Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The spread of the super-monsoon

The recent floods in Pakistan have led to questions that should have been answered a year and a half ago when catastrophic bushfires and two weeks of record high temperatures in southern Australia combined with extreme flooding in Queensland.

What people like Ian Smith have shown is the a poleward shift in the Hadley circulation has caused a movement of climate belts approaching ten degrees of latitude since the 1970s. In effect, the pre-settlement climate of Kalumburu is now located near Wolfe Creek, that of Kakadu now near the Barkly region, that of Charleville now in Melbourne, and that of Carnarvon now near Perth. The boundary of the climatological “tropics” in terms of tropospheric height has shifted from around 25˚N and ˚S to 35˚N and ˚S since 1975, and what paleoclimate data exists suggests that it will most likely settle around 45˚N and ˚S. Such a shift would mean the end for Mediterranean climates and a major shift in the arid and monsoonal belts.

Moreover, if one thinks about it seriously, it would most definitely mean more monsoonal rain in Pakistan. Since the Himalayas restricts the passage of the monsoon northwards, unless monsoonal cells can begin to form over Western Asia or Central Asia this will mean a very intense cell over northwestern Pakistan, into which strong winds are drawn with the result that Pakistan receives extremely heavy rain, as would Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry gives clear evidence that, like in Australia, the monsoon belt is changing with reference to the heavy rains in North West Frontier Province:
The only explanation can be the link to climate change. Because that area very rarely receives monsoon rains
The very heavy rainfall over the northern edge of the monsoon belt in Liáoníng does suggest that there is a strong tendency towards more powerful Asian monsoons

Other sources say that rainfall in northwestern China – historically an arid zone – has increased by 33 percent since 1961 (less than observed increases in northwestern and central-western Australia, but relative to natural variability more). This, like the increase over central-western Australia, is almost certainly related to the growth of a super monsoon because, at the very least, more unstable air comes in from the east.

Friday, 13 August 2010

A “tyranny” we forget

The brilliant writer Bill Kauffman has noted how time standardisation has had major deleterious effects on how people organise their life.

Kauffman says that time standardisation began only when long-distance rail services had to schedule themselves to arrive at major stations as consistently as possible. He says that before this, clocks kept time according to the passage of the sun, so that midday would always be when the sun was as far overhead as possible. Over the years, especially with the spread of daylight savings. time has been removed increasingly from reflecting what I agree it is supposed to do. Though Kauffman neglects to mention it, daylight savings time is again driven by big businesses and government to maximise work and leisure during daylight. This reasoning almost becomes obsolete when activities like sport shift to the night to maximise television revenue, so that there is further reason to argue as I have come to in recent hot summers against daylight savings at all in Australia.

The life I have today - where I often am awake until 2:00 and sleep until 12:00 or even 13:00 - is the ultimate reflection of a tendency I must condemn even as I condemn my own behaviour. I know it would be better for me to get up earlier and not work after midnight, but my tendency to shift focus from one obsession to another makes this very tough.

A prediction for the 2010/2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot

Last year, I did a prediction for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot for 2009/2010. I will confess that it was completely wrong with the exception of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Chantels, neither of whom were voted in. Even among my “Bubbling Under” artists only two were nominated: Donna Summer, the Stooges and the Hollies, the latter two being voted in. The fact that there seems to be extraordinarily little activity discussing who will or should get in to the Hall for 2010/2011 makes me nonetheless eager to consider who the likely inductees will be.

In 2009/2010, the Hall of Fame increased the number of artists on the ballot from nine to twelve. For 2010/2011 it is apparently considering reducing the number of years of eligibility from twenty-five to twenty - a move I wholeheartedly disapprove of. Digital Dream Door, in an email to me, said that there is no artist “remotely deserving” who is newly eligible for 2010/2011, so that we are left with looking at artists already discussed by the Nominating Committee as of 2009/2010.

I predict that the following twelve artists will comprise the ballot for the 2010/2011 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:

- The “5” Royales: The Rock Hall has shown a very strong tendency to “juggle” around many candidates from most black genres - which lack the respect of the white critical establishment but which are undoubtedly of major influence. The “5” Royales were nominated in both 2001/2002 and 2003/2004, so they undoubtedly have support from the Nominating Committee and with the need of another vocal group and somebody from before the FM radio revolution of the late 1960s they are a likely shot this year.

- The Chantels: Already nominated last year, they look likely to obtain another chance as the only vocal harmony group remaining for discussion. Girl-group pop, like doo-wop, is an area which one does not generally see discussed by most critics but which is still a very important part of rock as Digital Dream Door notes. Under a genre-based approach the Chantels would seem inevitable on the ballot whether voted in or not.

- Randy Newman: Although Randy did not make the ballot for a second time after I predicted he would last year, reading about the way in which the Rock Hall Nominating Committee seems to be restructuring its choices makes me think Randy must have a chance for a second nomination. His consistent critical acclaim from Rolling Stone is a very important factor in his favour.

- Deep Purple: With the Hall seemingly wanting to reconsider styles for a long time rejected by the critical establishment, Deep Purple appear a very natural choice to represent hard rock or heavy metal. The trouble with them is so many changes of line-up, but the classic group of Ian Gillan, Richie Blackmore, Jon Lord, Roger Glover and Ian Paice did enough with Deep Purple in Rock, Fireball and Machine Head in defining heavy metal that those three albums could easily be judged sufficient for a place.

- Yes: With the induction of Genesis and the Hall aiming for a “style-by-style” approach, Yes seem a natural choice. They have even been cited as an influence by such bands as Metallica, which will not hurt their chances, nor would Rick Wakeman’s links with Sabbath.

- The MC5: With the Stooges finally inducted after I had expected them to be neglected after repeated failures, it would only be natural for the Nominating Committee to turn to their protopunk contemporaries. The MC5 have already reached the 2002/2003 ballot, and it is very tempting to think that this could be their year for actual induction - twenty years after vocalist Rob Tyner died.

- War: Already nominated in 2008/2009, War would fit the bill for a black rock act, though they like Sly and the Family Stone were in fact multi-ethnic. I expected them to get in in 2008/2009, and with the lack of major early funk acts for 2009/2010 it would seem that War would be likely to get another chance with considerable hope of being inducted. The problem of ex-Animal Eric Burdon leaving the band after two albums seems unlikely to affect them.

- Donna Summer: Like the Stooges before and alongside her, she has been a perennial choice of the Nominating Committee who has great trouble managing to get in. Also like the Stooges, I had doubted her staying in line but the way in which Summer got on last year suggests that they have nor given and are unlikely to give up on her.

- The Cure: The manner in which Charles Crossley breaks down the nominations for the 2009/2010 Rock Hall gives me a suggestion that the Cure will be used to represent post-punk or even goth. They are the only band in either genre except Depeche Mode with sufficient recognition to have a chance. so Crossley’s suggestion and their increasing recognition in the late 1980s means this could be their year?

- Def Leppard: The discussion of Bon Jovi gives me the impression that those in the Nominating Committee recognise the cultural impact of pop metal enough to warrant an artist from that genre being inducted. Def Leppard are undoubtedly the most important group in that genre, and would thus be favoured for a berth on the ballot in this scene.

- The Beastie Boys: With the approach of the twenty-fifth anniversary of their classic album Licensed to Ill, they seem to the most likely rap candidate before Public Enemy and N.W.A. become eligible in 2012/2013. Were extremely innovative and rarely followed in sampling metal acts such as Black Sabbath, Slayer and AC/DC and have a similarly unique status as a white rap band. They continued to be commercially successful into the 1990s.

- The Red Hot Chili Peppers: They were overlooked in 2009/2010, but the very fact that the Nominating Committee put them onto the ballot make me sure the Chili Peppers will be inducted soon. Whether Jack Irons and Hillel Slovak are inducted with the “classic” lineup of Kiedis, Frusciente, Flea and Chad Smith is far from certain, but it is hard not to see them on the ballot.
Bubbling Under
If the artists listed above do not make the ballot, it will probably be because the following artists make the list:

- Darlene Love: She failed on the 2009/2010 ballot, but appears to be popular with many in the Nominating Committee such as Steven van Zandt so that she may well have a serious chance this year, especially with the Committee’s characteristic tendencies to juggle around a set of artists.

- The Paul Butterfield Blues Band: Already nominated in 2005/2006, they could fulfil the role of blues in the ballot - one I have not filled in myself. Their role in transforming rock guitar into an improvised format made them highly influential on artists like inductees The Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers Band, but they never had a Top 50 album or any hit single so they might fall short with commercially-oriented sections of the voting body.

- The Monkees: The induction of the Hollies makes me think that they are a likely shot, although they have been consistently disfavoured by many in the Nominating Committee their vital role in popularising video as a medium for music ought to be of very valuable importance - as should their many hit singles.

- T. Rex: They have been long discussed by the Nominating Committee and their critical popularity as a representative of the glam rock movement, along with significant influence on many indie bands and noticeable popular success via the recognisable “Get It On” makes them a very likely chance especially with the Stooges inducted and no other glam band considered.

- Dr. John: Extremely influential upon the singer/songwriter movement (most notably cited Van Morrison), so that if the Hall wishes to acknowledge this unique sector of rock history, Dr. John would seem very likely since he has already been discussed before for a long time and this year could easily be his chance.

- Kraftwerk: Although almost completely neglected by the Nominating Committee since reaching the ballot in 2002/2003, Kraftwerk should not be neglected if the Hall thinks it ought to acknowledge genres of rock missed in the past two decades. As popularisers of electronic music, Kraftwerk are the only potential choice in their genre and that gives them a chance.

- Chic: Perennial candidates even though they have not been inducted on five tries since 2002/2003, Chic seem certain to be here forever until enough voters put them in. Their recognition may be limited to a few hits like “Le Freak”, but the importance of such musicians as Nile Rogers and Tony Thompson gives them a serious chance unless the Nominating Committee decides they have too many enemies within the voting body to get in.

- The B‘52s: The most popular New Wave group not yet inducted, the B‘52s have the recognisable songs that might well appeal to a Nominating Committee that wants to find a branch of rock not discussed in 2009/2010. Doubts exist because they had two incarnations before and after Ricky Wilson died of AIDS, which will diminish voters’ perceptions of them as one group.

- Afrika Bambaataa: The most important artist in “old school” hip hop and the only one to have reached a ballot, Afrika Bambaataa is clearly acknowledged as a major founder of the only genre to maintain both critical and popular acclaim since the “punk revolution”, which may well give him a serious shot in a year with no new chances.

- Stevie Ray Vaughan: “Modern” blues guitarist of tremendous acclaim for his live work and albums before being killed in a helicopter crash, Stevie Ray Vaughan was discussed by the Nominating Committee during 2009/2010 and is generally touted as a certainty. Some question over influence but a genuine chance this year with no worthy new candidates.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A link people in the northern hemisphere should know

Today, as a result of major floods at the northwestern fringe of the Asian monsoon belt and heatwaves in Russia, there has been a thought that the two are connected by the New York Times.

Whilst the Times are to be congratulated on this point, the problem is that they should have known all along that super-monsoons brought about by global warming are likely to cause heatwaves in temperate regions beyond this super-monsoon’s reach.

A study of summer temperatures in Melbourne, shielded by the Divide from the northerly airflow of a super-monsoon like 1973/1974, 1975/1976, 1996/1997 to 2000/2001, and every year since 2005/2006, demonstrates clearly how hot high-latitude weather increases under a super-monsoon.

Over these summers, Melbourne’s mean maxima four the four main months of the tropical wet season (December to March) is:
  • In December: 25.1˚C as against 24.1 ˚C for all years
  • In January: 27.5˚C as against 25.8˚C
  • In February: 27.8˚C as against 25.8˚C
  • In March: 25.1˚C as against 23.8˚C
What this shows, especially when one compares with adjacent seasons with less powerful monsoons, (e.g. only 23.9˚C in January 1975 or 25.1˚C in January 1996) is that when super-monsoons become the norm, hotter and very dry air flows into temperate regions on the leeward side. This would logically mean that for European Russia, on the northwestern side of the great mountain and plateau mass of Asia, hotter and drier air would be forced into the region, resulting in less rainfall and higher temperatures – as observed for decades in southern Australia.