO during La Nina) appeared to promote large fires in the southern Rockies. Almost 70% of large fires in Rocky Mountain National Park burned during La Nina events that coincided with a negative PDO, although these phases co-occurred during only 29% of the 1700-1975 AD period.”

Appropriately, the recent uptick in forest fires coincides with the natural 21st century shift of the PDO to its negative phase and the increased frequency of La Nina conditions. This natural cycle of droughts and fires forced Williams to find a narrative that synthesized the scientific evidence of La Nina effects with modeled speculation of a climate crisis induced wildfires. In 2014 Williams wrote, “The southwestern United States (SW) experienced extreme drought in 2011, related at least in part to a La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean. The 2011 SW drought event was accompanied by record breaking total burned and record-size ‘‘megafires’’ in the forests of eastern Arizona and northern New Mexico.” He then conflated model myth-making writing, “Model projections developed for the fifth phase of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project suggest that by the 2050s warming trends will cause mean warm-season vapor pressure deficit to be comparable to the record high VPD (dryness) observed in 2011.

But climate models have done an extremely poor job of modeling drought. Michael Wehner published the graph below, which was also featured in a National Climate Assessment. The observed (red) Fractional Extreme drought area over the USA and Mexico was clearly greatest during the 1930s and attributed to landscape changes and natural cycles. The second worse drought extent occurred in the 1950s. Although modelers already knew the results, their CO2 driven model results (blue) failed to even hint at those historical droughts and accompanying heat waves. All the climate models could do is project imagined disasters in the future. Rarely does the media mention the grass/fire cycle, or the dryness of ENSO cycles. Instead, NPR prefers to blame climate change for worse wildfires The media is indeed stuck in the “vicious circle of mutual manipulation, mythmaking, and self-interest”

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

National Public Radio’s Misinformation on Wildfires and Climate: part 1

 Each day I attempt to synthesize curiously divergent views in the news. In the morning I listen to National Public Radio (NPR) and in the evening I watch Fox News. However, I’m increasingly disturbed by NPR’s unbalanced reporting on wildfires. With every wildfire report, NPR now adds climate crisis comment but ignores wildfire science. I learned more about heat transfer and wildfires as a boy scout. I also expanded my wildfire science as an ecologist researching California’s Sierra Nevada ecosystems for 30 years and I must say an honest NPR would focus on the 3 major issues needed to minimize wildfire devastation.

1) Minimize human ignitions.

2) Improve ground fuel management.

3) Remove introduced annual grasses.

Politicians and media journalists that claim reducing CO2 will save us from bigger wildfires are only exacerbating public fears and promoting ineffective policies.

As a Boy Scout I was dropped off in a snow-covered Maine wilderness with temperatures below 32°F. My task was to build a life-saving campfire with only one match. Survival required finding enough flammable fuel. Fortunately, there was an abundance of small dead twigs on the lowest branches of most trees. With ample airflow, those small diameter fuels (A) are reliably ignited with a single match. Wildfire experts refer to small twigs, pine needles and dead grasses as 1-hour lag fuels because those fuels sufficiently dry out in an hour of dry weather, with or without global warming. Varying abundances of 1 hour fuels determine how readily wildfires ignite and spread. Thus, during fire season wildfire experts assess 1 hour fuels daily. Though easily ignited, twigs or dead grass have very little mass to sustain a fire. So, to build my survival fire I carefully added a layer of slightly larger sticks (B) that could be quickly ignited before heat from my twigs was exhausted. Added sticks can’t be too large. Larger branches and logs will absorb small amounts of heat without igniting.

My one match generated temperatures exceeding 1000 °F, but only for a short time. But with the right balance of 1 hour fuels and sticks for kindling, my survival fire was secured. Ample kindling is the key to igniting and sustaining every large fire. In California, accumulating ground fuels supplied the kindling allowing a spark from a tire rim scraping asphalt to ignite dead roadside grasses, that then expanded into the large Carr Fire. A spark from a rancher driving a stake into the ground ignited the surrounding dead grass, igniting California’s 2nd largest fire, the Mendocino Complex Fire, even though regional maximum temperatures had been 3°F cooler than the 1930s. Sparks from powerlines in November caused California’s deadliest Camp Fire; and powerlines likewise ignited California’s largest 2021 fire,the Dixie Fire.

All those conflagrations were caused by human ignitions, and experts calculate that 84% percent of America’s wildfires are started by humans. Good science cannot attribute an increase in wildfires to climate change unless it first accounts for increased human ignitions. Additionally, once ignited, fires produce such tremendous heat, ground fuels are readily dried out as the fire approaches. Swaths of burning grasses make great kindling, generating temperatures reaching 1400°F which easily ignites accumulated ground fuels and shrubbery. Those ground fuels then generate temperatures reaching 2000°F. Claims that an insignificant 2°F increase from global warming makes wildfires bigger and more intense appears to be politicized fear mongering. My survival fire started in below freezing temperatures and major conflagrations burned during the Little Ice Age. So best to prevent increased ignitions by burying powerlines and by removing 1 hour fuels from roadsides.

In NPR’s defense, gullible journalists are fed cherrypicked “science” from researchers seeking fame and fortune by promoting climate crises. Naïve journalists are provided graphs of “unprecedented” increasing wildfire trends, but only since 1970. The longer term trend, as exemplified by Oregon Department of Forestry, is rarely publicized widely. Furthermore crafty researchers blame global warming by showing how it theoretically dries out fire fuels, but simple good physics then gets grossly misapplied.

For example, widespread invasive annual grasses have also increased landscape aridity, and increased the probability of ignitions and increased burnt area extent. Non native cheatgrass earned its name because it grows during the winter and early spring, consuming soil moisture and depriving native grasses. By growing in the west’s moister winter season, cheatgrass expanded into arid regions where extensive grasslands had been prohibited. Added carpets of flammable cheatgrass engulfed sagebrush ecosystems, covering bare ground that had once limited large or frequent fires. And carpets of cheatgrass can easily carry fires into forests and other ecosystems.

In contrast native perennial grasses growing during the summer maintained high moisture content and didn’t go dormant until late August. Their high moisture content reduced the probability of both grass fire ignitions and its spread. But native grasses were soon out competed by moisture hoarding cheatgrass which dies, dries, and becomes highly flammable by April and May. As landscapes became dominated by cheatgrass, the fire season intensified and expanded by 2-3 months. Although NPR had once mentioned the destructive effects of invasive grasses, NPR now pushes climate change. But the drying out of western grasslands is not due to climate change. Its due to natural weather cycles and the landscapes’ conversions to moisture sucking invasive annuals. Finally, cheatgrass conversion correlates too well with maps of western USA’s most active fire regions. Restoring native grasslands would be another best practice to reduce the west’s larger wildfires.

added Aust 7,/p>

Here is a graph from USGS fire experts not only showing the greatest amount of California's burnt acres happens in 1-hour and 10 hour fuel habitat, but far more burnt acres happened in the the 1920s and 30s

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Interview with David Siegel

Among other issues a discussion of how transport of warm Atlantic waters into the Arctic has caused Arctic warming despite cooling trends in North America and Eurasia. The Arctic temperatures bias the global average, but no similar warming is observed in the Antarctic

Monday, July 19, 2021

Islands of Truth Emerging from the Murky Depths of “Sea Level Science”

During the 1980s, the media and a few scientists warned that island nations in the tropical Pacific would soon be wiped from the face of the earth, drowned by rising sea levels attributed to rising CO2. The Maldives’ Environmental Affairs Director warned that an 8 inch to a foot rise in sea level in the next 20 to 40 years would be catastrophic. The Guardian’s headlines wrote of islanders abandoning their island home to become environmental refugees. In 2002 supported by Greenpeace, Tuvalu threatened to sue the United States and Australia for excessive carbon dioxide emissions. The Smithsonian magazine asked, “Will Tuvalu Disappear Beneath the Sea?”. However, the Smithsonian also admitted “not all scientists agree that Tuvalu’s future is underwater. Some critics have branded island leaders as opportunists angling for foreign handouts…while people and organizations sympathetic to Tuvalu are “eco-imperialists” intent on imposing their alarmist environmental views on the rest of the world.”


Theoretically, the fear of devastating rising sea levels was quite legitimate given the onslaught of global warming narratives and the fact the entire atoll nation of Tuvalu only averages 6.6 feet above sea level. So naturally, Tuvalu’s fund-seeking prime minister, Saufatu Sapo’aga, told the United Nations that global-warming’s threat to his island was no different than “a slow and insidious form of terrorism”. In reality, the latest science published in 2018 combined past aerial photographs and satellite imagery to report a net increase in Tuvalu’s land area. Built on coral reefs, the atoll’s many islands will change shape as coral debris and foraminifera are added to the land on the leeward side, while losing area on the windward side. Nonetheless, 74% of the islands increased in size with only 27% decreasing. Furthermore, Tuvalu’s growth is mirrored in other islands region-wide. A similar study examining “30 Pacific and Indian Ocean atolls including 709 islands, reveals that no atoll lost land area and that 88.6% of islands were either stable or increased in area, while only 11.4% contracted.” So how can coral islands grow in an era of accelerating sea level rise?

The answer may be, in contrast to global warming theories, that regional sea levels have not been rising by 3+ millimeters/year nor has the rise accelerated. The scary misinformation is partly due researchers using short¬¬ term sea level records that are incapable of accurately measuring the long-term trends. Pacific sea levels rise and fall over decades (see maps above). A single El Nino event can temporarily raise or lower island sea levels by 300 millimeters (mm). Thus, one study using just 6.8 years of data determined sea level at Tuvalu had fallen by 8.9 mm/year in contrast to a 2008 study using 15.5 years of data claiming sea level rose by 5.9 mm/year. 

In Tuvalu Not Experiencing Increased Sea Level Rise (2004), the climate skeptic Eschenbach reported climate scientists, who had averaged 27 regional stations using data greater than 25 years, had determined only a 0.8 mm/year trend with no acceleration. Eschenbach further detailed how Tuvalu’s erosion and the saltwater intrusion into the drinking water was not caused by rapid sea level rise. Among other issues, having paved over 10% of the island, the underground reservoir of freshwater was not being replenished, as rainwater was instead shunted away to the sea. Meanwhile the mining of sand and reefs for construction had disrupted the natural dynamics that maintained the island’s shape. 

 In “The Scientific Basis” of the IPCC’s 2001 report, they determined based on tide gauges “mean sea level rise during the 20th century ranged from 1.0 to 2.0 mm/year” and no detections of the predicted acceleration. Still, to bolster a theory unable to link rising CO2, warming, and accelerating sea level rise, Vermeer and Rhamstorf (2009) created a climate change model that projected a sea-level rise that ranged from 2.4 ft to 6.2 ft for the period 1990 –2100. In contrast, Australia’s NSW principal Coastal Specialist observed a consistent trend of weak deceleration at each gauge site throughout Australasia over the period from 1940 to 2000, and in 2011 published Is There Evidence Yet of Acceleration in Mean Sea Level Rise around Mainland Australia? 

There were several more conflicting issues. Scripps’ esteemed oceanographer Walter Munk found IPCC 20th century sea level rise estimates of 1.5 to 2.0 mm/year were too high. In 2013, Gregory et. al wrote Twentieth-Century Global-Mean Sea Level Rise: Is the Whole Greater than the Sum of the Parts? They solved the problem of an unbalanced sea level budget, by simply increasing previously estimated contributions from ocean warming and meltwater. In contrast, Harvard’s Mitrovica solved the same problem by lowering 20th century mean sea level rise to just 1 mm/yr. 

Meanwhile, new satellite era estimations suggested the long-awaited theoretical acceleration had arrived with sea level rising 3.5 mm/year from 1994-2002. Yet, like Tuvalu, such short periods of measurements are usually biased by natural variability and cannot accurately measure long term trends. Accordingly, subsequent satellite measurements between 2003 and 2011 found global sea level suddenly decelerated to 2.4 mm/year. To solve that conflict with global warming expectations, Cazenave et al. added the estimated water trapped on land during La Ninas to observed sea levels, plus added another 0.3 mm/year glacial isostatic adjustment to account for ocean basin expansion. Thus, she raised global warming’s rising sea level trend to 3.3 mm/year for the past 20 years, a rate commonly cited today.
In addition to Cazenave’s misguided trend building from short duration satellite measurements, calibrating satellite data to tide gauges can be distorted by the unaccounted land subsidence typically biasing tide gauges. It is well established that sinking land creates an illusion of sea level rise. China’s Huanghe Delta is sinking 10 inches/year (254 mm) and New Orleans is sinking 1.4 inches (36 mm) per year. Southern Florida experiences localized patches of 1–3 mm/year subsidence, undermining condos in urban areas built on reclaimed marshland. Similarly, San Francisco’s airport is sinking 0.4 inches per year. Between 1980 and 2014, despite San Francisco’s tide gauge experiencing large El Nino sea level spikes, there had been no rising trend suggesting falling sea levels have offset its subsidence.
Robustly evaluating the dangers of rising sea levels for Pacific islanders, in 2020 Alberto Boretti published Relative sea-level rise and land subsidence in Oceania from tide gauge and satellite GPS. Using only the 6 regional tide gauges with 100+ years of data, he found after subtracting subsidence effects from the +1.3 mm/year average relative sea level rise, the average absolute rate of rise computed to an astonishingly low +0.125 mm/year; with no signs of acceleration or evidence of thermal expansion. In addition, Boretti’s special Tuvalu case study, also accounting for subsidence, determined from 1977 to present an absolute rate of rise of just +0.157 mm/year. That rate of sea level rise from increased ocean volumes will only add about 0.6 inches in 100 years. The worrisome “sea-level rise of Tuvalu is due to subsidence rather than the increasing volume of the ocean waters” from thermal expansion or glacial meltwater. The best approach for Tuvalu’s prime minister would be to stop ill-advised urbanization that leads to subsidence and threatens its fresh water supply and stop covering his political rump by shifting the blame to climate change. Still stopping subsidence might not be possible. After all, in the late 1800s, Charles Darwin correctly surmised that atolls like Tuvalu were formed by fringing reefs attached to a naturally subsiding extinct volcano.

Jim Steele is Director emeritus of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and proud member of the CO2 Coalition Contact:

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Truth About Heat Waves

For those who truly want to be guided by science, put aside the climate crisis hysteria. We can explain the natural dynamics of all heat waves by simply knowing 1) how heat is transported along the earth’s surface; 2) how heat is transported vertically; 3) how solar heating changes; and 4) how the greenhouse effect varies.

Below is a map of global temperature anomalies for the year 2014 that illustrates natural climate dynamics. There is no uniform warming that might be expected from a global blanket of greenhouse gases. Across the globe, surface temperatures alternate between regions of above average warmth (red) with regions of below average (blue). (Gray regions lack sufficient data). Indeed, the observed cooler eastern USA is dubbed a “warming hole” by climate scientists because its cooling trend contradicts global warming theory. It requires a natural climate dynamic explanation.

The temperature pattern is associated with regions where warmer air from the south more frequently intruded northward, while simultaneously, cold air from the north intruded southward. This pattern is due to a naturally wavy jet stream and associated pressure systems. The warm red regions indicate regions where high pressure systems dominate. In the northern hemisphere, high pressure systems cause clockwise atmospheric circulation that pulls warm air northward on its western side, and cold air southward on its eastern side. Low pressure systems circulate counter-clockwise, conversely pulling cold air southward on its western side. These combined circulation patterns partly explain both the extreme cold that dropped Texas temperatures as much as 50° F below average in February 2021, as well as extreme heating that raised USA’s northwest temperatures 30°- 40° F above normal the following June. Similarly in 2019, northward transport of heated air from the Sahara desert caused heat waves over Europe and Greenland. Such natural heat transport can also cause coastal Alaska to be warmer than Florida.

Below is an illustration of how high and low pressure systems also cause opposite patterns of vertical air circulation, as in the natural Madden Julian Oscillation. Low pressure systems are regions of upward rising air. As the air rises, water vapor condenses to form clouds. Although the clouds increase the greenhouse effect, clouds reduce solar heating to a greater degree. The net effect causes cooler surface temperatures. To balance the weight of rising air, the air must sink elsewhere, causing a high pressure system. However, that sinking air is now almost devoid of water vapor. The resulting clear skies reduce the greenhouse effect, allowing more infrared heat to escape, but also increases solar heating. Because increased solar heating is greater, the net effect is warmer surface temperatures.

High pressure systems often cause heat waves due to how heat is transported, their associated clear skies and increased solar heating. The eastward moving Madden Julian Oscillation, as well as El Nino and La Nina events along with other oscillations, can unexpectedly interact to amplify regions of sinking air and thus determine the location of a high pressure system and heat wave.

Finally, vertical air motion adds another warming dynamic. The gas laws are unequivocally proven physics and state that by simply increasing pressure, air temperature will increase without any added energy (aka adiabatic warming). Thus, the increasing weight of the atmosphere on sinking dry air warms that air by 5.4°F for every 1000 ft it descends. In addition to surface wind transport, this dynamic contributed to record heat on the northern tip of the Antarctic peninsula where air was descending from the mountains. Along the west coast of the United States, air pushed from the Sierra Nevada to the ocean coast (aka the Santa Ana and Diablo winds) causes California to experience unusually warm temperatures (and larger fires) during the winter. A similar descending flow of air from the Cascade mountains, contributed to the June 2021 extreme heat wave in Washington and Oregon.

Even when descending air doesn’t reach the surface, it also warms the surface by suppressing convection. Air contacting the earth’s solar heated surface warms and rises (aka convection). However, air only rises if its warmer than the surrounding atmosphere. Descending air from several thousand feet in altitude warms as it falls. Yet despite that warming air only reaching 100 feet above the ground, it suppresses convection that normally carries heat from the surface to the upper troposphere. The effect is like the extreme warming of a car’s interior when rolled up windows prevent heated air from leaving.

The world’s expert on northwestern USA’s weather, Cliff Mass, has presented evidence showing the 2021 heat wave was a “black swan event” where all the natural dynamics discussed above converged. As illustrated by global warm and cold anomalies below, the northwest heat wave was a uniquely local event. Yet to support his agenda, President Biden has fear-mongered the Northwest heat wave as a global climate crisis. Biden doesn’t know science and would look foolish in a climate debate. Disturbingly, some scientists dependent on global warming funding also suggest only global warming explains that heatwave. However, they ignore the fact that the heatwave’s clear skies reduce the local greenhouse effect driven by water vapor. Additionally, global warming can’t explain cold events such as Europe’s record cold just 2 months earlier. So, beware! The media is promoting misinformation. Only natural climate dynamics scientifically explain recent extreme weather events.

One more added thought since first pubished. In contrast to the media's fear mongering about ever increasing heat waves due to the so-called climate crisis, here's the EPA's heat wave trend:

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

On Slavery, Climate, and the Promise of Gettysburg

  To honor their sacrifice in the battle of Gettysburg July 1-3, 1863, President Lincoln later spoke, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” Indeed, the American Civil war was a pivotal moment in the battle for human dignity versus thousands of years of worldwide slavery. 

Slavery economically only benefits those in power. Throughout recorded history, captives from tribal warfare were enslaved, as were criminals and debtors. Slaves worked the fields and mines, fought in the conqueror’s military, or became domestic and public servants. Such constant inter-tribal warfare was in large part driven by natural climate change. During favorable climates, to feed a thriving population they expanded into neighboring territories. Similarly, centuries of drought and famines also forced populations to seek out greener pastures to survive. During the last ice age, the unpopulated Sahara Desert was larger than today. But when the climate warmed about 10,000 years ago, causing monsoons and the tropical rain belt (Intertropical Convergence Zone) to shift northward, the “Green Sahara” evolved with bountiful grasslands with scattered shallow lakes, which were rapidly colonized by humans. 

 Then about 6000 years ago, the earth began to cool (the Neoglaciation) and the Sahara quickly reverted to desert, forcing humans to seek productive lands elsewhere. The cooling trend brought increasing drought not just to the Sahara but throughout the Mediterranean and Middle east regions as well as parts of India and China. Some humans migrated to river valleys of the Nile, Mesopotamia, Indus, and Yellow River leading to the great river civilizations. Some moved to higher elevations or were forced southward, while others became warring nomads. The good news is some climate models suggest the current warming could bring more rain to the Sahara region. 

Beginning around 2500 years ago, the Romans were forced to battle their neighbors. With each victory Romans acquired more slaves to work their fields and mines, and to grow a slave army that could further expand the Roman empire. By 1 AD it is estimated approximately one third of Rome’s residents were slaves. Although most cultures that embraced slavery also forbid enslaving people of their own tribe, slavery was not driven by racism. It was driven by economics. Most Roman slaves were acquired from racially identical neighboring tribes in Italy and Europe. 

The coldest period of the Neoglaciation was the recent Little Ice Age, approximately lasting from 1300 to 1900 AD. During that period, a warring tribe of nomads evolved into the Ottoman Empire. In part they also gained dominance via a powerful slave army (Janissaries). The Ottoman’s thirst for slaves also induced robust regional slave markets. Barbary Coast pirates (modern day Morocco and Algiers region) and the Crimean kingdom launched slave raids into Europe for slaves to be sold to the Ottomans. Europeans often lacked the numbers to repel those slave raids because the Bubonic Plague and Little Ice Age famines had decimated many populations. Slavic populations were targeted so frequently, their ethnicity gave rise to the term “slave”. 

West African "Slave Coast"

 The city of Timbuktu (in the modern country of Mali) located just north of the Niger River flourished in the 1300s as western Africa’s trade center for gold, salt, ivory, and slaves. As a result, it was targeted by several competing tribes and empires battling to control the wealth of the trans-Saharan trade routes. West African slave trade was mostly confined to the continent. It is estimated the nearly one third of the Songhai empire consisted of slaves during the 1400s and 1500s. When improved ocean navigation by the Spanish and Portuguese opened the America’s, a very profitable slave trade developed between Europeans and Africans. Enslaved native Brazilians working sugar plantations, were first to generate great wealth for the Portuguese. But native Brazilian populations were soon decimated by introduced diseases like smallpox. Seeking cheap slave labor, the Portuguese and Spanish turned to the ongoing African slave market and African tribal leaders were eager to expand their slave trade for European goods, particularly guns and ammunition to better defend themselves. By late 1500s west-central Africa became known as the Slave Coast

The trans-Atlantic slave trade expanded from Brazil to new sugar plantations in the Caribbean, and then the cotton plantations of southeastern USA. But the slaves never went peaceably. Throughout history from the Spartacus Wars of 73 BC, to the Haitian Revolution of 1791, to Nat Turner’s Rebellion of 1831, slaves fought for their freedom. In America there was also a growing humanitarian movement pushing to abolish slavery led by blacks such as Frederick Douglas and whites such as William Lloyd Garrison. As a result, the Slave Trade Act of 1794 prohibited American ships from engaging in the international slave trade. In 1807 the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves made it illegal to import new slaves. However due to its national economic importance, domestic slavery was still not outlawed. The northern state’s textile industry (as well as England’s) also profited from cheap cotton and indirectly fostered slavery. Given such economic incentives to maintain slavery, the emerging abolitionist movement was a tribute to America’s guiding creed that all people deserve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Although still falling short of equality, between 1781 and 1804, all states north of Maryland passed laws to gradually abolish slavery. 

 It wasn’t that Southerners were more racist than northerners. Politics were simply driven by highly profitable cotton plantations, and cotton only thrived in the warmer southern climate. Only 25% of southerners owned slaves. Many of the south’s yeoman farmers voted against seceding from the union. Blacks and whites formed the Free State of Jones in Mississippi and the Free State of Winston in Alabama. Some formed the Arkansas Peace Society and many whites, especially from Arkansas and Tennessee joined the union army. Eventually, it was a Union army consisting of 90% white and 10% black soldiers, facing death and mutilation from canons, muskets, and bayonets, as they did at Gettysburg, that began America’s irreversible emergence from millennia of global slavery and step closer to our ideal of equality. Finally in 1865, the 13th amendment to the constitution legislated, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." 

 Nonetheless, still attempting to profit from forced labor, some tried to circumvent the 13th amendment by using convicted criminals to engage in free forced labor. In the past a racist police force could disproportionately and dishonestly convict blacks and poor whites, but today we are weeding out such racists cops. The great majority of police are good people trying to keep our neighborhoods safe and uphold our ideal of equal protection under the law. Likewise, the Jim Crow laws first enacted during the late 1800s were attempts to maintain political control by suppressing black voters, but the Voting Rights Act of 1965 put an end to that injustice. Unfortunately, others seeking their own political power, introduced a new form racism that dishonestly pandered to black voters and has abandoned Matin Luther King’s universal ideal that we judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. 

For instance, in 2006 when white members of Duke University’s lacrosse team were accused, albeit falsely, of raping a black stripper. It ignited waves of social justice protests. The white attorney general, Mike Nifong seeking re-election, hoped to garner the support of black voters by convicting those white players, despite obvious evidence of their innocence. Nifong was later disbarred for fraud, dishonesty, deceit and making false statements to a judge. And despite an ATM photo of one of the accused that verified his innocence, mobs of students and professors eagerly abandoned our ideal of presumed innocence until found guilty in order to “virtue signal” their anti-racism. Photographs of lacrosse team members were posted around campus while others suggested the lacrosse team had been acting like rich plantation owners of the past. Even now there are professors who similarly virtual signal that Americans ought to abolish “whiteness” and politicians like Georgia’s new senator, Rev. Raphael Warnock gave a sermon arguing the “US must 'repent' for whiteness worship”, all pushing a racist suggestion that all whites think and behave the same. 

 Just as we must work to rid racists from all positions of power, we must also disavow those fabricate racists actions. Activists and politicians ignore America’s great forward strides simply to manipulate white disgust and guilt for the horrific racism of the past. To gain political power, they exacerbate a racial divide that had been healing. Some white politicians claimed you “aint black if you don’t vote for me”; versions of “vote for me and I’ll set you free” only maintain a “ball of confusion”. There are others like actor Jussie Smollet, simply trying to gain personal notoriety by fabricating a racial attack. When the black attorney general Daniel Cameron found no evidence to charge white police officers in the death of a black woman, to maintain the racial divide, politicians and activists denigrated his integrity repeating he was “skin-folk not kin-folk”. Despite bipartisan recognition of past voter fraud, one party has pushed to eliminate the fraud prone practice of ballot harvesting. Although it does not prevent anyone from voting, politicians in favor of ballot harvesting dishonestly call its elimination “Jim Crow on steroids”. All those activists and politicians are only dividing the races and dividing our country.

 Any objective analysis would find America’s system should be praised for our steady, albeit slow, evolution from global slavery engaged in by all races, towards more completely ensuring our ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for everyone. Politicians and activists suggesting the USA is systematically racists use backwards thinking to suggest past injustices are still ever present. Yet they ignore the facts that people from the Nigerian region were once brought to this country as slaves in the 1700s and 1800s, but now Nigerians voluntarily come to America and are one of America’s most successful immigrants. Such present-day success repudiates claims of systematic racism. For people who truly want equality for all, our focus should be on those countries where forced labor and modern slavery still run rampant. 


As the Global Slavery Index recently reported, the 10 countries most engaged in today’s forced labor and modern slavery are the African countries of Eritrea, Mauritania, South Sudan, Burundi, the Central African Republic, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Cambodia, and communist North Korea. As in past centuries, those countries are vulnerable to modern slavery due to the constant conflicts which are often driven by environmental crises and corrupt systems. And unlike the USA’s dedication to liberty, those countries suffer politically from highly repressive regimes, such as the Chinese Communist government’s enslaving of Uighur Muslims. 

Similarly, those with a political agenda will wrongly blame a CO2 induced “climate crisis” for Africa’s environmental crises. But it is the naturally shifting of rain patterns since the loss of the Green Sahara and during the Little Ice Age that generated conflicts then and made 21st century Africa vulnerable to inevitable drought inducing natural climate variability. La Ninas periodically bring drought and famine to the east African region of Ethiopia and Eritrea every few years, a region now at war. The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation drove devastating drought in the Sahel region in the 1970s and 80s forcing migrations but reverted to more rains since the 1990s. These natural episodes of drought are predictable and allow governments weeks to prepare and adapt. But in the long run, only improved agricultural systems and vibrant trade will prevent environmentally driven conflicts, and that requires a free entrepreneurial economic system and honest politicians.

Abe and me at Gettysburg June 2021

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Betrayers of the Truth

On May 5, 2021, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published Nicholas Wade’s article “The Origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?”  After detailing all evidence the article suggested COVID-19 was created at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Likewise the former CDC director and politicians had previously warned of the human-engineered virus. Furthermore a Chinese virologist from Wuhan, Dr. Li-Meng Yan, bravely disagreed with her government’s denial, publishing that COVID-19 was purposively engineered. Despite the “lab leak” theory’s increasing probability, it had first been quickly dismissed by virologists and the media. Why?


USHCN death valley

In 1982 Nicholas Wade had also co-authored the book Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science. Virtually everything he warned about, can be seen regards the COVID deceit. Wade is not an anti-science conspiracy theorist. Wade wrote for the preeminent scientific journals Nature and Science and was the New York Times’ editorial science writer from 1982 to 2012. Wade simply warned modern science is not free of fraud and its self-policing safeguards can be easily corrupted.


Unlike Darwin or Galileo, modern careerist scientists are pressured to produce certain results to ensure their income and status. Although many resist such pressures, history is littered with those that couldn’t. Regards COVID-19, Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance, depends on government grants and donations. EcoHealth Alliance’s slogan is A World Without Pandemics. They controversially believe by making natural animal viruses more infectious to humans in the lab, science can learn how to prevent future pandemics. Thus if they dared admit their engineered virus had escaped the lab causing 3 million deaths and destroying businesses, their funding would collapse.


Similarly other virologists feared attributing the pandemic to an escaped engineered virus would also restrict their research and funding. So Daszak and others immediately labeled the “lab escape theory” a conspiracy theory. Likewise Dr Fauci, a longtime proponent of such “gain of function” research, labeled his critics “anti-science”. This same tactic is used by climate scientists to defend their funding. They label skeptics “deniers” and “peddlers of misinformation”. In contrast, they portray themselves as delivers of gospel truths. It is precisely such elitism Wade had warned about. Although elites may have gained their status for good reason, to maintain their status, they are not immune from fabricating data.


Wade documented how the uncritical acceptance of elite opinions has led to bad science.  For example the story of Hideyo Noguchi, once hailed as the greatest microbiologist since Louis Pasteur. When he died in 1928, Noguchi had published 200 papers claiming he had identified the causes of yellow fever, polio, rabies and others. Although his work proved wrong 50 years later, he had never been challenged, simply because he worked for the most prestigious research institute of his time.


In the 1970s, John Long was exalted for developing tissue cultures to study Hodgkin’s disease,  a feat no other could accomplish. Although it was later shown Long’s cultures were from Owl monkeys and not humans and his data all fabricated, his publications had sailed through peer review because he worked for the prestigious Massachusetts General Hospital. It took Long’s more honest assistants to point out falsified data. Japanese anesthesiologist Yoshitaka Fuji fabricated data in a whopping 172 peer-reviewed papers starting in 1993. In 2015, the editor of the most prestigious medical journal the Lancet, suggested Half of Science Is Wrong. Similarly, in 2015 Stanford University epidemiologist John loannidis echoed much of what Wade wrote in 1982. In the paper Reproducibility in Science: Improving the Standard for Basic and Preclinical Research the authors wrote “there is compelling evidence that the majority of these discoveries will not stand the test of time. To a large extent, this reproducibility crisis in basic and preclinical research may be as a result of failure to adhere to good scientific practice and the desperation to publish or perish.”


The take home message is all scientific claims, and all elites, must be critically questioned. Whether Daszak and Fauci, or climate scientists Michael Mann and Kevin Trenberth, elite scientists are not totally trustworthy despite media narratives. Mann hired a public relations person to shape his public image. It’s the skeptics who ensure the scientific process is not short-circuited by power hungry elites who try to prevent further debate.


For example in climate science, emails exposed elites like Phil Jones, Thomas Wigley and Ben Santer who discussed how to “adjust” observed temperature trends to better support their CO2 theory. Warming in the 1930s and 40s similar to today, suggested a naturally oscillating climate. So in 2009 they wrote, “It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip, but we are still left with why the blip". Accordingly, much temperature data has since been adjusted as exemplified in the Death Valley temperature trends from the US Historical Climate Network. They removed the observed “warm blip” (black line below) to  create a trend (red line) that better fit their theory.


Accordingly the motto of the oldest scientific institution is Nullius En Verba: Take no one’s word!