Archive for April, 2017

People’s Climate March on Saturday…through Snow

Friday, April 28th, 2017

You would think that since it’s almost May that one could plan a march against global warming without having to worry about getting snowed on.

Well, weather rules — not climate.

While the People’s Climate March in Washington DC Saturday (April 29) will enjoy unseasonably warm weather, some of the Sister Marches out West won’t be so lucky. There are winter storm warnings, watches, and winter weather advisories in effect for portions of nine Rocky Mountain and High Plains states.

I’m sure the warmth in DC will be pointed to as evidence of global warming during the march. But check out this forecast of the regions of above and below normal for midday Saturday (graphic courtesy of

Temperatures will range from 40 deg. F below normal to 27 deg. F above normal. This is what’s called “weather”. Depending on where you are marching, you will either be bundled up against the cold and wind-driven snow, or in shorts and sweating.

At the same latitude, at the same time.

Yet, even the oldest of marchers will be unlikely to have experienced more than 2 deg. F of warming over their lifetime — too little to notice.

So, one is left to wonder, what are the real reasons for these marches?

UAH Shooting Investigation Update, and Thanks

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

John Christy met with the chief of police at UAH today, and I’m happy to report that, contrary to initial reports, the investigation into the seven shots fired into our building has not been dropped. UAH has also coordinated with other law enforcement, which is good.

I’d like to thank everyone who made the effort to spread the word about this event, which I consider a probable ecoterrorism attack. Rush Limbaugh also covered it, which I’m sure helped as well.

We have been asked to not make public any details of what they have learned so far. (So, please, don’t ask.)

What might surprise readers here is that our “reputation” (John Christy and me) has always been more widely known on a national and international level, than a local level. We think that local law enforcement personnel were probably not aware that scientists could be the potential targets of radicals… if that’s indeed what has happened.

I doubt we will learn much that we can divulge in the coming days and weeks. But the good news is that law enforcement is working on it. That’s all I wanted…for it not to be ignored.

Update on Possible Ecoterror Attack at UAH

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

Ecoterrorism. Eco-terrorism is defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as “the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against people or property by an environmentally oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.” -Wikipedia

It appears that at least some people are beginning to take the shots fired into the side of our building a little more seriously.

By way of clarification, the March for Science here on Saturday did not pass right by our building, but started farther down our street. (As I’ve said before, the shots would not have been fired during the march. The expensive “boutique” FN Five-seven [5.7 mm] gun used has a loud report — everyone would have noticed.)

Also, there seems to be some disagreement whether all shots hit John Christy’s floor (4th floor of the NSSTC). UAH Chief of Staff Ray Garner has been quoted in this story that a few shots hit the third floor. I did not see those when surveying the outside; each floor has about 5 ft of window at the top, and 3 ft of siding below the window. Some of the bullets hit the siding below the window. Below the 4th floor would then be 5 feet of window on the third floor, and no third floor windows were hit that I could tell.

But it doesn’t really matter. The bullets all hit near John Christy’s office.

University of Alabama in Huntsville climate scientist Dr. John Christy looks at a bullet hole in the window of the office next to his at the university. Seven shots were fired at the building over the weekend of April 22-23, and Christy believes his floor was targeted. (Lee Roop/

In fact, these details miss the big picture of this event. Even if: (1) the bullets had hit the other end of the building, (2) on the first floor, (3) it didn’t happen on Earth Day weekend, and (4) there was no March for Science that weekend, I would still consider 7 shots fired into our building a probable act of ecoterrorism.

I am not surprised this happened at all.

For the last 25 years our science has been viewed as standing in the way of efforts to institute a carbon tax or otherwise reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The amount of money involved in such changes in energy policy easily run into the hundreds of billions of dollars… more likely trillions.

When I was at NASA, my boss was personally told by Al Gore that Gore blamed our satellite temperature dataset for the failure of carbon tax legislation to pass.

So why am I not surprised that our building was shot up?

Because people have been killed for much less reason than hundreds of billions of dollars.

This is why the FBI needs to get involved in this case, if they haven’t already. Ecoterrorism is a federal crime. There were federal employees in the building at the time the shots were fired into the building.

The original media reports that the event was a “random shooting” were, in my opinion, irresponsible. As far as I know, there were no questions asked of us, like “Do you know why someone might have intentionally shot into your building?

Well, hell, yes I know why. And I’m a little surprised it didn’t happen sooner.

John and I have testified in congress many times on our work. John has been particularly effective in his testimony over the years. While I believe the shots were a “message” to us, I don’t think John or I are that worried for our personal safety. Whoever did this is most likely not going to approach us and physically threaten us in person. Instead, we mostly just get hate mail. Nevertheless, just in case I took personal defense training with firearms years ago.

I doubt that the perps will ever be identified. But if UAH employees want to have a sense of safety, it is not helpful for such an event to be deemed a “random shooting” within only six hours of it being reported, and the public told it won’t be investigated any further. Last evening, the UAH police sent out emails to everyone on campus asking for any additional information related to the shooting, and correcting their previous statement that no one was in the building during the shooting (NWS employees are here 24/7). The FBI needs to also be involved in this, sending a message that if anyone tries to do this again, there might be consequences.

The parents of students considering attending UAH would expect no less.

CLARIFICATION: I didn’t mean to imply the motive for the shooting was necessarily financial, although the perps could have been paid to do what someone else was afraid to do on their own. It’s more likely they are religiously motivated, hoping to Save the Earth. Of course, the evidence that more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is good for life on Earth is not part of their religion.

Shots Fired into the Christy/Spencer Building at UAH

Monday, April 24th, 2017

A total of seven shots were fired into our National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) building here at UAH over the weekend.

All bullets hit the 4th floor, which is where John Christy’s office is (my office is in another part of the building).

Given that this was Earth Day weekend, with a March for Science passing right past our building on Saturday afternoon, I think this is more than coincidence. When some people cannot argue facts, they resort to violence to get their way. It doesn’t matter that we don’t “deny global warming”; the fact we disagree with its seriousness and the level of human involvment in warming is enough to send some radicals into a tizzy.

Our street is fairly quiet, so I doubt the shots were fired during Saturday’s march here. It was probably late night Saturday or Sunday for the shooter to have a chance of being unnoticed.

Maybe the “March For Science” should have been called the “March To Silence”.

Campus and city police say they believe the shots were fired from a passing car, based upon the angle of entry into one of the offices. Shell casings were recovered outside. The closest distance a passing car would have been is 70 yards away.

This is a developing story. I have no other details.

UPDATE: Local news reports that UAH police have classified this as a “random shooting”. So, the seven Belgian 5.7 millimeter bullets which hit windows and bricks around John Christy’s office from 70 yards away were apparently deemed to be “random” occurrence. (Despite my personal defense training, I probably would have struggled to get that tight a “random” cluster with a semi-automatic pistol.) Nothing to see here, move along.

Time Lapse of Asteroid 2014 JO25

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Despite some clouds, I was able to capture time lapse video of Asteroid 2014 JO25 passing by last night. Nearly 2 hours of time exposure photos are compressed into 23 seconds, from 9:20 p.m. until 11:09 p.m. CDT (watch full-screen, and make sure the highest definition is enabled, 1080p):

The asteroid is traveling from near the left side toward the right. The clearest view, unobstructed by clouds, is near the end of the video.

The dumbbell-shaped asteroid was measured a few days ago by radar to be about 1 mile long, and was about 1 .5 million miles away from Earth at the time of the video.

Taken with a Canon 6D, Canon 200 mm f/2.8 lens at f/4.0, ISO2500, over 500 individual 10 sec exposures taken every 12 seconds, mounted on an Astrotrac star tracker, which in turn is on a Manfrotto geared head on a tripod.

Half-mile Wide Asteroid Close Approach on Wednesday

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

An asteroid capable of destroying Washington D.C. and New York City at the same time will be making its closest approach to Earth on April 19.

At a half-mile wide, it will have over 30,000 times as much mass as the 2013 meteor which exploded over Russia in 2013:

Smoke trail high in the stratosphere from the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013.

The current asteroid, called “2014 JO25“, is traveling at the unimaginably fast speed of 75,000 mph. It has been estimated that an asteroid of this size is capable of wiping out an area the size of New England, and causing global cooling from the dust that would be lofted into the stratosphere. “2014 JO25” will be the closest appoach asteroid of this size in the last 13 years.

Good News, Bad News

The good news is that even at closest approach, the asteroid — about the size of the Rock of Gibraltar — will safely pass by about 4.6 times as far away from Earth as the moon.

The bad news is that this asteroid was only discovered in 2014, and even if it was on a collision course with Earth, there probably would not have been enough time to mount a mission to hit it with a nuclear-weapon tipped rocket. This is why NASA has been surveying the skies, discovering new asteroids on a routine basis. While most of these are small, the relatively recent discovery of Wednesday’s asteroid suggests we will not have much time to respond if we discover one on a collision course with Earth. I suspect we will eventually have a rocket designed and ready for an intercept, just in case.

Here’s a time lapse video of a very close approach of a small (100 ft. diameter) asteroid in 2013, taken with a camera using a “normal” 50 mm lens (I will be attempting something similar with a telephoto lens and star tracking, weather permitting). The asteroid is the slowly moving object traversing the left side; the fast object with a glowing trail on the right side is a large meteor:

Why United is in Legal Trouble Over Removing a Passenger

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

By now, most people have heard of the passenger on a United Express flight that was bloodied and forcibly removed from a flight in Chicago so that airline employees could make it to Louisville to support another flight there.

The event has caused a public relations nightmare for United, whose CEO initially defended his employees actions. But with the PR problems mounting due to several disturbing videos other passengers took with their cell phones, the CEO did a 180 and later apologized.

As someone who has flown hundreds of times over the last 40 years, I am particularly interested in this situation. Over that time I have witnessed the coarsening of our culture, and any misbehavior I have seen on flights has almost always been on the part of passengers. Flight attendants generally have to endure abuse with a smile on their face.

In this case, we have a medical doctor who refused to de-plane, and security was called. He acted immature, for sure, and in the process of forcibly removing him from his seat, his head was slammed against an armrest.

So why is this case different?

Because the man had a legal right to keep his seat.

Under United’s Contract Of Carriage (COC) rules (which follow federal rules), a passenger may only be bumped from a flight before they board (Rule 25). After they have taken their seat, Rule 21 is in effect, which would allow security to forcibly remove the passenger for many reasons — none of which includes accommodating last minute needs for a seat for other airline employees (or even overbooking).

The flyer is in a contractual relationship with the airline, and each has rights and responsibilities under that contract. United Express violated the terms of the contract, and injured the passenger in the process.

But doesn’t federal law require passengers to follow all crewmembers’ instructions?

One might argue, ok, so they shouldn’t have forced the passenger to de-plane… but by federal law he has to comply.

Well, what if a flight attendant approaches a young lady who has just taken her seat, and says, “I’m sorry, m’am, but I’m going to have to ask you to stand up and take your clothes off.

Excuse me?

Take your clothes off, m’am. Either obey our instructions, or you are in violation of federal law.

Well, that’s just ridiculous, you might protest. It has nothing to do with the safety of the flight.

Exactly. And neither did the passenger who was forcibly removed from the United Express flight.

I know that the doctor has a shady history. He lost his license to practice medicine in Kentucky. He acted in an immature manner, and did not comply with even security personnel instructions.

But those issues are irrelevant. He was being told to do something in violation of the contract he had with the airline.

Now, the airline will pay.

I’m sure there will be an out-of-court settlement. The bigger hit on United will be its reputation, though, which will impact its business and its stock value.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more lawsuits. What about an executive who was told to vacate his seat, and as a result he didn’t make an important meeting and his company lost out on a multi-million dollar contract? I’m sure there will be all kinds of people who have suffered harm because airlines have not been following federal rules regarding removing passengers from a flight.

But if those airline employees didn’t make it to Louisville, a flight might have been cancelled!

The reason this whole thing went downhill is that the airlines have gotten used to intimidating passengers. They believe they have the right to remove someone from their seat for any reason they want, with minimum financial compensation, including needing the seat for employees or because of overbooking. Now we know that’s not true.

All United Express had to do was bump up the financial incentive to give up a seat. The offer was at $800, and going to the $1,350 “limit” would have fixed the problem. Julian Simon was the one who came up with the seat-auction system, and it should be used as intended… not circumvented by intimidating passengers with threats of violations of federal law.

The United employees would have made it to Louisville, without a major incident.

You can bet executives at every airline are in meetings this week, reviewing the Contract Of Carriage rules (with their lawyers), and passing the word down the management chain to never let this happen again.

Under the current rules, there was no reason for it to happen in the first place. It happened because of bad management.

UAH Global Temperature Update for March, 2017: +0.19 deg. C

Monday, April 3rd, 2017

The Version 6.0 global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for March, 2017 was +0.19 deg. C, down from the February, 2017 value of +0.35 deg. C (click for full size version):

The global, hemispheric, and tropical LT anomalies from the 30-year (1981-2010) average for the last 15 months are:

2016 01 +0.54 +0.69 +0.39 +0.84
2016 02 +0.83 +1.16 +0.50 +0.98
2016 03 +0.73 +0.94 +0.52 +1.08
2016 04 +0.71 +0.85 +0.58 +0.93
2016 05 +0.54 +0.64 +0.44 +0.71
2016 06 +0.33 +0.50 +0.17 +0.37
2016 07 +0.39 +0.48 +0.29 +0.47
2016 08 +0.43 +0.55 +0.31 +0.49
2016 09 +0.44 +0.49 +0.38 +0.37
2016 10 +0.40 +0.42 +0.39 +0.46
2016 11 +0.45 +0.40 +0.50 +0.37
2016 12 +0.24 +0.18 +0.30 +0.21
2017 01 +0.30 +0.26 +0.33 +0.07
2017 02 +0.35 +0.54 +0.15 +0.05
2017 03 +0.19 +0.30 +0.07 +0.03

The cooling in March occurred virtually everywhere, with 23 of the 26 subregions we track having cooler anomalies than in February.

The UAH LT global anomaly image for March, 2017 should be available in the next few days here.

The new Version 6 files should also be updated soon, and are located here:

Lower Troposphere:
Lower Stratosphere: