January 29, 2010
Graphs of Change
Itís been seven months since I last wrote a column. Iíve had so much to do and Iíve had a great many topics come and go in my mind. I appreciate all the commentary on some of my last columns, ďMankindís WorldĒ and ďClimate OpportunityĒ in particular. Since Iíve taken such a long break and because itís the start of the new year and the new decade and as a result of blogging becoming ubiquitous, Iíve decided to change directions somewhat. All my columns in í10 will have three elements: Crow, Community, and Climate. Iíll check in on my self, the hood, and the world during the last week of each month.
January was a fun, but frustrating month for me as I worked to find discipline to run my own office. With no one working around me, I find it increasingly difficult to stay on my own tasks, which leads to a reduction in billable hours. I can do better and I will work it out because I love the work and little by little the office is shaping up to be a place where I am comfortable.
Nothing major has occurred, thankfully, as I come out of the yearís end focused on achieving great things and expanding my mind. Iíve felt a subtle change in myself and after realizing Iíd changed, I see that it may have been a result of the great people I have surrounding me now. I see that they may have already been on this path and Iím just naturally joining them. Everything is as natural as it could possibly be with no great eureka moments, and yet I am sharper, wiser and more focused than I recall being in even my recent past. Unfortunately for the reader, I doubt my writing has improved much.
While my immediate community feels alive and mature, I wonít say the same for Houston at large. Our progress since the presidential election has been backwards as people develop new ways to avoid acknowledging climate change. Distractions are everywhere.
All the news claims that the nation is seeing a lull in crime, which is puzzling to me, as Houston seems worse now than I have ever seen it. I see drug crime all over the city, and while this has never been one of my soap-boxes, itís not the casual, friendly weíre-having-a-good-time drug crime, itís the weíve-got-AKs-and-weíre-not-afraid-to-use-them kind of crime. Houston became the number 2 city to get murdered in back in 2006 and while we have improved, we still have a long way to go. The spike in crime was labeled the ďKatrina EffectĒ, does anyone else think thatís a poor choice of excuses? Even if that were the reason, wouldnít it be better to keep it to ourselves? This is an example of voicing the negative, I believe.
Staying positive, Iíd like to commend Obama on his assessment of the economic recovery in his first State of Union Address. Experts think it will take some time to recover and I agree, but the President voiced hope and studies have shown that when the President is publicly hopeful, so too is the nation. In contrast, I think Bushís version of being hopeful was a denial of the facts. For example, when the GDP was declining quarter after quarter, Bush would not acknowledge that we were in a recession, but would then ask the American people to spend. I see Obama doing the opposite, he clearly states the facts, but remains hopeful.
On climate, I decided to create a graph inspired by a presentation by Katharine Hayhoe (check my links page). I wanted to show the conceptual difference between climate change and global warming and why the latter term is misleading and often leads to discussions about the weather. Why should I believe in Global Warming if itís snowing in Houston two years running?
I thought if I took average daily temperature data I could show that sometimes itís hotter and sometimes itís colder, but overall itís getting hotter. I thought that in the Northern hemisphere January would be colder on average while June and July were hotter.
Data collection was frustrating and that frustration could be a completely different column, but it wonít in Ď10. The data should be free for everyone to access. I donít want to read interpretations; I want pure unadulterated data. Let me draw my own conclusions and donít charge me for the dataset.
Anyway, I finally decided to go with Houston only since North American averages would be processed data and because they were unavailable. I used data from IAH because it was freely downloadable in a pretty basic format from the airportís website. No joke, the IAH weather center itself was more accessible to me than NOAA, NCDC or NASA. No wonder weíre losing the debates.
This is the most basic graph and shows all the published design temperatures that contractors would use.
There is no real visible difference here, just as you can't really feel a difference year to year.
Once you start to stack the years, you'll begin to see the trend. Each year stacks on the one before it and you'll notice 2009 popping out on top in the summer months.
This is the 30 year design average on the same scale with the 2000s (Aughts) data. Now you can see that it is getting hotter.
I quickly learned that Houston is not getting cooler in January and hotter in June. Itís getting hotter all the time. We are having more extreme weather, but overall, at the month level, temperatures are going up. There must be days in every month that are cooler than that particular day the year previous, but I was only working with monthly averages because of data limitations.
How much hotter is it getting? In the last graph you should notice that Iíve replaced the month labels with the amount that the 2000s were hotter than the 30 year average up to and including 2000. If you average out the monthly temperature rise, you see an annual increase in temperature in Houston of 1.17 degrees Farenheit, which is amazingly close to the stated global temperature increase.
This was a convincing experiment to me, of course I already believed so that might not mean anything, but I donít know how anyone can argue that climate change is not happening. I realize that Houston is just one weather center, but I checked many data sites and looked at North American averages, Northern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, and Global data. They all say the same thing over the same period of time.
I also realize that 10 years is not really a trendable period on a geological scale, but I would like to point out that in order to skew the data I could have done 67-97, and compared that to 98-08. That would have shown a much larger rise in temperature because 98 was a very hot year relative to the 30 years before it, but I thought that 71-2000 compared to 01-09 (obviously 2010 was not yet available) was the most logical way to break up the data. You really donít have to do much the show warming because every recent year is hotter than any year 30 years ago, but you do have to play with the data in order to show global cooling. Katharine Hayhoe pointed out that many presentations will select the time period of 1998 to 2008 to show that we have not experienced warming. 1998 was very hot and makes a convincing starting point, but this is definitely an outlier in the data. I recommend you look at the data yourself and decide or talk to me about it. Iíd love to hear your opinions.
Song of the month:
I started listening to this on my iPhone because you don't need speakers and it always seems to lighten the mood. I had never really listened to the lyrics before, but then I realized they were pretty good. I'm only putting the chorus (slightly modified) out here because it's such a well known song, but give the lyrics a careful listen sometime.
If you like Pina Coladas
And getting caught in the rain
If you're very into yoga
If you have half a brain
If you'd like making love at midnight
In the crypt in the cave
Then I'm the love that you've looked for
Write to me and escape.
Escape by Rupert Holmes