Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Brooks' finding of individualism in cool lands

The cultural differences between Australia and other OECD nations are obvious merely from their different environmental and political policies – especially as those with any education will know how vastly older and more distinctive Australia’s flora, fauna and ecology is compared to the relatively universal and structurally uniform ecosystems that occur on young Enriched World soils.

Over the years, I have seen many and consistently opposiing explanations for observed cultural differences – which can be much deeper than is apparent from a surficial look at popular images of various cultures around the globe.

Although there are obvious flaws in Botero’s attempt to relate the two arguments, Carlos Botero and Russel Gray’s ‘The Ecology of Religious Beliefs’, John Snarey’s 1996 ‘The Natural Environment’s Impact upon Religious Ethics: A Cross-Cultural Study’ and Dustin Rubinstein’s ‘Environmental Uncertainty and the Global Biogeography of Cooperative Breeding in Birds’ suggest that Australia’s conservative policies are linked to a variable environment with a strong sense of community and cooperation. The more activist policies of the Enriched and Tropical Worlds are linked to lower climate variability and stronger individualism, which reduces the level of support in response to unforeseen variability in climate.

In his article ‘What Vacations Say about You’ in today’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Arthur C. Brooks – most famous for his landmark study of private charity Who Really Cares: the Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism – demonstrates that people who prefer to holiday – and one presumes to live – in mountainous regions tend to be more introverted than those who prefer the sea. This translates, given the fact that beaches tend to be in hot climates (where swimming is comfortable) and mountainous regions are inherently cool due to altitudinal “lapse” (jargon for temperature decrease due to adiabatic cooling), into a preference among introverts for cool climates and extroverts for hot ones.

Because introverts are more concerned about their own thoughts and feelings than others around them, they tend to be more creative and individualistic than extroverts, who tend to try to conform to cultural expectations. If we combine this empirical observation with the results of Brooks – actually done by psychologists from the University of Virginia and published in Journal of Research in Personality – one sees quite independent support for the findings of Botero, Snarey and Rubinstein that people in cool climates tend to be more individualistic than those in hot ones.

The implications of this result for global politics, culture and environment are profound. My personal experience with Australian politics and art shows extremes of conformity compared to the Enriched World. I have noticed Australian conformism and lack of creativity since I first read music reviews in The Age’s EG twenty years ago, but the writers were to my mind quietly baffled by why Australia never produced innovative artists. All these recent studies seem to quite conclusively demonstrate that conformism and risk-aversion is inherent (potentially necessary) in the oligotrophic, climatically erratic Australian environment, because risk might produce extreme and permanent food shortages and/or ecological collapse.

Risk-aversion may also explain the absence of encephalisation and cultural development among Australian Aborigines and Bushmen before improved fertilisers and lithophile metallurgy permitted their distant colonisation and economic development.

Paradoxically, in certain modern cases – most critically refusal among the mortgage belt to accept the smallest risk that transfer of investment from roads and coal to cleaner public transit and solar energy might reduce mobility or the reliability of household electricity – risk-aversion actually places Australia’s population at greater long-term risk (from greenhouse pollution and resultant radical climatic changes). This paradox is no doubt both an essential cause of the present ecological crisis and one that makes solving it so difficult.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

“Googly Summer” or the true “Year without a Summer”?

The year 1816, following a major volcanic eruption, is often referred to in US and European history chronicles as “The year without a Summer” as Western Europe and the United States went through a summer where – at least supposedly in the absence of large-scale climatological data – frosts and snows occurred all through the “summer”. What data does exist does suggest a very cool summer in these regions, but nothing to suggest a major global cooling.
As we can see above, the exceptionally cool conditions in Western Europe were balanced by hotter-than-normal conditions further east. This may suggest rain was the culprit behind major agricultural problems, since cool weather on a western flank and hot on an eastern one suggests exceptionally wet conditions at the boundary between the two anomalies, as can be seen here for July 1993 in the US:
Average temperatures for the conterminous US in July 1993. Note the record cool in the Northwest (as much as 9.1˚F or 5.1˚C below normal in southern Idaho – an anomaly which has a virgin or constant-greenhouse-forcing return period certainly far beyond 121 years) and the very hot weather in the Southeast

Rainfall for the conterminous US in July 1993. Note the heavy rainfall in Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri near the boundary between much-hotter and much-cooler than normal conditions.
The impression if often given that 1816 is without analog. However, from my knowledge of old county cricket I was aware 1907 was the coolest cricket season in England since the record cool and wet summer of 1879, but recently I found that Winnipeg averaged an amazing 4.3˚C. This is as much as 6˚C cooler than Winnipeg’s virgin mean May temperature – an astonishing anomaly for a month in the hotter half of the year. As can be seen below, anomalies for May 1907 were even larger over northern Minnesota:
Conterminous US temperature anomalies for May 1907. Note the extreme cool in the Upper Midwest, where many places averaged below freezing overnight.
In fact, the April to September half-year was astonishingly cool over the Lower 48 (certainly the coolest since 1895), though the unusual thing is that it followed a winter that was very mild south of the northern tier of states:
Indeed, the 1906/1907 winter is the sole pre-Lonie-Report winter remaining as of 2015 among the top ten warmest in Arizona, and despite the global warming produced by Australian greenhouse emissions still remains the hottest winter on record in Texas and New Mexico. The winter was also extremely wet except in the Northeast and Deep South.

Although it’s often the case that temperature anomalies in the contiguous US do not reflect global trends (e.g. March 1946) the summer of 1907 seems not to follow such a pattern, being cool to very cool almost everywhere with reliable data. May 1907’s extreme cool (if the base period on the top map is manifestly outside the virgin period and unnecessarily influenced by Australian car and coal pollution) can be seen to extend well into the Arctic Circle.

The extremely cool summer in the US and Britain is hardly counterbalanced at all – like we would expect it to be in the maps for the 1906/1907 winter, the summer of 1816, and July 1993. It is true that there is a hotter-than-normal area just west of the Urals, but unlike many more famous months of simultaneous unusually cool weather in the US and Europe, there is no markedly hotter-than-average weather over the Labrador or Bering Seas. This suggests 1907 really was a “year without a summer” on quite a wide scale, though global temperature data do not show this as far as I am aware – the winter of 1906/1907 was extremely cold in southeastern Europe, Canada and Greenland, but very mild in Scandinavia and northwestern Russia.

It’s interesting to see that this “year without a summer” saw googly bowlers – expected to be at their best in a hot and dry summer – do so well. It’s almost as if the extreme cool weather did not make pitches softer as would be expected, especially as if it was windy they might have dried out well as is indicate by the high proportion of finished matches for a summer with only 53 dry days out of 123.

It may also have helped Arthur Fielder gain his surprising return of 172 wickets in an era when fast bowlers tended to be valueless in wet weather – if this very cool summer and improved drainage made getting a foothold easier, it makes sense Fielder could against weaker batsmen do so well.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

“New Deal Winters”

Tonight, as I have been working in the Bailleau trying to find out more about the notorious North American cold wave of winter 1935/1936 – a winter in which wind chill temperatures are supposed to have reached “100 below zero” or minus 73.3 degrees Celsius – I have discovered a strange article from the New York Times about the relationship between politics and winter temperatures.

The article, titled ‘New Deal Winters’, argued that with democratic administrations since the 1910s, winters over the US became colder, and with Republican administrations warmer. The basis of the argument is that the election of Warren Harding in 1921 saw a trend towards milder winters in the 1920s that was reversed from the anomalous winter of 1933/1934, when extreme cold hit the Northeast.

There are many troubles with this. The most obvious is that the trends shown are inapplicable globally and are indeed not applicable to most of the United States itself. The winter of 1928/1929 under Hoover was exceedingly cold over large areas of the United States, and – in spite of numerous records for warmth over the East – the winters of 1931/1932 and especially 1932/1933 were, especially the latter winter, which remains the coldest on record in Arizona very cold over the West.

The winter of 1933/1934 – one of the great “landmark” winters in the history of meteorology in North America – did see severe and costly cold in the Northeast and the Canadian Maritimes where apple crops were especially hard-hit – but in the West this winter was quite unprecedentedly mild. In fact, before Australian greenhouse gas emissions took control of global climate decisively in the 1970s and 1980s, the mild Western winter of 1933/1934 would have been a three standard deviation event, which would mean so mild a winter would have been expected to occur only once every seven hundred and forty years! The New York Times did briefly note that most of the contiguous US had experienced a warm winter in 1933/1934, but did not decisively point out just how warm that abnormal winter was.

It was so warm that many lakes in the Intermountain West failed to freeze for the only time since records have been kept – including in the modern era controlled by Australian greenhouse gas emissions. In Idaho, not only was the ski industry completely ruined by lack of snow, despite very heavy December precipitation, but during the spring of 1934 major pest outbreaks hit agriculture in the Inland Northwest with exceptional severity due to the absence of normal winterkill. The lack of water – it ran off during the winter with significant flooding observed in a very wet December – hit agriculture in the West hard during the hot, dry summer of 1934.
Temperature ranks for the winter of 1928/1929, during the Hoover regime, in the contiguous US. Note the uniform cold west of the Appalachians

Temperature ranks for the winter of 1932/1933 in the contiguous United States. Note the record cold over the Southwest and abnormal warmth (would certainly still be warmest minus Australian greenhouse emissions) over New England)
Temperature ranks for the winter of 1933/1934 in the contiguous US. The extraordinary warmth over the Inland Northwest is difficult to comprehend from this figure – it averaged over three virgin standard deviations above the mean.
It can be seen from these graphs that a trend to warm winters which had been observed to some extent during the 1920s persisted very firmly over the Mississippi Valley, but extremes were observed elsewhere and had been seen in the winter of 1930/1931, which remained the warmest on record in the Prairie Provinces of Canada and interior British Columbia until the “magic gate” of 1998.
Temperature ranks for the winter of 1930/1931 over the contiguous United States. This winter was – before the “magic gate” of 1998 – the warmest on record almost throughout Western Canada and is still the second-driest over the CONUS
What is funny to me about the “New Deal Winter” is the knowledge that if Australia had a respectable level of environmental regulation (crucially taking into account the exceptional age and infertility of its soils) climates over the globe would certainly be or become cooler than they have been over the past forty or so years.

This regulation would necessarily forbid or almost forbid any form of greenhouse pollution whatsoever being used in or produced by Australia, and would necessarily increase the effective size of government (government’s power to control the activities of business) far beyond what is observed in the Enriched World. Australia has never seen this type of “New Deal” because its hot climate and low secondary productivity supports hierarchism over the egalitarianism which, during the past century over the Enriched World, has produced and continues to produce radical political changes. When reading ‘New Deal Winters’, I love to relate seemingly significant global climate changes to such moves by Australian governments as:
  1. the Lonie Report leading to large-scale building of freeways in Melbourne
  2. the reduction and abolition of tariffs (began in 1988) that has gradually changed Australia’s car prices from the world’s dearest to its cheapest
  3. the abolition of indexation of petrol excise in 2001 that has moved Australian fuel prices further down the global list
So the fact is that a “New Deal” in Australia with some serious greenhouse regulation and genuine taxation of highly polluting mineral corporations would rapidly have a major impact on global climate – but the real New Deal did not have the impacts the New York Times claimed during a freakishly harsh winter most probably driven by a highly negative North Atlantic Oscillation.