Friday, October 23, 2009

President Obama's MIT Energy Speech

President Obama's energy speech at MIT is now being webcast live. Rebroadcast will be available shortly after the speech. [Update: streaming rebroadcast is now available at the link.]

In the relatively short speech (about 15 minutes) to an enthusiastic audience, the President focused on the economic need for clean and sustainable energy, but he also mentioned the overwhelming body of scientific evidence regarding climate change:
The naysayers, the folks who would pretend that this is not an issue, they are being marginalized. But I think it’s important to understand that the closer we get, the harder the opposition will fight and the more we’ll hear from those whose interest or ideology run counter to the much needed action that we’re engaged in. There are those who will suggest that moving toward clean energy will destroy our economy — when it’s the system we currently have that endangers our prosperity and prevents us from creating millions of new jobs. There are going to be those who cynically claim — make cynical claims that contradict the overwhelming scientific evidence when it comes to climate change, claims whose only purpose is to defeat or delay the change that we know is necessary.
The full text of the speech is available here.

The speech followed a tour of MIT's energy research laboratories.

Photo from The Tech, "MIT's oldest and largest newspaper & the first newspaper published on the web"

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Movie Weather

The Weather Channel announced yesterday that it will start a Friday night movie series, adding full-length motion pictures to its programming:
For the first time in its 27-year history, The Weather Channel® (TWC) will add movies to its programming schedule with "The Weather Channel Presents..." This new movie series launches Friday, October 30, with the TWC premiere of The Perfect Storm, starring George Clooney, which coincides with the anniversary of the ferocious "perfect storm" of 1991, on which the movie was based.

Following The Perfect Storm on Oct. 30, TWC will air feature films every Friday night in November. Weather plays a central role to the story, plot or overall theme in each of the movies selected.
Local weather will be displayed during the movies in the lower portion of the screen.

The scheduled movies include:
  • The Perfect Storm - Premieres Friday, Oct. 30
  • March of the Penguins - Premieres Friday, Nov. 6
  • Misery - Premieres Friday, Nov. 13
  • Deep Blue Sea - Premieres Friday, Nov. 20
Tomorrow's NYT Arts section tomorrow briefly asks why "Twister" is not on the schedule, but apparently negotiations for the rights to display it are underway.

If they're really serious about this, they need to add "Groundhog Day" as well.

"Perfect Storm" cover image from

Monday, October 19, 2009

NewsHour Features Greenland Ice Core Report

Tonight's PBS NewsHour features a report on Greenland ice core analysis:
In July of 2009, Climate Central senior research scientist Heidi Cullen traveled to Greenland with a production team from StormCenter Communications to visit the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling Project, or NEEM. Scientists from 14 nations gather together each summer in northern Greenland, where they work to drill a core of solid ice, looking into the past for clues to future climate change.

The NEEM scientists are focused on a period known as the Eemian, which began about 130,000 years ago and lasted about 10,000 years. During the Eemian, temperatures were between 5 and 9 degrees F warmer than today, and global sea level was 13 to 20 feet higher. Under many climate change scenarios, global temperatures are projected to warm a similar amount this century, so understanding the climate of the Eemian could teach us more about the potential effects of warming today.

Means, Extremes, and Hype-ocracy

October 21 Update:
If the term "weather weenie forum" seems a bit harsh, consider the responses when it was pointed out that the original claim was incomplete, misleading, and therefore possibly subject to misuse. First, the comment posted in the forum:
Not strictly correct as stated:
Means, Extremes, and Hype-ocracy [link to this original post]
Some of the responses:
Nobody implied anything about global warming with the stats....Paranoid much, Steve?

He'll get to it in a minute as soon as his dial-up starts working again

Who the Hell are you?

I vote capital punishment for capitol climate. :bike:

He's not a big fan when you question him about his beliefs.

Original post:
Weather geeks love their numbers, and to paraphrase Dr. Freud, "Sometimes a stat is just a stat." With the political polarization of the global warming issue, however, things can sometimes get a little out of hand. As noted here previously, a recent remarkably dank spell has led to several record low maximum temperatures here in the National Capital region, including 2 successive records on Friday and Saturday (October 16 and 17).

Quoting a weather weeenie forum, the earnest young lads at the WaPo's local weather blog have overstated the case: "This was the first time DCA has had back-to-back record low highs in October since 1891." Undoubtedly, this has already made it to the climate deniosphere in some such form as, "WaPo reports global cooling back to 1891 levels." Unfortunately, as is usually the case, the more accurate statement is a lot less sexy: "Of the currently existing record low maximums at Washington, DC for October, the only others on consecutive days were in 1891."

The significant point about extreme records is that they are cumulative. It's a lot easier to set records in the early years because there are fewer previous values to exceed. Therefore, records should become less frequent as time goes by. That means that the 2 consecutive records this year are significant, but not as much as the quote would indicate. A couple of minutes with Excel™, the Swiss Army Knife™ of Data Analysis shows at least one contradictory example nearly 50 years more recently. Consider the record low max of 42° for tomorrow, October 20. It was set in 1940. The current record for today is 45° in 1972. What was the second lowest? It was 46° in 1940, so that was the previous record, and back-to-back records were set in 1940 on the 19th and 20th. There was also at least a third record set in 1940, on the 16th (the one that was broken on Friday).

On the other hand, the October average to date (through the 18th) in 1940 was 59.9°, 1.8° above the average so far this year of 58.1°. Even with declining averages in the next couple of weeks, that's still a long way, though, from the record cold October of 50.7° in 1876 or the 52° tie in 1907, 1917, and 1925.

Besides being tied for the second coldest October, 1925 is also the currently reigning champ for record low maximums; it holds 4 daily records on the 10th, 22nd, 29th, and 31st. Although the daily data are not readily available that far back, those records on the 29th and 31st suggest strongly that 1925 set a third consecutive record on the 30th as well. Interestingly, that month was much more extreme on the high side than the low side, since no currently existing record daily low minimums were set in October that year.

Seasonal Outlook

Latest seasonal forecast: Click here.

Latest 3-month temperature outlook from Climate Prediction Center/NWS/NOAA.