Friday, July 21, 2017

This is getting monotonous-

Sitting here in the Little House waiting for yet another "1.000 year flood" - as prepared as we CAN be; but- that's never really enough-  At the moment it looks like the heaviest core in THIS storm is going to miss us; but there are already flash flood warnings both straight west and south-

And the thing is, we're forecast, very reliably; to have flooding storms pass over repeatedly - until tomorrow morning.  This is just #1.

If it does turn out to be a "1000 year" event, it will make the 4th one for us in the past 6 or 7 years; 2 so far had us in officially designated "Federal Disaster Areas".  {FEMA, I can tell you from personal experience- is, um, how shall I put this; Not as useful as they might be.)

The huge industrial agriculture farms will not suffer financially- they will get Federal aid somehow.  Smaller farmers, and ones with non-standard crops - are almost never insured.  Back in Flood Disaster #1; we got financial help from  the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, which happens to have a main office in Minneapolis.  Is flood relief on their list of aims?  Nope.  They just saw an urgent need; many small farmers about to get wiped out, organic ones in particular; so they organized a fundraising effort, very successfully, and got money to people who needed it.

We bought a machine.  FEMA's response? "Well, we know all your harvest machinery was destroyed, but you don't actually live in the flood plain."  Um, no, but our machines were there, at the mechanic shop, being readied for harvest.  About $10,000 worth of specialized mowers.  "Sorry!  You just don't fit our guidelines.  Good luck."

They actually said "Good luck".

Well.  So far; this rain is hitting us gently, falling slow and steady.  That would help.  We dodged the bullet 2 days ago- when folks 50 mile away got 8".  They're going to get this storm, and the next ones today, too.

Good luck, to us all.

I'll end with a more cheerful story, from my childhood.  This would have been in the 1950's.  My family was moving; across the country; and my parents loved to "see the country".  Understand- most of the West had only acquired 2-lane paved US highways in the previous 15 years- it was a new thing to be able to drive in many places.

They decided to see the SW desert.  Arizona, I think; heading to California.  Back then - no one knew about "highway hypnosis" yet; so the 2 lanes could go absolutely straight in front, and behind, as far as you could see (they put kinks in roads now to prevent it).  And out in the middle of this desert- there really was nothing to see- besides the telephone lines next to the road.  Fences sometimes.  No billboards.  Not even any Burma Shaves, which we loved, of course.  Not enough traffic on this road to warrant anything.

Speed- about 50 mph; very fast for the time.  A long, long, long road; absolutely flat, in every way.

Then- in the distance- a speck.  Is it a speck?  Took a while for my siblings to agree; it's a speck.  It's getting bigger; not very fast.   Eventually we can see- it's actually going to be a big billboard; commercial size.

It's white.  Can't see anything ON it, and here we were hoping for scantily clad cowgirls advertising casinos...   Nope.  Wait- there's a speck - in the middle of the billboard...

We had to get to within about 50 feet of the sign in order to be able to read the very small black print.

"Monotonous, ain't it?"

We laughed for miles and miles.  Whoever put that sign up - I still love you.

And it says something nice about humans, too.


Update July 22 - we lucked out.  The storm split, and went around us, mostly.  We got about an inch, but after the bulk of the storm had moved on, we had flash flood warnings north, west, and south of us- and only about 20 miles away.  Some of those folks got 3-6 inches.

So; besides getting more frequent and more violent- is our weather also getting more -  whimsical?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Clobbered By Climate AGAIN-

It's not that I want to post a list of new ways climate change is messing things up.  It's that new and unheard of things keep hitting.  ME.

Got a seriously weird one for ya.  Did you see the news going the rounds this week about "global warming is messing up our sleep"?   It's not that.  But.  Sleep is involved.

One thing that has been consistent over the past several years is increased cloudiness here.  Being off grid, relying on solar electricity and solar heating- we really really notice, and take data.  It's been a lot more cloudy, to the point where we have to buy more gas for the backup generators than usual (expensive) - and run them more often (wore one out, had to replace it this winter; expensive).

And here we are, nearly June- and over the past week we've had maybe 1/3 of normal full sun.  Most of the plants don't care, they only need a small fraction of full sun to have all they can use; but my older solar panels don't work at all except in full sun.

So; had to run the house generator last night; batteries really low, so left it to run all night.  It's fairly quiet; not intrusive as far as sleep goes.  But there is a low solid "hum" that is always there.  No biggy.  And my brain is tuned to the hum - if it coughs, sputters, or the hum changes the note; I hear it instantly; the generator is going to need my attention immediately.

Except.  This morning, the generator was still going; but during my coffee, did finally run out of gas.  Ah, the hum is gone.  All good; all normal.  Not going to start it again, sunny today, batteries well up.  More coffee.  Up to the morning computer chores.

Wait - the generator is running again; the exact exact hum is right where it should be located from where I'm sitting; same tone, same volume.  EXACTLY.

What the hay?  Did someone put more gas in and start it up?  Odd, but not impossible.  Downstairs?  Still humming, just right.  Outside?  Humming.  I had to walk all the way to the generator to check- is it running?

No, it's not.

But the generator hum- is right there.  It has been all day; no drop in volume.  Somehow- my brain assimilated the generator hum; and is now playing it back for me.  All day.  It actually has the same little normal variations that come from changes in wind direction; head movements.  Exactly.

Ignore it?  I'm tuned to it; listening for malfunction.  Yes, I can tell myself to ignore it, since I've now proven it's a phantom noise of some kind - but - in a few minutes, my watchdog will notice the hum again; breaking off my concentration from whatever I was working on.  What?  Generator?  Oh, right, nope, phantom.     What?  Generator?...

"Stuck song syndrome", now known as "earworm" - would be nice.  I'd love a melody.  This- is a familiar sound from my world- that is now running full time- with no cause.  And sucking up a few more neurons to keep noticing it's not gone yet.  They tell you to do something "moderately engaging" do a cross-word; sudoku-  nope, not for this.  It hums right along.

And why?  Cloudy weather, from climate change.

Have you got a weird one?  This may be the place- let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Understanding The Trump Phenomenon. No kidding.

It took me a while, but a few days ago I finally "got a handle" on the Trump phenomenon.  Really,

The amount of ink, physical and digital, that has been expended so far on "understanding" what we are currently going through is likely already the all-time record.  And it will certainly get far worse before it gets better.  We are, pretty much entirely, baffled.  How is this possible?  We cry repeatedly.  This makes no sense!

I'm afraid I know; and the outlook is not wonderful.  But- any real resolution is only possible if we can somehow begin to understand.  I'm driven to understand not only as a scientist, but as a father, and husband to Spice- who is rabidly obsessive about the whole thing.  Inescapable, for poor me.

How does one "get a handle" on what appears incomprehensible?  There are, in fact, historical precedents- which is where one needs to start.  This all makes no sense?  Then - your perspective is wrong.  The universe always makes sense- if you look at it from the right angle.  Find some other viewpoint where the problem at least does not look entirely chaotic.  (Not at all easy.)

One of my starting points was the example from Carl McDaniel; who set out to examine the question of how humans can survive the most extreme evolutionary challenges; looking for any hints as to how we might, perhaps, survive climate collapse.  He wrote a book, which I reviewed here about a year ago.  It is a spectacular example of how to do Science right.  The important bits for this discussion; A) Find a historical example; B) start analyzing it.  I recommend the book not only for the story and analysis but for the beautiful example of how to start tackling what appears to be an intractable problem.

I set out to follow his lead.  Are there historical examples, parallels to the Trump phenomenon?  There certainly are; too many, actually.  The word demagogue goes back to ancient Greece, to at least 5 BCE.  The phenomenon was very well known before the word was coined; demagogues are something humans are susceptible to.  We have been, as far back as we can see historically; and we clearly still are right now, all around the globe, in all cultures apparently.  I prefer Napoleon to Hitler as a quintessential example- millions dead in both cases; and both sold their genocides under the illusion that it was for the benefit of humanity that millions must die.  Napoleon was more cheerful about it, I think.  Which is worse, to me.

But.  When you start looking at parallels from "politics" and/or "governments" - it quickly becomes clear that sifting truth out of such history is problematic- facts are slippery, and very frequently intentionally distorted.

So- I asked myself; are there other human phenomena that parallel the Trump phenomenon, non-political ones?  Realms where humans will faithfully stick to beliefs with not only no evidence of truth, but with actual repeated proofs of fallacy?

A big fat obvious one suggests itself - Astrology.

Astrology is very ancient indeed- and during its entire existence, serious thinkers/philosophers have taken considerable pains to point out that it cannot possibly be true.  Modern science has actually tested the validity of Astrology with full rigor - and found zero evidence that it works - ever.

And - in all those thousands of years - people have continued to believe in it, defend it, and order their lives by it.  Regardless of the absurdity.  And - trying to talk them out of it - never, ever, works.  They will continue to believe.

Just exactly like Trump believers.  Exactly.  I would challenge you to find some way in which astrology believers differ from Trump believers.  I can't find any, so far.

Is this helpful?  Maybe.  It suggests no solutions; but it does suggest one solid point - it is an utter waste of effort to try to find some key fact that will suddenly open the eyes and minds of the Trumplings.  We should quit wasting time on that idea- it is clearly pointless.

That, for many of us, should be a relief.  "There's got to be a way to make them see this!" we keep hoping - and?   Nothing.  Not one Trumpling converted.  A few middle-of-the-road types, perhaps; but they are not the problem.

Us reasonable types will quickly ask "why?"  Why do people continue to believe- in Astrology, and Trump?  My firm belief is - why does not matter.  And it may not be easy to find out- remember rationalists have been trying to find an answer to why for Astrology literally for thousands of years- and have discovered nothing that will help to free these delusional people from blatant fallacy.  There is a suggestion in there that perhaps current human thinking is not capable of understanding why.  Fine- the heck with "why" - move on to - finding a way to go around them.

What is needed is a way to change the outcome of voting; and hence the makeup of our government.  There are plenty of ways to work on that which have nothing to do with enlightening Trumplings.

And who knows; thinking about it all from the Astrology perspective might eventually lead to some way to reduce their impact on the world.  Think about it.

One more starting point - it's fascinating, to me, that the percentage of Trumplings, and the percentage of people who say "astrology is scientific" - are shockingly close; hovering around 30% each by multiple measures.  And- both have been increasing, in the past decade - not decreasing.

Chew on that.  It just might go somewhere.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Climate Change Trends

Yesterday was Earth Day, and many many folks went out and Marched for Science.  The photos show those folks mostly having a great time, a very good thing.  We sent two marchers, both Spice and Smidgen marched in St Paul; the planners were expecting around 6,000 people; the cops later estimated over 10,000.  Fox News is reporting 50,000.  Interesting.

I was, of course, doing my bit; holding down my keyboard.  Oh, and the farm.  Old-timers here know I comment regularly on the NYT, as Greenpa; and WaPo (under an older name I'm too lazy to change).  Sometimes folks like what I have to say.  And that is the case right at the moment.

The New York Times Magazine is currently running their Climate Issue.  That is a section you can reach without hitting a paywall; you can see what they're up to; what the NYT temperament is at the moment.  If you're not familiar, they will let you read 10 articles a month free.

On that page you will find  an article on How A Warming Planet Drives Human Migration. Whole populations attempting to "migrate" has been a major topic in the past couple years.  Is climate change the cause? Almost entirely.

At the moment, my comment is the #1 Reader Pick.  (If you should want to add your vote, I would not object.).  I'm getting some good comments, too - even no trolls, yet!

I'm going to put the text of that comment here; since I know links and access are iffy these days:

"I was a speaker at the climate change conferences in 1988 (DC) and 1989 (Cairo) - and can tell you that all of this was fully predicted by us, back then. Also water wars and the rise of demagogues and authoritarian governments.

"It was not only predictable; we predicted it. A fantasy scientists often adhere to is that if they can explain the situation clearly, then humanity will of course respond with wise action. Ah, the irony.

"It is NOT that we do not have persons provably able to give good advice and predictions; it is that world-wide, our joint decision making processes are universally broken. We do not have one government of the planet capable of taking significant action.

"We know what to do. We just can't do it. That - is the problem."

I did, after Sandy, say bluntly "WE TOLD YOU SO."  This is kind of the same thing; but a bit more polite (I believe in polite - first.  Rude when necessary.)  Interesting that my rude comment on Justin Gillis' "oh we can't be sure" article - and all other comments, many rude - have been deleted from the archives.  But the story is still here.

Interesting today that most of the NYT readers looking at that article have chosen the I -told-you-so viewpoint to recommend.  It's not an optimistic one.  Which may be an optimistic observation, actually; if we're ever going to get off our collective butts and take serious action, the first thing that has to happen is we have to lose the complacent notion that somebody else will fix this.

Nobody else is going to fix this; government "policy" approaches are crippled, world-wide, and recent elections illustrate how easy it is for policy to be derailed by the next swing of the Perpetual Political Pendulum.  The PPP.  (Polka Dot Gallows humor...)

The March For Science showed there are still an abundance of sane and passionate humans out there. Keep that in mind.  Join them; and remember your Newtonian Physics: momentum - takes Work to stop or alter.

Keep the momentum.  Add to it.  Act.  Because, as one of the many great sign comments from yesterday's march has it:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Jet streams-

A bunch of great comments on the past post- thanks!  The one from KnuttyKnitter- aka Viv in NZ, turned into this post when I started trying to just make a quick comment back.  New Zealand weather is getting goofy, too.

Viv  - I'm a jet stream freak; have been studying it for decades, literally.  Part of being an ecologist, for me; should any ecologist attempt to understand weather and climate?  Sure.  And we've known for a long time that fluctuations in the jet streams drive a whole lot of weather.

My favorite comprehensible model is here.   The "streams" have not ever been what we think of looking at a river; they come, go, pause, start.  But.  The "norm"; possibly now gone forever, is that both hemispheres have (had) two jet streams; the polar jet, and the subtropical jet.  In both hemispheres, the streams blow from west to east.

That normal pattern is now hard to even see in that model.  Two streams?  Where?  Looks like a mess, right?  You did used to be able to see the "2 streams" clearly and consistently, fluctuations notwithstanding.

Up until 5 or 6 years ago, it was almost unheard of for - the polar jet, and the subtropical jet to MEET. They pretty much stayed in their own backyards.  But a few years back it started becoming more and more common for the northern hemisphere streams to shift so far they would actually bump into each other.  Then - they started not only meeting - but - for long distances and long periods of time; they would MERGE - leaving great chunks of the northern hemisphere with only ONE jet stream.

That does crazy things to weather, and was a primary driver in the years long California drought (now over).  Meterologists have been privately goggling at each other and muttering "Merge??  They merged??  WTF!!??"

Viv - here's the specific thing- until just the past 6 months or so; the southern hemisphere jet streams were still behaving "normally" - 2 jets, one polar, one subtropical.  But.  If you look at the model; they are now starting to form huge loops - and meet - and merge.  You are not likely to hear that from any official meteorology expert any time soon; the phenomenon is too new (though it's been consistent for 6 months now) - and they have reputations to protect.  But.  I've been watching; closely.  The consistency, and the parallel with the process that has gone on for years now in the northerns hemisphere are significant.

Yes, it's going to mess up the weather, and normal seasonal expectations, all over the planet.  And for the most part it is outside all the training and expectations of the best meteorologists- just very hard to guess what comes next.  Best bets, based on the past years in the northern hemisphere; droughts, floods, bigger and more frequent storms.

One of the things we do know about jet streams is - we don't know ANYTHING about jet streams.  We know this from?  Space exploration.  Below is the polar jet stream on - Saturn; viewed from directly above Saturn's north pole.  As reported by Voyager in 1981-82; and Cassini in 2006-2009.  Courtesy of NASA.

It forms a hexagon.  ???!!!  And - in all the time we've known about it, and watched it - it has been STABLE.  It doesn't change.  No loops up, or down.  When the first images from Cassini came in, the exo-meteorologists were stunned - no one had expected that weird hexagon to persist over 25 years.

What if- Earth's jet streams suddenly hit whatever conditions are required for our jet streams to drop into this kind of stable configuration?  Could that happen?

We don't have a clue.  The one thing we know for sure- weather and climate would be hugely, drastically, affected.  And would stay in whatever pattern showed up.  

Seriously.  Buckle up.  If you haven't already started.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Add to our climate change list...

As you know, we live off the grid; have for nearly 40 years now.  Our energy consumption, capture, and storage protocols were based on "normal" weather; normal winter and summer sun and wind.

But- we don't have them any more.  Typically here in SE Minnesota, late January and early February are brilliantly sunny.  Cold; but totally clear skies.  That works great for photovoltaic power, in fact; yes, the days are shorter, but the cold dramatically increases the panels' output; for every 3°C colder than the specified temp; which is around +27°C; the panels put out 1% more power than specs.  So- when it's -10°F; e.g. -23°C; which used to be very common week long temperatures here; the panels are putting out around 17% more power.  That's a lot.

The past several years though have shown a new January/February pattern - which does not include sunny days.  Warm (for January in Minnesota) - it hasn't been below freezing for a week now- and...

This is what our world has looked like, for days, and days, and days....... we are now living in Niflheim; one of the realms from Norse Mythology - "Mist World".  Primordial snow and ice and damp- and no sun.  Yup.  Here we are.  Well, plus we have primordial mud, at 2 PM daily.

Besides being depressing, just a bit, our energy processes are messed up, good.  No, solar panels do not put out significant power in this kind of fog/cloud cover.  So- we are forced to burn gasoline to run our backup generators, which we have for the supposedly occasional week with no sun.  Those sunless weeks happened every year - once, or twice.  Now- we have them every other week.  It seems. 

Which creates another "not in the plans" problem- we own 4 backup generators; for 3 locations and a spare...  3 out of 4 are now dead; from being run so constantly; far more than designed for.  We now spend an hour or so a day running the one generator around (in the slush no vehicle can move through) from one site to another; and wondering if we have enough gas...

And if you are using solar heat - same thing; your building will not be getting warm today.

These impacts are here, now.  Affecting everyone.  But it's like "being nibbled to death by ducks" - it kind of seems harmless; until you die.

It's not harmless, though; it's cumulative, and weakens everything we depend on.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cheer up, Brian! Things could be worse! (#3)

That's the line from the final scene of Monty Python's "The Life of Brian".  As they are being crucified.

I've been quiet here for a good while, because I was trying to only post positive stuff.  There really hasn't been much, has there?

So. Moving right along.  Going with the flow.  Bad news, it is.

Spice asked me this morning when climate change was really going to hit.  The answer, of course, is; it already has.  Yes, it really is too late to take any actions that will prevent truly major climate disruptions, that will affect humans around the world - drastically.

“ 'We have not arrived in our climate of the future, but we have certainly left our climate of the past,' said Deke Arndt, chief of the National Centers’ climate monitoring branch. "  That's from an article in Bloomberg a couple days ago,  "Climate Disasters Cost U.S. $46 Billion as Flooding Leads List"

Floods?  What floods?  The news is all full of - you know what; and Meryl Streep.  Not about the current disaster in Thailand, which is wrecking their tourist income again and has 700,000 people homeless;  nor about the current "atmospheric river" bringing huge floods and storms to California; nor the highly unusual heavy flooding in - Nevada??  They're sandbagging in Reno and Sparks- and worried the floods could get into downtown Reno... ?

News?  Nah.  Happens all the time.  Going to get worse; boring news now.

And here in the Big Woods- 3 nights ago, our thermometer registered -16°F; "sixteen below zero".  This morning; it was +34°F - and - first raining (on a landscape that was at 16 below = bad ice on everything) - then; we got a lovely, typical snow.  Typical for - mid April.  In early January.  (Sorry about the crummy video quality here- trying to keep my bandwidth consumption down...)


Leaving us, a little later, with beautiful woods, and more broken trees-

Normal April snow.  What is NOT normal about this storm is the wind that is following it- April storms don't work that way...  


The kind of thing that breaks even healthy trees.  Radical temperature swings continue- down to +9 last night; going to -5°F next night- and up to near +40°F by next week.  Really, really not normal here.

AND - in case your lust for doom is not yet sated; have you heard about the immense chunk of Antarctic ice that is going to break loose any day now?  The one- the size of Delaware, and 1,100 feet thick?  

The part about "things could be worse!" ?  Count on it; they will be worse in the decades ahead.  100% of everything points that way; no, magic technology is not going to fix this.

If you currently live on a flood plain- or a sea coast - seriously; find a way to move your family elsewhere, and right now.  While you can still find climate change deniers to sell to...

Depressing.  Yes it is.  Hang in there.  Anyway.