Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Weather and the science of Liberty

It's a lovely, coolish early July morning as I write this, 72 degrees at 0630 with just a puff of westerly breeze, not more than 3-4 mph. Humidity stands at 49 percent and viz is all the way beneath 8/10 cloud cover with bases at about 4,500 feet AGL.
Remember this? January 5, 2016.
July 5, 2016. We're on the other side of the sun now!
I'm a touch grumpy this morning following last night's firework depredations. My friends and neighbors went all out, and launched a final, thunderous barrage just after midnight. Which is long past my bedtime, thus the grumpiness.

However, coffee and a pretty morning are slowly working their magic.

Coffee and pretty soon had me out hiking the south unit. My "work" excuse for the hike was of course grass scouting and cattle inspection. On foot and at a hiking pace I can easily see what grass the cattle are taking and how much. This tells me a lot and allows me to make better and more informed decisions about managing both cattle and grass asset.
Funny lookin' cows in that sweetclover.
Buffalo grass, green needle grass.
The same thing applies to inspecting cattle. On foot and at a walking pace I see more and am able to observe details that I'd probably miss with part of my brain concentrating on driving. More complete information makes for more informed and better decisions. At least in theory.

Of course a very large part of hiking vs driving, at least for me, is the great pleasure I take from hiking the prairie. Leaving aside cattle and grass management, the prairie is endlessly fascinating. No two days are the same, no two hikes are the same. In addition to the observational pleasure I take from hiking, I also take a great deal of pleasure from the exertion of the hike. It gets the blood pumping and blows out the cobs, as it were, and always makes me feel better, physically and mentally.

As I hiked along the coolness of the morning quickly gave way to early July warmth. The heat wasn't oppressive by any means, and there was a bit of a westerly breeze, so it was rather enjoyable.

June was a warm month here. Air temperatures ran about five degrees above the 122-year norm, and soil temperatures about 5-10 degrees above average. This on the heels of a May in which air and soil temperatures were cooler than average.

June precipitation was slightly above average at the ranch but pretty much dead normal in the surrounding area. We saw 2.98 inches at the ranch while the official county scorekeeper recorded 2.89 inches, compared to the 122 year average of 2.67 inches. Much of the remainder of the Panhandle and adjacent areas in northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming have been drier this spring. The Panhandle average precipitation since April 1 stands at 7.5 inches, compared to the thirty-year norm of 7.9 inches, or about 95 percent of average. On the ranch we're at 9.66 inches since April 1, or about 122 percent of average.

Having all that moisture in the soil is quite nice. Cool season grasses are leggy and abundant. We've got western wheatgrass as much as 30 inches tall, and green needlegrass a full 36 inches tall. It's also a sweetclover year, and some of that is taller than my head! Warm season grasses are surprisingly tall as well, with buffalo grass approaching nine inches and blue grama 18 inches. Forbs are equally robust and the scenery is awash with summer color.

Abundant plant biomass means abundant wildlife as well, from birds

to insects

to mammals to reptiles.
See him?

The large scale weather pattern is presently changing, with ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation) moving from El Niño to La Niña. What this means in the far, equatorial Pacific is that water temperatures and barometric pressures are changing by tiny increments. What it often means here on the High Plains is that we’re moving from a period of abundant-to-adequate precipitation to a period of less precipitation.

Last year, when ENSO was well established in the El Niño pattern, the Panhandle’s average precipitation remained well over 100 percent of normal. With the shift toward La Niña, we’re already seeing less precipitation, and since April 1 of this year the Panhandle average has fallen below 100 percent of normal overall.

None of this is new. We live in a semi-arid climate zone, and this part of the world has seen routine wet and dry periods for at least the last 13,000 years. Only a couple of years ago, as 2011 began to fade, we moved from wet to very dry, cringed throughout the 2012 drought, and rejoiced when precipitation began to pick up again in 2013.

Are we presently heading for a drought? It’s possible, but it’s also impossible to know for certain. If you’re in it for the long haul, and most farmers and ranchers are, these precipitation variations are part of the great tapestry of life. We enjoy the good years and endure the dry years.


Tim Ferris wrote a book some years back called The Science of Liberty: Democracy, Reason and the Laws of Nature.

Now if you're a person like me, one who comes to both science and Americanism through reason and rigor, you can't help but be grabbed by a title like that.

Science, the method of understanding what is, where the foundational principle is that falsifiable evidence is the final word. The most beautiful theory, said Thomas H. Huxley (more or less), can be killed by an ugly fact.

Americanism, the method of ensuring individual liberty, where the foundational principle is that all men are created equal and endowed with natural rights.

Two great tastes that go great together.

In science, you may construct a beautiful and elegant theory describing why helium is heavier than air, or why the bumblebee cannot fly. Yet your theories crumble to dust in the face of a rising balloon or a buzzing bee.

In Americanism, you may construct a beautiful and elegant theory describing why some men are more equal, or why some men are less equal. Yet your theories crumble to dust in the face of more equal and less equal people who are, nevertheless and without question, human beings.

In both cases you can argue passionately and endlessly and never, ever, make a dent in factual reality.

So Ferris, of whom I'd never (believe it or not) previously heard, made an astonishingly good case for the absolute requirement for American Liberty to be supported, if not driven by, real science. And for science to be supported and driven by American Liberty. Science that is honest and rigorous. American Liberty, where the foundational principle is that all men are created equal, and endowed with natural rights.

That was the first 260 pages. Then came the final chapter, where he pretty much said that honest, rigorous science and American Liberty must bow to the One World Solution For Global Warming. It's simply too important for honesty, too dangerous for facts. Superior, vastly more-equal people, like Ferris himself, have no choice but to lie to, cheat, and steal from the untermenschen. There's simply no other way to save the planet.

So. Global warming. Or if you prefer to use the language of Ferris and the rest of the ubermenschen, climate change. Here is the theory. Mankind is burning fossil fuels to produce energy, and in the process, releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas -- that is, it absorbs and holds heat. Therefore, man-made carbon dioxide is trapping heat in the atmosphere of our planet, causing temperatures to rise. Unless something reverses this process the planet will heat up until it is destroyed. I think it melts or something.

Here's the ugly fact that kills the theory, the real truth that is really inconvenient to the ubermenschenThe planet is not heating up.

For the theory to be true, the planet must be warming up. If it is not warming up, the theory is false. Period.

Below are three graphs of Kimball, Nebraska temperature data from the last 122 years. Highest maximum temperature by year, lowest minimum temperature by year, and mean average temperature by year. These graphs are made from raw temperature data. About six years of data are missing, from roughly mid-1912 through 1918. One of the nice things about this data set is that it begins at pretty much the beginning of the expansion of the industrial revolution, about the time fossil fuel burning really began to hit its stride around the globe. About the time theoretical carbon dioxide emissions began to destroy the planet.

If the planet were heating up, Kimball would be heating up. There would be a clear upward trend on the graph. Take a look. You don't even need a close look. For the theory to be true, the planet must be warming up. If it is not warming up, the theory is false. Period.

I know, I know. The heat is hiding just now, deep in the ocean and far above in the sky. And it's lurking. Just waiting for someone to tell it that it's at the magical tipping point. Then it will attack!


You may recall hearing that February, 2016 was the hottest February the planet has ever seen. This was reported as absolute evidence that global warming is happening, as proof of the theory that fossil fuel burning is increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide which is trapping heat in the atmosphere which is causing global temperatures to rise which will soon melt the Earth and prevent the production of cheetos. Everybody, and I do mean everybody, agrees. It's a consensus. February, 2016 was the hottest February of all time, and that means the tipping point is nigh!

Below are three graphs of February temperatures at Kimball, Nebraska for the last 122 years. Highest maximum February temperature by year. Lowest minimum February temperature by year. Mean average February temperature by year.

Did Kimball see its highest February temperature in 2016? The February high for 2016 was 72 degrees. The highest February temperature recorded at Kimball in the last 122 years was 76 degrees, in 1962. In fact, 2016 saw the eighth highest February temperature since 1893, and that was a four-way tie with 1950, 1954, and 1958.

Did Kimball see its highest February low temperature in 2016? The highest February low temperature for 2016 was 30 degrees. Sixteen of the last 122 Kimball Februaries have had the same 30 degree, highest low temperature for the month. Eighty-one of the last 122 Kimball Februaries have had a warmer, highest low temperature for the month.

Did Kimball see its highest February average mean temperature in 2016? The February average mean temperature for 2016 was 33.9 degrees. The highest February average mean temperature recorded at Kimball in the last 122 years was 39.8 degrees, in 1954. In fact, 2016 saw the twenty-fourth highest February average mean temperature since 1893, a two-way tie with 1977.

What Kimball saw in February, and what the rest of the world saw in February, was a pretty normal month, temperature wise. Doubtless there were locations that were warmer than average, just as there were locations that were cooler than average.

So how is it that February, 2016, was universally reported as the hottest February of all time?

Well... The reporting agencies were NOAA and NASA. What they failed to mention, or perhaps mumbled under their breath, or only included in the supplemental notes, was that they only looked at the period of 1959-2016, and then only at the data that they had "scientifically smoothed."

What, you might wonder, is "scientific smoothing?" 

It's what you and I would call lying. They changed all the numbers that didn't agree with February 2016 being the hottest month of all time.

So there you go. The science of liberty. Yay.


  1. So, and I'm just guessing here, you don't recommend the book?

    These so-called "scientists" are ruining things for real scientists.

    1. The first 260 pages are okay, but it's a setup. And real scientists are allowing the charlatans to run wild. It's human nature. At some point though a little kid is gonna have to point out that all them fellows is naked. Might be too late at that point.

  2. We are stuck in a culture that considers Bill Nye to be a scientist, that considers that a website must not just declare love of science, but have the F word as part of it's name. He are sinking low in the intellectual seas, and the fools want to open the sea cocks, rather than pump out the waste, and get back on an even keel.

    There are too many people, who have adopted what might be called Gaiaism as their religion, and believe that they must obey the decrees of their High Priests, like Al Gore, or we are doomed, when the High Priests are mere conmen, who look upon fleecing government funds, and private donations as just a way to further the lining of their own pockets.

    Then again, there are too many "scientists", that only look upon funding as their rice bowl, and will provide the data desired, in order to keep those bowls full of rice.

    But, worst of all, people just don't think, they prefer some one else to do their thinking, and spoon feed thoughts into their heads. It depresses me.

    Nice photos, I like the horny toad.

    1. Thanks Scott. You make some great points.

      Most of our friends and neighbors have become largely post-cognitive.