Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Book is Out!!!

To my great surprise, the book is out -- a month early. Amazon appears to have jumped the gun first and once that happens they all do.

If you would like to purchase one right away, Watermark Books in Wichita has it on display. I don't know when other book stores will have it, but I do know that Barnes & Noble and Borders have placed orders from the publisher.

If any of you would like to order an autographed and inscribed copy, I now have enough books to fill the orders.  Please send $30 to:

Mike Smith Enterprises
4031 N. Tara Circle
Wichita, Kansas  67226

The price includes the book, shipping and sales tax.  The autograph is free!

Even better, come see us!  A list of book signings is below and we expect to have others.

Some Interesting Thoughts About Tornado Season

From AccuWeather.

Tell-Tale Toads?

The first-ever earthquake warning system?

Friday Severe Weather Outlook

From AccuWeather:
I'll be posting more on the late-week severe weather threat this evening.

Climate Pricing

No, I'm not talking about "Cap and Trade," but rather the decision by the Miami Dolphins to charge $5 more per ticket to sit on the shady side of Sun Life Stadium where, they say, temperatures are "as much as 15° cooler."  That is a dubious claim (it may feel 15° cooler in the shade on a cloudless day), but I give the Dolphins credit for creativity in their pricing.

Hat Tip:  Sports Illustrated.

For more on "Sun Life Stadium" from Dave Barry, click here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Amazon Delivery

Both my brother and I received emails from Amazon informing us that the delivery of Warnings has been moved up to April 12-16. This is the first I have heard of this.  I have emailed the publisher (which is closed for the day). I'll post more when I learn more.

Thank You!!

I don't know why, but Warnings was selling like hotcakes at Amazon today. Thank you!!

The "book tour" starts in less than a month (first stop is Thursday, April 29th in State College, Pa.) and the book will be released in just over a month (May 1st).

Book tours are notorious for last minute schedule changes, so I'm going to wait a while before posting the schedule.

We do have these events firmed up:

  • Book signing, Watermark Books, Wichita, May 5, 7pm
  • Book signing, Borders Books Newmarket Sq., Wichita, May 8, 1pm
  • Book signing, Barnes & Noble, Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, May 11, 7pm
  • "Miracle at Greensburg," Exploration Place, Wichita, May 22, 1 and 3pm
We are working on at least two more.  


Kim and I are going to be "blogging the book tour," so stay tuned!

The "Rodney Dangerfield of Sciences"

Yesterday evening, I posted on The New York Times' story about the global warming views of television meteorologists versus climatologists.  I read the 70+ comments and found them illuminating. For years I have joked that meteorology is the "Rodney Dangerfield of Sciences," we get no respect. Here is a small sample of those comments that illustrate what I mean...

Emily in Boston,
How often are meteorologists right? Maybe 10% of the time? There is hard evidence in support of climate change.

Nelson in NYC,
Most weather casters are not exactly intellectual giants.

Jason in Boston,
Is this a joke? TV "meterologists" versus actual scientists?  [Jason, you might want to learn to spell "meteorologist"]

Richard in Pasadena says,
Third weather forecasters can't get tomorrows temperature correct more than 50% of the time.
There was a time when the weather and astrology were on the same page in the newspaper. I'd say those editors had it right.


It goes on. This is why I wrote Warnings. Meteorologists have been more successful at saving lives (measured on a deaths per hundred thousand of population) than cardiology, cancer research or traffic safety. I'm hoping the dedication and good science practiced by meteorologists is finally recognized and appreciated.

Flooding in the Northeast

The rain keeps falling. More here from AccuWeather.

Topeka's Falcons

No, that is not the name of a sports team. There are nesting Peregrine Falcons on top of Westar Energy's building in downtown Topeka.  They have even set up cameras to watch their progress.

Westar Energy (when it was Kansas Gas & Electric Co.) was WeatherData's first client back in 1981.

Nice work, Westar.

Hat Tip:  Blog follower Keith.

"Humans are Too Stupid to Prevent Global Warming"

Sigh.

Not only are we "too stupid," there is this:

One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.

A Thoughtful, Refreshing Article

Here is a thought-provoking article from Yale University. It states, in part,

Efforts to use climate science to threaten an apocalyptic future should we fail to embrace green proposals, and to characterize present-day natural disasters as terrifying previews of an impending day of reckoning, have only served to undermine the credibility of both climate science and progressive energy policy.

The essay also suggests that climate advocacy and research have become too intertwined, with environmentalists seeking to represent the science as “apocalyptic, imminent, and certain.” The science has been harmed as a result, they argue, stating:


Greens pushed climate scientists to become outspoken advocates of action to address global warming. Captivated by the notion that their voices and expertise were singularly necessary to save the world, some climate scientists attempted to oblige. The result is that the use, and misuse, of climate science by advocates began to wash back into the science itself.


The only substantial disagreement with the essay is the "need" to decarbonize. If we aren't sure about 'global warming' then CO2 levels are moot -- in fact, one can make a reasonable argument that more CO2 is better.

For me, nuclear and solar make tremendous sense on their own regardless of carbon considerations.

Hat tip:  Watts Up With That.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Flaw in the NY Times' TV versus Climatologists Article

Several have been kind enough to email me this article from The New York Times.

The article discusses a new poll of TV meteorologists which indicates considerable skepticism about 'global warming.' The article challenges the qualifications of some TV meteorologists. Fair enough, some are superbly qualified in atmospheric science, some have qualifications that are weak to non-existent. But, consider this comment:

Resentment may also play a role in the divide. Climatologists are almost always affiliated with universities or research institutions where a doctoral degree is required. Most meteorologists, however, can get jobs as weather forecasters with a college degree.
“There is a little bit of elitist-versus-populist tensions,” Mr. Henson said. “There are meteorologists who feel, ‘Just because I have a bachelor’s degree doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on.’ ”

The underlying premise of the article is that 'climatologists' are "qualified" to discern the workings of the atmosphere. But are they?

Lets take, for example, the leading 'climatologist' on the pro-global warming side, Dr. Jim Hansen of NASA. Dr. Hansen says coal trains are "death trains." His resume is here. Dr. Hansen has a great deal of education, but none of it is in atmospheric science.

I have found this lack of a background in atmospheric science to be the case with many leading global warming proponents.

Of course, the Times doesn't like the fact that many meteorologists are not global warming proponents,

Seeing danger in the divide between climate scientists and meteorologists, a variety of groups concerned with educating the public on climate change — including the National Environmental Education Foundation, a federally financed nonprofit, and Yale — are working to close the gap with research and educational forum.


I attended one of these meetings, in Denver. Of course, only one side of the 'science' was presented. TV meteorologist after meteorologist went to the microphone, intimidated by the Ph.D firepower in the room, and began whatever question they wished to ask with, "I accept the IPCC's position on global warming..." It was embarrassing. It reminded me of the way AA meetings are depicted on television ("I'm Joe Schmoe and I'm an alcoholic...").

Given Climategate and the very serious issues it raised, it seems to me that the best approach would be to stop trying to convince TV meteorologists and concentrate on improving the quality and accuracy of climate science.

I'll have more to say on a better approach in the next posting in a few hours.

"The Day After Tomorrow" -- Not!

The "kabooms" you hear in the background are two more 'global warming' myths being exploded.

Remember the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" about catastrophic cooling of the earth caused by global warming? There were a rash of media stories about a scientific paper published five years ago that purported to show that just such a scenario was possible.

Thanks to the invaluable Bishop Hill Blog, we learn that ocean current which the original paper said was slowing (thus leading to potential cooling) not only isn't slowing but may be speeding up a little. The original paper had an arithmetic error. That's fine, these things happen in science, but here is the kicker:  We are just now learning about this because when the error was discovered in 2007, Nature wouldn't publish the corrected information "because it would be of no great interest to Nature readers"!


Lest you think this is an isolated case, lets take a look at a story in the current Time magazine web site, about cows and meat eating contributing much less (if at all) to 'global warming' than originally thought. Turns out the methodology for determining that eating meat was a major contributor to global warming was flawed. But here is kicker #2: They knew the methodology was wrong when they issued the report!


Pierre Gerber, livestock officer at the FAO and one of the 2006 report's authors, admits that the comparison was flawed. "It's a weakness that we were aware of the issue when we used it," he says. "But it's not the point of the report.

"Not the point of the report"? What was the "point of the report" if they knowingly published flawed information?

One would think that Time would have gone on to quote someone regarding the questions of scientific ethics that this incident raises. Unfortunately, they quote Steve Schneider, one of the most ardent global warming alarmists who rationalizes this and other incidents of bad science in the global warming literature.

In order for science to have a positive effect on our society, we as scientists must be able be trusted to adhere to the scientific method. Sadly, since Climategate broke in November, we have learned that there are far too many incidents of scientists willing to compromise those principles.

UPDATE:  The WSJ also noticed the Time article.

"Waiting On A Train"

While on vacation, I read an excellent book, "Waiting On A Train," which makes a practical case for a major increase in passenger train frequency and numbers across our nation.  The fact is that faster and more frequent trains could make a major difference in markets like Dallas - Houston, Kansas City - St. Louis, or St. Louis - Chicago where 90 to 120 mph trains (which can be run on existing railroad rights-of-way) would make the downtown to downtown trip faster than by air and take thousands of vehicles off of our overextended highways. Upgrading railroad track is much less expensive than building new highways and much less disruptive, as well.

I highly recommend this book.

"Wind Power is No Solution to Anything"


I used to be a big proponent of wind power. However, as more wind generators have been installed and more experienced gained I have learned they are a boondoggle.  The reasons are stated in this guest posting on Roger Pielke, Sr.'s blog.

I fear that, in a decade, as the U.S. achieves the level of experience of many European nations that are pulling the plug on wind power, we will have have thousands of rusting eyestores cluttering the view on the Great Plains.

Essential Tom Fuller Column #1

UPDATE AND BUMP:
From Instapundit.com,


MORE CLIMATEGATE COMPLICATIONS: “The ClimateGate plot thickens. Lord Oxburgh, a member of the House of Lords who was appointed ‘to chair a scientific assessment panel that will examine the published science of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia,’ has links to businesses that would benefit financially from low-carbon technology: he is chairman of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and the wind energy company Falck Renewables.”

Original Posting...

I was on vacation when Tom Fuller wrote about the whitewash going on in the Climategate investigations. Please read his column.

In the words of Dwight Eisenhower,

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.


Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.

The institutions investigating themselves -- when a finding of improper conduct would imperil millions in research dollars -- is a perfect example of what President Eisenhower warned against.

Science 'Proves' Biblical Account

The plagues on Egypt described in the Book of Exodus have been 'proven' by science.  Their cause:  Wait for it.....drum roll...climate change!


They found that Rameses reign coincided with a warm, wet climate...


Freeing the Israelites:  Is there anything global warming cannot do?!

Hat tip:  Powerline.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Plague of Locusts

The Wall Street Journal has details on the potential for a severe locust outbreak from Nebraska into the Northwest. (subscription may be required)

Farm Vehicles are Getting Sleeker All the Time

What A Bunch of Bozos

In June, voters in Maine will decide whether to accept a state overhaul of its tax system that would newly tax services like tailor alterations, blimp rides, and entertainment provided by clowns, comedians and jugglers


Since the Maine legislature believes taxing clowns is a good idea, how about taxing politicians?


Hat tip:  Jammie Wearing Fool

Wichita Marriott Brunch

Kathleen and I just returned from her (delayed) birthday brunch. I asked where she would like to go and she said, "Let's try the Marriott, we haven't been to brunch there in quite a while."

Wow. It was terrific, including the best brisket I have ever tasted (and I am from KC, known for good bar-b-que), great deserts, good service, everything!  Price:  $17!*

I asked if they were having it for Easter.  She told me it would be even bigger than their Palm Sunday brunch (not sure how that is possible) and that reservations were required.  I'm sure that if it is bigger, the price will be higher but I didn't ask how much. In any case, check it out if you are looking for a great meal to celebrate Easter.


* I often comment to Kathleen what a great quality of life we have in Wichita at a very reasonable price.

"Earth Hour" Bust

I wrote about "Earth Hour" a few days ago, see here. While praising The Wichita Eagle's sports coverage in the KSU posting below, I was disappointed that they ran a puff piece on the subject in today's paper, implying it was a big success:

Millions of people were turning off lights and appliances for an hour from 8:30 p.m. in a gesture to highlight environmental concerns and to call for a binding pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions.


"We have everyone from Casablanca to the safari camps of Namibia and Tanzania taking part," said Greg Bourne, CEO of World Wildlife Fund in Australia, which started Earth Hour in 2007 in Sydney before it spread to every continent.


Everyone? If "everyone" and "millions" were turning out their lights for an hour, it would have an effect on electricity consumption, right? It appears that was not the case. Anthony Watts documents that there was zero effect on electricity consumption in California. Click here to read his report.

So we would have more than one nation represented, I took a look at Ontario's electricity demand from yesterday.
If anything electricity usage went up during "Earth Hour" (the upward spike in the light green line) and was greater than projected demand!  It looks as if there was an Earth Hour backlash.The raw data is here.

While California and Ontario do not represent the entire world, the claim that "millions" turned out their lights for an hour appears to be dubious, at best.

We Lost -- But We Really Won

My Kansas State basketball Wildcats, obviously drained from the thrilling double-overtime victory Thursday night, were beaten by a superior Butler team yesterday.

But, I believe that collegiate sports should be more than simply winning. Coach Frank Martin (like KSU football coach Bill Snyder) has tried to instill more into his players. Today's column by Bob Lutz of The Wichita Eagle captures this well:

K-State, even after losing to Butler 63-56 in the NCAA West Regional final Saturday afternoon, carries its head high, believing that the best is yet to come. These are impressive players and people who gave credit to the Bulldogs for the way they went about winning the game instead of blaming themselves or anyone else for losing...

Remember, though, K-State hasn't been to a Final Four since 1964. The dormant program that started to stir four years ago when Bob Huggins was hired is now kicking and screaming and made it closer to Indy than anyone expected before the season started.

"I told them that winning and losing are very superficial,'' Martin said of his post-game speech to players. "You invest so much and you should hurt when you don't win. But in the big picture, these kids have made a lot of people live for something again. They've made K-Staters around this country believe in them, believe in the program, believe in their school and stick their chest out.''

Credit Martin and his assistant coaches. They have recruited not only quality players, but quality people to K-State. They believe in giving second chances to players who couldn't find themselves in basketball or in life at other places. The Wildcats' roster is loaded with interesting, quality guys who are entertaining, thoughtful and who have more on their minds than just basketball...

It's a loose group, surprising considering the intensity that burns through Martin. But when he tells people he is first a mentor and an educator, and that basketball is just a forum he uses, he's not pulling anyone's leg.

... Coaches can be and often are important role models in the lives of young people, but the dollars they get paid at the big-time college level have changed the motives for some. Martin strives for something more than the green, though. He relishes the chance to work with players from all backgrounds and spent a good portion of every news conference during the NCAA Tournament to espouse his theories on educating. His message is consistent and iron-fisted.

The entire column is well worth reading. As far as I'm concerned, getting to the Elite Eight is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. If the young men under Coach Martin get an education and a wonderful mentor then they -- and our society -- will always be winners.  

A Superb Article

Dr. John Wallace, a research meteorologist, has written a well-balanced article on environmental challenges in The Seattle Times. 


For those new to the my blog:  It is not that 'global warming' is not a threat. The problem is that we don't know how much of a threat it is given the huge shortcomings in the IPCC's scientific case. GW is not (in my view) an imminent threat, so we have time to rework the research and put more intelligent energy policies in place (which make sense on their own) that will contribute to lessening the effects of GW if they turn out to be significant.

But there are much more serious and much more solvable environmental problems in the world than GW. Some of these can be solved by individuals (click on video) and some require governmental work. Yet, these are often being overlooked due to the overselling of the threat of global warming.

Hat Tip:  Climatescience.org.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Global Warming Gardens

Global warming artistic fantasy.

Whoa!

I love the time-lapse at the beginning of this video. It shows the "wall cloud" (the rotating, lowering of clouds in the background) well and looks like something out of "Twister." The wall cloud is the point of origin for many tornadoes.

That said, their attempt to get in front of the tornado was foolhardy and could have resulted in serious injury. As it was, their rear window was completely blown out and their front window was seriously damaged.

Amateurs have no business storm chasing outside of one of the guided tours.

An Essential Tom Fuller Column, #2

Tom Fuller is an excellent environmental reporter.  This column, "Greenpeace Morphs into Big Tobbaco" is essential reading on who are actually the "Davids" and who are the "Goliaths" in the field of global warming. Here are a couple of highlights:

Greenpeace is crossing a line. They are adopting the tactics of Big Tobacco in an effort to fight what they want you to think is a Big Tobacco array of interests against them...


But their [Greenpeace's] budget for one year is 10 times greater than all the money they say has been contributed to their opponents over the past 10 years. So is that of the World Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, etc. The report adds up 10 years of contributions to make the totals look bigger--ooh! Exxon gave the Cato Institute $125,000 over a 12 year period. The Cato Institute writes about every subject under the sun. Giving them $10,000 a year does not seem like funding a machine to attack climate change. It's the very conservative management of an energy company giving a token donation to a very conservative thinktank. I'm a progressive liberal. I oppose almost everything the Cato Institute has ever written. But come on, people. Get real. Is nobody even going to mention the $100 million Exxon donated to Stanford so Stephen Schneider can continue his advocacy of Greenpeace and the fight against global warming? Isn't that relevant to this discussion at all? Is nobody even going to mention the institutional donors to Phil Jones' CRU, and all the energy companies among them? How much money do the environmental NGOs receive from big energy companies, and why don't they publish that?


Amen!  Thank you for your valuable contribution, Tom.  

Friday, March 26, 2010

Severe Weather Threat Easter Weekend

I continue to believe that the first significant severe weather outbreak of 2010 will occur in the period from March 31 through April 4th in the Central U.S.

I know that seems vague, but my intention is only to give a preliminary "heads up," especially since a lot of people travel around Easter.

Comments have been made the last few days along the line of, "where is the tornado season?" It is late getting going this year -- but that doesn't mean that any given day can't produce wicked tornadoes.

Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can't Do? Part III

This must be the week for outlandish global warming claims. National Geographic (which really should know better) is the latest culprit.

Here is my "favorite" (sarcasm) part:  

Global warming could also precipitate violence by increasing "eco migration," or migration forced by some cataclysmic environmental event. (See "Climate Change Creating Millions of 'Eco Refugees,' UN Warns.")

I just posted on the subject of "Eco-Migration" in the "Earth Hour" item below. There was a prediction the earth would be overwhelmed by an "exodus of eco-refugees" by the year 2000. 

In the biometeorology course I took in college we learned that crime spikes during heat waves and current research still indicates that is the case. But, if global warming is a primary driver of crime, why wasn't worldwide crime off the charts in 1998 when earth's temperatures peaked?

In fact, given the temperature peak in 1998 and the prediction of the "eco-exodus" by 2000, it would have seemed to be a good "test case" of the hypothesis that global warming would drive crime and a related-migration. 

Since neither occurred, I guess we have found another thing global warning cannot do. 

"A Daring Plan Put Together By a Bullheaded Man With a Dream"

A perfect ending to a great column about last night's double-overtime win by K-State.

The Product We've All Been Waiting For...

Bacon-flavored envelopes.

"Earth Hour"

I was watching "Bones" earlier this evening and I saw a commercial (cast with cute little children, natch) that implores the viewer to "stand up for climate change solutions" (or something like that) and turn out your lights for an hour. So, I went to their web site and this caught my eye:

New economic modelling indicates the world has just five years to initiate a low carbon industrial revolution before runaway climate change becomes almost inevitable. But it can be done, and the long term benefits will be enormous.

I clicked on the link to learn about this economic (note, not "climate") model. It took me to a WWF advocacy publication that restates the contention that the world has "just five years" but does not document how that conclusion was reached!  I guess they assumed no one would check. Regardless, consider this:  From the results of an economic model, how could you possibly determine whether "runaway climate change" will occur in five years!?

It appears this is yet another example of fear-mongering.  We have heard these global warming "deadlines" before, starting in 1989 in The Miami Herald. Here is a screen capture from their archive (click to enlarge):
"Wiped off the face of the earth!  Exodus of Eco-Refugees! Chaos!" all by year 2000. Do you remember any of that? I don't.

These ten year deadlines have been coming more or less regularly since then. Remember, the "tipping point" theme in the media a few years ago? Take NASA's Dr. Hansen for example,

msnbc.com news services
updated 5:17 p.m. CT, Thurs., Sept . 14, 2006
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A leading U.S. climate researcher says the world has a 10-year window of opportunity to take decisive action on global warming and avert catastrophe.
NASA scientist James Hansen, widely considered the doyen of American climate researchers, said governments must adopt an alternative scenario to keep carbon dioxide emission growth in check and limit the increase in global temperatures to 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit).
“I think we have a very brief window of opportunity to deal with climate change ... no longer than a decade, at the most,” Hansen said Wednesday at the Climate Change Research Conference in California’s state capital.


A year later (2007), NASA gave us another ten year deadline.

The same in 2008. Death Spiral! proclaimed the headline.

How many of these deadlines have to pass before people in general and the media in particular realize this is nonsense? As the previous posting explains, we can't forecast the climate 90 days into the future, let alone 5 years (or more) into the future.


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Winter 2009-2010 Forecast versus Reality

At left is the actual departure from normal temperatures (by climatological district) versus NOAA's forecast (right) for the winter.  The forecast did not work out well.  Click to enlarge.


The British Met Office's forecast for the winter was so bad it has disappeared from its web site and they appear to be discontinuing their seasonal forecasts. Those forecasts have been spectacularly bad in the last few years.

Exit question: If we cannot forecast the average weather (climate) for 90 days with consistent accuracy, why do we believe we an forecast the weather 90 years into the future? I believe the answer is self-evident.

Amazon's Lower Price

 

Amazon is currently pricing Warnings at $16.83, the lowest I have seen (the amount will change from time to time). If you pre-order, you get the lowest price from when you order until the book's release. I get the same amount regardless of where you buy it. Click on the ad to purchase (ignore the suggested retail price).



If you wish to get an autographed and inscribed copy, here is how to obtain one.

No Respect



"You don't look good with a hammer."


Said Michelle Strecker to me this morning as she took over hanging a framed dust jacket of my book on my office wall.

It is well known that I ask for motor skills every Christmas but never seem to get them. Kathleen insists I call an electrician to change a light bulb due to my knack for causing disaster when doing "fixit" jobs.

I Had Friends on this Flight

From this morning's Wichita Eagle:



“I apologize for this lack of logic for this organization, but if you think this is bad, you should work here.”
— An American Airlines flight attendant on a recent flight out of Wichita that got stuck on the tarmac in Dallas


Read more: http://blogs.kansas.com/haveyouheard/2010/03/24/you-dont-say-178/#ixzz0jBxBysKS

A 'Guy' Gadget

Every 'guy' who sees this will want one.

Hat tip:  Dave Barry (who else?)

Note: "Guy" is in scare quotes because I am using Dave's definition of "guy." To use Dave's example from when the book was published in 1995, Pope John Paul II was a "man." John McEnroe is a "guy." 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Those Icicles Are Known to Kill People"

My mother always told me that when I was a kid. I laughed when Ralphie's mother said the same thing in A Christmas Story


In Russia right now, it is no laughing matter.

"I Don't Get It"

If you are a fan of The Simpsons you can skip this posting.

My references to global warming and "anything it can't do?" refers to one of the very best episodes of The Simpsons (written by Conan O'Brien) titled "Marge versus the Monorail." In a sendup of The Music Man, a traveling salesman, Lyle Landley (= Harold Hill), sells the Simpsons' town of Springfield a defective monorail.

The monorail runs out of control, at ever increasing speeds, with Homer at the controls.  Here is the pertinent excerpt of the script of that episode:

One technician suggests cutting the power, but alas, the monorail is solar-powered. (``Solar power. When will people learn?'') But miracle of miracles, Springfield suffers a solar eclipse! The train grinds to a halt, and all celebrate. The eclipse ends, and the train speeds off again. 


Homer: Are we gonna die, son? Bart: Yeah, but at least we're going to take a lot of innocent people. 


Marge calls Homer on the radio. Mr. Cobb tells Homer to find an anchor of some sort. Homer looks at Bart and envisions him as an anchor. ``Think harder, Homer.'' Homer takes a lariat from a passenger, ties it to the metal `M' from the monorail sign and heaves it overboard. Bart reminds him that he should tie the loose end of the rope to the train. The `M' anchor rips into the ground, destroying everything in its path. It chops down Springfield's Tallest Tree, sending it crashing onto Jebediah Springfield's Birthplace. ...It eventually hooks onto
a giant donut atop a donut shop and brings the train to a stop. 



"Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?" -- Homer

The anchor grabs onto the Lard Lad "donut," stopping the monorail (not shown) and Homer utters his immortal line.

Given the (humorous) putdown of solar energy* a moment earlier, I enjoy using the "anything it can't do" line for poking fun at the excessive blaming of 'global warming' for all the world's ills.

*I really am in favor of solar energy.  Honest.

Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can't Do? Part II.

The whole 'global warming' frenzy gets more surreal by the day. It appears that, in the wake of Climategate, the pro-GW people are more and more desperate to sell GW "fixes" that no one wants to buy.

Take this headline:

Why aren’t climate scientists talking about healthcare reform?


The article states 'climate change' "rai[ses] rates of cancer and of respiratory and neurological diseases."  It cites as the authority the IPCC's 2007 report. You can read how accurate that report was ("this is deception pure and simple") in the opinion of a distinguished scientist, Richard Tol, published just yesterday, here.

Since I don't automatically buy into anything the IPCC asserts, I decided to test their theory. 'Global warming' (increasing temperatures) raises cancer rates is the hypothesis.  I decided to test this hypothesis by going to the National Cancer Institute so I could create a map of all types of cancer and see if cancer mortalities were less in northern states and higher in southern states.  That way, one could simulate the change in global warming-driven cancer risk by relocating from, say, Alaska to Hawaii (i.e., moving from a cooler to warmer climate).

Here is the map I created.  Deeper browns = more cancer deaths.  Deeper greens = fewer deaths.
There seems to be little correlation between average state temperatures and cancer mortality. Note that Hawaii has one of the lowest rates, Maine one of the higher rates, Florida one of the lower rates, and Alaska in between.  The fact that Utah and Nevada (similar average temperatures) are so radically different lends credence to my "eyeball" observation that there is little, if any, correlation between temperatures and cancer.

So, moving from Alaska (cooler climate) to Hawaii (warmer climate) decreases one's risk of dying from cancer, the opposite of the hypothesis.

I also got a chuckle out of the headlined article calling carbon dioxide (a gas essential for life on earth) a "pollutant."

It appears the hypothesis that [global] warming increases cancer is false. We may have finally found something global warming cannot do.  

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Global Warming: Is There Anything It Can't Do?

Now, flowers are losing their scent due to global warming.

To paraphrase The Simpsons, "Global warming... is there anything it can't do?!"

Hat tip:  Drudge Report.

April Precipitation Outlook

Here is Joe Bastardi's precipitation forecast for April.  It looks good to me. 

Major Severe Weather Ahead?

Tornadoes and other severe thunderstorms have been relatively few and far between so far in 2010.  This is because of the colder than normal temperatures across the United States combined with colder than normal water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico limiting instability (a necessary ingredient for thunderstorms).

This looks like the weather pattern may change starting this weekend.  

Preliminary indications are that thunderstorms will become more widespread across the southern half of the U.S. starting this weekend with a potential round of widespread severe thunderstorms between March 31 and April 5.  

While it is not my intention to blog about every tornado and severe thunderstorm, I do like to alert our readers when major events might be in the offing.

Monday, March 22, 2010

An Essay on Social Media and Severe Weather

Some thoughts from AccuWeather. 

"Warnings'" First "Literary" Review

This review was posted by Publisher's Weekly this morning.  As you can imagine, I am thrilled with it.

Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather Mike Smith. Greenleaf, $24.95 (312p) ISBN 978-1-60832-034-9
A well-known meteorologist and founder of WeatherData, Smith takes readers on a fast-paced account of the biggest storms in recent years and how weather forecasting has developed into a true science since the 1950s. Part memoir, part science account, Smith's tale begins in the late 1940s, when weathermen were actually forbidden to broadcast tornado warnings. The U.S. Weather Bureau blocked storm forecasting for fear of getting it wrong, just as today, according to Smith, the FAA has banned weather radios from airport control towers. He delivers a moment-by-moment account of the monster tornado that leveled Greensburg, Kans., in 2007 as well as a damning account of governmental incompetence in the leadup to Hurricane Katrina. But as Smith shows, scientists themselves can be close-minded and prevent their field from progressing: Smith recounts the struggle by Theodore Fujita, creator of the tornado severity scale, to see his findings on microbursts—which have killed hundreds of people in airline crashes—accepted by other scientists. This account of people who do something about the weather should appeal to just about anyone who enjoys talking about it. Photos. (May)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Battle of the Meteorology Schools

As Texas A&M battles Purdue for a spot in the NCAA's "Sweet Sixteen," you might be interested to learn those two schools both have fine meteorology programs. We have meteorologists from both schools on our staff.

Remember When "Scientific American" was about Science?

I'm actually old enough to remember when Scientific American was a respected magazine about science.

Unfortunately, it has morphed into yet another source of 'global warming' silliness as again evidenced by this story (?) about Sarah Palin. The author took great offense that Ms. Palin said, "[it is] Arrogant and naive to say that man overpowers nature."

What Ms. Palin says is so obviously correct I would hardly think it would be a controversial statement, let alone one meriting an article in SA to "refute" it.  I don't know of any scientist that doesn't think humans affect the climate but we hardly "overpower" it.  If you doubt what I just stated, trying standing in front of a tornado and see how much "power" you have over it.

What made the article so jarring is that minutes before I read the SA story, I read about the volcanic eruption in Iceland. If this volcano lets loose, it may affect the climate of the northern hemisphere due to injecting soot into the stratosphere.

What can humans do to prevent the volcano from erupting?  Nothing.

Or, take the recent earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and elsewhere.  What can humans do to prevent them?  Nothing.

So, if we can't stop tornadoes, volcanoes, earthquakes, and other natural phenomena, it would seem that Ms. Palin gets the best of this argument. I certainly don't look to Sarah Palin for scientific enlightenment, but if this is quality of scientific journalism practiced at SA these days, she might make a useful addition to their editorial board.

The Books Have Been Printed

The books have left the printer and are on their way to the various book company warehouses and independent bookstores.

I just now saw it for the first time and I think it is a real beauty. Greenleaf did a beautiful job with the design of the dust jacket and I am very pleased with the color insert photos.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Meteorologists Were Correct

If you read Kim's post about the radio station, yes it snowed in Wichita. We had about two inches with a few spots in the area having three.  About 15 miles to our southeast around 4 inches fell.

So, yes, the forecast for snow was correct.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Autographed and Inscribed Issues of Warnings

Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC is offering autographed and inscribed copies of Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by sending a check for $30 (which includes the book, sales tax, and priority mail shipping) to: Mike Smith Enterprises, 4031 N. Tara Circle, Wichita, Kansas 67226. Please let us know how you wish the inscription to read (maximum twenty words, please).

Opinion Poll

I was amused this morning by a local radio station. They were having listeners call in to say whether they thought the weather forecast was accurate for this weekend. This seemed appropriate, since it was in the mid 60's yesterday, and was in the high 50's today. The forecast is for rain to move in tonight, changing over to snow, with 4-6 inches by tomorrow night. Listeners were saying all kinds of things. One man called in to say that "weathermen NEVER get the forecast right!" I guess only time will tell...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Only in Kansas....

It was a beautiful day today in Kansas. The sun was shining and it made it into the 60's. People were out walking their dogs, playing with their children, and enjoying the sunshine. But tomorrow is another story....
Temperatures are supposed to plummet during the day, rain and thunderstorms are moving in, and it is supposed to change over to snow after sunset, with 20-30 mph winds. Check out the forecast for your area at www.accuweather.com

March Madness!

This has absolutely NOTHING to do with weather, but I Love March Madness basketball. Today is the first day of the tournament, and KState has won their first round. KU is set to play later tonight, and hopefully it will be a win for them as well. But true to its name, there have already been some upsets in this first day of play. Today brought a surprise loss for Vanderbilt, and I am sure there will be many more upsets as the games go on.

Re-Regulating the Airlines, Conclusion

So, given the problems I have outlined in Parts I-VI, what to do?

From my point of view, trying to compete on service in today's airline environment is futile. The things frequent travelers care most about  -- on time, more luggage options, peace and quiet, the TSA, are not under the control of the airlines. The airlines can only compete on price, so service must suffer especially if the trend toward higher fuel costs continues.  What should we do?

I would allow an airline to fly to any city it wants. But, I would make the airlines bid for their slots every second year so that new entrants have a chance. I would probably mandate that larger aircraft get preferences rather than this nonsensical trend to fly more and more minijets so airlines can maintain the illusion (given ever lower numbers of passengers) of “hourly service” between (for example) St. Louis and Chicago and I would probably offer preferential treatments to cities that do not have travel options (i.e., Amtrak offers 6 trains/day between St. Louis and Chicago. They are upgrading train speeds to the point that downtown-to-downtown times aren’t that much less than flying). 

I would also require successful bidders for slots to enter some type of lottery to insure essential levels of air service to remote cities. I fear that the Caspers of the world are going to lose all service if current trends continue.  Lets rationalize the slots in a way that we use the smaller jets to make sure the Caspers have service rather than use 44-seat RJs between large cities to preserve “frequency.” I don’t think we really need a United regional jet to fly from St. Louis to Chicago at both 5:30 and 6am. How about a larger jet at 5:45?

Finally, I would add minimum service requirements. Recently, I had to fly from Washington, D.C. to Denver. My incoming flight to D.C. was late and I had to run to make the connection. To my shock, there was no food, even for purchase, available in coach. The flight attendant told me that because the flight left D.C. at 2pm it was not a “meal hour,” thus no food. A nearly four-hour flight is a long time not to have food available (I had to go 13 hours without food by the time we reached Denver).  It should be mandatory that food be available for a three-hour flight with prepared meals mandatory for a flight of six hours or more.

Does this add up to regulating fares?  Yes, it does. I’m OK with that. The United States survived with airline fare regulation up until 1979 and I think we can again at least until we can establish a true market mechanism for air travel.  

In addition, the Constitution allows Congress to regulate over what areas the courts have jurisdiction. Its time to shut down the endless series of lawsuits that seem to occur every time a city votes to lengthen a runway.  Yes, the homeowners (assuming they were there first) deserve a fair price and other consideration when their homes are taken through eminent domain.  Yes, there may be legitimate environmental concerns. But endless “environmental” lawsuits are not the answer.

Finally, New Zealand, Canada and other nations have managed to modernize their air traffic control systems effectively and without the billions in waste that seem to plague our system. We can learn from them.

To sum up:  It seems to be time for some fresh thinking with regard to airline travel in the United States.  Some of the solutions may be some of the structures that existed in the past. Let the thinking, then the debate, begin.  

The comments have been off during this series until I posted the conclusion.  Fire away!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Re-Regulating the Airlines, Part VI

As we have seen, the problem with letting the “free market” reign in airlines is there is no free market. The government handles the slots, dictates ‘security,’ forces nonsensical inflight announcements and rules, and controls the air traffic control system.  

But, even if all of those were solved, there is still the central problem there is not enough capacity to handle all of the commercial flights.

There is a web site that lists virtually every airport construction project in the world. Take a few moments to look at the large number of foreign airports with giant construction projects.

Ft. Lauderdale International Airport is the fastest-growing in the United States.  Go to: http://www.airport-technology.com/projects/fort_laud/  and you will learn that there is an expansion program that started in 1997 and still isn’t complete.  Scroll down and you’ll see an expanded car rental facility, terminal refurbishment, new parking.  What you don’t
see is new runways!  Same is true at Newark, JFK, and all the other airports with chronic delays. One thunderstorm (and I have been at FLL when this has occurred) and the airport is suddenly backed up for hours. Not enough runways.

Even in locations where there is a consensus (i.e., a vote) to expand an airport, these days you are looking years of litigation to move forward. The environmentalists, the people on the take-off path (and, in some cases, the assumed take off path), etc., etc., will all sue. We have gotten to the point where you can add 5-years or so and millions of dollars in cost to any attempt to expand runways in number or length before the first concrete is even poured.

We have even destroyed one whole airport in recent years with no replacement. 

More and more aircraft with no new air traffic control resources and no new runways equals increasing delays. So, any airline that wants to complete on service can't. Late flights will abound due to the many problems with not enough runways and not enough capacity in the air traffic control system.

In a re-regulatory system, it is time to restore Rule 240. Before 1979, Civil Aviation Board Rule 240 insured that airlines did everything they could to get you to your destination on time, including putting you on another airline (i.e., your flight on airline A has a major mechanical delay, so they put you on airline B). There was a system in place where the airlines compensated each other for carrying each others' passengers. Given the huge delays often experienced these days, this is essential. 

And, speaking of delays, as I have previously stated, it is time to go back to the system that was in place before September 11th with private sector security along with metal detectors and x-rays.  The TSA’s "security theatre" and nude-machines (which cannot show items hidden in body cavities, including the mouth) are not the answer. What comes next? Having to say, "ah" (complete with tongue depressor) after the metal detector?! 

The risk of an incident, given a basic level of screening, is extremely low.  The number of people who would choose not to fly given the end of "security theatre" would be far less than the those who avoid flying because of the TSA now. The airlines are never going to be able to begin a solid recovery as long as the TSA continues on its present course of reacting to every incident. The passengers stopped the "underwear bomber" and they will in future incidents. I would put some of the TSA resources into better screening of checked bags but otherwise would dial it back to pre-September 11 levels.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Re-Regulating the Airlines, Part V

This past summer, I was forced to deal with flight delays (NOT due to weather) of more than three hours on three separate occasions.  Why?  One was mechanical (the airline no longer had a full-time mechanic in Wichita due to cutbacks) and the other two were due to the air traffic control system that is now unable to come close to handling the demands imposed by the hub system, like it could given the point-to-point flights that existed prior to 1979's deregulation when flights were evenly spaced.

So, lets go back to my example of the airline that wants to operate with superior service:  It can’t because there are a finite number of ‘slots’  (government-allocated permssions to operate a flight into the more crowded airports like O’Hare or JFK).  So, if Southwest (a no-frills, low-fare airline is delayed) so is our new airline that wants to operate a superior service. Even if an airline wanted to pay extra for one of these coveted slots (that are granted by the government, which, by the way needs the revenue) in return for preferential treatment of its flights, it can’t:  All slots are created equal so everyone suffers the delay.  Even if you got a great drink and dinner when flying from Wichita to Chicago, you aren’t going to feel the additional $50 was worth it if you arrive three hours late and still have to wait for your bags at the carousel (because the FAA won’t allow a third carryon). 

The ATC system (which now has the technical capability to operate safely and even land a plane in near zero visibility) has neither the people nor facilities expanded to keep up with demand. So, all airlines offer the same unreliable timeliness these days.  It is impossible to compete on service, so they compete on price, and the quality/service “death spiral” continues. 

Why hasn’t the air traffic system kept up with demand?  One, it is very difficult to improve on the system that has produced extraordinary safety.  Some years there are zero accidents among the major U.S. airlines.  Adding more controllers, alone, won’t work because there are almost no additional runways for landings and takeoffs. O'Hare, DFW and Atlanta have each added one runway in the last ten years, that's about it.

The system can handle more flights in-between cities but where are the controllers supposed to put the extra planes when it is time to land given the inadequate number of runways?

Why aren’t we building runways?  Part of it is "not in my back yard." But another part is: The litigation explosion.  

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Spring Almost Here??

Sunday Was "Spring Forward" Day. I have to admit, it is one of my least favorite days of the year. I am not a fan of waking up early. I really don't get too excited to watch the sun rise. (Although I LOVE sunsets!) I always seem to feel robbed of my sleep every year when I have to set my clock forward.
But today, I was able to get outside and clean up around my yard. I think that I saw, FINALLY, that spring is right around the corner! It has been a long winter. My heart almost skipped a beat when I saw tulip leaves sprouting and my grass turning green! So Sunday may have been "Spring Forward" day, but I'm going to focus more on the "Spring" than the "forward".

Re-Regulating the Airlines, Part IV

(Please see parts I, II, and III below)

Right now, the air traveler has two alternatives:  A private jet or steerage in the domestic U.S. airlines (first class isn’t worth paying for, it has become a joke given the level of service versus the prices charged). There has to be a market for something in-between right? 

Let's assume that a new airline wanted to start tomorrow that was going to solve all of the attitude problems and service problems and make their customers happy.

First of all, the airline passenger would still have to deal with the “security theatre” of the TSA.  I have previously written about my proposal for reforming the TSA. Unfortunately, its chances of passage are slim to none because the politicians are scared to death that if something goes wrong, their election opponents would use their vote to dial back the TSA against them.

So, the unpleasant experience would still begin the moment you arrive at the airport.

The new airline planned to allow customers to bring on three carryon bags, with special Boeing-approved and designed larger bins for customers who wished to use them and allow their customers to carry on a third carryon.  In return, the airline was going to charge $50 more for this enhanced service.  Great idea, right?

Can't do it!  Why?  The airlines lobbied the FAA to disallow it.  Existing airlines don't want some upstart to offer better service! The government interferes with the marketplace. So, even though the airline wanted to improve options for customers, it is not allowed to do it.

Once in flight, even though the airline is trying to give gracious service, they still have to make the mandatory messages about putting down headrests (so the flight attendents can see terrorists sitting in the seats), not congregating in the aisles or near the restrooms, etc., etc., that are offensive to many frequent fliers.  This frequent flier (and numerous others I have spoken with) wants to sit back and work or read, not listen to the FA’s jabber with government-mandated messages.  Think about it:  Would someone wanting to do harm to a plane in flight be deterred because the flight attendant told them to "put down their headrests"?  

So, the level of “improved service” (gracious, minimum of interruptions by the in-flight staff) could be – at best – only incremental versus its competitors. 

But that isn’t the biggest problem with our new "Service Airlines," as we see in the next installment in this series.