Saturday, January 31, 2015

How much better does she have to be?

Well, like most of their previous meetings, in the Australian Open 2015 final, Maria Sharapova lost to Serena Williams.   This time, she pushed her to a second set tiebreaker after a 6-3 first set, and even the tiebreaker was close.

So I ask, how much better does Sharapova have to play to beat Serena?   Because it's difficult to see how she could play much better than she did yesterday.

I checked;  three of her five runner-up finishes in Grand Slam tournaments have been to Serena.  If she'd won those instead of lost them, she'd have eight Grand Slam titles.  That would put her into the Top 10 all-time, tied with Suzanne Lenglen.   This is reminiscent of how many more titles Andre Agassi would have had if it hadn't been for a guy named Sampras.  Though she's done pretty well (especially financially), I kinda wish she had a couple more, for the sake of history.

The Hunley is exposed

I've been following the recovery of the Confederate submarine Hunley since it was found, and then raised, and then excavated (finding the remains of the crew, including the captain, with his lucky gold piece). 

So I was happy to read about the full exposure of the sub's superstructure, after a couple of years of chemical stabilization, followed by removal of the encrusting sediments.   In the picture, you can see the hand-cranked propeller mechanism.

Hunley's hull revealed after 150 years

Very, very cool.

Catching up: Vanessa in swimwear

I have a bunch of articles that I want to catch up on, so I might as well get started.   This first one is about the chameleonic Vanessa Hudgens:  young and sweet in High School Musical and Bandslam; smokin' and sultry in Sucker Punch and Spring Breakers; tough yet vulnerable in The Frozen Ground;  gorgeous in accidental naked selfies (had to mention that);  and now she's using her musical talents and her cuteness (not her nakedness) in a Broadway revival of Gigi

In addition, she's fronting swimwear and sunwear fashions for Bongo.  And looking DARNed good doing that.  Not that I'm surprised, but it's good to see anyway.

Vanessa Hudgens shows off her incredible bikini body as she fronts new fashion campaign

Thursday, January 29, 2015

El Niñot

This is my suggested name for the state in the Pacific Ocean that has been lingering (oceanographically, at least) at the edge of El Niño conditions for months, but which is now, probably fading back to "normal".   As in "not (quite) El Niño". 

Well, it probably won't catch on.  But it seemed pretty obvious to me.

Here's the most recent (yesterday's) Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies.  Still warm out there, but not very anomalous anymore.  So - wait until next year.

Mitch McConnell was not happy

Even though the Senate passed a Keystone XL pipeline authorization bill, which the Prez is sure to veto, Mitch McConnell was unhappy the minority party -- the Democrats -- were slowing things down.  Which is exactly what he did for the last four years as the leader of the Senate minority party.

Mitch McConnell Begs Senate Democrats To Stop Filibustering Keystone XL 

"The obstructor has become the obstructed. The fast start that McConnell promised during the 2014 campaign has evaporated as he has been pinned down by Senate Democrats on one end and President Obama on the other. The Keystone XL debate is about more than a certain to be vetoed pipeline authorization bill. The deeper meaning of the debate is that Democrats are showing that they won’t be pushed around while for Republicans Keystone XL was supposed to be a symbol of their newly won power."

Oh well.  The Republicans are finding out the running the Congressional zoo isn't much fun when the monkeys won't behave.

Good choice - very good indeed

Sports Illustrated is announcing their "Rookies" for this year's swimsuit issue.  The first rookie in the issue is a definite modeling veteran:  scrumptious Victoria's Secret specialist Erin Heatherton.

Meet your 2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Rookies: No. 1 Erin Heatherton

There's a short video included.  It's good.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Celestial bodies for January, part 3: Miranda Kerr in Wonderbra

Didn't see that one coming, did you?

Yes, it's been a short while since we've seen marvelous Miranda in lingerie. But she still fits right into her role as a lingerie model, quite well in fact.

See what I mean here:

Bra-vo! Miranda Kerr puts her stunning curves on display as she strips down to lingerie for latest Wonderbra campaign

In case you want a preview (because if you share my inclinations, you'll click on the link to see the whole thing), I have one of the pictures from the article below.

The next picture isn't from the most recent release, but let's remember when contemplating it, that this woman had a BABY.  (Pictorial proof, in nude form.  And also here.)

And looks like this now.  Sheesh.

Celestial bodies for January, part 2: Big rings

This new report from Science discusses the discovery of a brown dwarf (not to be confused with a dwarf planet) or even a young giant planet that has a really big system of orbiting rings.

Gigantic ring system around J1407b

In case you just want to see what an artist thinks it looks like without clicking on that link to know more about this discovery, I've grabbed the accompanying picture to show below.

Celestial bodies for January, Part 1: Ceres

Since we've been treated to very high resolution pictures from Rosetta of Comet 67P-Churyumov-Gerasimenko, it's time for the next Solar System object that we've never seen close up before to come into view.  JPL released images from the remarkable Dawn satellite as it approaches Ceres, and this is stated to be 30% better than could be achieved by Hubble.  So now we at least know that even if Ceres doesn't have a Great Red Spot like Jupiter, it does appear to have a Bright White Spot.

NASA's Dawn Spacecraft Captures Best-Ever View of Dwarf Planet

The real close-ups happen in early March.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Just a quick pointer

Here's a quick pointer to a Washington Post article about two volcanic explosions from Mexico's Colima volcano.

Two incredible eruptions of Volcan de Colima captured on Webcam

Isn't hard to remember a time when this type of thing wasn't available for easy viewing?  And yet a volcano Webcam focused on an active volcano was a unique thing a dozen years ago.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Edgy Predictions for 2015

Edgy Predictions  (If just one of these is right, I’ll be satisfied.   If I get two right, I’ll be ecstatic.  Three right – the Big O.)

1.     The Washington Nationals will play in the 2015 World Series.

I picked them to  be in the playoffs in the Undangerous Predictions.   So it’s a bit edgy, given all that can happen in the postseason, to pick them to be in the World Series, but with this pitching corps, they ought to be.

2.    The Washington Capitals will play in the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals.

Anything can happen in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but it helps to have a top-tier goalie.   So if they get in (see the Undangerous Predictions), Braden Holtby may be reaching that top-tier classification, and maybe maybe they can play for the Cup.

3.    Caroline Wozniacki will win a Grand Slam tournament, finally.  (Bonus:  she’ll release another line of underwear.)

I picked her (in the Undangerous Predictions again) to get into the semis in at least one major this year. She’s good enough to win now, Serena just can’t be expected to win them all (she’s less consistent now), and she’s proven she can fight.   If she doesn’t win one, I’d sure like Simona Halep to host a major trophy this year.

4.    Michelle Keegan will get a role in a major Hollywood movie.  (Bonus:  she’ll get married this year.  I think that’s already on the calendar. Yes, it is -- I just checked.  Probably will have major media coverage.)

Since I’ve been expecting the glorious Keegan to continue on her campaign to achieve world domination, this will be a logical next step.

5.    Hillary Clinton will declare her candidacy for President.

Well, everybody expects her to, despite the potential downsides.  Major question, unfortunately, is health. Speaking of world domination, I hope she does.

6.    A major earthquake or tsunami, or both together, will cause a minimum of 2,000 fatalities.

These things happen. I don't want these things to happen, but plate tectonics is not a hoax

7.    Senator James Inhofe will make a stunningly stupid remark about global warming in Congressional hearings.  It will be recognized widely as being totally incorrect and very stupid. Even the climate deniers will be shocked at how wrong it is, but they will still try to explain why it is correct.

I can hope!  Fox News recently had to apologize for an extremely wrong statement made by a guest about Muslim "no-go" zones.  I expect Inhofe to get incensed at a reliable scientific testifier in testimony before his committee who basically tells him that he’s wrong, and in the course of trying to prove he isn’t, the Senator will say something that shows he’s even wronger than we can imagine.

8.    In the first released results from NASA’s new precipitation mission, there will be either an excess or deficit of rain in some region that is hard to explain.  (Bonus:  some climate denier will use this in a blog post to say that NASA does bad science because this result was unexpected.)

The data should come out this year.   Clearly there has to be somewhere where there is more or less rain than conventional meteorology would expect there to be, right?

9.    The Entourage movie will do a first-weekend box office of at least $50 million dollars.

Well, I am definitely going to go see it.

10.    The Avengers:  Age of Ultron movie will set some kind of box office record in its opening weekend.

Well, I think everybody is planning to go see it (if you’re into superhero movies, and it appears that a lot of us are).

Undangerous Predictions for 2015

Undangerous Predictions for 2015 (goal is more than 50% correct)


1.     The Washington Nationals will make the MLB playoffs again.

I made this prediction after they traded Tyler Clippard, but before they got Max Scherzer.  Their pitching is loaded.   Ryan Zimmerman should take the place of Adam LaRoche with no difficulty (and now he doesn’t have to throw to first base).   Some say that the team is the favorite to win the National League now. 

2.    The Washington Capitals will be in the NHL playoffs for the 2014-2015 season.

Despite some slip-ups, the ne’er-do-great Caps are playing a good system under new coach Barry Trotz, and Alex Ovechkin is much more of a two-way player now.  The unknown K-factor is Kuznetsov, who is making progress toward being a star, like he was expected to be.  If he can get there this year, they might do well in the playoffs.  And if they stop taking so many penalties!

3.    Caroline Wozniacki will be in the semi-final round of at least one Grand Slam tennis tournament this year.

She appears to still be playing very well.   And she showed last year that she can get to the finals.  So I think she’ll at least be in the last four at one of the 2015 majors.

4.    Crystal Palace FC will avoid relegation in the Barclays Premier League this season.

Wasn’t so sure in December, but the new manager Alan Pardew seems to have given them a new attitude.    Just staying in this tough league IS an accomplishment.


5.    One of these Democrats:  Hilary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, or Joe Biden;  and one of these dangerous Republicans:  Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, or Scott Walker;  will declare their candidacy for President in 2015.  I don’t consider Chris Christie or Jeb Bush dangerous.

This one doesn’t require a lot of thought, because most of these names have taken steps toward candidacy or at least declared interest in running.

6.    Either the  state of Kansas or the state of Maryland will be reported to be making “unconventional”, “unprecedented”, “draconian”, “extraordinary”  or “dramatic” steps to reduce its budget shortfall.  One of those five words will be found in an article about either state’s budget.

I live in Maryland, and the new governor had promised cuts due to the budget shortfall (notably the outgoing governor and prospective Presidential candidate, O’Malley, made some late-term cuts already).   And the Kansas budget is a disaster under Brownback, who apparently wants the whole state education system to go back to the days of the little red schoolhouse with a single schoolmarm.

7.    The efforts of Congress to reduce Environmental Protection Agency regulatory authority will be unsuccessful.

They can chafe and squawk all they want, but if they really try to push back against the EPA, the GOP will face a bevy of lawsuits and an outcry in the media.  Ultimately, I don’t think that they will make major inroads.  I’m wrong on this one if they pass a law that doesn’t get vetoed (ha) that does make a major cutback in what the EPA can do.


8.    Both the Mars Opportunity Rover and the Mars Curiosity Rover will still be working at the end of 2015.

They better be.  But this is not certain, as Opportunity is old and could have a major problem any day.  But those JPL engineers are pretty smart.  As for Curiosity, it has a considerable way to go and a lot more to discover as it climbs Mount Sharp.

9.    The New Horizons mission will find at least one more moon of Pluto during its flyby.

Well, there are already four that have been telescopically detected from Earth.  Enough so that the flight engineers are worried about running into an undetected Pluto ring.  So I’m betting they’ll see at least another moon.

10.    The Dawn mission will discover something “surprising”, “unexpected” or “unexplained” about Ceres.  One of those words will be used in an article about the discovery.

Well, I go with this prediction because very little is known about Ceres, and Vesta turned out to be loaded with surprises when Dawn visited.  I don’t expect Ceres to be simple.


11.    One celebrity couple that had a baby together, born after November 2014 and extending into 2015, will break up before the end of 2015.  This does not include Jeremy Renner, since that already happened.  (Plus, the mother of his child wasn’t really a celebrity. ) This is for at least a major-minor celeb pairing, not a major or minor celeb paired with an “ordinary” person.

Couplings in the heat of passion that result in offspring tend to be volatile, and taking care of a little one without much of a prior commitment can be emotionally and physically taxing.  While I don’t wish any of the new parental couples to break up quick, I think it’s inevitable that somebody will.  Note to Ryan Reynolds:  do NOT under any circumstances break up with Blake.  You can’t be silly.

12.    A well-known actress/starlet will do her first bare-breasted nude scene in a movie.  It will be noted as a surprise (or words to that effect) in reporting.

They always do it if its necessitated by plot and the artistic verismilitude of cinema.  Cameron Diaz dropped her top last year.  So I expect another previously-covered actress to uncover.   (Emmanuelle Chriqui, oh please oh please oh please…)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Vonn = Great

Lindsey Vonn was a world-class skiing champion, an Olympic medalist (including gold), and a driven athlete BEFORE she ripped her knee ligaments in a horrific crash.  She tried to come back for the 2014 Olympics, couldn't quite do it, and kept working on her rehab after that.

Well, if you haven't heard, over the weekend she tied the all-time record for World Cup ski race wins by winning a downhill in Cortina, Italy, and then broke the record with a massive win in the Super-G the next day.

Breaking the record is one thing.  Breaking the record after breaking your knee is another.  That spells greatness.

Supposedly there's a documentary about her return on this weekend on NBC.  I plan to watch.

Lindsey Vonn breaks all-time World Cup wins record

Oh yah, Tiger Woods was there to mark her achievement with a kiss.  But that's a secondary storyline to the athletic triumph.

Laying it on the line regarding climate denial and science

I've read tweets indicating that the POTUS said some straight-up things about climate change, and climate change denial, in the SOTU tonight.  I'll probably check those out later.  But today I read one of the straightest-shooting Op-Eds about what climate denial means for science in the Washington Post.  And one of the things this column does is put the futile fight over climate in a bigger context regarding the trust (or lack thereof) the populace has in science.

So here it is, by Catherine Rampell:

Dangerously in denial on climate change

I'll provide a couple of early quotes, and the entire final paragraph, because the entire final paragraph is HOLY freakin' wow.

"Climate change has slipped into the same contentious curricular role that evolution once occupied, and some sort of Scopes penguin trial or a debate over “intelligent warming” seems inevitable."

"To some extent, of course, economic self-interest discourages a belief in man-made climate change, particularly if you’re from a state heavily dependent on fossil fuel production."

(I added the emphases in the next excerpt.)

"Survey data show that conservatives — who, back in 1974, were the political group that expressed the highest amount of trust in science — are now the most distrusting of the scientific community. Decades of anti-elite, anti-intellectual rhetoric, combined with the Internet’s uncanny ability to connect like-minded conspiracy theorists, have sowed a great distrust not only of climate change research specifically but of scientific researchers in general."

And here's that remarkable final two-sentence paragraph:

"Conservative climate-change denialism is indeed dangerous, and not just because it threatens coral reefs and polar bears tomorrow. It’s also dangerous because it’s a symptom of a much greater anti-intellectual, anti-science epidemic, one that prioritizes populist punch lines over smart policy and threatens our ability to compete in the global economy today."

This is one opinion piece that is dead-on target.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lighthouse of the Week, January 18-24, 2015: Staten Island, NY

OK, did you know New York's borough of Staten Island has a lighthouse?  Well, if you did, good for you.  If not, join the club, I didn't either.    But it does.  I guess it should;  after all, it is on the water and it is an island.   It's on Lighthouse Hill; that should help find it.

More about it from Lighthouse Friends (including a map):
Staten Island Range, NY

By the way, the National Lighthouse Museum is on Staten Island, too.  I didn't know that until I wrote this post.  But that's partly because it just opened this year.  And it still has a long way to go before it's finished.

A lighthouse museum 16 years in the making is taking shape

Three pictures of the Staten Island Lighthouse:

From Bob Graf 's Lighthouse Gallery

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Palace rights the ship

In the Barclays Premier League, Crystal Palace, which had a BAD December, had a couple of key wins in January to gain some traction out of the relegation zone.  Their most recent match (on Saturday, January 17) they came back from two goals down to defeat Burnley.

They're currently 12th, actually, four points 'clear', as the Brits like to say.  It's really crowded at the bottom.  The bottom 9 teams are all within six points of each other.

But still, it's progress under the new manager.

Report:  Crystal Palace 3, Burnley 2

How to keep your husband interested

I have praised actress Kate Beckinsale many time (with good reason).  One of the things worth praising is how well she keeps her husband Len Wiseman captivated by her outstanding sexuality.

This poolside picture shows one reason why.

Well, she can keep Len interested just by what she wears to dinner. I.e., a tight white skirt and a bluse that shows off your lingerie.  Warning; not many women can carry this off with the glamorous aplomb that Kate can. But she can, and does. 

What to wear to dinner (if you're Kate Beckinsale)

The waiting is the hardest part (but it's over)

Though numerous others have done so already, I must acknowledge the unfortunately historical record that was officially set last week - Earth's warmest year ever in the "instrumental" era.

Global Analysis - December 2014 (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

"The average combined global land and ocean surface temperature for January–December 2014 was the highest on record among all years in the 135-year period of record, at 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average."


Global Warming.
Is Real. 


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The beauty of space and the Solar System

Alerted to this by Bad Astronomer Phil Plait in "Space Suite".  Almost like being there.  (Especially at full-screen.)

Space Suite_Concept from Lucas Green on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Republicans aren't 'scary', are they?

Well, they can be, especially when they travel in rat packs.

The Republicans' tellingly scary first week in Congress

"And when we look at the more than 200 bills Republican senators and representatives proposed in the first week of the new Congress, an even more depressingly familiar picture of the party emerges. Republicans’ priorities are clear: They want to deregulate the environment, repeal Obamacare and derail the president’s immigration plans. Those were the three most common topics of the bills introduced, along with bills or resolutions to cut spending, force a balanced budget or restrict Obama’s options the next time the United States hits a debt ceiling crisis."

Great. Just GREAT.

Coffee grounds to biofuel

I commented on Twitter that this was an idea I'd often had, but I obviously didn't have either the wherewithal or the infrastructure to make it happen.  But given all the Starbucks and Seattle's Best and Caribou Coffee and Peet's and Tim Horton's and Dunkin Donuts in the USA and Canada, there should be plenty of coffee grounds available to make caffeinated biofuel over here, too.

Grounds for optimism:  turning coffee into fuel

"We've industrialized the process of turning waste coffee grounds into a bio-diesel and a biomass pellet product," Arthur Kay, co-founder and CEO of bio-bean, told in a phone interview.

These bio-fuels – which are clean burning with a high oil content, according to Kay – are then sold to businesses in the U.K. and used to power both buildings and transport. "It's 100 percent carbon neutral," Kay said.

The U.K. produces roughly half a million tonnes of waste coffee grounds each year, Kay added. According to bio-bean, most of this is currently incinerated, sent to landfill or used in anaerobic digestion plants."

What Wallace did wrong

The climate-denier Twitterverse and blogosphere was all briefly excited in late December when a report was promulgated from CFACT about a supposedly “Climategate” level data problem with data on oceanic pH levels.  I took a look at the report, as I have had to understand this issue with regard to greenhouse gas impacts on Earth’s climate and how they relate to the energy industry.  Within seconds I realized that a major blunder had been committed by the author (a Michael Wallace) of the report.   This blunder is so basic that it is difficult to comprehend how someone who is purportedly educated in a scientific field could have made it.  However, it is understandable that someone with limited knowledge of basic oceanography (which is easily garnered in this Internet era of information) could make such an error.

What makes it worse is that the author, and then apparently several other persons, including some major climate change-skeptical media outlets, used this bogus report to malign the professional and personal integrity of government (NOAA) scientists who have made a career out of carefully and painstakingly making ocean pH and related ocean chemistry measurements to understand the how CO2 enters the oceans, the effects that it is causing, and what may happen in the future.  In this effort, the modern-day data is likely combined with modeling to project changes in future decades.  The model used was also maligned, and likely its motivation and method was misunderstood as well.

The blunder made by Mr. Wallace demonstrates a significant lack of understanding of basic physical and chemical oceanography.  In his pseudoscientific haste to demonstrate the supposed massive significance of his findings (noting that one-upping the established ‘experts’ on a major subject is a distinct hallmark of pseudoscience), Mr. Wallace did not first try to understand the system he was investigating. 

In order to explain the blunder, first you will permit me to explain basic oceanography.  If I state the blunder first without establishing context, many many people (particularly dubious skeptics and deniers) won’t try to understand the important context here.   And if you don’t understand the context, you won’t see how basic the blunder is when I reveal it.

(Note that in what follows, a click on any image will provide a larger image for easier perusal.)

To start, we begin with the ocean’s basic thermohaline (that’s temperature and salinity) circulation pattern.  Now, there are numerous cartoons such as the one I am displaying below, and yes, reality is much more complex.   There may be twists and turns and countercurrents and eddies that are important circulation features in the ocean, but which don’t matter here. This is the bare-bones basics.  But this is also basic enough that it does govern some of the basic physical and chemical characteristics of seawater at various depths in the ocean.  And that is very important in this discussion.

Figure 1

The salient point about this diagram is where the water starts, and where it goes.  Most deep water formation (the blue currents) occurs in the North Atlantic.    The water progresses southward, adds some deep water in the Southern Ocean, and then heads Pacific-ward, where it surfaces, and returns in warm currents through the Indonesian Throughflow and the Indian Ocean, and then the surface Atlantic, where it turns into eddies off South Africa and then the Gulf Stream.    That’s basically it.

Why this is important to ocean chemistry is the following:  as the deep water heads southward and Pacific-ward, there are two major carbon system changes happening.   Some CO2 was grabbed from the atmosphere as the water sank, which increases the total CO2 (henceforth TCO2).   The two main processes happening are the bacterial respiration of organic matter sinking down from the surface (which increases the TCO2), and the dissolution of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), which increases both the water mass total alkalinity (TA) and the water mass TCO2.  That may have been hard to follow, but this diagram (which was copied from this very good lecture, ) should make it clear.    Note primarily the difference between the main water mass types shown here, particularly the difference between the warm surface and the deep Pacific.

Figure 2

Now I’m going to discuss the carbonate system, briefly.    The alkalinity is primarily composed of bicarbonate and carbonate ions, HCO3- and CO3(2-), respectively.  There’s a little bit of other stuff, like borate, but not much.   The saturation state of seawater with respect to CaCO3 is simply the product of the concentrations of calcium ion (essentially constant) and carbonate ion, compared to the solubility constant of CaCO3.   There are actually two of them, because there are two major forms of CaCO3, calcite and aragonite, and aragonite is slightly more soluble in seawater than calcite.   The saturation state of seawater varies due to the concentration of these ions, and also varies with temperature and pressure a little.    The net result of this is that the saturation state of deeper waters is lower than surface waters, and because of those deep water mass chemical changes, the saturation state in the Pacific is lower than in the Atlantic.   There are a couple of different terms to know – the lysocline is where the effects of dissolution can be seen in the sediments, the carbonate compensation depth (CCD) is the depth at which the addition rate of carbonate to the sediments matches the rate of dissolution, and the saturation horizon (or saturation depth) is the depth at which the water column goes from supersaturated to undersaturated.


Figure 3

Figure 4

Hearken back to the second figure.  The much shallower aragonite and calcite saturation depths in the Pacific are directly related to the water mass carbon/carbonate system evolution that occurs as the water follows the general THC pattern. 

So now we turn to pH.   The respiration and CaCO3 dissolution processes don’t affect the pH, but adding CO2 to the oceans does.   As shown here:

Figure 5

The addition of CO2 makes carbonic acid, which is not very stable, so it dissociates into H+ and HCO3- (bicarbonate ion).    That has the effect of lowering the pH, of course (pH being the negative logarithm of the hydrogen ion concentration), which is the process of acidification.  I’m not going to get involved in the linguistic semantics of acidification in alkaline seawater:  if the pH is going down, that’s acidification.    Now, there’s two aspects of this.   Adding CO2 decreases the pH, and it also shifts the equilibrium between carbonate and bicarbonate toward bicarbonate ion (which incidentally rather drastically shifts the carbonate saturation state toward undersaturation).   See that all here:

Figure 6

Thus, even a small shift downward in pH can make a major change in CO3(2-) concentrations, and concomitantly a major change in the carbonate saturation state.   THIS IS A FACTOR OFTEN UNDERPLAYED BY CLIMATE CHANGE SKEPTICS, I must note.

So now after all that it is time to get to the major Wallace blunder.   Here is the figure of note:

Figure 7

According to the legend (where I assume WDO = WOD), the X’s are for average annual pH for <= 200 meters.    The green circle data point are “stated in a reference” (where, by whom, is not stated).   But the blunder is right before us:   the pH values are all for  waters less than 200 meters depth.  I.e., the surface.

Here are the problems with that.   #1, as shown earlier, the water masses at the surface are not those with a carbonate system that is most susceptible to acidification.   #2, the pH of the water column decreases with depth.  #3, because pH is logarithmic, values of pH at the surface, in the 8.1 – 8.3 range, mean that OH- concentrations are 5- 10 times higher than for pH values at depth, in the 7.5 – 7.8 pH range.   That means it is going to take a much larger addition of H+ (caused by the addition of CO2, Figure 5) to change the pH at the surface than to change it at depth.   

Wallace questioned the report from Sabine and Feely which contained a schematic diagram of ocean pH change from 1850 to 2100.   This model-generated figure displays curves of pH change which are obviously not natural – they can only result from averaging over the entire ocean surface waters.    The ocean circulation patterns shown in Figure 1 tell us that lower pH deep waters will come to the surface in the Pacific, where they will be susceptible to further acidification by the absorption of atmospheric CO2.  And in areas where CO2 is actively being absorbed, there have been direct and calculated pH decreases and changes in the carbonate saturation horizons.  Here’s where the CO2 is entering the oceans, and where the carbonate saturation horizons have been changing. 

Figure 8

(Note that you don’t have to measure pH directly, as much of the discussion on Wallace’s work focused on .   Because the system is overdetermined, if you measure just two of the following:  TCO2, pH, pCO2, or carbonate alkalinity (CA), you can calculate the other two.  Because it is now possible to measure pCO2 and TCO2 to high accuracy, the measured pH can be compared to the calculated pH, and back-compared to both where and when pH wasn’t measured, but where TCO2 and pCO2 were measured.)

All of which has happened around Hawaii.  Furthermore, glass electrodes have been replaced by much more accurate methods of pH determination, such that the actual changes can be measured.
So what has been seen around Hawaii?  This:

Figure 9

which shows a greater change between 235-265 meters than 0-30 meters, as expected.  Note that measurements (orange) agree with calculations (green), over a 20-year period. 
Here’s another way to look at the Hawaii data, showing the variation of pH with depth, and showing the variation of the rate of change of pH with depth. 

Figure 10

So the greatest rate of change is at about 300 meters – where ocean chemistry and oceanography tell us it would be, and below the depth of the measurements in Wallace’s prize figure (Figure 7).   Wallace’s figure is suspect in other ways, because there is an obvious decline from the high values shown in the 60s through the 80s and following.   Since we don’t know where the measurements are taken, we can’t read much into this, but without the earlier values in the chart, there would likely be a declining trend paralleling the model curve (or steeper) starting in the 1960s or so.

So Wallace’s blunder is to solely show surface (less than 200 meter) pH values without any indication where or how they were taken or how many were taken per year.  Notably most of the early values were likely taken from ships in specific cruise tracks or regions.  Oversampling in high pH regions and undersampling in low pH regions will undermine any possibility of detecting a trend.   Thus, very little value can be given to the data comparison in Figure 7.

Except:   one of the things that Wallace did was to highlight the model results.   The red line in figure 7 is taken from a NOAA publication, with the figure below (Figure 11).  

Figure 11

I did a little bit of work with this figure, to  try and estimate what it tells us about the periods covered in the Wallace figure (Figure 7) and also the Hawaii data.  So here’s my modified figure.

Figure 12

Looking at this figure, it can be estimated that the pH change from 1910 to 1960 is about 0.03 – which is not very much, especially with the level of technology in this period. Given that we don’t have any single station data in Wallace’s figure, any real pH change can’t be estimated from it.  But if we then look at the interval 1990-2008, which is the period covered by the Hawaii data, because the curve has steepened I estimate that the change in the model is again about 0.03.  And if we look at the Hawaii data, the change appears to be about 0.03 in the 0-30m surface data (I think about 8.11 to 8.08) and about 0.06 in the 235-265m data (8.07 to 8.01?).   So the match between the Hawaii data rate of pH change – actually observed and measured accurately – with the model that was disputed actually turns out to look pretty good.

So is there any worth to the data prior to the 1980s?  Absolutely – to establish a baseline, as accurately as possible.  But clearly as CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have been increasing, the rate of absorption by surface waters is increasing, and the rate of pH change is expected to be increasing.  The model indicates that there is not much pH change expected in the period prior to the 1960s – which is exactly what the available observational data in Figure 7 indicate, not much change, i.e., hardly any measurable change.  So are the data needed for the model?   It looks unlikely that they show anything other than the very slow rate of change indicated by the model, and in that they are useful for verification.  But for insight into the changes wrought by CO2 absorption, more modern data needs to be consulted, and when that is done, the declining trend in pH predicted by the model is borne out by the observational data.

A final point:  as I noted above, the effect of pH change on the carbonate saturation state does not appear much in the skeptical mentions of ocean acidification.  But this is actually the crucial aspect of the issue.  A small decrease in seawater pH means a big change in carbonate saturation state.  (Remind yourself of Figure 6 again.)  In deeper waters, it means that organisms with shells made of calcite or aragonite will be more prone to dissolve (and damage due to dissolution has been noted on living pteropods*, whose shells are made of aragonite).  For shallow waters, even if the water is supersaturated, ocean acidification means that it will be less saturated, and that means in general that calcifying organisms like corals have to work harder to make their CaCO3 skeletons.   That’s the peril to the reefs from ocean acidification that has been noted in several studies. (And also, recently, it was found to be what imperils baby oysters.)

* Could have implications for Arctic ecosystems, as some of them are major foodstuffs for fish like pollock.

Given all that I’ve discussed, I also suspect that Sabine’s comments to Wallace about Wallace’s work were not so much a threat as an observation.  Anything this ill-founded will likely be treated with the respect it deserves in the oceanographic community, and if that is where Wallace would like to make a career, this wouldn’t be very helpful in that regard. 

Because oceanographic scientists know what they are doing and are confident in their knowledge, I doubt that what Wallace did (and what was spread around liberally to fertilize skeptical discontent) will have little impact on the science being practiced by legitimate oceanographers.  But it would be useful if some clarifications were issued by these sources to whit:  there isn’t much in what Wallace did, and what CFACT promoted, to call into question the current understanding and study of ocean acidification.  A polite retraction would be in order here.  I won’t hold my breath (besides, that would mean too much CO2 in my lungs, because of my own personal respiration processes).

I would be remiss if I did not point out that other commentators have also addressed Wallace's work - and all have pretty much reached the same conclusion, even if different aspects of it were discussed.  Furthermore, in the Comments section of the CFACT article linked in the previous paragraph, some of Wallace's shortcomings are taken to task as well. Given the cumulative comprehensive nature of these examinations, the overall evaluation of it results in a substantial level of negative agreement.  Meaning that it isn't very good at all.

 Here are some:

Not pHraud but pHoolishness

Annals of Derp: global whacking

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Lighthouse of the Week, January 11-17, 2015: Portlock Point, British Columbia

I went back to coastal Canada, British Columbia, for a cute little lighthouse this week.  It's called the Portlock Point lighthouse on Prevost Island.   That island is in the southern Gulf islands, which are on the other side of the Strait of Georgia/Salish Sea from Vancouver.  Hence, there is a lot of ferry traffic past this little lighthouse.

More about it here:   Portlock Point, BC  (interesting story here, and a locator map)

There are four pictures below.  The last one shows a bit of a surprise;  despite its petite character, from the right angle this lighthouse has an amazing setting.

By 'Rick' on Flickr

From the U.S. Lighthouse Society

Final evaluation of the 2014 undangerous predictions

So, 2014 is in the history books, and so now I can evaluate my 2014 undangerous predictions.  In a few days I will be offering both another set of Undangerous Predictions, as well as a new set of predictions, my "Edgy" predictions.  For the Edgy Predictions, I will be happy if any of them are correct.   For the Undangerous Predictions, I'd like to break even.

Let's see how 2014 turned out.

1. The U.S. men's soccer team won't make it out of the group round at the World Cup.
Discussion:  Happily this one was wrong.  I was glad the U.S. got into the elimination round, even though I got the prediction wrong.

Wrong:  1   Right:  0

2. Status quo in the 2014 national elections.
Discussion:   Unhappily this one was wrong, too.  But we'll see if the Republican takeover gives the GOP a long-term political advantage or turns out to be a problem for them (given the internal dichotomy within the party between the radical ultraconservative Tea Party idiots and the moderate GOP dummies.

Wrong:  2  Right:  0

3. Sandra Bullock wins Oscar for Best Actress for "Gravity".
Discussion:   As I noted, I got carried away by the "Gravity" hype and didn't pay attention to enough movie critics.  In my defense, there wasn't much to go on really early in the year.

Wrong:  3   Right: 0

4. There will be at least one 8+ (Richter scale) earthquake this year.
Discussion:    Got this one right pretty early in the year, April to be exact, when there was an 8.2 off the coast of Chile.  And my guess at the possible location was right, too.

Wrong:  3   Right:  1

5. Hillary Clinton decides she will run for President in 2016.
Discussion:  Too early for her.  I still think she'll have to ultimately run.

Wrong:  4   Right:  1

6. The Washington Nationals make the major league baseball playoffs again.
Discussion:   Yes, they did.  And they probably should have gone to the World Series had it not been for some unbelievable San Francisco Giants pitching (especially in an 18-inning game).

Wrong:  4   Right: 2

7. NASA's new satellite shows there's more precipitation than expected.
Discussion:    Too early for that evaluation, but there is some data.  Too soon for this one.  But have to call that wrong.

Wrong:  5   Right:   2

8.  There's an Entourage movie!

HERE's WHAT I WROTE: "Discussion:  Supposedly, they will start filming this early in 2014. Since it won't have a lot of post-production, I think they'll get it on screens by the end of the year.  Which means seeing the stupendously awesomely lovely Emmanuelle Chriqui on the big screen -- yay!   Side prediction - Emmanuelle will wear lingerie or a hot swimsuit at least once in the picture.  Side prediction #2:  Jeremy Piven will have an epic wig-out in the picture."

SOO... the movie is in the tank and will be released in 2015.  And the first trailer shows Jeremy Piven having an epic wig-out.  

I call this one right, even though I thought it might get released in 2014.  There is a movie, with a trailer and everything  (plus, at this point I need help on the score sheet.)

Wrong:  5   Right:  3

9.  There will be at least two landfalling hurricanes on the U.S. East Coast (or Gulf of Mexico coast) during the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.
Discussion:    We got one.   And the meteorologists are still trying to figure out why there's been such a low number of U.S. landfalling hurricanes, not that the coastal residents of the U.S. mind that.  Note that Bermuda got smacked hard by Gonzalo, but still, I lose.

Wrong:  6   Right:   3

10. The Winter Olympics hockey final 4:
Discussion:  I predicted that the gold-medal team would be one of these four national teams:   Canada, the United States, Russia, or Sweden. Since Canada won, I got that one right.   I also predicted (though this doesn't count):  "not all four of these teams will be in the actual final 4, i.e., the bronze medal game and the gold-silver game."   Got that one right too, as the Russian hosts were eliminated early.

Wrong:  6  Right:  4

O.K. so I was too early on the GPM prediction and the Hillary Clinton prediction which brought me down, and we surprisingly didn't have more than one hurricane hit the East Coast.  But do I get credit because Arthur started as a low-pressure system inland before it moved over the ocean and then turned into a tropical storm, and then scraped by the Outer Banks?  NO.  But I tried.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The twins of Monaco on the balcony

The Daily Mail provided extensive photographic coverage of the public debut of the new royal twins born to Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco. 

They're cute, they're adorable, they have very little hair but their definitely the heirs with parents.

(Had to do that, at least once.)

Monaco's royal twins make first public appearance

Darned El Niño just can't get rolling

Yes, I've been hoping that the Pacific would spawn (ha!) a real El Niño event.  It has been on the verge, and in fact (as I tweeted) the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) has been over the three-month threshold value for two periods now, but to be a true event, it has to be over the threshold value of 0.5 for five consecutive periods.  Right now, with cooling happening on the Equator, that looks like it might not happen.

Still, the warm Pacific waters are one of the main reasons that some surface temperature datasets will indicate that the calendar year 2014 was the warmest year ever instrumentally assessed.  Japan's met agency already did, and it looks pretty likely that NOAA will too.  So even if El Niño doesn't officially happen, the warm seawater will wave a global warming flag that will convince a few more of the convinceable public.   And we need every one of the convinceable public we can get.

January ENSO update:  the little engine that couldn't quite

And she should be

Miranda Kerr, one of the world's most beautiful and desirable Caucasian women, said recently that she "quite likes to be naked".

Much of the world's human male population that finds human females sexually desirable would have to agree that they (we) quite like her to be naked, too.

Miranda Kerr on Harper's Bazaar cover (topless, naturally)

Argonne lab working on new nuke plant designs, extending lifetimes

Read recently that the Argonne National Laboratory is collaborating on new ('advanced', too) nuclear plant designs and also working on technology to extend the lifetime of existing plants, something that I've had to consult on several times.   We'll see what they come up with.   I'm more interested in advanced technology nuclear plants, which I think is the key to the future - both for the nuclear energy industry and humanity (until we can get those mini nuclear fusion reactors going).

Argonne unveils advanced nuclear reactor design cooperation

"Argonne scientists and engineers are now working with industry and other national laboratories to provide the technical basis for extending the lifespan of existing reactors. Argonne is also "heavily involved" in research that will enable the next generation of advanced reactors."
That is good news.  I'll have high expectations for their success.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Night sky in national parks

The National Park Service has provided some remarkable pictures of the night sky in several of the nation's best parks.  Amazing stuff, courtesy of the Huffington Post.

10 Best Night Sky Photographs from the Department of the Interior's Instagram Account

This is one of them, by Toby Harriman.  Pretty great.

Go, carbon tax, GO!

Lots and lots of agreement with this. 

Lawrence Summers:   Oil's swoon creates the opening for a carbon tax

"The core of the case for taxation is the recognition that those who use carbon-based fuels or products do not bear all the costs of their actions. Carbon emissions exacerbate global climate change. In many cases, they contribute to local pollution problems that harm human health. Getting fossil fuels out of the ground involves both accident risks and environmental challenges. And even with the substantial recent increases in U.S. oil production, we remain a net importer. Any increase in our consumption raises our dependence on Middle East producers.

All of us, when we drive our cars, heat our homes or use fossil fuels in more indirect ways, create these costs without paying for them."

"Progressives who are most concerned about climate change should rally to a carbon tax. Conservatives who believe in the power of markets should favor carbon taxes on market principles. And Americans who want to see their country lead on the energy and climate issues that are crucial to the world this century should want to be in the vanguard on carbon taxes. Now is the time."

And, I may add ... we can fund emission-free nuclear energy as well, particularly both maintenance on existing plants and R&D for things like mini (aircraft carrier-scale) neighborhood nuke plants.

Let's go with the right tax at the right time.  Now.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I'm impressed

Jennifer Widerstrom is the new and cute female trainer on The Biggest Loser.   She has a great smile. She also has a cleavage that it's hard not to stare at when she's wearing the right attire to show it off.

She's currently on the cover of Health magazine.  See below.

But she is really more impressive on the cover of Muscle and Fitness - Hers.  Truly impressive.  (Sorry, this is the only size of this pic available).

Lighthouse of the Week, Jan. 4-10, 2015: Cabo da Roca, Portugal

For the first Lighthouse of the Week of 2015, I chose the lighthouse on the westernmost point of the European mainland, Cabo da Roca in Portugal.  It's a historic lighthouse on a spectacular location, and the UNC lighthouse site has a lot of info on it, from which I've excerpted what's below.

"1772. Active; focal plane 165 m (541 ft); four white flashes every 18 s. 22 m (72 ft) square stone tower, rising from a 1-story keeper's complex. 3rd order Fresnel lens in use since 1946. Tower painted white with unpainted stone trim; lantern painted red. ... This was the first Portuguese lighthouse built "from scratch," although several earlier lights were installed in existing buildings. ... Spain's Cabo Finisterre and Portugal's Cabo de São Vicente may be more famous as western endpoints of Europe, but Cabo da Roca, the "Cape of the Rock", is actually the westernmost point of the Eurasian continent (at 9° 29.8' W). The Romans called the cape Promontorium Magnum--the Great Cape. In 1997 the town council of Sintra erected a plaque at the lighthouse that reads in part, "Cabo da Roca: Onde a terra se acaba e o mar começa" (Here ends the land and begins the sea), a line from the famous poet Luís de Camões. Despite this geographical significance, the light here is not as important to navigators as the lights of Cabo Carvoeiro to the north and Cabo Raso to the south. As a result, the lighthouse was long neglected; not until 1897 did it have a Fresnel lens, and for the next 50 years it had only a fourth order lens."

It's obviously photogenic.

by Joao Campos

by Visual Escapes 

Friday, January 2, 2015

A word that should be allowed to exist

I was surprised when I searched on this made-up word that it has been used several times before.  But the English language really does need a word that combines fabulous and spectacular.



We need to start the campaign immediately.

Lighthouse Picture of the Week, December 28, 2014 - January 3, 2015: Sheboygan

I took a short blogging break after Christmas until today, so I didn't have a Lighthouse of the Week during the holiday week.  And this New Year's week is almost over, so instead of a full lighthouse post, I chose a striking picture of the Sheboygan, Wisconsin breakwater lighthouse in the midst of angry Lake Michigan waves.

Here is a picture of the Sheboygan breakwater lighthouse in much calmer conditions.

More info on the lighthouse:

Sheboygan Breakwater Lighthouse

More pictures of lighthouses in storms and heavy seas:

Power of the Storm:  44 Ferocious Waves Attacking Lighthouses

But what do they all EAT?

Every spring, migrating sandhill cranes (more than 500,000) make a stopover on the Platte River to rest and get some calories before continuing southward.

Not having the answer to that question in my head, I did a little research. Turns out the sandhill cranes that stop over on the Platte River eat --- corn.

From this page:

I found this information:

"The cranes that visit the Platte River valley feed primarily on grain left in corn fields, which makes up 90% of their diet while here.  The other 10% comes from plant and animal foods found in wet meadows adjacent to the river.  Seeds, fleshy tubers of plants, grubs, earth worms, snails, amphibians, small reptiles and rodents are all fair game."


Wondrous volcano pictures

This is a single shot of back when lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano was entering the ocean, and generating some steamy vortices generated by the interaction of hot rock and cold seawater.     Right now Kilauea it has been sending lava flows toward the village of Pahoa, making the residents highly concerned, but as of yet has not done major damage or cut off major roads.  It still could.

Less lucky have been the villagers on the Cape Verde island of Fogo, where some pretty impressive eruptive activity sent out lava flows that buried most of two villages that were nestled dangerously in the caldera next to the active Pico de Fogo.  The villages were there because there was some agriculturally desirable land inside the caldera.  Not any more.  They did save the wine from the now-defunct vineyard before the lava got to it, though.  

Martin Rietze has a whole page of Fogo eruption photographs to marvel at.  I choose just two to show below as examples.

Can't stop admiring

I can't stop admiring Selma Hayek, who still looks spectacular at 48 (and doesn't mind the occasional spectacular demonstration).   Case in point:  the black bikini she wore in St. Barts (and the very sexy cover-up she wore, too).

She must make her husband happy, and I sure hope he does too (it looks like he does).  Since he happens to be a billionaire, there are lots of ways for him to make her happy.  She sure would make me happy, but since she's so totally out of my league and married to a billionaire to boot, I will just keep on admiring her from afar.

Salma Hayek reveals her famous curves in simple black bikini as she enjoys winter holiday in St Barts

Abbey Clancy: pregnant and looking good (and looking slightly pregnant)

Abbey Clancy, who has been modeling lingerie for Ultimo (and doing a fine job of that) has announced that she and towering Stoke City footballer Peter Crouch are going to have a second child together.   This might mean that Ultimo will be looking for a new model - attention Michelle Keegan.    

Abbey was photographed wearing a black dress, and not looking pregnant at all in it, and also photographed on the beach in a bikini, and looking darned good, and clearly slightly pregnant as well at that level of revealment.

Baby's first holiday! Pregnant Abbey Clancy reveals her bump in a snakeskin print string bikini on winter sun break in Dubai

Pregnant Abbey Clancy shows no hint of a baby bump in plunging black dress with thigh-high slit as she rings in 2015 at star-studded Dubai bash  (includes Ultimo lingerie video!)

Crystal Palace in a tough spot, gets new coach

Crystal Palace had a bad December in the Barclays Premier League, and have fallen into the relegation zone, the bottom three teams on points.  So they fired their coach, Neil Warnock, (who was a fill-in because the coach that gave them success last year, Tony Pulis, didn't agree with management and quit at the beginning of the season).   So they have apparently (not sure if it's all done, but it's getting there) signed the current Newcastle United coach, Alan Pardew, who wanted to coach CPFC, as he was a star player there in past years.  And apparently the Newcastle United fans don't mind seeing him leave, either. 

Since I always have a soft spot for struggling underdog teams, I hope Pardew can turn around the Palace fortunes and keep them in the "Premiership", as the Brit commentators occasionally call it.

Alan Pardew becomes new Crystal Palace boss as Newcastle United thrash out £2million compensation deal with Eagles

Aston Villa 0-0 Crystal Palace: Eagles remain in the relegation zone as new manager Alan Pardew watches from the stands

Barclays Premier League Table (standings)

A nice-looking New Year comet

Comet Lovejoy 2014 Q2 is a very nice looking comet in telescopes and time-exposure pictures that bring out the color.  I was able to see it in binoculars as a smudgy patch and a hint of a tail -- I've never had the time or the inclination (ha) to get a telescope.  So I'll leave the really good astro- and comet-photography to those that have all three.

But if you would like to see it or telescopically view it or even astro-photograph it, it is amazingly well situated;  it can be seen in the night sky, not the pre-dawn or post-twilight sky.   And next week the bright Moon should be less of a factor as it moves away from Orion. 

Binocular Comet Lovejoy heading our way

Black and white, with amazing detail