Summer hols; summer school, swimming and that book

You must be finished for the summer? Like most academics, I get asked this question every day in summer, usually by village acquaintances convinced that college closes the day the students finish their exams.

Some lecturers in the Institutes of Technology do indeed take off from June 20th to September 1st; that is their right, given the heavy teaching load during termtime. However, for those of us who try to keep up the research, the summer months are the time to get something done, just like our colleagues in the universities.

For me, this is no chore  – the sheer bliss of being able to do quiet research without classes, meetings, staff interactions and all the rest of it. Very restful. Also, we’re having a serious heatwave in Ireland this month and I’m happy to escape to the cool, quiet office every day. So I plug away happily during the day and treat myself to a swim in my village in the evenings..

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Tide’s in on Lawlor’s Strand in Dunmore East

Actually, I did give some ‘cameo’ lectures this week and last, to our summer school. We have a very nice bunch of engineering, computing and business students visiting from Kiel in Germany, and I had fun trying to condense my climate science course down to a one-hour presentation for each group. I haven’t given short presentations on climate before, it was very satisfying to prepare (see here for a copy of the talk)  The other thing I noticed was that students from the continent always seem to be very mature, polite and interested. I must look into an exchange sometime, do they have Erasmus for staff?

My main task this summer is to finish my little book on cosmology. It’s based on a course I have taught for some years and it’s been a lot of fun to write. Now I’m finding that it’s one thing to write a book and quite another to get it published! Still, I have plenty of time now to be writing book proposals and writing to publishers. In the meantime, I look forward to a swim in the sea everyday after work and a walk into the village. It’s funny to live in a village where others come for summer holidays!

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Tide’s out on Lawlor’s Strand in Dunmore East

Update

Unfortunately it’s so warm, we’re beginning to get quite a few jellyfish. Hope it cools down a little next week!

7 Comments

Filed under Teaching, Third level

7 responses to “Summer hols; summer school, swimming and that book

  1. Pingback: Ninth Level Ireland » Blog Archive » Summer hols; summer school, swimming and that book

  2. I have a question regarding your third slide in your one-hour presentation. You show “Freq of min. August temp. Texas”, which I take to be a frequency distribution for Texas daily minimum temperatures for August. Correct me if I’m wrong in this interpretation.

    But if my interpretation is correct what is the source of your data? The GHCN stations used for the minimum temperature data set suggest these data values are way out. The simple mean minimum temperature (i.e. no weighting to take spatial distribution into account) at the end of August for these stations is over 21 degrees. Even the simple mean of the record minima for each station for August 31th is 14.8 degrees. Your figure suggests a mean below 10 degrees.

    I will probably also have some comments on your later slides, but I’ve paused on slide 3 for now.

    You might consider adding further explanatory material in the notes area of your slides. When distributing PowerPoint files for lectures or talks I always found this useful for providing data sources, URLs, or further explanatory material which would otherwise clutter the slide. I’m not sure whether your blog settings will permit embedding an image or even HTML tags, but here goes with an example: ppt_with_notes

    • Yes it’s actually Fairbanks, AK (I discovered the students didn’t know where that was so called it Texas). The graph represents the frequency of occurence of daily low temperature for the two periods 1945-1975 and 1975-2009 and the data is available at http://cdo.ncdc.noaa.gov
      Bear in mind the point is merely to explain the difference between wearther and climate. In such introductory lectures I like to keep info to a minimum

  3. Texas? Why not just Alaska? – I can understand students not knowing where Fairbanks is, but not knowing Alaska seems unlikely!

  4. I said I might have some more comments on your slides, but of course it is difficult to comment fairly without seeing your further development from each slide.

    I have to in any case award “black marks” for your third and fourth slide. On the third you acknowledge that this is Alaska, not Texas. In the context of your presentation this may seem a minor flaw. And I acknowledge that data quality and data integrity happen to be my ‘thing’. Nothing in your presentation however suggests to me that you are aware of similar geographical ‘translations’ in data as used in earnest in climate science papers. The usual excuse is that such errors “don’t matter”, but in fact they may, and at least in some cases do. I’ll follow upon that in a later reply.

    As to your fourth slide, the polar bear image is a photoshopped image, use of which was acknowledged by Science to be a mistake. In retrospect, that it was used in conjunction with a letter titled “Climate Change and the Integrity of Science” by one Peter Gleick et al adds a touch of further irony. Not an image I would touch with the proverbial barge pole.

    More seriously, climate science being a very wide field no one can be expected to have detailed first hand knowledge in more than a few sub-topics. As I said, my ‘thing’ is data quality and integrity, and if you followed the link in my first reply above you will know I have at least some claim to knowledge in one specific area. For now however I’d like to set you an exercise based on your recent piece in the Irish Times (August 22nd), perhaps with the assistance of your mathematics lecturer colleague.

    You suggest that “a steady rise has been observed in the concentration of these gases that correlates uncannily well with the warming”, and indeed a correlation significantly different from zero can be found for any of the usual temperature series. (As an aside, if you use the Dow Jones Industrial index instead of the Mauna Loa series for the suggested exercise you will find an even better correlation with the RSS land series – something which might suggest caution regarding possibly spurious correlations).

    Is significantly different from zero sufficient to claim “correlates uncannily well”? Is your calculated correlation even appropriate? Have you considered whether these calculations are based on homogenous data?

    Download the Mauna Loa series and your selection of temperature series to correlate with it. http://www.woodfortrees.org for example will provide you with Mauna Loa, Gistemp, HadCRUT, CRUTEM, RSS and UAH in one place. Take the annual rather than the monthly data (the monthly data would not be appropriate here, but if used would be even less to your liking). Calculate and if you wish test your correlations. They will all be significantly different from zero. Then calculate correlations separately with the first 30 years of the Mauna Loa series and with the last 30 years of the Mauna Loa series, and test the significance of the difference between the pair of correlation coefficients for each temperature series.
    Would you now still maintain that these series correlate “uncannily well”?

    The two time periods do overlap as the Mauna Loa series covers only 55 years. I’ve suggested 30 year periods to conform with climate rather than weather definitions, and the overlap should bias the results in an “alarmist” rather than “skeptic” direction.

  5. A Google search for “uncannily well correlated” by the way turns up

    Meteorological records reveal that temperature variations on the earth’s surface are uncannily well correlated with cosmic ray variations.

    Not my area of expertise, probably closer to yours, and dated 2006, so possibly since falsified, but I found the similarity of language “uncanny”!