Thursday, November 28, 2013

Global Warming Heat Widget at Skeptical Science

My friends at Skeptical Science have produced a web gadget, global warming counter, that can be embedded on blogs and websites, as I have done here for the right panel. The counter is a reminder that global warming is about the total heat in the climate system that is accruing mainly in the oceans, probably due to the dominance of la Nina conditions over the past decade. It is also possible that surface temperature stations fail to sample the poles adequately, which is where warming is expected to be more abrupt. Many skeptics have have pointed out the slow rise in surface temperatures (or lack of rise, depending on which data set is their favorite) over the past 15 years and proclaimed that global warming has stopped. The kindest response to the "warming has stopped" claim is that it is simply wrong and repeated without examination. Less kind, some people repeating the claim are ignoring the larger reservoir of ocean heat and the net lost of sea and surface ice during this time, the extended solar minimum, and volcanic aerosols. Therefore, they are being disingenuous.

A fair criticism is that many climate models predicted a greater temperature rise. This is scientifically interesting but not surprising, and this question is being examined in the peer-reviewed science.

In producing the ocean heat widget, Skeptical Science acknowledges that bombs aren't really going off in the ocean; therefore, it's an analogy, not a scientific description. But the analogy is an measure using a unit that is both large enough to describe the quantity of energy at work and within the comprehension of most people who will hear the un-examined claim that global warming has stopped.

By the way, I drew the globe, and I do recognize the the Earth is not truly hollow and filling like a bowl. I hope the metaphor reminds people that the bomb analogy has the qualities of an analogy: not the real description but a useful metric among a population that does not have a ready appreciation for Joules, or other units of energy.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Sun spotting

The weekend of Nov. 2/3 offered some sunspots, a phenomenon that should be at a peak in it's 11-year cycle. This peak, however, is looking like a modest solar maximum. Here are sunspots photographed through a white light filter:

Viewed through a hydrogen-alpha scope, a Coronado PST, I saw an unusual brightening. The bright area was intense enough be visible in this photo, taken by holding a camera to the eyepiece (the afocal method).

I lack a means of getting effective photos through the hydrogen-alpha scope, but on rare occassions, a feature has been bright enough to photograph using the afocal method. You can see the bright spot just left of center.

This was the brightest spot I've seen on the sun, but more interesting, ten minutes after this photo, the bright spot was replaced by a sunspot with only brightness around the edges.

Two weeks later (the weekend of Nov. 16/14) I saw the largest sunspot I've ever observed, through my sunspotter telescope:

You might say, using my iPhone to photograph an image projected onto paper is taking the afocal concept to the extreme.

The following day, a Monday, was the first opportunity I had to get a better picture using a 3-inch scope:

Ideally, I would have used my larger scope on this, but it being work day, I had to go with what was portable and easy to set up in a parkeing lot. Here's a close ups of the interesting regions, which is the best I can do with the smaller scope:


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Photo error makes a nice squiggle

When taking pictures of the night sky, I have a couple rules on what not to do. One, I try not to photograph planes. When I see one nearing my field of view, I usually end the photo and wait for it pass. However, Saturday morning, a bright object resembled the International Space Station, so I decided to photograph it. The second rule: never kick the tripod. This photo is an exception to both rules:


Monday, November 4, 2013

Interactive Climate Science Timeline

I collaborated with a few of the Skeptical Science team to create an interactive timeline of climate science:

Interactive Climate Science Timeline

The timeline is based on a Skeptical Science article on the history of climate science and on illustrations I created. The interactive timeline scrolls left and right through time and has pop-up explanations for various scientific achievements. It's a great place to learn what was known to science as far back as 200 years ago. It can also be embedded in other websites. My contribution is the illustrations that are used as icons and as supplements to the popup articles, such as these from the topics about Milankovitch, Douglas, and Keeling: