Thursday, July 31, 2014

El Nino: the difference a month makes

ABC 2 July, 2014:

Weather patterns falling in line with El Nino forecast

More weather patterns are emerging to reinforce the Bureau of Meteorology's prediction of at least a 70 per cent chance of an El Nino weather pattern developing in Spring 2014.

ABC 31 JULY 2014:

El Nino prediction revised down to 50 per cent chance by Bureau of Meteorology

The Bureau of Meteorology has revised down its prediction of an El Nino weather event developing later this year.
Manager of climate predictions at the Bureau of Meteorology, Dr Andrew Watkins, says the forecast could still change.

And no queries from ABC about the usefulness of failing models ?
For what it's worth our big toe suggests a return to neutral conditions this spring with a potential for a late summer La Nina.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

ABC environmental activist misrepresents state of knowledge on sunscreen nano-particles

ABC's resident activist (one of many) Sara Phillips has another piece on nano-particles that misrepresents the science, and gives activists precedence over experts. Titled: Nano sunscreen may be made dangerous by detergent the article commences with an outright lie and just spirals into nonsense from there on.

"While the jury is still out on the safety of nano-particles in sunscreen, when combined with common household products, it may react in unexpected ways."

The jury is not out, it came in a while ago! Nano-particles in sunscreen are safe! 

The following comes from the CSIRO's website: 
Are sunscreens that contain nanoparticles safe to use?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which is responsible for regulating sunscreens in Australia, reviewed the scientific literature in 2006 and concluded that:
  • 'There is evidence from isolated cell experiments that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can induce free radical formation in the presence of light and that this may damage these cells (photo-mutagenicity with zinc oxide).'
  • 'However, this would only be of concern in people using sunscreens if the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide penetrated into viable skin cells.'
  • 'The weight of current evidence is that they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer dead layer (stratum corneum) of the skin.'

The TGA updated its review in 2009, and again in 2013. The 2013 review concluded that ‘on current evidence, neither TiO2 nor ZnO NPs are likely to cause harm when used as ingredients in sunscreens’.

The following by Paul Wright (Associate Professor, Head of the Nanosafety Research Group, School of Medical Sciences at RMIT-University, founding co-ordinator of both Nanosafe Australia ( and Asia Nano Safe research networks, and nanosafety advisor to the Australian Nanotechnology Network (ANN). 

Time to dispel the fear of nanoparticles in sunscreens
Not all nanoparticles behave in the same way biologically, nor are all of them potentially hazardous. Indeed, many engineered nanoparticles are designed with both function and safety in mind. The substance that the nanoparticle is made from is of vital importance in any hazard assessment. And nano zinc oxide has been thoroughly assessed for safety when used in sunscreens and in lip products.

Excessive UV light on the other hand, poses a serious risk for skin damage and cancer. Rest assured that the nano sunscreens can be used safely, so don’t stop using the most effective broad spectrum sunscreen as part of your sun protection measures.

I recommend using non-aerosol zinc oxide sunscreens containing either nano or bulk particles. Their broad spectrum UV filtering ability (including the UVA range), and high UV resistance and negligible skin absorption make them the safest and best way to protect yourself from sunburn. If still in doubt, know that the same conclusions were made by the USEnvironmental Working Group in their 2012 sunscreen report.

Missing News: climate models stuffed (again)

We know ABC is a deadzone for climate science. The only climate science news its activist reporters cover favours alarm and sensationalism. No surprise then that this new paper by Ross McKitrick and Timothy J. Vogelsang has not made it past the gate keepers:

HAC robust trend comparisons among climate series with possible level shifts
Ross R. McKitrick, and Timothy J. Vogelsang

Comparisons of trends across climatic data sets are complicated by the presence of serial correlation and possible step-changes in the mean. We build on heteroskedasticity and autocorrelation robust methods, specifically the Vogelsang–Franses (VF) nonparametric testing approach, to allow for a step-change in the mean (level shift) at a known or unknown date. The VF method provides a powerful multivariate trend estimator robust to unknown serial correlation up to but not including unit roots. We show that the critical values change when the level shift occurs at a known or unknown date. We derive an asymptotic approximation that can be used to simulate critical values, and we outline a simple bootstrap procedure that generates valid critical values and p-values. Our application builds on the literature comparing simulated and observed trends in the tropical lower troposphere and mid-troposphere since 1958. The method identifies a shift in observations around 1977, coinciding with the Pacific Climate Shift. Allowing for a level shift causes apparently significant observed trends to become statistically insignificant. Model overestimation of warming is significant whether or not we account for a level shift, although null rejections are much stronger when the level shift is included.

For visiting ABC reporters there is a good summary of the paper by McKitrick at Steve McIntyre's Climate Audit.
Bottom Line
Over the 55-years from 1958 to 2012, climate models not only significantly over-predict observed warming in the tropical troposphere, but they represent it in a fundamentally different way than is observed. Models represent the interval as a smooth upward trend with no step-change. The observations, however, assign all the warming to a single step-change in the late 1970s coinciding with a known event (the Pacific Climate Shift), and identify no significant trend before or after. In my opinion the simplest and most likely interpretation of these results is that climate models, on average, fail to replicate whatever process yielded the step-change in the late 1970s and they significantly overstate the overall atmospheric response to rising CO2 levels.

Misleading headlines create false impression about rock stencil authenticity

The following complaint sent to the ABC about this article from ABC Rural (updated):

Mine's Aboriginal 'rock art' found to be authentic

The headline to this report on disputed aboriginal rock stencils reads:

"Mine's Aboriginal 'rock art' found to be authentic"

The opening line reads:
"Environmental groups say Aboriginal rock art at a site earmarked for a controversial coal mine, has been proven to be authentic."

It goes on...

"There was a question of the authenticity of a white hand stencil, they found that hand stencil to be authentic, they found a number of other hand stencils in the cave, in the floor of the cave they found chert stone tools, which suggested previous Aboriginal habitation,

In fact...(from a real journalist...) 

Activists vindicated as Aboriginal cave art is ruled to be genuine

A report released yesterday by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage concluded at least some of the figures in the cave are genuine traditional art. Closer examination of the cave showed there were two separate sets of art: a whitish stencil and a series of reddish ones. The office experts concluded “the status of the grey/white hand stencil is inconclusive”, but they found reddish stencils showing “portions of hands and fingers” looked old and eroded, were consistent with a unique style of the area and were “traditional Aboriginal hand ­stencils”.

ABC's headline amounts to an editorial opinion and misrepresents the known facts. Please correct.