Yellowstone Earthquake Swarm of 2010 fizzling out?

January 27, 2010

Inside Yellowstone noted just three earthquakes in the Yellowstone swarm in a 24-hour period covering most of Saturday.

It wasn’t the End of the World as Old Faithful Knows It, after all.

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) suggests the swarm continues, however — but doesn’t suggest anyone should be too concerned about it.

As of January 26, 2010 9:00 AM MST there have been 1,360 located earthquakes in the recent Yellowstone National Park swarm. The swarm began January 17, 2010 around 1:00 PM MST about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of the Old Faithful area on the northwestern edge of Yellowstone Caldera. Swarms have occurred in this area several times over the past two decades.

There have been 11 events with a magnitude larger than 3, 101 events of magnitude 2 to 3, and 1248 events with a magnitude less than 2. The largest events so far have been a pair of earthquakes of magnitude 3.7 and 3.8 that occurred after 11 PM MST on January 20, 2010.

The first event of magnitude 3.7 occurred at 11:01 PM MST and was shortly followed by a magnitude 3.8 event at 11:16 PM. Both shocks were located around 9 miles to the southeast of West Yellowstone, MT and about 10 miles to the northwest of Old Faithful, WY. Both events were felt throughout the park and in surrounding communities in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

See the University of Utah Seismograph Stations for the most recent earthquake data and press releases. The team is working 24/7 to analyze and communicate information about the swarm. Seismograph recordings from stations of the Yellowstone seismograph network can be viewed online at: http://quake.utah.edu/helicorder/yell_webi.htm.

You can get the information from the horse’s mouth (Dragon’s Mouth?) — some enterprising earth sciences, geography or general science teacher can probably work up a great assignment for students to deal with the data and make sense from them.

Ground deformations in the Yellowstone Caldera, from satellite photos - Geology.com imageGround deformations in the Yellowstone Caldera, from satellite photos - Geology.com image

Ground deformations in the Yellowstone Caldera, from satellite photos, in 2005 - Geology.com image (This isn't really directly related to the earthquake swarm, but it's a cool image.)

Update, March 12, 2011: This post has been mighty popular over the last week.  Can someone tell me, in comments, whether this post was linked to by another site?  Why the popularity all of a sudden — even before the Japan earthquake and tsunami?  Please do!


Yellowstone earthquake swarm, 2010

January 25, 2010

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

Earthquake swarm hits the area of the Yellowstone Caldera, around Yellowstone Park; wackoes start predicting the End of the World As We Know It, at least for West Yellowstone, Montana, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Unless they are Bobby Jindal, and they predict that the quakes didn’t even happen.

Oh, yeah — that was the series of earthquake swarms in late 2008 and early 2009, right?

Not exactly.  It’s happened again.

Yellowstone Volcano Observatory logo
YELLOWSTONE VOLCANO OBSERVATORY INFORMATION STATEMENT
Thursday, January 21, 2010 2:26 PM MST (Thursday, January 21, 2010 2126 UTC)

Yellowstone Volcano
44°25’48” N 110°40’12” W, Summit Elevation 9203 ft (2805 m)
Current Volcano Alert Level: NORMAL
Current Aviation Color Code: GREEN

The earthquake swarm on the northwest edge of Yellowstone Caldera that began on January 17, 2010 continues.

PRESS RELEASE FROM YVO PARTNER UNIVERSITY OF UTAH SEISMOGRAPH STATIONS

Released: January 21, 2010 2:00PM MST

This release is a continuation of information updates building upon our two previous press releases on the ongoing earthquake swarm on the west side of Yellowstone National Park. The University of Utah Seismograph Stations reports that a pair of earthquakes of magnitude 3.7 and 3.8 occurred in the evening of January 20, 2010 in Yellowstone National Park.

The first event of magnitude 3.7 occurred at 11:01 PM and was shortly followed by a magnitude 3.8 event at 11:16 PM. Both shocks were located around 9 miles to the southeast of West Yellowstone, MT and about 10 miles to the northwest of Old Faithful, WY. Both events were felt throughout the park and in surrounding communities in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

These two earthquakes are part of an ongoing swarm in Yellowstone National Park that began January 17, 2010 (1:00 PM MST). The largest earthquake in the swarm as of 12 PM, January 21, 2010, was a magnitude 3.8. There have been 901 located earthquakes in the swarm of magnitude 0.5 to 3.8. This includes 8 events of magnitude larger than 3, with 68 events of magnitude 2 to 3, and 825 events of magnitude less than 2. There have been multiple personal reports of ground shaking from observations inside the Park and in surrounding areas for some of the larger events (for felt reports, please visit http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/dyfi/). Earthquake swarms are relatively common in Yellowstone.

The swarm earthquakes are likely the result of slip on pre-existing faults rather than underground movement of magma. Currently there is no indication of premonitory volcanic or hydrothermal activity, but ongoing observations and analyses will continue to evaluate these different sources.

Seismic information on the earthquake can be viewed at the University of Utah Seismograph Stations: http://www.seis.utah.edu/.

Seismograph recordings from stations of the Yellowstone seismograph network can be viewed online at: http://quake.utah.edu/helicorder/yell_webi.htm.

Anyone who has felt earthquakes in the swarm are encouraged to fill out a form on the USGS Community Felt reports web site: http://earthquake.usgs.gov/eqcenter/dyfi/.

This press release was prepared by the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory partners of the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Utah, and the National Park Service: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/yvo/

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) is a partnership of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Yellowstone National Park, and University of Utah to strengthen the long-term monitoring of volcanic and earthquake unrest in the Yellowstone National Park region. Yellowstone is the site of the largest and most diverse collection of natural thermal features in the world and the first National Park. YVO is one of the five USGS Volcano Observatories that monitor volcanoes within the United States for science and public safety.

CONTACT INFORMATION:
Peter Cervelli, Acting Scientist-in-Charge, USGS

pcervelli@usgs.gov (650) 329-5188


The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory (YVO) was created as a partnership among the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Yellowstone National Park, and University of Utah to strengthen the long-term monitoring of volcanic and earthquake unrest in the Yellowstone National Park region. Yellowstone is the site of the largest and most diverse collection of natural thermal features in the world and the first National Park. YVO is one of the five USGS Volcano Observatories that monitor volcanoes within the United States for science and public safety.

Here’s the map as of Sunday night, January 24, 9:10 p.m. MST (where the observatory is located); while this map may update here, you may want to click over to the observatory for more information (click on the map):

Yellowstone National Park Special Map, showing earthquakes in last week.

Yellowstone National Park Special Map, showing earthquakes in last week.

Eruptions has a short post on the swarmVolcanism, which covers volcanoes better than Sherwin-Williams covers the world, has a short post, probably appropriate to the newsworthiness.  Stoichiometry mentions them.  Not much to say yet, right?  Yellowstone Insider doesn’t seem too alarmed.

In mass media, The Billings (Montana) Gazette notes that these quakes are probably just shifting rocks, and not volcanic activity.  The headline in the Bozeman (Montana) Daily Chronicle captures the news:  “Earthquake Swarm Suggests Just Another Day in Yellowstone.”

Meanwhile, Scott Bowen at True/Slant sounds just a little alarmistRalph Maughan sets the right tone:  “No, it doesn’t mean the end is near.”  The tinfoil hat concessions probably won’t make nearly the money they did a year ago.

Outside of the Yellowstone and Intermountain areas, students will probably ask about 2012.  Tell them the Mayans didn’t know anything about Old Faithful.

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Festival of the Trees #43 features Dallas

January 11, 2010

Festival of the Trees #43 is up at Jason Hogle’s Xenogere.  It’s usually a great blog carnival — but I recommend this one also because Jason uses a walk through Dallas’s Celebration Tree Grove as the theme for the carnival.

Particularly apt in this International Year of Biodiversity, as Jason reminds us.

Engraving at Dallas's Celebration Tree Grove - photo by Jason Hogle, Xenogere

The Greeks got it right. Engraving at Dallas's Celebration Tree Grove - photo by Jason Hogle, Xenogere

Plant a seed:  Tell somebody else.

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The Curse of “Not Evil, Just Wrong” — still evil and wrong

December 10, 2009

At the first post on this material, the thread got a little long — not loading well in some browsers, I hear.

So the comments are closed there, and open here.

In fashion we wish were different but seems all too typical, so-called skeptics of global warming defend their position with invective and insult.  But they are vigorous about it.  What do you think?  What information can you contribute?

Here’s the post that set off the denialists, anti-science types and DDT sniffers, and a tiny few genuinely concerned but under-informed citizens:

AP caption: Former Vice President Al Gore, left, listens to speakers during a meeting at the Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Buckingham, Va., Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. Gore visited the area that is the proposed site for a compressor station for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Should be obviously silly for anyone to argue former divinity student Al Gore is evil, as this film implies despite the demurrer. It should also be obviously that it’s evil to call Gore wrong on these issues; but that doesn’t stop brown Earther critics of scientists and Al Gore.

I warned you about it earlier. Crank science sites across the internet feature news of another cheap hit on Rachel Carson and science in movie form.

“Not Evil, Just Wrong” is slated for release on October 18. This is the film that tried to intrude on the Rachel Carson film earlier this year, but managed to to get booked only at an elementary school in Seattle, Washington — Rachel Carson Elementary, a green school where the kids showed more sense than the film makers by voting to name the school after the famous scientist-author.

The film is both evil and wrong.

Errors just in the trailer:

  1. Claims that Al Gore said sea levels will rise catastrophically, “in the very near future.” Not in his movie, not in his writings or speeches. Not true. That’s a simple misstatement of what Gore said, and Gore had the science right.
  2. ” . . . [I]t wouldn’t be a bad thing for this Earth to warm up. In fact, ice is the enemy of life.” “Bad” in this case is a value judgment — global warming isn’t bad if you’re a weed, a zebra mussel, one of the malaria parasites, a pine bark beetle, any other tropical disease, or a sadist. But significant warming as climatologists, physicists and others project, would be disastrous to agriculture, major cities in many parts of the world, sea coasts, and most people who don’t live in the Taklamakan or Sahara, and much of the life in the ocean. Annual weather cycles within long-established ranges, is required for life much as we know it. “No ice” is also an enemy of life.
  3. “They want to raise our taxes.” No, that’s pure, uncomposted bovine excrement.
  4. “They want to close our factories.” That’s more effluent from the anus of male bovines.
  5. The trailer notes the usual claim made by Gore opponents that industry cannot exist if it is clean, that industry requires that we poison the planet. Were that true, we’d have a need to halt industry now, lest we become like the yeast in the beer vat, or the champagne bottle, manufacturing alcohol until the alcohol kills the yeast. Our experience with Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, the Clean Air Acts and the Clean Water Act is that cleaning the environment produces economic growth, not the other way around. A city choked in pollution dies. Los Angeles didn’t suffer when the air got cleaner. Pittsburgh’s clean air became a way to attract new industries to the city, before the steel industry there collapsed. Cleaning Lake Erie didn’t hurt industry. The claim made by the film is fatuous, alarmist, and morally corrupt.

    When the human health, human welfare, and environmental effects which could be expressed in dollar terms were added up for the entire 20-year period, the total benefits of Clean Air Act programs were estimated to range from about $6 trillion to about $50 trillion, with a mean estimate of about $22 trillion. These estimated benefits represent the estimated value Americans place on avoiding the dire air quality conditions and dramatic increases in illness and premature death which would have prevailed without the 1970 and 1977 Clean Air Act and its associated state and local programs. By comparison, the actual costs of achieving the pollution reductions observed over the 20 year period were $523 billion, a small fraction of the estimated monetary benefits.

  6. “Some of the environmental activists have not come to accept that the human is also part of the environment.” Fatuous claim. Environmentalists note that humans uniquely possess the ability to change climate on a global scale, intentionally, for the good or bad; environmentalists choose to advocate for actions that reduce diseases like malaria, cholera and asthma. We don’t have to sacrifice a million people a year to malaria, in order to be industrial and productive. We don’t have to kill 700,000 kids with malaria every year just to keep cars.
  7. “They want to go back to the Dark Ages and the Black Plague.” No, that would be the film makers. Environmentalists advocate reducing filth and ignorance both. Ignorance and lack of ability to read, coupled with religious fanaticism, caused the strife known as “the Dark Ages.” It’s not environmentalists who advocate an end to cheap public schools.
  8. The trailer shows a kid playing in the surf on a beach. Of course, without the Clean Water Act and other attempts to keep the oceans clean, such play would be impossible. That we can play again on American beaches is a tribute to the environmental movement, and reason enough to grant credence to claims of smart people like Al Gore and the scientists whose work he promotes.
  9. “I cannot believe that Al Gore has great regard for people, real people.” So, this is a film promoting the views of crabby, misanthropic anal orifices who don’t know Al Gore at all? Shame on them. And, why should anyone want to see such a film? If I want to see senseless acts of stupidity, I can rent a film by Quentin Tarantino and get some art with the stupidity. [Update, November 23, 2009: This may be one of the most egregiously false charges of the film. Gore, you recall, is the guy who put his political career and presidential ambitions on hold indefinitely when his son was seriously injured in an auto-pedestrian accident; Gore was willing to sacrifice all his political capital in order to get his son healed. My first dealings directly with Gore came on the Organ Transplant bill. Gore didn’t need a transplant, didn’t have need for one in his family, and had absolutely nothing to gain from advocacy for the life-saving procedure. It was opposed by the chairman of his committee, by a majority of members of his own party in both Houses of Congress, by many in the medical establishment, by many in the pharmaceutical industry, and by President Reagan, who didn’t drop his threat to veto the bill until he signed it, as I recall. Gore is a man of deep, human-centered principles. Saying “I can’t believe Al Gore has great regard for real people” only demonstrates the vast ignorance and perhaps crippling animus of the speaker.]

That’s a whopper about every 15 seconds in the trailer — the film itself may make heads spin if it comes close to that pace of error.

Where have we seen this before? Producers of the film claim as “contributors” some of the people they try to lampoon — people like Ed Begley, Jr., and NASA’s James E. Hansen, people who don’t agree in any way with the hysterical claims of the film, and people who, I wager, would be surprised to be listed as “contributors.”

It’s easy to suppose these producers used the same ambush-the-scientist technique used earlier by the producers of the anti-science, anti-Darwin film “Expelled!

Here, see the hysteria, error and alarmism for yourself:

Ann McElhinney is one of the film’s producers. Her past work includes other films against protecting environment and films for mining companies. She appears to be affiliated with junk science purveyors at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, an astro-turf organization in Washington, D.C., for whom she flacked earlier this year (video from Desmogblog):

Remember, too, that this film is already known to have gross inaccuracies about Rachel Carson and DDT, stuff that high school kids could get right easily.

Anyone have details on McElhinney and her colleague, Phelim McAlee?

More:

Related posts, at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


Time to start making huge stone heads

November 29, 2009

Well, maybe not yet.

But consider Jared Diamond’s 1997 essay in Discover:

In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism. Are we about to follow their lead?

Among the most riveting mysteries of human history are those posed by vanished civilizations. Everyone who has seen the abandoned buildings of the Khmer, the Maya, or the Anasazi is immediately moved to ask the same question: Why did the societies that erected those structures disappear?

Diamond’s essay appears in different, and longer form (as I recall) as a chapter in his book Collapse.  That book is all about why civilizations collapse.

A lot of it boils down to wasting of resources.  Easter Island had not always been the grass-only rock with just a couple of thousand people clinging to a desperate existence, as Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen found it on Easter Sunday, 1722 (April 5).  When the ancestors of the tiny population found the island, it had forests, and probably animals, and rich enough resources to support a larger population.

Until they deforested it, hunted to near extinction every animal that couldn’t escape, and caused the collapse of their own civilization.

Is this an analogy for what humans are doing to the planet now with pollution, especially atmospheric-warming air pollution?

Diamond concluded his essay:

I suspect, though, that the disaster happened not with a bang but with a whimper. After all, there are those hundreds of abandoned statues to consider. The forest the islanders depended on for rollers and rope didn’t simply disappear one day-it vanished slowly, over decades. Perhaps war interrupted the moving teams; perhaps by the time the carvers had finished their work, the last rope snapped. In the meantime, any islander who tried to warn about the dangers of progressive deforestation would have been overridden by vested interests of carvers, bureaucrats, and chiefs, whose jobs depended on continued deforestation. Our Pacific Northwest loggers are only the latest in a long line of loggers to cry, “Jobs over trees!” The changes in forest cover from year to year would have been hard to detect: yes, this year we cleared those woods over there, but trees are starting to grow back again on this abandoned garden site here. Only older people, recollecting their childhoods decades earlier, could have recognized a difference. Their children could no more have comprehended their parents’ tales than my eight-year-old sons today can comprehend my wife’s and my tales of what Los Angeles was like 30 years ago.

Gradually trees became fewer, smaller, and less important. By the time the last fruit-bearing adult palm tree was cut, palms had long since ceased to be of economic significance. That left only smaller and smaller palm saplings to clear each year, along with other bushes and treelets. No one would have noticed the felling of the last small palm.

By now the meaning of Easter Island for us should be chillingly obvious. Easter Island is Earth writ small. Today, again, a rising population confronts shrinking resources. We too have no emigration valve, because all human societies are linked by international transport, and we can no more escape into space than the Easter Islanders could flee into the ocean. If we continue to follow our present course, we shall have exhausted the world’s major fisheries, tropical rain forests, fossil fuels, and much of our soil by the time my sons reach my current age.

Resources:

Jared Diamond in a 2003 appearance at TED:


Climate skeptic shell game: ‘Please don’t read how CO2 amplifies warming’

August 8, 2009

In heated political discussions, I’ve discovered that when people stretch the facts, sometimes they do it to protect their interests; but if they exaggerate and stretch things when the facts are on their side, it’s pathological and you can’t trust them on anything.

As the old joke goes, ‘I once knew a guy who cheated at golf so bad that when he got a hole-in-one, he wrote down “zero” on the score card.’

Scientists at Oregon State University released a study that shows the tilt and wobble of the Earth can trigger ice ages and the ends of ice ages. As you can imagine, climate change skeptics and denialist will jump on this study to say we don’t need to worry about carbon dioxide — ‘warming can’t be blamed on carbon dioxide.’

In fact, Anthony Watts has already done that.

Read the entire press release, and don’t skip over the parts that are important to policy on air pollution and climate change.  The paper indeed says that planetary wobble causes ice ages, and warming between ice ages.  That’s part of the climate change debate, probably a sizable win for climate skeptics.

But they can’t leave well enough alone; the study explicitly warns of the warming effects of human-released CO2.  Watts left out this paragraph:

“Solar radiation was the trigger that started the ice melting, that’s now pretty certain,” said Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at OSU. “There were also changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and ocean circulation, but those happened later and amplified a process that had already begun.”

Watts left this out, too, and this qualifies the Oregon State study as “alarmist” under usual skeptic rubrics:

Sometime around now, scientists say, the Earth should be changing from a long interglacial period that has lasted the past 10,000 years and shifting back towards conditions that will ultimately lead to another ice age – unless some other forces stop or slow it. But these are processes that literally move with glacial slowness, and due to greenhouse gas emissions the Earth has already warmed as much in about the past 200 years as it ordinarily might in several thousand years, Clark said.

“One of the biggest concerns right now is how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will respond to global warming and contribute to sea level rise,” Clark said. “This study will help us better understand that process, and improve the validity of our models.”

Peter Clark of Oregon State and his associates published an important study in Science on Friday.  The study points to variations in the usual 23-degree tilt of the Earth’s access as triggers for glaciation and retreat of glaciers, over time.  The study poses important questions, such as:  Has human contribution to greenhouse gases prevented cooling in the past two centuries?  The study offers potential insights into research into climate change and human contributions to climate change.

The study in no way exonerates carbon dioxide from implication as a major, human-contributed component to the mix of factors driving climate change in the 21st century.  The study is really pretty cool; it should be fodder for geography and environmental science classes this fall, and it should be one factor in the discussion over warming and what we need to do about it.

Watch:  Some will try to make it the latest political shuttlecock instead.

Here’s the full press release:

8-6-09

Media Release

Long debate ended over cause, demise of ice ages – may also help predict future

CORVALLIS, Ore. – A team of researchers says it has largely put to rest a long debate on the underlying mechanism that has caused periodic ice ages on Earth for the past 2.5 million years – they are ultimately linked to slight shifts in solar radiation caused by predictable changes in Earth’s rotation and axis.

In a publication to be released Friday in the journal Science, researchers from Oregon State University and other institutions conclude that the known wobbles in Earth’s rotation caused global ice levels to reach their peak about 26,000 years ago, stabilize for 7,000 years and then begin melting 19,000 years ago, eventually bringing to an end the last ice age.

The melting was first caused by more solar radiation, not changes in carbon dioxide levels or ocean temperatures, as some scientists have suggested in recent years.

“Solar radiation was the trigger that started the ice melting, that’s now pretty certain,” said Peter Clark, a professor of geosciences at OSU. “There were also changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and ocean circulation, but those happened later and amplified a process that had already begun.”

The findings are important, the scientists said, because they will give researchers a more precise understanding of how ice sheets melt in response to radiative forcing mechanisms. And even though the changes that occurred 19,000 years ago were due to increased solar radiation, that amount of heating can be translated into what is expected from current increases in greenhouse gas levels, and help scientists more accurately project how Earth’s existing ice sheets will react in the future.

“We now know with much more certainty how ancient ice sheets responded to solar radiation, and that will be very useful in better understanding what the future holds,” Clark said. “It’s good to get this pinned down.”

The researchers used an analysis of 6,000 dates and locations of ice sheets to define, with a high level of accuracy, when they started to melt. In doing this, they confirmed a theory that was first developed more than 50 years ago that pointed to small but definable changes in Earth’s rotation as the trigger for ice ages.

“We can calculate changes in the Earth’s axis and rotation that go back 50 million years,” Clark said. “These are caused primarily by the gravitational influences of the larger planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn, which pull and tug on the Earth in slightly different ways over periods of thousands of years.”

That, in turn, can change the Earth’s axis – the way it tilts towards the sun – about two degrees over long periods of time, which changes the way sunlight strikes the planet. And those small shifts in solar radiation were all it took to cause multiple ice ages during about the past 2.5 million years on Earth, which reach their extremes every 100,000 years or so.

Sometime around now, scientists say, the Earth should be changing from a long interglacial period that has lasted the past 10,000 years and shifting back towards conditions that will ultimately lead to another ice age – unless some other forces stop or slow it. But these are processes that literally move with glacial slowness, and due to greenhouse gas emissions the Earth has already warmed as much in about the past 200 years as it ordinarily might in several thousand years, Clark said.

“One of the biggest concerns right now is how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets will respond to global warming and contribute to sea level rise,” Clark said. “This study will help us better understand that process, and improve the validity of our models.”

The research was done in collaboration with scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada, University of Wisconsin, Stockholm University, Harvard University, the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Ulster. It was supported by the National Science Foundation and other agencies.

About the OSU College of Science: As one of the largest academic units at OSU, the College of Science has 14 departments and programs, 13 pre-professional programs, and provides the basic science courses essential to the education of every OSU student. Its faculty are international leaders in scientific research.

Watts did note the abstract of the paper, at Science (to get the full text, you must be a subscriber or pay a high fee for the one article):

Science 7 August 2009:
Vol. 325. no. 5941, pp. 710 – 714
DOI: 10.1126/science.1172873

Research Articles

The Last Glacial Maximum

Peter U. Clark,1,* Arthur S. Dyke,2 Jeremy D. Shakun,1 Anders E. Carlson,3 Jorie Clark,1 Barbara Wohlfarth,4 Jerry X. Mitrovica,5 Steven W. Hostetler,6 A. Marshall McCabe7

We used 5704 14C, 10Be, and 3He ages that span the interval from 10,000 to 50,000 years ago (10 to 50 ka) to constrain the timing of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in terms of global ice-sheet and mountain-glacier extent. Growth of the ice sheets to their maximum positions occurred between 33.0 and 26.5 ka in response to climate forcing from decreases in northern summer insolation, tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures, and atmospheric CO2. Nearly all ice sheets were at their LGM positions from 26.5 ka to 19 to 20 ka, corresponding to minima in these forcings. The onset of Northern Hemisphere deglaciation 19 to 20 ka was induced by an increase in northern summer insolation, providing the source for an abrupt rise in sea level. The onset of deglaciation of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet occurred between 14 and 15 ka, consistent with evidence that this was the primary source for an abrupt rise in sea level ~14.5 ka.
1 Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.
2 Geological Survey of Canada, 601 Booth Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E8, Canada.
3 Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA.
4 Department of Geology and Geochemistry, Stockholm University, SE-10691, Stockholm, Sweden.
5 Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
6 U.S. Geological Survey, Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.
7 School of Environmental Science, University of Ulster, Coleraine, County Londonderry, BT52 1SA, UK.

Supporting online material, including a solid discussion of methods and several charts that are not contained in the full publication, is available, free, in .pdf form.  Warning to creationists:  This is heavy on science using radioactive isotopes for dating.  For that matter, it’s loaded with a lot of other science that climate change skeptics generally dismiss as “computer simulation” instead of hard data.  How will they treat this study?  Skeptically?  Don’t bet on it.

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India accepts climate junk science; U.S. suffers

July 25, 2009

It would be good news were it not so bad:  India, usually considered a threat to U.S. dominance in science, has turned its back on climate science and instead, citing junk science claims, rejected overtures to reduce pollution that affects climate.  India appears to have fallen victim to the hoaxters who claim climate change is no big deal.

From the Financial Times:

A split between rich and poor nations in the run-up to climate-change talks widened on Thursday.

India rejected key scientific findings on global warming, while the European Union called for more action by developing states on greenhouse gas emissions.

Jairam Ramesh, the Indian environment minister, accused the developed world of needlessly raising alarm over melting Himalayan glaciers.

He dismissed scientists’ predictions that Himalayan glaciers might disappear within 40 years as a result of global warming.

“We have to get out of the preconceived notion, which is based on western media, and invest our scientific research and other capacities to study Himalayan atmosphere,” he said.

As if the atmosphere of the Himalayan range is unaffected by emissions from Europe or Asia.  As if the glaciers in the Himalayas, and the snowfall,  and the water to India’s great rivers, come independent from the rest of the world.

Deadly air pollution obscures the India Gate, New Delhi, India, November 2008 - NowPublic.com

Deadly air pollution obscures the India Gate, New Delhi, India, November 2008 - NowPublic.com

It’s interesting to see these issues play out politically.   India and China both understand that the U.S. and Europe have much more to lose from climate change than either of those nations.  Climate damage to the U.S. wheat belt, for example, would chiefly close off U.S. production of wheat for export, opening markets for others — like India and China.  Critically, such damage also hurts U.S. ability to offset balance of payments issues, providing economic and finance advantages to China’s banks.  U.S. ports are much more vulnerable to climate change damage, from increase storms and changing ocean levels, than are ports in India and China — and there are more ports that are vulnerable in the U.S. and Europe.

India’s inaction and recalcitrance should not be used as justification for the U.S. to do nothing, thereby slitting its own patriotic throat.

But watch:  Climate denialist blogs, “hate-America-first” outlets like World Net Daily, and Osama bin Laden will hail India’s inaction.

Let’s hope cooler heads prevail, lest we run out of cooler heads.

Shake of the old scrub brush to Brown Hell and Watt’s Up With That.

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Birds plant their favorite flowers

July 6, 2009

In our yard, after Mrs. Bathtub (Trophy Wife™) works her wonders in the garden, the soil will grow almost anything.

Birds, even, take advantage of that fact, seeding their favorite plants all over.  They are especially fond of sunflowers and pequin peppers.

If we didn’t use cooked peanuts, the blue jays would make this neighborhood one of the largest peanut fields in the world.

A bird-planted sunflower in Kathryn's garden - copyright 2009, Ed Darrell

A bird-planted sunflower in Kathryn's garden - copyright 2009, Ed Darrell


See? Cicada killer wasp

July 5, 2009

Got one in the camera sites this morning:

Cicada killer wasp and rose, Dallas, Texas, 7-5-2009 - image copyright 2009, Ed Darrell

Cicada killer wasp and rose, Dallas, Texas, 7-5-2009 - image copyright 2009, Ed Darrell (free use with attribution)


Godwin’s Law overload: Warming denialist calls water conservation “Nazi”

June 30, 2009

You couldn’t sell a fictional story where people are this nutty.

Go see. The abominable Steve Milloy — a guy so wacky he cannot be parodied (take that, Poe!) — calls water conservation “Nazi.” He complains about a provision in the Waxman-Markey Clean Energy Act that encourages innovation in water conservation devices.

Milloy flouts Godwin’s Law right off the bat.  You can’t make this stuff up.

And — may God save us from these people — Milloy has followers.  Check out the graphic here, with Obama portrayed as a marching Brownshirt.  It’s almost too stupid to be racist, but it’s certainly incendiary.  He even admits he thinks saving water is a good idea, and he’d like to have one of the devices complained about. (This guy knows he’s in error — he censors posts that question any part of his rant.) See the ugly meme expand, here.

Girl Scout/EPA water conservation badge -EPA image

Girl Scout/EPA water conservation badge -EPA image

Water conservation equals flag-waving in America, and has done so for a at least a hundred years. Those of us who grew up in the Intermountain West may be a little more attuned to the drive — Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, Flaming Gorge Dam, the Central Arizona Project, the Central Utah Project, the Colorado River aqueduct that carries water to Los Angeles, it’s impossible to live in the West and not be conscious of water’s value, its precious qualities.

Today, the many benefits of controlling water in this way are evident in the extensive development that has taken place throughout the West over the past 100 years.  Huge cities have been created and millions of people live, work, and recreate in this desert region.  But, as the West continues to grow, we must face the problem of continually increasing demands on a finite supply of water.  This includes human population needs and the needs of the environment.

But one doesn’t need to be from the cold northern desert of southern Idaho to figure out that saving water is a good idea.

Most homeowners would like to save money.  Americans spend between $600 and $1600 for washing machines that cut water usage by up to 75% (we just replaced our two-decades-old Maytag with a water conserving front-loader).  Go to the appliance stores and listen to the conversations.  People who could better afford the $200 models discuss how they will cut costs elsewhere to get the water saving versions — because their water bills are so high.

Much of of the rest of America works to conserve water out of necessity. Texas cities have mandatory water conservation laws, like Temple, Richwood, Austin and Dallas.  Texas rural areas fight to save water, too.  California cities demonstrate that water conservation works, saving investments in ever-grander and more environmentally-damaging water importation schemes, and allowing for population growth where water shortages would otherwise prohibit new homes.  Water conservation is a big deal across the nation:  In Raleigh, North Carolina; in Seminole County, Florida;  in Nebraska; in the State of Maryland.  An April drive across Wisconsin a few years ago convinced me it is the most waterlogged state in the nation, Louisiana notwithstanding — but even in Wisconsin, wise people work to conserve water for agriculture, one of the state’s leading industries and employers.

What’s the next step up from Godwin’s Law?  These guys like Milloy and his camp followers can only get crazier, benignly, if they head to the meadow and graze with the cattle.  Crazier non-benignly?  Let’s not go there.

But let us address the odious comparison to Nazis directly.  In World War II, when freedom was on the line, there was a drive to conserve resources in America.  Americans grew their own vegetables in Victory Gardens.

Poster encouraging patriotic conservation, for the war effort in World War II

Poster encouraging patriotic conservation, for the war effort in World War II

Americans collected scrap metal, iron, copper and aluminum, to be made into war machines to save the world.  Americans conserved rubber and gasoline by restricting automobile use.  There was the famous poster, “When you ride alone, you ride with Hitler.”  Conservation was understood to be a patriotic response to the challenges the nation faced.

Bill Maher updated the poster with his 2005 book, When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden. Maher urged civic actions like those that helped the U.S. during World War II, including conservation of gasoline and other resources.   Maher understands that wise use of resources is something a people should strive for, especially when in competition with other nations, either in a hot war or in trade or influence.  Conservation remains a patriotic behavior, and opposing conservation remains a call to support the enemies of America, in war, in trade, in policies.

Update of the World War II poster, for our times.  Image from Barnes and Noble

Update of the World War II poster, for our times. Image from Barnes and Noble

It’s not just a coincidence that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (in conjunction with the U.S. EPA for the past several years) learn water conservation as integral parts of their programs, chartered by Congress, to promote civic leadership in America’s youth.  Those groups charged with teaching actual patriotism understand conservation to be a high duty, a high calling, something that all patriots do.

So, let’s face it.  If you crap on a 6-gallon flushing toilet, you crap with Bin Laden.  When you shower with a non-flow restricting shower head, you shower with Bin Laden.

Yes, it sounds creepy.  It is.

You hope Milloy and the other Neobrownshirts* have parents or other family to pull them back from the brink, but then you see Congress.

Yeah, the Nazis were the Brownshirts, in Germany.  In Italy the fascists wore black shirts.  Brown is generally the opposite of green, in political and business parlance — for example, development of a previously undeveloped piece of property is “greenfield development,” while redevelopment of a previously-developed parcel is “brownfield development.”  Since Milloy is opposed to anything “green,” I think it only fair that his shirt color match his politics.  It’s his choice, after all.

Well, what about you, Climate Change Skeptics?

"Well, what about you, Climate Change 'Skeptics?'"


Recycling = Patriotism

June 14, 2009

Once upon a time it was a patriotic action to recycle things.

Boy Scouts distributed posters urging recycling during World War II - National Scouting Museum via National Archives

Boy Scouts distributed posters urging recycling during World War II - National Scouting Museum via National Archives

Once upon a time the nation’s future hinged on the ability of Americans to conserve resources and energy sources, especially gasoline.  So Americans, from the president to the lowliest boy, united to urge Americans to recycle rubber, metal, rags and paper.  It was the patriotic thing to do.

Make it do or do without - poster encouraging recycling and conservation for World War II

Make it do or do without - poster encouraging recycling and conservation for World War II

Did the recycling make significant contributions to the resources necessary to win the war?  A few argue that the value of the campaigns was uniting people toward a common goal.  But there were some clear connections between recycling of some products and the resources delivered to soldiers at the front that aided their fighting.

In the Pacific, Japan cut off U.S. access to rubber in Indochina.  Rubber from South America and Africa could be intercepted in shipping by German u-boats.  Metal refining from ores required more energy than refining from scrap.  Although the U.S. entered the war as the world’s leading petroleum exporting nation, gasoline and Diesel fuel supplies were precious for airplanes, tanks and other machines directly supporting the troops.

Recycling was patriotic in every possible meaning of the word.

Is it really a news flash?  Recycling is still the patriotic thing to do.

Waster paper made the boxes in which blood plasma was shipped to battlefield hospitals and medics

Waster paper made the boxes in which blood plasma was shipped to battlefield hospitals and medics

So the anti-green drive against recycling, demonstrated by Green Hell, tells us that the campaign against environmental concern, against environmental protection, against Al Gore, and against Rachel Carson, is not in our national interest.

What the hell?  They’re pro-garbage? Who in the world pays for this campaign Milloy runs, Vladimir Putin?  Vlad the Impaler?

Digg: http://digg.com/d1toaH


Desperation in AGW denial ranks?

May 17, 2009

One might hope it is a sign of desperation, and not just one more ratcheting up on the dishonesty scale.

Anthony Watts has a post that looks at Boston Harbor, a post borrowed from a sleepy blog called Climate Sanity, by Tom Moriarty.  Watts, a leader among denialists, notes the warnings about sea level rising, and then offers maps of Boston as evidence everyone is safe.

The maps show the shoreline expanding around the peninsula where the main part of Boston sits.

Consequently, the authors claim, rising sea levels won’t do damage anyone should worry about.

Changes in Boston Harbor, from the denialist blog Climate Sanity

Changes in Boston Harbor, animation from the denialist blog Climate Sanity

It’s an odd sort of claim.  Anyone with any knowledge of the growth of harbor cities will look at the maps and notice the extension of lands from fill. Watts and Moriarty do not specifically claim that ocean levels have no effect, though some reading the headlines alone may get that idea.  They argue that humans will respond to negate the bad effects of climate change. 

That’s not what the maps show at all. The maps show that, in the absence of wetlands protection, people will use fill to expand commercial opportunities at a busy harbor.  That is true whether the fill requires the destruction of local landmarks, or whether the fill arrives accidentally from other major natural events.

The climate change denialists’ claims make an argument based in deception.  Harbor areas are always better fortified against sea and weather changes than other areas.  Boston Harbor is a comparatively small area, when contrasted with the Atlantic coastline of North America.

Do they know they’re just pulling our leg?  Or is this one more sign of the desperation denialists get over the realization the facts are against them?

At root the argument fails, and fails offensively: Watts and company argue that climate change and rising sea levels are not a problem, if we have enough concrete and fill to expand land close to the water and harden seawalls.  We also would need a lot of commercial development to make it cost effective to fill in the threatened lands.  That sort of development will involve only a very small area of any nation’s coastline.

Of course, that sort of hardening of sites is exactly what the wetlands protection under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act aimed to slow or stop, and it is part of the cause of trouble in the Mississippi Delta and other places unhardened, where the effects of hardening ports are pushed.

Watts also fails to account for the more serious immediate issues:  It’s not permanent inundation that we need to worry about with ports, but rather, the effects of stronger storms with higher sea levels.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been on that issue for years.  Boston Harbor is an example of a place that we need to protect from effects of climate change, at great expense, in order to preserve the filling done in the past and the development on that filled-in land that once was sea.

For examples, consult the white paper from EPA in July 2008, “Planning for Climate Change Impacts at U.S. Ports.  From the very first lines, you can begin to see why the denialists’s claims don’t wash:

Over the coming decades, climate change is likely to cause sea levels to rise, lake levels to drop, more frequent and severe storms, and increases in extreme high temperatures. These effects can have mild to severe impacts on port infrastructure and operations, depending on their geographical setting and design. Ports are critical to the trade and transportation networks of the United States. Specifically, ports handle 78% of all U.S. foreign trade by weight and 44% by value.1 The United States’ ports also represent billions of dollars in capital improvements and new investments. While the risk that climate change poses to ports is unclear, what is clear is that ports need to better understand climate change, how it may impact them, and what they can do to ensure reliable services for their customers.

Stakes are too high for analysis so shallow as simple map overlays.  In reality many factors mean that ports and harbors are threatened from many different problems arising from climate change.  The EPA white paper lists specifics.

Changes in water level:

The most immediate concern related to rising sea levels is the need to raise the level of infrastructure to prevent flooding. Ports will need to consider anticipated sea levels when building new infrastructure. In cases where current infrastructure may not be high enough for its useful lifespan, ports will need to increase infrastructure heights.

Higher sea levels may threaten ports’ environmental mitigation projects. Also, many ports have contaminated or potentially contaminated industrial land on their premises.17 Higher water levels may require new containment methods to prevent leeching of contaminants.

Many climate models predict that climate change will cause water levels to drop in the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River Basin, which would make shipping there more difficult. When lake levels decreased from 1997-2001, ships in the Great Lakes were forced to carry less cargo. Future decreases in water level would again require cargo restrictions or perhaps the redesign of vessels. Either one would increase the cost of shipping on interior waterways. Decreased depths could be mitigated by increased dredging, but at a financial and environmental cost.

Storm events and precipitation:

Globally, extreme precipitation events are expected to become more frequent, and severe storms are expected to become more intense. Stronger wave action and higher storm surges, especially when coupled with higher sea levels, are the primary threat to ports. These impacts can damage bridges, wharfs, and piers, terminal buildings, ships, and cargo. Harbor infrastructure may need to be raised or reinforced to withstand these impacts.

In addition to contributing to storm surge, wind can also have its own damaging impacts. High winds particularly threaten unreinforced terminal structures. For example, Hurricane Katrina tore roofs and doors off warehouses at the Port of New Orleans. One possible response to these threats is to change design standards for terminals, cranes, lighting systems, and other infrastructure to incorporate the risk of stronger storms.

Higher temperatures:

Higher incidences of extreme high temperatures could also affect some auxiliary port infrastructure. For example, paved surfaces may deteriorate more quickly in hotter conditions. Cranes and warehouses made of metal may require design changes to withstand higher temperatures. Higher temperatures may also require more energy for cooling of goods stored at ports.

Higher temperatures could impact the human and natural environments associated with ports as well. Many employees at ports work primarily outdoors. Operational changes may be required to protect workers from extreme heat. Warmer temperatures may also increase the risk of transferring invasive species from region to region on cargo vessels.

For ports in northern states, including Alaska, higher temperatures could provide some benefits. Operating conditions may improve as ice accumulation on port infrastructure decreases. Shipping seasons would lengthen as more ports and waterways become ice free for more of the year. These effects could increase volume and reduce costs for northern shipping.

Indirect impacts, including insurance:

Ports are also likely to face changes in insurance coverage and possible higher insurance premiums because of climate change. The insurance industry is one of the leading commercial sectors expressing concern about and exploring adaptive responses to climate change. Several large companies that provide business insurance services are incorporating risk from climate change into insurance offerings. Strategies include shifting a greater share of risk onto customers and providing technical support and pricing incentives for customers to reduce their exposure to climate-related risks.

Denialist arguments frequently come with unintended irony.  Part of Boston Harbor was filled in by a the New England hurricane of 1938.  Castle Island, one of the areas the animation highlights as being filled out, ostensibly by humans, is connected to the mainland now as a testament, a warning of the potential for nature to change the place quickly, contrary to the plans of humans.  One day in 1938 a hurricane converted the place from an island to a peninsula.  Is this really the best the denialists have to persuade us that we shouldn’t be concerned about the power of nature now?

Climate warming is real.  The effects of warming are real and quite problematic already.  Filling in wetlands around busy harbors, even just to raise elevation, is not a viable solution to the problems, regardless their cause.

Resources:


Texas Forest Expo!

April 25, 2009

Are you out near Conroe on Sunday? April 26 is the third (and last) day of Texas Forest Expo 2009 at the Conroe Convention Center.

It’s free.  It’s kid friendly ( a great place to take Cub Scouts or a group of Boy Scouts working on the Forestry merit badge).  I’d be there if I could.

Get your name on the mailing list for notice for next year’s expo.


Exotic trouble: Zebra mussel invades Texas

April 22, 2009

Zebra mussels have been found live in Lake Texoma, on the Texas-Oklahoma border, a lake made by damming the Red River.  Video from WFAA, Channel 8 in DallasPress release from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

All of a sudden Texans have a powerful reason to worry about evolution (the mussels are evolving to live in warmer waters?), climate change, ecosystem destruction by exotic species, and water pollution.

Zebra mussels are a bigger problem than any other undocumented immigrant.

Happy Earth Day! 

Help out:

If you find a suspected zebra mussel, here are the numbers to call:

  • In Texas-(800) 792-4263
  • In Oklahoma-(405) 521-3721

Resources:


Denialism doesn’t work: Polar bears still in trouble

February 9, 2009

Is there a climate change denialist blog that hasn’t tried to claim that the rest of the world is crazy, and that polar bears are in no danger at all?

As a tactic to save polar bears, denial doesn’t work.  Arctic Economics reports on research showing polar bears often go without food, a bad tactic for long-term survival.

Polar bear in the open ocean, Los Angeles Times photo

Polar bear in the open ocean, Los Angeles Times photo

You want that in English?  Sure:  Polar bears are starving to death because of climate change.  Shifts in the ice have ruined their hunting.

And, as often these days, I mention that here because it is one more case where “falsified data” or “badly placed measuring stations” can’t affect the outcome.  Polar bears don’t read The Economist. Last I checked ticket sales, no polar bear had ever seen Al Gore’s movie, let alone been misled by it.  It cannot be the case that polar bears starve because they believe hyped and false claims about global warming.  Polar bears starve because it’s really warmer.

___________

Update, 3-5-2009 — One of the signs of insanity among warming disbelievers is their practice of censoring comments on their blogs, when the blog owner edits the comments of opponents to make them look silly and, importantly, to keep contrary views backed by reason from infecting the blog.


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