Posts tagged ‘pictures’

Layout Update - Track Planning

Rather than starting a new blog,  I think I warned you that I would be doing model railroad layout updates here as a reference for fellow hobbyists.  You are welcome to blow right on past if the hobby is too geeky for your taste.

I have completed Version 1.0 of the track plan for an 18" by 9-foot shelf-style switching layout in N-scale.  I used the 3rd PlanIt CAD program to do the design.  Click to enlarge:

The layout has a number of features I wanted

  • Staging area (not shown, around a corner to the left)
  • Interchange with 2 other railroads
  • Small yard
  • Lots of industry space
  • Space for urban scenery

The layout is an imaginary short line switching urban tracks in the Phoenix area, interchanging with both the Union Pacific and BNSF, set in modern day or perhaps backdated to pre-merger ATSF.  I have spent several weeks photographic rail lines and industries in the area and have a good idea of the look and feel I want.  I am going to build it in two modules which split just right of the diagonal interchange line.

Because I am a masochist, I am using code 40 hand-laid track with hand made turnouts using Fast Tracks fixtures.   While newer code 55 rail is a big improvement over older rail, it is still out of scale.  I may make the diagonal main line crossing at the junction code 55 just to emphasize the difference between main and branch line -- also because I don't really like building crossovers by hand and Atlas has a nice code 55 45-degree crossover I can use.

I am not going to run the largest modern diesels or any long passenger equipment so I am going to try to get away with #5 turnouts, except on crossovers where I will use #8 if I can make them fit.  I am still debating some issues like turnout control, so I will leave that for later chapters.   Minimum radius can be big - 18" or more, except on the interchange track because it has to tuck behind the backdrop.

You will see I have already planned some mirrors into the design.  That was something that always got visitor's attention on my old layout -- tracks or roads appearing to go on forever.  This time I will use it for the interchange track as well as the yard (a la John Allen).  I am also going to try to double the apparent length of my grain elevator with one.  As always, the hard part is hiding the edges.  The interchange track will be easy, and a highway overpass will likely work on the yard, but I have not yet figured out how to disguise the mirror at the elevator.

This weekend I hope to actually build the base of the modules, using 1-inch extruded foam insulation board glued to 1/4" Lauan plywood.  Stay tuned, I hope to have it all in pictures.

Glass Houses

I was forwarded an email today, and I can't honestly figure out the source since it is one of those that has been forwarded a zillion times, but at some point it passed through the Arizona 2010 Project.  It consisted mainly of pictures of desert areas along major immigration routes that had been trashed by illegal immigrants.  This picture is pretty typical.

Certainly an ugly site, particularly for someone who lives and works in the outdoors as I do.

Here is a quote, I think from the original email but it may have been from one of the forwarders (emphasis added):

This layup is on an 'illegal super - highway' from Mexico to the USA (Tucson) used by human smugglers.

This layup area is located in a wash area approximately .5 of a mile long just south of Tucson.

We estimate there are over 3000 discarded back packs in this layup area. Countless water containers, food wrappers, clothing, and soiled baby diapers. And as you can see in this picture, fresh footprints leading right into it. We weren't too far behind them.

As I kept walking down the wash, I was sure it was going to end just ahead, but I kept walking and walking, and around every corner was more and more trash!

And of course the trail leading out of the layup area heading NORTH to Tucson, then on to your town tomorrow.

They've already come through here. Is this America the Beautiful?  Or another landfill?

The trash left behind by the illegals is another of the Environmental Disasters to hit the USA. Had this been done in one of our great Northwest Forests or Seashore National Parks areas there would be an uprising of the American people........but this is remote Arizona-Mexican border.

Well, it so happens my life is spent cleaning up public parks.  My company's mission is to privately operate public parks.  A lot of that job is picking up and hauling away the trash.  And I can tell you something with absolute certainty:  This is exactly what a highly trafficked area in our great Northwest Forests or Seashore National Parks would look like if someone wasn't there to pick up.  Here is one example from a northwest forest, in Oregon:

We run busy campgrounds and day use areas all over the country, and you would not believe the trash on the ground on a Monday morning.  And this is after the place was cleaned on Sunday morning and with trash cans available every 10 feet to throw things away correctly.  I have seen a few areas in the National Forest that were busy ad hoc camping areas -- meaning they had no facilities, no staff, and no trash cans -- and they were absolutely trashed by good old red-blooded American citizens.  Parts looked no different than this picture.  Most of these areas have since been closed, because of this ecological damage.

In fact, in my presentation I make to public agencies about our services, I say that we are actually in the environmental preservation business.  By attracting recreators to defined areas of the wilderness where we have staff to clean up after the visitors and limit their impact on nature, we are helping to preserve the other 99% of the land.

So, yes this is ugly, but it frustrates me that this is used to play into the Joe Arpaio type stereotypes of Mexicans

All these people that come over, they could come with disease. There's no control, no health checks or anything. They check fruits and vegetables, how come they don't check people? No one talks about that! They're all dirty. I sent out 200 inmates into the desert, they picked up 18 tons of garbage that they bring in"”the baby diapers and all that. Where's everybody who wants to preserve the desert?"

To my mind, this is an argument against Mexican immigration in the same way that violence against women is used as an argument against legalizing prostitution.  Prostitutes suffer abuse in large part because their profession is illegal which limits their access to the legal system when victimized, not because violence is inherent to their profession.  Trash in a wash in the desert is a result of the illegality of immigration that forces people into stream beds rather than city check points when they enter the country.

Postscript #1: Please, if you are a good, clean, thoughtful user of public parks, do not write me thinking I have dissed you.  I have not.  Most of our visitors are great and thoughtful, and we really appreciate that.  But it takes only a few to make an unbelievable mess.

Postscript #2: I am willing to believe that poorly educated immigrants have fewer litter taboos than we have been acculturated with.   But I have seen enough to say that no ethnic group out there should be too smug.  For God sakes, there had to be a large effort near the top of Mt. Everest to clean up a huge dump that had accumulated of oxygen bottles and other trash near the summit.   Here are pictures of what rich Americans and Europeans do on Mt Everest when they are hiking and there is no trash can nearby:

Mistaken Identity

I guess its lucky they didn't send the SWAT team in for her, as she might be dead now:

[Victoria] Aguayo has filed a lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court, after she was arrested, indicted, and nearly prosecuted for her "role" in the infamous "Desert Divas" prostitution ring.

One problem: Aguayo was not a "desert diva" and the evidence suggesting she was is laughable at best.

On one of the "Desert Divas'" many Web sites, the agency advertised an "escort" named "Tia." "Tia" is described on the site as being "thin, white, and blonde" and has a tattoo on her stomach that is clearly visible in the topless photo of the "diva" Aguayo's lawyer was kind enough to send New Times.

Phoenix Police Detective Christie Hein identified Aguayo as "Tia" based on the photo on the Web site when she arrested her on August 28, 2008, the lawsuit claims.

We've seen pictures of both "Tia" and Aguayo and we gotta say if Aguayo can be identified as "thin, white, and blonde," so can Aretha Franklin.

Aguayo is -- to put it politely -- more of a "plus-sized" woman, she's black, and is missing the tattoo that is so clearly visible in the photo of "Tia" on the "Desert Diva" Web site.

Simple, um, mistake, right?

After being arrested, Aguayo spent nearly two months in jail before she was granted a supervised release pending an upcoming trial.

While she was in the clink, Aguayo lost custody of her daughter, Jasmine, and has since been unable to get her back.

Carlos Miller Wins His Appeal

Photographer Carlos Miller of Miami, and a blogger I really enjoy reading, won his appeal of his criminal conviction (here and here).  Some of the details are important to bloggers:

A three-judge panel determined there were errors both in my conviction and my sentencing. The panel reversed both with directions for me to be tried again before a different judge.

In other words, they realized that Judge Jose L. Fernandez allowed his personal bias to affect my trial, including in how he allowed the prosecutor to use my blog against me "“ even though I did not even launch the blog until after my arrest "“ and how he allowed those blog postings to affect my sentencing.

The charge was effectively one of taking pictures of police in public, a perfectly legal and Constitutionally-protected activity that many police have none-the-less convinced themselves should be illegal, so they treat it as such.  The actual charge was "resisting arrest without violence," perhaps the most abusable statute on record.   Especially when there is no underlying illegal activity for the arrest in the first place.  In effect, if a police officer hassles someone for no reason, the citizen responds verbally that the officer is out of line - boom, "resisting arrest without violence." It's amazing one can be convicted of this without there being any underlying crime justifying the arrest, but I guess Martha Stewart went to jail for lying to the police about something that turned out not to be a crime as well.

In this particular  case, the Judge made this outrageous statement to Miller during sentencing:

I can't imagine why you thought this situation was worth getting arrested for. I can't imagine for the life of me.

I don't know if you think you're some kind of hero or something like that, but if you want to see a hero, go visit Arlington. All right? I don't think any of those people that are back here are those people that are giving you the "” the thumbs up on your blog.

If I were to sentence you to jail, none of those people would volunteer to go in there to serve the time with you. They might say they would, but I guarantee you they wouldn't. I'm shocked at your lack of remorse.

Miller gets double extra style points for defending himself through this whole process, and managing to win a victory at appeals when fewer than 1 in 15 trained attorneys are able to do so.

Sucking the Oxygen Out of the Environmental Movement

I often conclude my presentations on climate that conservationists will likely look back in 10-20 years on the global warming hysteria as the worst thing that has ever happened to the environmental movement.  While we focus 110% of our attention on a trace, naturally occurring atmospheric gas that our bodies exhale and plants need to live, here is what we are not focusing on.

All the problems in these pictures are ones we demonstrably know how to solve while still allowing for the economic growth that is pulling a billion Asians our of poverty.  The same cannot be said for our current ability to eliminate CO2, and therefore most combustion, without imploding our economy.

Like Some Weird Cargo-Cult Temple

Passed this the other day in Guntersville, Alabama.  Where vending machines go to die.



I wish I could have shot it from the air.  None of the ground pictures really do the monument justice.

Coolest Stuff I Have Worked With In A While

Electro-Luminescent wire.


I am a little late to the game on this stuff -- apparently hobbyists have been using it for crafting.  For example, who wouldn't want a Tron outfit?

To date, I have mostly sheltered readers from the geekiest of my hobbies: model railroading  (Yeah, I know what you are saying -- how can anyone who spends hours a day at a computer writing on arcane bits of business and economics issues possibly be anything but cool?)  This may soon change, as I am starting a new N-scale layout and I will probably inflict some in-progress photos on you folks.  To get an idea just how crazy I am, I build my own track from wood strips and bundles of rail and tiny, tiny spikes -- so we are not just talking about putting the old Lionel out on a green table cloth.

Anyway, for some time I have wanted to build a layout that is primarily meant to be run in the dark as a night scene.  So I am experimenting with a lot of technologies, from florescent paint to tiny LED's to small bulbs to get ideas for various scenes.  The EL wire turns out to be a dead ringer for scaled down neon, so I expect to use a lot in the city part of the layout.

I will leave you with a photo of the layout that probably inspired more people (including myself) into the hobby than any other  -  by the master, John Allen:


If you get intrigued with his work, more photos are here.

I wish I had more pictures of my old work, but they seem to have been lost in a move.  All I have left is a few poor-quality, poorly-scanned under-construction photos of my first layout from years and years ago.



Postscript: Can a hobby be geeky if Rod Stewart shares it?  He has built an absolutely stunning layout - one photo below and more herestewart-layout

And yes, the work really is his own, he didn't just pay someone to build it for him.

Those Coca-Cola Wall Signs They Sell At Swap Meets Are For Wimps

This person is selling old billboards - the actual full sized original art, typically about 9 feet tall and 20 feet wide.  So if you have a really big wall you need to decorate...

I found the site because model railroaders use it a lot -  the pictures from the web site when printed on a color printer size about perfectly for scale billboards, and it is surprisingly difficult if one is building a period railroad to get the appropriate period commercial art to decorate it.


Amazing Pictures

Garden Art

My wife and I went to see the opening of Dale Chihuly's new exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  Chihuly is, if not the leading, certainly the most famous modern glass artist  (he is perhaps best known for the lobby at the Bellagio, though this is far from my favorite work).  He has done garden exhibits before, but the shapes and colors were perfect for the desert landscape.

I don't have pictures yet from Arizona (we saw the exhibit at night), but here are some examples of his work:


And from a garden show in New York:


Information on the exhibit is here.  Highly recommended for anyone visiting Phoenix this winter.  I think one of the reasons my wife and I like his work is that his work is in some way reminiscent of the handbags she designs.

Absolutely Predictable

Apparently, even before the first train starts carrying passengers (sometime in December), Phoenix's new light rail system is already forcing bus fares up.  (via a reader)

Before the Valley's light-rail service ever begins, the cost to ride the train and city buses may be headed up.

The issue of raising the Valley's regional fare policy has been brewing for several months as transit officials have struggled to cover
rising gas prices and other increased operation costs, said Greg Jordan, Tempe's transit administrator. Transit and light-rail costs are covered by a half-cent sales tax, which has fallen over the past year.

The real issue is that transit agencies are generally given a fixed pot of money for operating subsidies (in this case the proceeds of a half-cent sales tax) and rail tends to take a hugely disproportionate share of that money, starving out less sexy but more practical and cost-effective bus systems.  Even in the that wet dream of rail planners, Portland:

In fact, 9.8 percent of Portland-area commuters took transit to work before the region build light rail. Today it is just 7.6 percent. In a story repeated in numerous cities that have built rail lines, rail cost overruns forced the city to raise bus fares and reduce bus service. That's a success?

This is even more likely in Phoenix, where buses make far more financial sense than rail, given our very low densities, lack of a real downtown area, and numerous commuting routes.  In fact, not only is it predictable, but I predicted it:

Rail makes zero sense in a city like Phoenix.  All this will do is create a financial black hole into which we shift all of our bus money, so the city will inevitably end up with a worse transportation system, not a better one.  Cities that build light rail almost always experience a reduction in total transit use (even the great God of planners Portland) for just this reason - budgets are limited, so since rail costs so much more per passenger, other transit is cut back.   But the pictures of the train will look pretty in the visitor's guide.

Why Phoenix Light Rail is Doomed in One Chart

The Arizona Republic had another of its cheerleading articles on light rail this morning.  In it was a chart that, contrary to the intent of the article, summarized exactly why Phoenix light rail is doomed.  Below is a chart of the employment density (top chart) and population density (bottom chart) at each stop along the first rail route.  Note that this line goes through what passes for the central business district of Phoenix and the oldest parts of town, so it was chosen to run through the highest density areas - all future extensions will likely have lower numbers.  Unfortunately, they do not reproduce this chart online so here is a scan:


Take the population density chart.  As a benchmark, lets take Boston.  The average density for all of the city of Boston is 12,199 people per square mile.  Phoenix's light rail line cut through the highest density areas of town has only one stop where density reaches this level, and most stops are less than half this density.  And this is against Boston's average, not against the density along its rail routes which are likely much higher than the average.

Rail makes zero sense in a city like Phoenix.  All this will do is create a financial black hole into which we shift all of our bus money, so the city will inevitably end up with a worse transportation system, not a better one.  Cities that build light rail almost always experience a reduction in total transit use (even the great God of planners Portland) for just this reason - budgets are limited, so since rail costs so much more per passenger, other transit is cut back.   But the pictures of the train will look pretty in the visitor's guide.

Postscript: Phoenix's overall average density is around 2,500 per square mile.  Assuming that the 12,000 in the chart above is one of the densest areas of Phoenix, this gives a ratio of about 5:1 between peak and average density.  This same ratio in Boston would imply peak density areas of 60,000 per square mile.  This may be high, but indicates how much higher route densities on Boston rail should be.  Oh, and by the way, Boston rail is losing a ton of money.

Other city densities here from 1990.  People think of LA as spread out, but LA has a density over three times higher than Phoenix!

Necessity is the Mother of ... a Great Kindle Gadget

Today I found myself out-of-town with my Kindle almost out of battery life, no Kindle charger, and a long plane flight tomorrow.  Passing a Radio Shack, I went in, with the intention of buying yet another charger for it  (I knew from a similar experience that I needed 5 volts with an "A" plug).  But I knew my charger was at home, and was hesitant to pay $20-30 for what would after today be an extra.

So I bought the following:

  • The cheapest USB cable I could find
  • An "A" plug
  • A short wire Radio Shack sells with a socket for the plug on one end and bare wires on the other (both the last two of these are located in the store near the replacement transformers)
  • A small roll of black electrical tape

I realized something key:  I already had a 5v power supply, in my computer, with a handy outlet, called "USB."  All I had to do was get all the plugs to match.

I borrowed some scissors and cut the USB  cable about 8 inches from the flat end, throwing the rest away.  I stripped off the insulation, and found the red and black wires - these are the 5V and ground wires (just search the Internet for USB pinouts if you want to be sure).  I then twisted one wire from the plug wire to the red and the other to the black, and taped the whole thing up (a bit of soldering would have been better, but I forgot my handy MacGyver construction kit). 

And what do you know, I now have a USB charger for my Kindle  (When I first plugged it in, the charge light did not go on, but I reversed the plug in its socket and that did the trick).  This will now charge my Kindle on the road from my laptop or when I am driving from my 12V car charger that has a USB connection.

I think this is a pretty handy accessory, and a quick Internet search did not show anyone currently selling one.

Update:  OK, someone else already thought of this, and has pictures of the procedure.  He notes that the supplied Kindle usb cable will not charge the device as well  (the Kindle cable goes from USB to a special miniature USB port, like the ones on a camera -- my cable goes from USB to the power inlet).  My homegrown version charged it very quickly.

Due Process?

Reason has been on top of the LA crackdown on bacon-dog sales from mobile carts for some time.  Recently, the police stormed in and confiscated a number of vendors' inventory and push carts.  OK, its bad enough that bacon product sales have been deemed a threat to the Republic.  But what freaked me out is that the police did not impound the carts but rather junked them (pictures here).  So where is the due process?  If the police are found to have acted precipitously in arresting these folks, if they are found to be not guilty for whatever reason, their property is still gone forever.  This is roughly equivilant to having your car crushed in a mobile hydraulic press within minutes of being given a speeding ticket.  I wonder how many of these carts, which likely represent a huge investment relative to the investment capital these small business people possess, are collateral for loans?


Sorry, no big idea in this post.  I just thought that this definition of "victim" was kindof stretching the term a bit:

Authorities in Yavapai County say they're looking for additional
victims of a nude hiker who allegedly told women he encountered that he
was "getting close to nature."

Yavapai County Sheriff's spokesman Dwight D'Evelyn says deputies
were called to a trail in Sedona on April 28 by two women who had been
confronted by the nude man. The man offered to take pictures of the

Public Shaming

Over the last week, I have heard about 20 commercials from our local prosecutor's office informing me that there is a web site I can visit with pictures of drunk drivers.  Uh, why?  Is this supposed to somehow help me, driving down a street at night, such that I might just recognize the oncoming driver from 300 yards away, despite his headlights, as being someone I saw on the web site?

Actually, no.  The prosecutor believes that the criminal justice system does not impose harsh enough penalties, so he is using his office and public funds to add an additional penalty not specified by the court or the legislature: Public shaming.  I was happy to see that Reason picked up this issue today:

Taking Thomas at his word, he is imposing extrajudicial punishment,
based on his unilateral conclusion that the penalties prescribed by law
for DUI offenses provide an inadequate deterrent

In addition, Mr. Thomas is very likely emulating the example of our self-aggrandizing county Sheriff, Joe Arpaio.  Sheriff Joe has built a PR machine for himself at public expense, in large part through extra-legal get-tough-on-criminals show-campaigns like this one. 

Startup Looking for Help

I know a gentleman named Alan Shapiro who has come up with what looks to me to be a nice new boat concept he calls the "Raptor".  Pictures of the boat are below (click on any picture for larger image)





I believe he also has a link to some YouTube video at his web site.  Update:  Here is the YouTube link.

He knows how to design and build the boat and has pretty good contacts for selling it, but needs help from a CFO/Strategist/business-type to push the company forward.  He has a prototype built and the production model fully costed-out and sourced.  However, he is about to look for a new round of financing and need help in that process.  He is offering equity in the company but can't pay a salary.  The job would not be full-time in the beginning.  If anyone has some time on their hands and has experience with startups and likes boating, this may be something to look into.  I have helped him a little bit, but I am out of time and need to focus on my own business.

I do not in any way warrant whether this is a good opportunity or not.  Don't assume that because Coyote seems like a smart guy, that this must be a viable business, because I just don't know.  I have given him a bit of startup money in exchange for some future boats, and a bit of advice, but that is the extent of it.   He has a draft business plan I am sure he would share with qualified candidates.

What I like about the product is that in the rental business, there really is a need for a personal watercraft or jetski that is enclosed, such that it will rent in colder waters and does not require renters to get out of their street clothes.  If you know what a mouse boat is, these are much higher performance versions of that type product.  He takes jetski engines, from 50-110HP, and puts them into this really fast hull shape.  This boat is fun to drive (see the video linked above) and my opinion is that it would rent well, but I of course have not been able to prove that with actual boats.  Alan believes there is also a strong market for individual sales, but I can't confirm or deny that from my own knowledge.

If you are interested, or know someone who might be, email me at the link on the right with some information about yourself and I will pass it on to Alan.

Hang in There

Maggie's Farm has a great series of pictures of a bear rescue from a high bridge.

It Really is a Smaller World

Anthony Watt has a pointer to a nice presentation in four parts on YouTube by Bob Carter made at a public forum in Australia.  He walks through some of the skeptics' issues with catastrophic man-made global warming theory.

What caught my attention, though, were the pictures Mr. Carter shows in his presentation about about 1:30 into part 4.  Because I took the pictures he shows, down at the University of Arizona, as part of Mr. Watts project to document temperature measurement stations.  Kind of cool to see someone I don't know in a country I have (sadly) never visited using a small bit of my work.  Part 4 is below, but you can find links to all four parts here.

The Green Security State

Via Hit and Run:

Chris Martin, Coldplay lead singer founder and frontman of the CleanScapes waste removal agency, is bidding for a piece of Seattle's garbage collection contract.

Martin is allowed to implement what he calls "my best idea, my
get-people-riled-up thing," we could all soon be subject to a kind of
garbage audit, too. He wants to bring the equivalent of the red-light
camera to your front curb. Just as the traffic camera captures you
running through a stoplight, CleanScapes' incriminating photos would
catch you improperly disposing of a milk carton. (It belongs in the
recycling bin.)

"We could do it the nice way," he says, meaning
his company would e-mail you pictures of your detritus, along with
helpful information about separating out recyclables. Or, he says,
CleanScapes could send the pictures on to municipal inspectors, and
"the city could enforce its own laws." (While the city has sent warning
letters, no fines have ever been issued, according to Seattle Public

The vast majority of recycling is a net loss, both in dollars and in energy.  Only a few items (scrap iron, aluminum cans, bulk news print) make any sense at all in curbside recycling programs.  Milk cartons are not one of them.  The rest of the curbside recycling we do is merely symbolism actions that demonstrate our commitment to the cause, much like reciting a liturgy in church (Interestingly, the more honest environmentalists have admitted this, but still support the program because they believe the symbolic action is an important source of public commitment to the environment).

I guess it is not surprising to see folks like Mr. Martin bring the full power of the state to bear to make sure you are sorting your milk cartons correctly.  After all, in previous generations, the powers-that-be in small towns would employ people to watch for folks skipping out on church, and nations like Cuba still use neighborhood watches to spy out political heresy.  It's just a sign of the times that now such tactics are being used to smoke out environmental heresy.

"Snuggles" at One

My daughter's white Maltese, embarrassingly named "Snuggles," just turned one.  Sorry we didn't really clean her up for her birthday pictures  (click to enlarge)



Update, in which I am chastised by my daughter:  I quote from my email this morning,

Why do you always have to talk about snuggles name??????? You say how
embarrassing it is and people laugh. Good for you, you make people laugh all
the time. It is funny to everyone but me. How do you think I feel,
with people laughing at me for naming snuggs that name ??? bad

OK, sorry hon.  Snuggles is actually a perfect name for this dog, who loves nothing more than to just sit in your lap.   Yes, Darwin, cuteness is a survival trait.  And Snuggles is the only other mammal in my household who will go running 3 miles with me, even when it is over 100 degrees out, and despite the fact she has a fur coat and the shortest legs by several orders of magnitude.  And, of course, beware to all intruders who run into this formidable home defense unit.

HDR Photography Test

I have never been satisfied with my pictures of the rock formations on my parents ranch.  They have always lacked the depth and detail I saw in nature.  I played around this week with HDR photography, which uses multiple exposures of the same image to bring out more contrast and detail.  Here is a closeup of the rocks.  I also got a nice effect with the clouds, combining multiple exposures with small cloud movement.  (click for higher resolution image)

An Interesting Source of Man-Made Global Warming

The US Historical Climate Network (USHCN) reports about a 0.6C temperature increase in the lower 48 states since about 1940.  There are two steps to reporting these historic temperature numbers.  First, actual measurements are taken.  Second, adjustments are made after the fact by scientists to the data.  Would you like to guess how much of the 0.6C temperature rise is from actual measured temperature increases and how much is due to adjustments of various levels of arbitrariness?  Here it is, for the period from 1940 to present in the US:

Actual Measured Temperature Increase: 0.1C
Adjustments and Fudge Factors: 0.5C
Total Reported Warming: 0.6C

Yes, that is correct.  Nearly all the reported warming in the USHCN data base, which is used for nearly all global warming studies and models, is from human-added fudge factors, guesstimates, and corrections.

I know what you are thinking - this is some weird skeptic's urban legend.  Well, actually it comes right from the NOAA web page which describes how they maintain the USHCN data set.  Below is the key chart from that site showing the sum of all the plug factors and corrections they add to the raw USHCN measurements:
I hope you can see this significance.  Before we get into whether these measurements are right or wrong or accurate or guesses, it is very useful to understand that almost all the reported warming in the US over the last 70 years is attributable to the plug figures and corrections a few government scientists add to the data in the back room.  It kind of reduces one's confidence, does it not, in the basic conclusion about catastrophic warming? 

Anyway, lets look at the specific adjustments.  The lines in the chart below should add to the overall adjustment line in the chart above.

  • Black line is a time of observation adjustment, adding about 0.3C since 1940
  • Light Blue line is a missing data adjustment that does not affect the data much since 1940
  • Red line is an adjustment for measurement technologies, adding about 0.05C since 1940
  • Yellow line is station location quality adjustment, adding about 0.2C since 1940
  • Purple line is an urban heat island adjustment, subtracting about 0.05C since 1950.

Let's take each of these in turn.  The time of observation adjustment is defined as follows:

The Time of Observation Bias (TOB) arises when the 24-hour daily
summary period at a station begins and ends at an hour other than local
midnight. When the summary period ends at an hour other than midnight,
monthly mean temperatures exhibit a systematic bias relative to the
local midnight standard

0.3C seems absurdly high for this adjustment, but I can't prove it.  However, if I understand the problem, a month might be picking up a few extra hours from the next month and losing a few hours to the previous month.  How is a few hour time shift really biasing a 720+ hour month by so large a number? I will look to see if I can find a study digging into this. 

I will skip over the missing data and measurement technology adjustments, since they are small.

The other two adjustments are fascinating.  The yellow line says that siting has improved on USHCN sites such that, since 1900, their locations average 0.2C cooler due to being near more grass and less asphalt today than in 1900. 

During this time, many sites were relocated from city locations to
airports and from roof tops to grassy areas. This often resulted in
cooler readings than were observed at the previous sites.

OK, without a bit of data, does that make a lick of sense?  Siting today in our modern world has GOT to be worse than it was in 1900 or even 1940.  In particular, the very short cable length of the newer MMTS sensors that are standard for USHCN temperature measurement guarantee that readings today are going to be close to buildings and paving.  Now, go to and look at pictures of actual installations, or look at the couple of installations in the Phoenix area I have taken pictures of here.  Do these look more grassy and natural than measurement sites were likely to be in 1900?  Or go to Anthony Watts blog and scroll down his posts on horrible USHCN sites.

The fact is that not only is NOAA getting this correction wrong, but it probably has the SIGN wrong.  The NOAA has never conducted the site by site survey that we discussed above.  Their statement that locations are improving is basically a leap of faith, rather than a fact-based conclusion.  In fact, NOAA scientists who believe that global warming is a problem tend to overlay this bias on the correction process.  Note the quote above -- temperatures that don't increase as they expect are treated as an error to be corrected, rather than a measurement that disputes their hypothesis.

Finally, lets look the urban heat island adjustment.  The NOAA is claiming that the sum total of urban heat island effects on its network since 1900 is just 0.1C, and less than 0.05C since 1940.  We're are talking about the difference between a rural America with horses and dirt roads and a modern urban society with asphalt and air conditioning and cars.  This rediculously small adjustment reflects two biases among anthropogenic global warming advocates:  1)  That urban heat island effects are negligible and 2) That the USHCN network is all rural.  Both are absurd.  Study after study has show urban heat island effects as high as 6-10 degrees.  Just watch you local news if you live in a city --  you will see actual temperatures and forecasts lower by several degrees in the outlying areas than in the center of town.  As to the locations all being rural, you just have to go to and see where these stations are.  Many of these sites might have been rural in 1940, but they have been engulfed by cities and towns since.

To illustrate both these points, lets take the case of the Tucson site I visited.  In 1900, Tucson was a dusty one-horse town (Arizona was not even a state yet).  In 1940, it was still pretty small.  Today, it is a city of over one million people and the USHCN station is dead in the center of town, located right on an asphalt parking lot.  The adjustment NOAA makes for all these changes?  Less than one degree.  I don't think this is fraud, but it is willful blindness.

So, let's play around with numbers.  Let's say that instead of a 0.2C site quality adjustment we instead used a -0.1C adjustment, which is still probably generous.  Let's assume that instead of a -0.05C urban adjustment we instead used -0.2C.  The resulting total adjustment from 1940 to date would be +0.05 and the total measurement temperature increase in the US would fall from 0.6C to 0.15C.  And this is without even changing the very large time of observation adjustment, and is using some pretty conservative assumptions on my part.  Wow!  This would put US warming more in the range of what satellite data would imply, and would make it virtually negligible. It means that the full amount of reported US warming may well be within the error bars for the measurement network and the correction factors.

While anthropogenic global warming enthusiasts are quick to analyze the reliability of any temperature measurement that shows lower global warming numbers (e.g. satellite), they have historically resisted calls to face up to the poor quality of surface temperature measurement and the arbitrariness of current surface temperature correction factors.  As the NOAA tellingly states:

The U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN, Karl et al. 1990)
is a high-quality moderate sized data set of monthly averaged maximum,
minimum, and mean temperature and total monthly precipitation developed
to assist in the detection of regional climate change. The USHCN is
comprised of 1221 high-quality stations from the U.S. Cooperative
Observing Network within the 48 contiguous United States.

Does it sound defensive to anyone else when they use "high-quality" in both of the first two sentences?  Does anyone think this is high qualityOr this?  Or this?  Its time to better understand what this network as well as its limitations.

My 60-second climate skepticism argument is here.  The much longer paper explaining the breath of skeptic's issues with catastrophic man-made global warming is available for free here.

PS- This analysis focuses only on the US.  However, is there anyone out there who thinks that measurement in China and India and Russia and Africa is less bad?

UpdateThis pdf has an overview of urban heat islands, including this analysis showing the magnitude of the Phoenix nighttime UHI as well as the fact that this UHI has grown substantially over the last 30 years.


Update2: Steve McIntyre looks at temperature adjustments for a couple of California Stations.  In one case he finds a station that has not moves for over one hundred years getting an adjustment that implies a urban heat island reduction over the past 100 years.

Those Dirty Nasty Steam Plumes

Don Surber writes:

The tax-exempt Environmental Integrity Project in Washington, D.C.,
issued its annual list of the 50 dirtiest power plants in America. This
is illustrated by a photo showing steam "” water vapor "” escaping from a
cooling tower. Sigh.

I made this same point long ago, laughing at the huge number of air pollution reports that are illustrated with pictures of steam plumes.  I also showed how photographers seemed to try to photograph the steam plumes at sunset, trying to turn them brown-looking to make it look like pollution.  Unfortunately for pollution-report illustrators, power plants have been cleaned up enough that they don't really emit visible smoke plumes any more.


Contributing to Science

I got to make a real contribution to science this weekend, and I will explain below how you can too.  First, some background.

A while back, Steve McIntyre was playing around with graphing temperature data form the US Historical Climate Network (USHCN).  This is the data that is used in most global warming studies and initializes most climate models.  Every climate station is not in this data base - in fact, only about 20 per state are in the data base, with locations supposedly selected in rural areas less subject to biases over time from urban development (urban areas are hotter, due to pavement and energy use, for reasons unrelated to the greenhouse effect).  The crosses below on the map show each station.

He showed this graph, of the USHCN data for temperature change since 1900 (data corrected for time of day of measurement).  Redder shows measured temperatures have increased since 1900, bluer means they have decreased.

He mentioned that Tucson was the number one warming site -- you can see it in the deepest red.  My first thought was, "wow, that is right next door to me."   My second thought was "how can Tucson, with a million people, count as rural?"   Scientists who study global warming apply all kinds of computer and statistical tricks to this data, supposedly to weed out measurement biases and problems.  However, a number of folks have been arguing that scientists really need to evaluate biases site by site.  Anthony Watts has taken this idea and created, a site dedicated to surveying and photographing these official USHCN stations.

So, with his guidance, I went down to Tucson to see for myself.  My full report is here, but this is what I found:

The measurement station is in the middle of an asphalt parking lot!  This is against all best practices, and even a layman can see how that would bias measurements high.  Watts finds other problems with the installation from my pictures that I missed, and comments here that it is the worst station he has seen yet.  That, by the way, is the great part about this exercise.  Amateurs like me don't need to be able to judge the installation, they just need to take good pictures that the experts can use to analyze problems.

As a final note on Tucson, during the time period between 1950 and today, when Tucson saw most of this measured temperature increase, the population of Tucson increased from under 200,000 to over 1,000,000.  That's a lot of extra urban heat, in addition to the local effects of this parking lot.

The way that scientists test for anomalies without actually visiting or looking at the sites is to do some statistical checks against other nearby sites.  Two such sites are Mesa and Wickenburg.  Mesa immediately set off alarm bells for me.  Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix, and is often listed among the fastest growing cities in the country.  Sure enough, the Mesa temperature measurements were discontinued in the late 1980's, but surely were biased upwards by urban growth up to that time.

So, I then went to visit Wickenburg.  Though is has been growing of late, Wickenburg would still be considered by most to be a small town.  So perhaps the Wickenburg measurement is without bias?  Well, here is the site:


That white coffee can looking thing on a pole in the center is the temperature instrument.  Again, we have it surrounded by a sea of black asphalt, but we also have two building walls that reflect heat onto the instrument.  Specs for the USHCN say that instruments should be installed in an open area away from buildings and on natural ground.  Oops.  Oh, and by the way, lets look the other direction...


What are those silver things just behind the unit?  They are the cooling fans for the building's AC.  Basically, all the heat from the building removed by the AC gets dumped out about 25 feet from this temperature measurement.

Remember, these are the few select stations being used to determine how much global warming the US is experiencing.  Pretty scary.  Another example is here.

Believe it or not, for all the work and money spent on global warming, this is something that no one had done -- actually go document these sites to check their quality and potential biases.  And you too can have the satisfaction of contributing to science.  All you need is a camera (a GPS of some sort is also helpful).  I wrote a post with instructions on how to find temperature stations near you and how to document them for science here.

For those interested, my paper on the skeptics' arguments against catastrophic man-made global warming is here.  If that is too long, the 60-second climate skeptic pitch is here.