Jun 012017

Donald Trump, Demagogue-in-Chief of America the Greatest, now took his proud nation to new heights: America joined forces with the ever-so-enlightened, wonderful regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, along with Central America’s Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, announcing that his nation will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Americans must be so proud. Gone are the days of Obama leading from behind… instead, their orange-skinned leader is now proudly leading them behind.

To be honest, I don’t mind it too much. I always wondered just how effective the Paris agreement was going to be anyway. And it’s not like Ottawa’s climate is too hot… nor do I have any children to worry about, so why should I care if we leave behind a messed up world when my generation dies?

The only thing that bothers me about this is the, well, stubborn anti-intellectualism and outright, blatant stupidity. Not just the Deceiver-in-Chief’s, mind you. A few hours ago I witnessed a brief debate between a CNN anchor and Rand Paul about the nature and origin of the current climate change and its comparison to past climate events. Talk about the blind leading the sightless…

 Posted by at 6:32 pm
Jan 312017

A short while ago, I turned on a computer. Like several of my other computers, this one is also configured to display a weather widget on the desktop. Here is what it showed:

If only it were true! Alas, the reason for this overly optimistic weather report had to do with the fact that the computer in question has last been turned on more than four months ago, back in September. In reality, this is what our weather is like right now:

And even that is a significant improvement over the −21°C that greeted me early in the morning.

Yup, this is Canada.

 Posted by at 8:52 pm
Jan 142017

So here is another thing I don’t expect to see from Donald Trump: Publishing an article in the highly respected multidisciplinary journal Science.

His predecessor, the still sitting Barack Obama did just that: his article about “The irreversible momentum of clean energy” was published yesterday, January 13, 2017. In it, he makes the case that economic growth does not depend on energy-related emissions, and that combating climate change does not require accepting lower growth or a reduced standard of living.

 Posted by at 9:33 pm
Mar 032016

I was watching the news this morning. Including the weather. And then I double-checked my calendar, wondering if I perhaps became delusional: Is this really March, or is it still January?

Then again, tonight supposedly it’ll get even colder.

 Posted by at 8:17 am
Feb 212016

Last night, when I almost managed to kill my server, I was playing with a service that I just discovered: Weather forecast in ASCII.

Well, almost ASCII. UTF-8 characters, to be precise. (And it was while messing with those xterm settings that I managed to enter a command using the wrong syntax.)

Still, it’s a nicely formatted three-day forecast suitable for text terminals. And it has pretty thorough world coverage.

I just hope the forecast holds up for Tuesday, as I’ll have quite a few errands to run that day and I’d prefer not to get stuck in a snowstorm.

 Posted by at 9:24 am
Feb 132016

This is what greeted me earlier this morning when I looked at my outdoor thermometer:

Brrrr. And tomorrow it’s supposed to get even colder. Where is that global warming that we were promised?

 Posted by at 11:59 am
Jan 292016

Eons ago, back when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, George W. Bush was still a first-term president, there were only five Star Wars films and Java applets were still cool, I created an applet that showed what Mars would look like if its surface was covered by oceans.

I liked what I did so I added the capability to use other data sets, including data sets for the Earth.

The applet is worthless now, or almost so. Java applets are no longer supported in Google’s Chrome browser. They were never really supported on mobile platforms. Even in browsers that do still support Java, the user has to go through hoops and add my domain as a security exception (not recommended) to allow my unsigned applet to run; all this a result of vain attempts to address the security risks inherent in Java and its implementations.

Anyhow, the applet still works if you can run it. And this is what the Earth looks like today:

Someone recently asked what our planet would look like if it was devoid of oceans. If sea levels were 5000 meters below the present value, the planet would still have a shallow ocean in place of the Pacific. Otherwise, though, it would be mostly dry land with only some inland seas where the Atlantic and the Indian oceans used to be.  It would be possible to walk from pole to pole without wetting your feet; however, you might get a tad thirsty along the way, and there’d not be much rain either.

Decrease ocean levels by another 1000 meters to 6000 below present sea levels, and the last remaining ocean is gone:

Finally, at 7000 meters, the only open water that remains would be in places of the deepest ocean trenches. (Mind you, even then, some of these seas would still be up to four kilometers deep.)

I was also asked what things would look like if the seas rose. There is a surprising amount of change to coast lines by an increase of a mere 50 meters:

Florida is gone; Western Europe looks noticeably different. Increase the sea level rise to 200 meters, and now the change is rather more dramatic:


India is now an island or almost so (there may be some land bridges connecting it to the Asian continent that are too narrow to be visible at this map’s resolution). Much of Europe, Russia, Australia, South America, and the eastern parts of North America, gone.

Finally, at 1000 meters, only mountain ranges remain:

With this little dry land left, there is not much in the way of storms; like Jupiter with its Great Red Spot, the Earth might also develop long-lived storms that circumnavigate the planet many times before dissipating.

 Posted by at 3:30 pm
Dec 242015

Here is the Weather Network’s forecast for today that was made a couple of days ago:

No, they weren’t lying. Here is what my thermometer showed just a few minutes ago:


And it’s already less than what it was; the temperature dropped from 16.4 to 16.2 degrees Centigrade in the past half hour.

May not be impressive for a place like Dubai or Mumbai but lest we forget, I live in Ottawa, supposedly the second coldest capital city on Earth.

Needless to say, we are not going to have a white Christmas this year.

 Posted by at 11:42 am
Sep 102014

I arrived in Ottawa in mid-July, 1987 as a landed immigrant. I was sponsored by my aunt and her husband András. It was András who awaited me at the airport on the evening of my arrival. (No, I did not arrive by air. My connecting flight from Montreal was canceled, so Air Canada put me in a limo along with another passenger. As the limo driver was not from Ottawa, and I knew nothing about the layout of the city, he dropped me off at the airport instead of taking me directly to my aunt’s house.)

I spent some time in the old (since decommissioned) airport building waiting for András to arrive. (In the pre-cellphone days, I first had to exchange some currency, then get some change, then find a payphone in order to be able to notify them about my whereabouts.) After a wait of a half hour or so, András did arrive. We only ever met once before, briefly, when they were visiting Hungary and I spent a few hours at my parents’ home, on leave from my mandatory military service. So when András saw me, he was not sure if I was the right person… as he approached me, he asked, “So you are Viktor?”

“Yes,” I answered, to which András replied with a second question: “Why did you come here, why didn’t you go to Calgary instead?”

Yes, András had a weird sense of humor. Not everyone appreciated it, but I did. I really grew to like him.

Earlier this week, it was Nature’s turn to be funny, while also providing me with a perfectly good answer to András’s question from 27 years ago. This is why, András:

Yes, András, I am a wimp. I can tolerate winter, but I really don’t like late summer snow storms.

Alas, András is no longer among us to hear my response. He passed away many years ago, after losing his battle with pancreatic cancer.

 Posted by at 5:26 pm
Jul 102014

Two days ago, I was driving south on Bank Street when I saw this:

Yes, a double rainbow. The last time I saw a double rainbow like this was nearly 20 years ago, when my wife and I were driving through the Rocky Mountains on our way to California.

 Posted by at 8:30 am
Mar 222014

I looked out my window this morning, and this is what I saw:

I keep thinking that this is how Ice Ages start: spring arrives later and later, winter arrives sooner and sooner, until one year, there is no summer… the snow never completely melts. The next year, more snow arrives and soon (in a few decades) there is a glacial layer of compacted ice that will eventually thicken to a depth of a kilometer or more. And then, it’s here to stay for the next hundred thousand years or so.

No, I don’t expect an Ice Age to arrive on our doorstep just yet, but maybe this view explains why Canadians appear less concerned than they should be about global warming.

 Posted by at 9:17 am
Jan 082014

I just stumbled across some new research by climatologist Dan Lunt, who applied modern climate models to the geography and topography of Middle Earth. Yes, Tolkien’s Middle Earth, where hobbits, elves, dwarves, dragons, ents, orcs and other creatures live.

Prepared for possible interest by non-human readers, Lunt (writing under the pseudonym Radagast the Brown… or may be he *is* Radagast the Brown?) helpfully provided translations of his paper into Elvish and Dwarvish.

I couldn’t help but notice, though, that the list of references is missing from the translations.

Also, I wonder… does Google Translate know Elvish and Dwarvish?

 Posted by at 2:39 pm
Dec 172013

Damn it’s cold this morning. Negative 26 Centigrade. Or 27 if I believe the local news. And it’s not even winter yet!

To be sure, I still prefer to live in the Great White North instead of any of the numerous southerly climates full of crazy people, but sometimes, it’s a bit too much. Like, when you feel like you need to put on a spacesuit just to step outside to grab your newspaper from your doorstep.

Yes, I still subscribe to a newspaper. Or rather, I again subscribe to a paper after canceling my Globe and Mail subscription more than a decade ago. I accepted their offer for a free three-month subscription back in the summer, and I became used to it. More importantly, I realized that there are things I’d never even read or hear about had they not been in the paper. Electronic media is great, but it tends to deliver the news that you actually want to hear. Especially as services like Google News or Facebook employ sophisticated algorithms that try to predict what you’re most likely to read based on your past behavior. So if you wish to step outside of your comfort zone, to have your views challenged, not simply confirmed… well, a newspaper helps.

Besides… as a last resort, you can also use a newspaper to start a fire to keep warm.

 Posted by at 7:39 am
Nov 302013

It’s only November, for crying out loud, but winter has arrived with a vengeance.

Yesterday, the temperature was -21 centigrade (at least according to Microsoft; on the Weather Channel, it was “only” -18 I believe.)

Today, we are enjoying a balmy -12.

And winter is officially still more than three weeks away.


 Posted by at 2:40 pm
Nov 182013

When you have a family member who is gravely ill, you may not have the stamina to pay attention to other things. When you have a family pet that is gravely ill, it’s almost as bad (actually, in some ways it’s worse, as a pet cannot tell what hurts and you cannot explain to the pet why unpleasant medication is necessary or discuss with the pet the available treatment options.)

As I’ve been dealing with a gravely ill cat in the past six weeks, I neglected to pay attention to other things.

I did not add a blog entry on October 31 with my drawing of a Halloween cat.

I did not comment on Remembrance Day. I am very fond of Remembrance Day, because it does not celebrate victory nor does it glorify war; on the contrary, it celebrates sacrifice and laments on the futility of war. This is why I am so unimpressed by the somewhat militantly pacifist “white poppy” campaign; in my view, they completely miss the point. I usually put a stylized poppy in my blog on November 11; not this year, as I spent instead a good portion of that day and the next at the vet.

I most certainly did not comment on that furious (and infuriating) wild hog of a mayor, Toronto’s Rob Ford, or for that matter, the other juicy Canadian political scandal, the Senate expense thing. That despite the fact that for a few days, Canadian news channels were actually exciting to watch (a much welcome distraction in my case), as breaking news from Ottawa was interrupted by breaking news from Toronto or vice versa.

I also did not blog about the continuing shenanigans of Hungary’s political elite, nor the fact that an 80-year old Hungarian writer, Akos Kertesz (not related to Imre Kertesz, the Nobel-laureate) sought, and received, political asylum, having fled Hungary when he became the target of threats and abuse after publishing an article in which he accused Hungarians of being genetically predisposed to subservience.

Nor did I express my concern about the stock market’s recent meteoric rise (the Dow Jones index just hit 16,000) and whether or not it is a bubble waiting to be burst.

And I made no comments about the horrendous typhoon that hit the Philippines, nor did I wonder aloud what Verizon Canada must be thinking these days about their decision to move both their billing and their technical support to that distant country.

Last but certainly not least, I did not write about the physics I am trying to do in my spare time, including my attempts to understand better what it takes for a viable modified gravity theory to agree with laboratory experiments, precision solar system observations, galactic astronomy and cosmological data sets using the same set of assumptions and parameters.

Unfortunately, our cat remains gravely ill. The only good news, if it can be called that, is that yesterday morning, he vomited a little liquid and it was very obviously pink; this strongly suggests that we now know the cause of his anaemia, namely gastrointestinal bleeding. We still don’t know the cause, but now he can get more targeted medication. My fingers remain crossed that his condition is treatable.

 Posted by at 9:34 am
Sep 272013

It is now formally official: global surface temperatures did not increase significantly in the past 15 years or so.

But if skeptics conclude that this is it, the smoking gun that proves that all climate science is hogwash, they better think again. When we look closely, the plots reveal something a lot more interesting.

For starters… this is not the first time global temperatures stagnated or even decreased somewhat since the start of recordkeeping. There is a roughly 20-year period centered around 1950 or so, and another, even longer period centered roughly around 1890. This looks in fact like evidence that there may be something to the idea of a 60-year climate cycle. However, the alarming bit is this: every time the cycle peaks, temperatures are higher than in the previous cycle.

The just released IPCC Summary for Policymakers makes no mention of this cycle but it does offer an explanation for the observed stagnating temperatures. These are probably a result of volcanic activity, they tell us, the solar cycle, and perhaps mismodeling the effects of greenhouse gases and aerosols, but they are not exactly sure.

And certainty is characterized with words like “high confidence,” “medium confidence” and such, with no definitions given. These will be supplied, supposedly, in the technical report that will be released on Monday. Nonetheless, the statement that “Probabilistic estimates […] are based on statistical analysis of observations or model results, or both, and expert judgment” [emphasis mine] does not fill me with confidence, if you will pardon the pun.

In fact, I feel compelled to compare this to the various reports and releases issued by the LHC in recent years about the Higgs boson. There was no “expert judgment”. There were objective statistical analysis methods and procedures that were thoroughly documented (even though they were often difficult to comprehend, due to their sheer complexity.) There were objective standards for claiming a discovery.

Given the extreme political sensitivity of the topic, I think the IPCC should adopt similar or even more stringent standards of analysis as the LHC. Do away with “expert judgment” and use instead proper statistical tools to establish the likelihood of specific climate models in the light of the gathered data. And if the models do not work, e.g., if they failed to predict stagnating temperatures, the right thing to do is say that this is so; there is no need for “expert judgment”. Just state the facts.

 Posted by at 10:45 pm