Archive for January, 2012

temperature aNOMalies

If you are new to climate science, you might be wondering what, exactly, this ‘temperature anomaly’ thing is that you keep hearing about. I know I was a bit confused at first! This post explains the concept, using a real-world example.

Absolute temperatures (yearly averaged) from two sites in the UK: one urban (St. James Park, green) and one rural (Rothamsted, red). Although the urban site is consistently warmer, the two sites show the same warming trend. But is there a way to compare them directly? Data from Jones et al. 2008, kindly provided by Dr. Jones.

Cities tend to be warmer than their surrounding countrysides, a fact known as the urban heat island effect (UHI). This occasionally is offered as an alternative explanation for greenhouse warming, but it fails on closer inspection. We can use data from Jones et al. (2008) [PDF] to see one reason UHI can’t explain observed warming. One time series is from St. James Park, in the city of London; the other is from nearby Rothamsted, a rural site some tens of miles away. As you can see, the urban location is consistently about 2 C warmer; however, the warming is nearly identical at both sites (a strongly significant 0.03 deg C/year). Jones et al. note:

“… the evolution of the time series is almost identical. As for trends since 1961 all sites give similar values …  in terms of anomalies from a common base period, all sites would give similar values.”

This gives us a hint about what a temperature anomaly is: Continue reading


In solidarity with countless other sites (most of them with higher traffic  and cultural relevance  >_< ) TopOc is temporarily going offline for the 18th of January 2012 in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA).

True Stories. Click for a non blackedout site.

If you are unfamiliar with these lovely bits of legislation, they would effectively mean the end of the internet as we know it. If someone posts a link on my site which supposedly violates copyright law, TopOc can disappear – for good. Given the notoriously itchy trigger finger on certain copyright holders, that should scare the pants off you.

Tor, an piece of anonymity software developed by the US Navy for use in repressive countries, would effectively be outlawed. Indeed, the proponents of SOPA and PIPA believe that it would be effective because it is based on censorship techniques which have been used effectively in Syria, China, and Uzbekistan.

Additionally, this legislation would seriously compromise internet security.

Perhaps most disturbingly, members of the US Congress have rejected expert testimony critical of SOPA and PIPA, deriding the critics as ‘nerds’. Considering the poor quality of testimony that they are willing to entertain, this is a real slap in the face.

What can you do? Call your Senators and Representatives! Tell them to keep the IntarTubes free!

Regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly, I swear. The next post will be about the concept of a temperature anomaly – stay tuned! Additionally, I apologize for the relative lack of citations; it is not in my nature to make unsupported assertions. But I got a late start and, well, most of my sources are also participating in the blackout so it would sort of be a moot point. 

UPDATE: …aaaaand we’re back. Thanks to everyone who participated; we’re making a difference!

Some people think that the existence of workarounds for the blackout is somehow a problem for it. On the contrary, that people are finding and using them is a further success of the action. When people use these hacks, it puts them in direct contact with the inner workings of the technology they depend on, and this understanding is as critical for maintaining internet freedom (and freedom in general) as our legal system. Every n00b who is introduced to caches or proxies by the blackout is a success for the world’s first cyber-strike, a success in addition to its influence on policymakers.

Back to writing…

i still exist!

Its true! Here I am!

So what is on the TopOc horizon for 2012?

  • More hard-hitting commentary!
  • More sassing of people who don’t understand graphs!
  • Updates on previous projects!
  • Audiovisual delights!
  • More sweet hax!
  • Fractals and fungaloids!
  • Pentagons and pentagrams!
  • More dry ice! (The shark puppet will also return.)

Here is a mushroom to tide you over while you wait…

It's like a fungal satellite dish!