2018 Oceans Remain Cool

The best context for understanding decadal temperature changes comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:

  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature in recent years.

HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.  More on what distinguishes HadSST3 from other SST products at the end.

The Current Context

The chart below shows SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3 starting in 2015 through January 2018.
Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 were first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in January 2016, and steadily declining back below its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added three bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year. Also, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one.

A global cooling pattern has persisted, seen clearly in the Tropics since its peak in 2016, joined by NH and SH dropping since last August. An upward bump occurred in October, and now again in January 2018.  As will be shown in the analysis below, 0.410C has been the average global anomaly since 1995 and last month remains lower at 0.376C.  SH rose along with the Tropics, while NH held steady.  Global and NH SSTs are the lowest since 3/2014, while Tropics SSTs are the lowest since 3/2012. SH is the lowest January since 2014.

A longer view of SSTs

The graph below  is noisy, but the density is needed to see the seasonal patterns in the oceanic fluctuations.  Previous posts focused on the rise and fall of the last El Nino starting in 2015.  This post adds a longer view, encompassing the significant 1998 El Nino and since.  The color schemes are retained for Global, Tropics, NH and SH anomalies.  Despite the longer time frame, I have kept the monthly data (rather than yearly averages) because of interesting shifts between January and July.

Open image in new tab for sharper detail.

1995 is a reasonable starting point prior to the first El Nino.  The sharp Tropical rise peaking in 1998 is dominant in the record, starting Jan. ’97 to pull up SSTs uniformly before returning to the same level Jan. ’99.  For the next 2 years, the Tropics stayed down, and the world’s oceans held steady around 0.2C above 1961 to 1990 average.

Then comes a steady rise over two years to a lesser peak Jan. 2003, but again uniformly pulling all oceans up around 0.4C.  Something changes at this point, with more hemispheric divergence than before. Over the 4 years until Jan 2007, the Tropics go through ups and downs, NH a series of ups and SH mostly downs.  As a result the Global average fluctuates around that same 0.4C, which also turns out to be the average for the entire record since 1995.

2007 stands out with a sharp drop in temperatures so that Jan.08 matches the low in Jan. ’99, but starting from a lower high. The oceans all decline as well, until temps build peaking in 2010.

Now again a different pattern appears.  The Tropics cool sharply to Jan 11, then rise steadily for 4 years to Jan 15, at which point the most recent major El Nino takes off.  But this time in contrast to ’97-’99, the Northern Hemisphere produces peaks every summer pulling up the Global average.  In fact, these NH peaks appear every July starting in 2003, growing stronger to produce 3 massive highs in 2014, 15 and 16, with July 2017 only slightly lower.  Note also that starting in 2014 SH plays a moderating role, offsetting the NH warming pulses. (Note: these are high anomalies on top of the highest absolute temps in the NH.)

What to make of all this? The patterns suggest that in addition to El Ninos in the Pacific driving the Tropic SSTs, something else is going on in the NH.  The obvious culprit is the North Atlantic, since I have seen this sort of pulsing before.  After reading some papers by David Dilley, I confirmed his observation of Atlantic pulses into the Arctic every 8 to 10 years as shown by this graph:

The data is annual averages of absolute SSTs measured in the North Atlantic.  The significance of the pulses for weather forecasting is discussed in AMO: Atlantic Climate Pulse

But the peaks coming nearly every July in HadSST require a different picture.  Let’s look at August, the hottest month in the North Atlantic from the Kaplan dataset.Now the regime shift appears clearly. Starting with 2003, seven times the August average has exceeded 23.6C, a level that prior to ’98 registered only once before, in 1937.  And other recent years were all greater than 23.4C.


The oceans are driving the warming this century.  SSTs took a step up with the 1998 El Nino and have stayed there with help from the North Atlantic, and more recently the Pacific northern “Blob.”  The ocean surfaces are releasing a lot of energy, warming the air, but eventually will have a cooling effect.  The decline after 1937 was rapid by comparison, so one wonders: How long can the oceans keep this up?

Footnote: Why Rely on HadSST3

HadSST3 is distinguished from other SST products because HadCRU (Hadley Climatic Research Unit) does not engage in SST interpolation, i.e. infilling estimated anomalies into grid cells lacking sufficient sampling in a given month. From reading the documentation and from queries to Met Office, this is their procedure.

HadSST3 imports data from gridcells containing ocean, excluding land cells. From past records, they have calculated daily and monthly average readings for each grid cell for the period 1961 to 1990. Those temperatures form the baseline from which anomalies are calculated.

In a given month, each gridcell with sufficient sampling is averaged for the month and then the baseline value for that cell and that month is subtracted, resulting in the monthly anomaly for that cell. All cells with monthly anomalies are averaged to produce global, hemispheric and tropical anomalies for the month, based on the cells in those locations. For example, Tropics averages include ocean grid cells lying between latitudes 20N and 20S.

Gridcells lacking sufficient sampling that month are left out of the averaging, and the uncertainty from such missing data is estimated. IMO that is more reasonable than inventing data to infill. And it seems that the Global Drifter Array displayed in the top image is providing more uniform coverage of the oceans than in the past.


USS Pearl Harbor deploys Global Drifter Buoys in Pacific Ocean


Arctic Ice Swirls End of Feb.

Click on image to enlarge.

Under the influence of a split vortex in February, Arctic ice is also a bit bi-polar.  Above image shows the Atlantic side the last two weeks.  Barents on the right has grown back to reach the 11 year average, while on the upper left Baffin Bay is above average reaching down to Newfoundland and filling in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Click on image to enlarge.

Meanwhile, the ridge of high pressure over Alaska resulted in Bering on the right losing ice while Okhotsk on the left gained up to last year’s maximum.

Ice extents for February appear in the graph below; 11 year average is 2007 to 2017 inclusive.
Note that ice growth slows down in February since the Arctic core is frozen and extent can only be added at the margins.  MASIE shows 2018 is drawing close to 2007 and 2017, while SII is running about 200k km2 less.  The 11 year average reached 15M km2 while this year is ~500k km2 lower at day 57.

Below is the analysis of regions on day 057.  Average is for 2007 to 2017 inclusive.

Region 2018057 Day 057 
2018-Ave. 2017057 2018-2017
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 14471633 14982823 -511189 14624988 -153354
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070445 1070178 267 1070445 0
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 962774 965725 -2951 966006 -3232
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087120 1087134 -14 1087137 -18
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897842 3 897845 0
 (5) Kara_Sea 928561 922491 6070 933003 -4442
 (6) Barents_Sea 599940 618000 -18061 535489 64451
 (7) Greenland_Sea 405456 639713 -234257 621708 -216252
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1823426 1492225 331201 1490888 332538
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853109 852670 439 853214 -106
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260838 1260663 175 1260903 -66
 (11) Central_Arctic 3076082 3222907 -146825 3217927 -141845
 (12) Bering_Sea 283579 737222 -453642 577660 -294081
 (13) Baltic_Sea 130666 116020 14646 64843 65822
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 1063381 1049659 13722 991862 71519

The 2018 deficit to average is almost entirely due to the shortfall in Bering Sea.  Barents, Chukchi and Okhotsk are all about average.  A large surplus in Baffin Bay/Gulf of St. Lawrence offsets smaller deficits in Central Arctic and Greenland Sea.

The annual maximum usually occurs mid March.  2018 is now 2% below last year’s max and needs 3.5% more extent to reach 15M km2.

Here’s your Valentine’s Day Greeting:

And here’s your PC candy for Valentine’s Day.






Climate Kills Wildflower! (False Alarm)

This is Androsace septentrionalis (Northern rock jasmine). Credit: Anne Marie Panetta

Breathless news out of Colorado Climate warming causes local extinction of Rocky Mountain wildflower species  Excerpts below with my bolds.

New University of Colorado Boulder-led research has established a causal link between climate warming and the localized extinction of a common Rocky Mountain flowering plant, a result that could serve as a herald of future population declines.

The new study, which was published today in the journal Science Advances, found that warmer, drier conditions in line with future climate predictions decimated experimental populations of Androsace septentrionalis (Northern rock jasmine), a mountain wildflower found at elevations ranging from around 6,000 feet in Colorado’s foothills to over 14,000 feet at the top of Mt. Elbert.

The findings paint a bleak picture for the persistence of native flowering plants in the face of climate change and could serve as a herald for future species losses in mountain ecosystems over the next century.

Always the curious one, I went looking for context to interpret this report.  Thank goodness for the Internet; it didn’t take long to find information left out of the alarming news release.  From the US Wildflower Database (here) we can see the bigger picture.

Androsace Septentrionalis, Rock Jasmine

Androsace septentrionalis is a small-flowered and rather inconspicuous plant, and is the most common member of this genus in the West, out of six in the US. Plants are very variable in size, reflecting the wide range of habitats and elevations – from near sea level to over 11,000 feet. Stalkless leaves grow at the base, in a flat rosette, and often have a few teeth along the margins, and ciliate hairs. Leaf surfaces may be hairless or sparsely short hairy.

Common names: Rock jasmine, pygmyflower
Family: Primrose (Primulaceae)
Scientific name: Androsace septentrionalis
Main flower color: White
Range: The Rocky Mountain states, westwards to the Great Basin, and small areas of neighboring states
Height: Between 1 and 8 inches
Habitat: Grassland, forest, tundra; generally open areas, from sea level to 11,500 feet
Leaves: Basal, oblanceolate, up to 1.2 inches long and 0.4 inches across; entire or coarsely toothed edges
Season: March to September

Look at the range and habitat and ask yourself if this plant is adaptive, as well as the fact this species is the most common out of six in the genus.

And in Minnesota (here), on the eastern edge of the range, it is rare compared to the Western Rock Jasmine (Androsace occidentalis).

If American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is noted as Minnesota’s largest native wildflower, Western Rock Jasmine  certainly vies for its smallest. It can have very dense populations but it takes a discerning and determined eye to pick it out of the landscape, and is only of interest to those who celebrate the diversity of nature. It is easily distinguished from its rare cousin, Northern Androsace (Androsace septentrionalis) which is larger in stature and has rather narrower bracts at the base of the flower cluster.

The preferred habitat features sun; dry sandy soil, grassy meadows, open fields, disturbed soil, which along with “rock” in the name suggests that these plants tolerate arid conditions.


Far from going extinct, these flowers abound and like humans adapt readily to their surroundings. As has been stated previously, when alarmists project large numbers of extinctions due to future climate change, always ask for the names and the dead bodies.  What the headlines claim is refuted by the facts on the ground.


Pipeline Tragedy/Comedy: Ideology and Energy Don’t Mix

The inter provincial Canadian war over a bitumen pipeline is taking on Shakespearean drama as reported in the Globe and Mail  The symbolism of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline  The article is by Arno Kopecky, an environmental journalist and author based in Vancouver.  Excerpts below with my bolds and images introducing the principle players.

Spare a thought for Rachel Notley. While you’re at it, spare another for John Horgan and Justin Trudeau. Three star-crossed allies, progressives all, steering ships through a Kinder Morgan tempest no pundit can describe without saying “collision course.” Shakespearean, ain’t it?

There’s tragedy, comedy and irony galore. Ms. Notley’s take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream with her midwinter ban on British Columbia wines – which was lifted on Thursday – lent itself so well to “Reign of Terroir” jokes that it can only end up raising the provincial wine industry’s profile. As for Alberta’s oil industry, this is more like Much Ado About Nothing. Whether the oil sands grow or shrink has much less to do with any one pipeline (even one that leads to almighty tidewater) than the global price of oil. What about all those Kinder Morgan jobs? Comedy. Anyone serious about creating oil-sector jobs for Canadians would be pushing to refine bitumen at home instead of exporting it raw. That’s why Unifor, the biggest union in the oil sands, intervened against the project in the NEB hearings.

But the notion that Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion would add carbon to the atmosphere is comedy, too. If Kinder Morgan isn’t built, trains will keep moving the bitumen they’re already moving, at least until a higher force than pipeline capacity reduces Fort McMurray’s output. Everyone just makes less money that way.

When a country already has more than 840,000 kilometres of pipeline running through it, the fight over roughly 1,000 new kilometres is symbolic for both sides. But symbols matter. Now Trans Mountain has come to symbolize everything from the oil sands to climate change and reconciliation, and everyone’s job is at stake.

Premier Rachel Notley of oil rich, but landlocked and economically struggling Alberta.

None more than Ms. Notley’s, our likeliest candidate for tragedy. Alberta’s most progressive premier in more than 30 years, the woman who imposed a provincial carbon tax and raised royalties on oil sands operators and lifted Alberta’s minimum wage from the lowest to the highest in the country, Rachel Notley will not be replaced by someone nicer. Alberta’s profoundly oil-positive United Conservative Party, freshly merged and braying at her heels, threaten every last NDP policy with a Trumpian corrective. They’ll probably win the next election, too. Ms. Notley’s only hope is in proving to Albertans she can fight as dirty as any conservative would to protect the Symbol.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan, who recently formed a government propped up by a few Green party MPs.

Enter John Horgan, stage left. Poor guy. He’s running a province whose biggest, greenest city overwhelmingly voted against a once-in-a-generation opportunity to massively expand public transit, but has already proved itself willing to get arrested en masse in anti-Kinder Morgan protests. Mr. Horgan’s first major decision as Premier, the tortured approval of the Site C dam, earned him the condemnation of every environmentalist and First Nation leader in the province, if not the country. Now that he’s following through on his campaign promise to “use every tool in our tool box” against Kinder Morgan, fans and critics are trading placards. Never mind that Site C will keep far more carbon in the ground than any thwarted pipeline.

The thing is, pipeline battles on the coast aren’t about pipelines or even climate change. They’re about oil tankers. Want symbols? Wild salmon and orca populations are rapidly approaching extinction in southern B.C. Yes, oil tankers do already ply these waters. No, we don’t love hearing that the only way to pay for sorely lacking coastal protection is to heighten the risk of an oil spill by tripling the number of tankers.  But that’s the deal.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau currently touring India.

Enter Justin Trudeau, our doomed and dashing Hamlet, haunted by the ghost of his father, asking not to be or not to be, but can the ends justify the means? The greater the ends, it seems, the crueler the means. For all his capacity to renege on inconvenient promises, Mr. Trudeau clearly does regard the fight against climate change as a Very Great End. He knows we’re losing the glaciers whose meltwater irrigates half of Canada’s agriculture; he’s aware of our metastasizing cycle of flood and forest fire; he’s already dealt with one wave of climate refugees, from Syria (yes – that war was largely triggered by a calamitous drought that beggared a million farmers); he knows this is just the beginning. (Note: The reporter and Trudeau believe things cited in this paragraph contrary to evidence, but ignorance and hubris are essential to any tragedy.)

Against all that, he weighs the spill risk of one new pipeline, twinned to a pre-existing condition, with a corresponding increase in tanker traffic through relatively safe waters in which oil tankers can so far boast a 100-per-cent safety rate. Without Kinder Morgan, Mr. Trudeau mutters, pacing the stage from left to right, you lose Alberta; without Alberta, you lose your national climate-change strategy, your coastal protections, your whole progressive agenda. You lose everything.

Enter, in our closing act, B.C.’s coastal First Nations. Of course, they’ve been here all along – Mr. Trudeau made them some promises, too. But so far, his definition of consultation looks a lot like the old one: a process to determine not if a project should proceed on Indigenous territory, but when. The courts may yet cancel Trans Mountain because of it, as they did Northern Gateway. That’s probably Mr. Trudeau’s best hope for a happy ending. He’s created his own Birnam Wood, an army of First Nations and their allies ready to lead the march to Dunsinane Hill, aka Burnaby Mountain and the terminus of the pipeline, for the biggest act of civil disobedience our generation’s seen.

It isn’t a question of if, but when.

This is another example of damage done by virtue signaling, further explained in Virtue Signaling as a Vicious Circle

Footnote:  Regarding the attempt to blame the Syrian conflict on drought, see Climates Don’t Start Wars, People Do

Virtue Signaling as a Vicious Circle

A recent article reveals how perverse is the trendy pattern of virtue signaling. Ron Ross observes examples of this growing substitute for ethical behavior, adding perspective and raising concerns. His essay at the American Spectator is The Power and Prevalence of Virtue Signaling  Excerpts below with my headings, bolds and images.

Puzzling Events Explained by Virtue signaling

One key to understanding much of the bewildering behavior we see around us is to recognize the power and popularity of “virtue signaling.” Keeping virtue signaling in mind will help you understand a lot of behavior that otherwise makes no sense.

What, for example, is the point of removing Confederate statues or attempting to disown the country’s Founding Fathers because some were slave owners? It makes sense if your objective is to be sanctimonious. You make yourself feel better by looking down your nose at Thomas Jefferson.

Virtue signaling is the modern version of what St. Augustine in the 5th century referred to as “outward signs of inward grace.” A major difference, however, is the kind of grace he referred to actually meant something.

First the Guilt Trip, then Superiority

A precondition to needing to virtue signal is guilt. Virtue signaling is one of the left’s package deals that typically involve two steps. Firstly, make people who have done nothing wrong feel guilty. Then, offer them ways to assuage that guilt. It’s little more than a con game but it has worked amazingly well for liberals.

It always helps to keep in mind that everything is relative. In order to feel superior, you need something to feel superior to. Virtuous relative to what? In order to feel holier than thou you need a thou.

Does virtue signaling accomplish anything outside of the individual? Anything tangible, significant? Any activity as widespread and long-lasting as virtue signaling has to have payoffs. The payoffs for virtue signaling are inner, not outer, directed.

An irony is that the need to virtue signal is an insecurity about your own virtue. An observation a psychologist friend likes to make is, “The bigger the front, the bigger the back.” Or as Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, “The louder he spoke of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.” Virtue signaling is motivated more by insecurities than virtue.

The “signaling” part of virtue signaling means you want others to become aware of your virtue. Why is that important to you? Where does your need to signal come from? Are you so overwhelmingly virtuous that you can’t resist letting others know about it?

Symbols Instead of Substance

Virtue signaling is, of course, closely related to political correctness. Being sensitive to PC and being quick to take offense demonstrates your virtue for all to see.

Recycling is one of the left’s favorite sacraments. It helps overcome the guilt of consuming.

There is an opportunity cost to virtue signaling. Spending time on useless activities, e.g. recycling, marching, allows avoidance of useful, meaningful activities, e.g. being thoughtful and considerate of those around you, e.g. family, friends, and people you work with. Those behaviors can actually make a difference.

Maybe you’ve wondered why actors and other celebrities feel the need to publicly express their political opinions. What is their motivation? Maybe they feel guilty about how amazingly wealthy they are (they shouldn’t).

Donald Trump is the context for much of the virtue signaling we observe. It’s another two-step process. The first step is to decide that Donald Trump is a reprehensible human being. He is crude, unsophisticated, and his personality makes you cringe. The second step is making it crystal clear that you and he are polar opposites. You have absolutely nothing in common with him. You don’t need to provide details about what makes you virtuous, just the fact that you despise him is sufficient to prove you’re virtuous. He is crude, you are refined. Trump provides a backdrop for your identity. It’s ironic that hate is seen as a path to virtue.

Grandstanding Instead of Civility

Virtue signaling is a substitute for thinking, it is thinking avoidance. It is the latest variation of group think. When you latch on to group opinions you have no need to think for yourself.

Driving a Prius automobile is a popular form of virtue signaling. Driving a hybrid lets others see that you care about the planet and that you’re doing your part to prevent it from being destroyed by CO2. Driving a Prius allows to you drive rudely and carelessly. Cutting someone off or running a stop sign or two are trivial matters compared to saving the planet. Everything’s relative. It’s probably no accident that Priuses have an unusual profile. That helps assure that your virtue signal will noticed.

A favorite demand of leftists on college campuses and endowment fund boards of directors is “divestment.” What is divestment? In the investment portfolios of endowment funds and retirement portfolios are stocks of companies involved in shunned activities such as producing and selling fossil fuels. In such situations activists demand that the colleges or foundations divest, i.e. sell, any stock of such despicable companies.

Divestment is possibly the most useless behavior anyone could ever imagine. How anyone thinks it will have any impact on anything real is a mystery. Because of the way capital markets work, divesting on anything but a massive scale will have no long-term impact on a company’s share price. If they manage to drive a stock’s price down, bargain hunters will drive it back up to its underlying value, relative to other stocks. Other than stoking sanctimony divestment accomplishes absolutely nothing.

Sincerity Posing as Goodness

Showing your disapproval of the names or mascots of sports teams demonstrates your sensitivity for the supposed feelings of various minority groups. How many of those demanding that the Washington Redskins change their name are Indians? My guess is that it’s a very small fraction.

Wearing ribbons is a popular form of virtue signaling. The ostensible purpose is to “raise awareness” for such things as breast cancer (pink ribbons). Is there anyone who isn’t already” aware” of breast cancer? And once your awareness has been raised, what are you supposed to do with it? As is the case with every variation of virtue signaling, the mission statement is nowhere to be found.

Feeling Good about Caring the Most

Virtue signalers are delicate creatures who are easily offended. They wouldn’t be caught dead laughing at stereotypical humor. They are overly serious about almost everything. It only hurts when they laugh.

There is a large element of virtue signaling in environmentalism. Devout environmentalists like to think they’re the only ones who care about the environment. Relative to how much they care about the environment you don’t care much at all.

Marching and demonstrating are two popular virtue signaling activities. The next big opportunity will be June 9. It is the “March for Oceans,” or what they’re labeling “M4O.” According the organizers’ website, “This summer we will see a new blue wave of resistance — and celebration — for the other 71 percent of our environment that is the Ocean. The ocean is rising and so are we!”

Uselessness and remoteness are two of the ingredients for virtue signaling choices. Driving a hybrid automobile will make not an iota’s difference to “climate change” (whatever that is). In any case, the “climate disruption catastrophe,” as it’s sometimes called, is not predicted to occur for another fifty years. It was more than two hundred years ago when some of our founding fathers owned slaves. The past is unchangeable and irretrievable. Problems that you can’t do a damned thing about are virtue signaling favorites.

A recent Dennis Prager column, “Three Reasons the Left Wants Evermore Immigrants,” had as reason number three, “the power of feeling good about oneself. It would be difficult to overstate the significance of feeling good about oneself as a primary factor in why people adopt left-wing policies.… In their eyes, they are moral heroes protecting the stranger, the oppressed, the marginalized, the destitute.”

Until this week William McKinley thought he was home free.

Finally, this just in: The Arcata, California city council voted Wednesday night to remove the statue of President William McKinley from the town square. The statue has been in place for over a hundred years. As per usual, McKinley’s sins have not been clearly elucidated. He was assassinated in 1901. Like Matt Lauer, the statue will vanish into the ether. One of the groups demanding the statue’s removal is the Humboldt State University student group, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanco de Aztlan, whatever that means. I’m embarrassed to admit I’m a resident of Arcata. Our neighboring town to the north is McKinleyville. The town’s name is probably not long for this world.

These are just a sampling of the ways virtue signaling is dictating behavior far and wide. Being aware of its many manifestations will reduce your confusion and increase your amusement. It’s a shame it’s doing so much damage.


The Darrow quote crystallized what was making me uncomfortable about the behavior of the Parkland survivors on television.  I understand they were scared out of their wits, lost friends and are angry.  But the aggressive and threatening language toward anyone not on their bandwagon smacks of self-righteousness, and worse a justification for bullying.  It makes me wonder how much of that helped send the shooter around the bend.

Rainfall Climate Paradox

A recent article displays the intersection of fears and facts comprising the climate paradox, in this case the issue of precipitation.  Rainfall’s natural variation hides climate change signal appeared today in phys.org by Kate Prestt, Australian National University.  Excerpts with my bolds.

New research from The Australian National University (ANU) and ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science suggests natural rainfall variation is so great that it could take a human lifetime for significant climate signals to appear in regional or global rainfall measures.

Even exceptional droughts like those over the Murray Darling Basin (2000-2009) and the 2011 to 2017 Californian drought fit within the natural variations in the long-term precipitation records, according to the statistical method used by the researchers.

This has significant implications for policymakers in the water resources, irrigation and agricultural industries.

“Our findings suggest that for most parts of the world, we won’t be able to recognise long term or permanent changes in annual rainfall driven by climate change until they have already occurred and persisted for some time,” said Professor Michael Roderick from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences.

“This means those who make decisions around the construction of desalination plants or introduce new policies to conserve water resources will effectively be making these decisions blind.

“Conversely, if they wait and don’t act until the precipitation changes are recognised they will be acting too late. It puts policymakers in an invidious position.”

To get their results the researchers first tested the statistical approach on the 244-year-long observational record of precipitation at the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, UK. They compared rainfall changes over 30-year-intervals. They found any changes over each interval were indistinguishable from random or natural variation.

They then applied the same process to California, which has a record going back to 1895, and the Murray Darling Basin from 1901-2007. In both cases the long dry periods seem to fit within expected variations.

Finally, they applied the process to reliable global records that extended from 1940-2009. Only 14 per cent of the global landmass showed, with 90 per cent confidence, increases or decreases in precipitation outside natural variation.

Professor Graham Farquhar AO also from the ANU Research School of Biology said natural variation was so large in most regions that even if climate change was affecting rainfall, it was effectively hidden in the noise.

“We know that humans have already had a measurable influence on streamflows and groundwater levels through extraction and making significant changes to the landscape,” Professor Farquhar said.

“But the natural variability of precipitation found in this paper presents policymakers with a large known unknown that has to be factored into their estimates to effectively assess our long-term water resource needs.”  The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.



Much like sea level rise, scientists fearing the worst seek and hope to find a nanosignal inside noisy imprecise measurements of a naturally varying phenomenon.

Everything Americans Know about Science in Brief

NASA scientists at work in the 1960s.

This is a reblog of an article at Popular Science Everything Americans know about science in seven graphs. It is a report on how the country stacked up in a recent National Science Foundation quiz. Text and images below with my bolds.

Every two years, a couple thousand lucky Americans get to take a science quiz. The National Science Foundation surveys the representative sample to see how much they (and, by extension, we) all understand about science and technology. And it’s not just for fun. The NSF has a vested interest in figuring out what Americans know, think, and understand about the scientific world so they can construct policies in line with our collective reasoning. So once it’s collected, this survey data gets compiled and put it into one big report.

Of course, no survey can perfectly capture how well a person understands science. A few questions can’t distill that kind of information; scientific literacy is less about memorizing specific facts than it is understanding how to interpret evidence. But these tests can help us get a snapshot of what Americans do know, and how our understanding is changing.

Here’s how we did:

CLIMATE CHANGE Data from NSF (some totals don’t equal 100% due to rounding) Infographic by Sara Chodosh

More Americans than ever think climate change poses a real threat to the environment, though the proportion who feel it’s not that bad has stayed around 15 percent. It seems to be the undecided who have come around, not the outright deniers. And unfortunately, the survey also found that only 6 in 10 think global warming is caused by humans—though on the bright side, that’s the highest number ever. (Note: Taking the 50% who think climate change is dangerous times 60% blaming humans gives 30% with the CAGW opinion.  The number could be higher if the concerned people also blame humans at a higher rate).

SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTS Data from NSF (some totals don’t equal 100% due to rounding) Infographic by Sara Chodosh

Testing “understanding” of scientific concepts requires some careful finagling. We’ll let you be the judge of how well NSF did. Here are the two-part questions used, which respondents had to get entirely right to receive credit:

Probability A doctor tells a couple that their genetic makeup means that they’ve got one in four chances of having a child with an inherited illness. (1) Does this mean that if their first child has the illness, the next three will not have the illness? and (2) Does this mean that each of the couple’s children will have the same risk of suffering from the illness?

Answer: (1) No (2) Yes

Experiment (1) Two scientists want to know if a certain drug is effective against high blood pressure. The first scientist wants to give the drug to 1,000 people with high blood pressure and see how many of them experience lower blood pressure levels. The second scientist wants to give the drug to 500 people with high blood pressure and not give the drug to another 500 people with high blood pressure, and see how many in both groups experience lower blood pressure levels. Which is the better way to test this drug?

(2) Why is it better to test the drug this way?

Answer: The second way, because a control group is used for comparison.

**Scientific Study **(1) When you read news stories, you see certain sets of words and terms. We are interested in how many people recognize certain kinds of terms. First, some articles refer to the results of a scientific study. When you read or hear the term scientific study, do you have a clear understanding of what it means, a general sense of what it means, or little understanding of what it means? (2) (If “clear understanding” or “general sense” response) In your own words, could you tell me what it means to study something scientifically?
Answer: Formulation of theories/test hypothesis, experiments/control group, or rigorous/systematic comparison.

SCIENTIFIC FACTS Data from NSF (some totals don’t equal 100% due to rounding) Infographic by Sara Chodosh

Despite the wayward influence of Journey to the Center of the Earth, apparently the best-known fact is that the center of the Earth is hot (far too hot to be hospitable, at least). We also seem well-versed in plate tectonics, and about 3 in 4 Americans have figured out that the Earth goes around the Sun. But only 1 in 2 know that it takes a year.

Not included here are the questions about evolution and the big bang. The NSF found a small change in those questions had a huge impact on the answers. Adding “according to the theory of evolution” or “according to astronomers” increased the proportion answering correctly to each question. A 2016 study found a similar phenomenon, but substituting a question asking about elephant evolution rather than human—people seemed to understand elephant origins better than human ones. And that suggests that it’s not that people can’t or don’t grasp the theory of evolution, it’s that sometimes scientific principles conflict with a person’s beliefs—and sometimes the beliefs win out.

Note: Beliefs also pertain to socio-political movements advancing their agenda using science to persuade.  Lysenkoism in the USSR was one example, and the UNIPCC is another. Additional questions in the linked article show such influences, once you understand environmentalism as a quasi-religious construct.

How Dangerous are GMOs?
Concern over genetically modified food is on the rise, despite the fact that 88 percent of National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine members think they’re safe. Other surveys suggest the public isn’t well-informed about the actual technology involved in creating these crops, which means views are shaped by general perception and worldview rather than scientific evidence.

How Dangerous are Nuclear Power Stations to the Environment?
The younger you are, the more you think nuclear power stations harm the environment. Accordingly, fewer and fewer Americans support using nuclear energy, though 30 percent still want to prioritize fossil fuel development over alternative energy. Oddly, Gallup data suggests that the nuclear accident at Fukushima didn’t change perspectives much, which could mean that other factors—like “energy prices and perceived abundance of energy sources”—are a bigger priority than safety.

How Dangerous are Air and Water Pollution?
Education doesn’t have much of an impact on understanding that water and air pollution are dangerous. And really, why would it? The vast majority of people, including adults who dropped out of high school, think that both forms of environmental damage are dangerous (though apparently a graduate degree teaches you to feel it’s more extreme danger).

How Scientific is Astrology?
Americans have been waffling about astrology for as long as the NSF has been asking about it. There is, for the record, no true scientific basis for astrology, though there is plenty of evidence that horoscopes only feel like they’re accurate, even when they aren’t. Seminal research from the ‘70s and ‘80s showed that horoscopes are so general that everyone will identify the same personality description as their own, as long as it’s labeled with their astrological sign. Take away that Libra title at the top, and your previously perfect personality description will suddenly feel alien.


Some time ago the Onion Magazine article New Report Finds Americans Most Interested In Science When Moon Looks Different Than Usual revealed that Americans interest in science is capricious.

ARLINGTON, VA—Explaining that readership of science-related articles and discussion of scientific concepts tends to surge at such times, a report released Thursday by the National Science Foundation confirmed that Americans are most interested in science when the moon looks different than normal. “According to our findings, citizens are never more engaged by scientific disciplines than when the moon does not look like it regularly does—for example, when it becomes big or bright,” read the report in part, which added that while the nation’s interest in science is typically fairly minimal and consistent when the moon is its usual size and color, as soon as these properties of the moon differ in a noticeable way, millions of Americans begin displaying a desire to learn and share scientific knowledge. “The moon is ordinarily white and relatively small, and science is not on most people’s minds. However, when the moon is no longer white and small, and instead happens to be large, reddish, temporarily darkened, or any combination of those things, people generally want to know more about the methodological study of natural phenomena. Of course, once the moon goes back to the way it normally looks, interest in how the universe works drops back to baseline levels.” The report went on to mention that major changes to the Earth appeared not to garner Americans’ interest at all.

For more satirical input from the Onion see US Students Improving Math



CO2 Not Dangerous

Figure 1 depicts EPA’s endangerment chain of reasoning.

Scientists are putting forward the case against CO2 endangerment by making submissions to inform EPA’s reconsideration of that erroneous finding some years ago. As noted previously, the Supreme Court had ruled that EPA has authority to regulate CO2, but left it to the agency to study and decide the endangerment. H/T to GWPF and WUWT for providing links to the documents submitted to EPA on this topic. This post provides a synopsis with some of the key exhibits (my bolds)

The first supplement (here) addressed the first part of the scientific case, namely that fossil fuel emissions cause warming in earth’s atmosphere. The rebuttal consists of three points:

First, Research Reports failed to find that the steadily rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations have had a statistically significant impact on any of the 14 temperature data sets that were analyzed. The tropospheric and surface temperature data measurements that were analyzed were taken by many different entities using balloons, satellites, buoys and various land based techniques.

Second, new information is submitted regarding the logically invalid use of climate models in the attribution of warming to human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Third, new information is submitted relevant to the invalidation of the “Tropical Hot Spot” and the resulting implications for the three lines of evidence, a subject that was also discussed in our original Petition.

Now we have a Fifth Supplement (here) which rebuts in detail the “lines of evidence” which claim to prove man-made global warming is causing observable changes in nature.

Claim #1: Heat Waves are increasing at an alarming rate and heat kills

Summary of Rebuttal There has been no detectable long-term increase in heat waves in the United States or elsewhere in the world. Most all-time record highs here in the U.S. happened many years ago, long before mankind was using much fossil fuel. Thirty-eight states set their all-time record highs before 1960 (23 in the 1930s!). Here in the United States, the number of 100F, 95F and 90F days per year has been steadily declining since the 1930s. The Environmental Protection Agency Heat Wave Index confirms the 1930s as the hottest decade.

Claim #2: Global warming is causing more hurricanes and stronger hurricanes

Summary of RebuttalThere has been no detectable long-term trend in the number and intensity of hurricane activity globally. The activity does vary year to year and over multidecadal periods as ocean cycles including El Nino/La Nina,multidecadal cycles in the Pacific (PDO) and Atlantic (AMO) favor some basins over others.  The trend in landfalling storms in the United States has been flat to down since the 1850s. Before the active hurricane season in the United States in 2017, there had been a lull of 4324 days (almost 12 years) in major hurricane landfalls, the longest lull since the 1860s.


[The graph above shows exhibit 2a from Truchelut and Staehling overlaid with the record of atmospheric CO2 concentrations.  From NOAA combining Mauna Loa with earlier datasets.]

To determine Integrated Storm Activity Annually over the Continental U.S. (ISAAC) from 1900 through 2017, we summed this landfall ACE spatially over the entire continental U.S. and temporally over each hour of each hurricane season. We used the same methodology to calculate integrated annual landfall ACE for five additional geographic subsets of the continental U.S.

Claim #3: Global warming is causing more and stronger tornadoes

Summary of Rebuttal Tornadoes are failing to follow “global warming” predictions. Big tornadoes have seen a decline in frequency since the 1950s. The years 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 all saw below average to near record low tornado counts in the U.S. since records began in 1954. 2017 to date has rebounded only to the long-term mean. This lull followed a very active and deadly strong La Nina of 2010/11, which like the strong La Nina of 1973/74 produced record setting and very deadly outbreaks of tornadoes. Population growth and expansion outside urban areas have exposed more people to the tornadoes that once roamed through open fields.

Claim #4: Global warming is increasing the magnitude and frequency of droughts and floods.

Summary of Rebuttal Our use of fossil fuels to power our civilization is not causing droughts or floods. NOAA found there is no evidence that floods and droughts are increasing because of climate change. The number, extend or severity of these events does increase dramatically for a brief period of years at some locations from time to time but then conditions return to more normal. This is simply the long-established constant variation of weather resulting from a confluence of natural factors.


Claim #5: Global Warming has increased U.S. Wildfires

Summary of Rebuttal  Wildfires are in the news almost every late summer and fall. The National Interagency Fire Center has recorded the number of fires and acreage affected since 1985. This data show the number of fires trending down slightly, though the acreage burned had increased before leveling off over the last 20 years. The NWS tracks the number of days where conditions are conducive to wildfires when they issue red-flag warnings. It is little changed.

Claim #6: Global warming is causing snow to disappear

Summary of Rebuttal This is one claim that has been repeated for decades even as nature showed very much the opposite trend with unprecedented snows even to the big coastal cities. Every time they repeated the claim, it seems nature upped the ante more. Alarmists have eventually evolved to crediting warming with producing greater snowfall, because of increased moisture but the snow events in recent years have usually occurred in colder winters with high snow water equivalent ratios in frigid arctic air.

Claim #7: Global warming is resulting in rising sea levels as seen in both tide gauge and satellite technology.

Summary of Rebuttal This claim is demonstrably false. It really hinges on this statement: “Tide gauges and satellites agree with the model projections.” The models project a rapid acceleration of sea level rise over the next 30 to 70 years. However, while the models may project acceleration, the tide gauges clearly do not.  All data from tide gauges in areas where land is not rising or sinking show instead a steady linear and unchanging sea level rate of rise from 4 up to 6 inches/century, with variations due to gravitational factors.

Figure 1. Modelled and observed sea-level changes, 1840-2010. The curve marked “Models” represents the IPCC’s combination of selected tide-gauge records and corrected satellite altimetry data. The curve marked “Observations” represents the observed eustatic sea level changes in the field up to 1960 according to Mörner (1973) and (in this paper) thereafter. After 1965, the two curves start to diverge, presenting two totally different views, separated by the area with the question mark. Which of these views is tenable?

Claim #8: Arctic, Antarctic and Greenland ice loss is accelerating due to global warming

Summary of Rebuttal Satellite and surface temperature records and sea surface temperatures show that both the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are cooling, not warming and glacial ice is increasing, not melting. Satellite and surface temperature measurements of the southern polar area show no warming over the past 37 years. Growth of the Antarctic ice sheets means sea level rise is not being caused by melting of polar ice and, in fact, is slightly lowering the rate of rise. Satellite Antarctic temperature records show 0.02C/decade cooling since 1979. The Southern Ocean around Antarctica has been getting sharply colder since 2006. Antarctic sea ice is increasing, reaching all-time highs. Surface temperatures at 13 stations show the Antarctic Peninsula has been sharply cooling since 2000.
Claim #9: Rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are causing ocean acidification, which is catastrophically harming marine life

Summary of Rebuttal As the air’s CO2 content rises in response to ever-increasing anthropogenic CO2 emissions, more and more carbon dioxide is expected to dissolve into the surface waters of the world’s oceans, which dissolution is projected to cause a 0.3 to 0.7 pH unit decline in the planet’s oceanic waters by the year 2300.

The ocean chemistry aspect of the ocean acidification hypothesis is rather straightforward, but it is not as solid as it is often claimed to be. For one thing, the work of a number of respected scientists suggests that the drop in oceanic pH will not be nearly as great as the IPCC and others predict. And, as with all phenomena involving living organisms, the introduction of life into the analysis greatly complicates things. When a number of interrelated biological phenomena are considered, it becomes much more difficult, if not impossible, to draw such sweeping negative conclusions about the reaction of marine organisms to ocean acidification. Quite to the contrary, when life is considered, ocean acidification is often found to be a non-problem, or even a benefit. And in this regard, numerous scientific studies have demonstrated the robustness of multiple marine plant and animal species to ocean acidification—when they are properly performed under realistic experimental conditions.

Graph showing a typical oceanic situation. Over a 60 day period, pH fluxes are far greater than claims of global shifts toward 7 (neutral) or lower (acidity).

Claim #10: Carbon pollution is a health hazard

Summary of Rebuttal The term “carbon pollution” is a deliberate, ambiguous, disingenuous term, designed to mislead people into thinking carbon dioxide is pollution. It is used by the environmentalists to confuse the environmental impacts of CO2 emissions with the impact of the emissions of unwanted waste products of combustion. The burning of carbon-based fuels (fossil fuels – coal, oil, natural gas – and biofuels and biomass) converts the carbon in the fuels to carbon dioxide (CO2), which is an odorless invisible gas that is plant food and it is essential to life on the planet.

VOC refers to “volatile organic compounds” meaning any compound of carbon produced from burning fuels, excluding carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

The linked documents above provide more details on EPA’s “secret science”, as well as posts on this blog addressing many of these topics.

EPA Secret Science

Volatile Vortex


Dr. Judah Cohen covers the latest vortex shaninigans and implications for future weather at his always informative website Arctic Oscillation and Polar Vortex Analysis and Forecasts February 19, 2018. Excerpts below with my bolds.  Video above of nullschool wind patterns from October 2017 up to yesterday, showing the vortex splitting as described below.

The stratospheric PV remains split into two pieces with one dominant center over Western Canada and a second much weaker center over northwestern Europe (Figure 12). The Eurasian center is predicted to retrograde westward and dissipate while the North American center slowly drifts north towards the North Pole and even possibly into Eurasia. The most persistent legacy of the PV spit is above normal geopotential heights and warm temperatures in the polar stratosphere. This is reflected in the stratospheric AO, which is predicted to remain negative over the next two weeks, though slowly trend back to neutral (Figure 1).

As I have discussed in previous blogs there seems to me to be two responses to a significant PV disruption: an immediate response and a longer term response. When the PV split it created two sister vortices a dominant center over North America and a more minor center over Eurasia. In between the two PV centers high pressure filled the void but was shifted towards the Eurasian continent. Across Eurasia the immediate and longer term response seem to be consistent. The immediate tropospheric response or at least the tropospheric circulation related to the PV split has been high pressure/heights to the north, low pressure/heights to the south, predominant anomalous easterly flow and below normal temperatures across northern Eurasia.

Figure 2. Observed 500 mb geopotential heights (dam; contours) and geopotential height anomalies (m; shading) for 00Z 19 February 2018.

In contrast the immediate and longer term response across North America do not seem to be the same. When the PV split into two pieces the dominant sister center formed over Western Canada and has been spinning in place in the polar stratosphere. It appears to me this has contributed or at least is related to troughing/negative geopotential height anomalies across Canada and then eventually into the Western US accompanied by colder temperatures. This in turn has forced further downstream across eastern North America ridging/positive geopotential height anomalies, southwesterly flow and mild even record warm temperatures.

Eventually however the Eurasian PV sister center is predicted to weaken and dissipate leaving just one PV center over Western Canada. That PV center is predicted to make its way back to the North Pole or alternatively there are some model forecasts of the PV center being further displaced towards Eurasia.

Longer term the tropospheric response seems to be less about the initial displacement and the associated circulation around the respective PV centers and more about the warming and high pressure/heights related to that warming. The corresponding tropospheric response is high pressure and relatively warm temperatures over the Arctic. With respect to the ongoing event the high pressure and warm temperatures in the polar stratosphere are centered over Greenland and therefore it seems likewise in the troposphere the high pressure/heights and warm temperatures will be centered over Greenland. This transfer of high pressure/heights and warm temperatures over the Arctic is seen in the apparent downward propagation of positive/warm polar cap geopotential heights and/or a negative AO from the mid-stratosphere eventually down to the surface. On average this downward propagation or transfer takes about two weeks.

Figure 5. (a) Forecasted average 500 mb geopotental heights (dam; contours) and geopotential height anomalies (m; shading) across the Northern Hemisphere from 25 February – 1 March 2018. (b) Same as (a) except averaged from 2 – 6 March 2018. The forecasts are from the 19 February 2018 00z GFS ensemble.

Therefore in summary based on my reasoning, the immediate response to a PV disruption is somewhat random dependent on the displacement of the PV center(s) and the circulation around the PV center(s). For the current event the immediate tropospheric response related to the location and circulation of the North American sister vortex favors relatively cold temperatures in western North America and mild temperatures in eastern North America. However the tropospheric response could have just as likely been the opposite favoring relatively mild temperatures in western North America and cold temperatures in eastern North America. Across Eurasia the immediate response favors relatively cold across northern Eurasia and mild temperatures across southern Eurasia; though it does seem that the immediate response across Eurasia is less random than for North America for reasons that I don’t fully understand.

The longer term response or legacy however to a PV disruption is less random and is not as dependent on the location and circulation of the PV center(s) but rather on the warming and building of high pressure/heights across the Arctic which shows greater similarity across PV disruption events. High pressure/heights and warm temperatures favor colder temperatures in preferential locations: the Eastern US, Northern Europe and East Asia resulting in a warm Arctic/cold continents pattern. Therefore my expectations of the longer term response to the ongoing PV disruption is the same – a preference for relatively cold temperatures in the Eastern US, Northern Europe and East Asia over the coming four to six weeks starting the very end of February or the beginning of March.

Forecast for the next month from Environment Canada.


Mueller Indictment Implications


The ramifications of the recent indictments are explored by California attorney Robert Barnes writing Feb. 17 in the journal Law and Crime Does Mueller Indictment Mean Clinton Campaign Can Be Indicted for Chris Steele? Text below with my bolds.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted foreign citizens for trying to influence the American public about an election because those citizens did not register as a foreign agent nor record their financial expenditures to the Federal Elections Commission. By that theory, when will Mueller indict Christopher Steele, FusionGPS, PerkinsCoie, the DNC and the Clinton Campaign? Mueller’s indictment against 13 Russian trolls claimed their social media political activity was criminal because: they were foreign citizens; they tried to influence an election; and they neither registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act nor reported their funding to the Federal Elections Commission.

First, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make Steele a criminal: first, he is a foreign citizen; second, he tried to influence an election, which he received payments to do (including from the FBI itself); and third, he neither registered as a foreign agent nor listed his receipts and expenditures to the Federal Election Commission. Also, according to the FBI, along the way, Steele lied…a lot, while the dossier he disseminated contained its own lies based on bought-and-paid for smears from foreign sources reliant on rumors and innuendo.

Second, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make FusionGPS a criminal co-conspirator: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission.

Third, if Mueller’s theory is correct, then three things make PerkinsCoie a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its receipt of payments from the Clinton campaign as a “legal expense.”

Fourth, if Mueller’s theory is correct, then three things make the DNC a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its payments to Steele as laundered legal expenses to a law firm.

Fifth, if Mueller’s theory is correct, three things make the Clinton Campaign a potential target: it knew Steele was a foreign citizen; it knew, and paid, Steele to influence an election; and it knew, and facilitated, Steele neither registering as a foreign agent nor reporting his funding from the Clinton campaign to the Federal Election Commission, by disguising its funding of payments to Steele laundered through a law firm as a “legal expense.”

Don’t expect such an indictment. Mueller chose his targets because he knows they will never appear in court, never contest the charges, and cannot be arrested or extradited as Russian citizens. Mueller’s unprecedented prosecution raises three novel arguments: first, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act; second, that speaking out about American politics requires a foreign citizen list their source and expenditure of funding to the Federal Election Commission; and third, that mistakes on visa applications constitute “fraud” on the State Department. All appear to borrow from the now-discredited “honest services” theories Mueller’s team previously used in corporate and bribery cases, cases the Supreme Court overturned for their unconstitutional vagueness. The indictment raises serious issues under the free speech clause of the First Amendment and due process rights under the Fifth Amendment.

Robert Barnes is a California-based trial attorney whose practice focuses on Constitutional, criminal and civil rights law.


Don’t overlook the implication in the final paragraph, namely that expressing opinions about candidates is protected free speech, even for foreigners. Mueller presents indictments he will never have to prove in court to create the appearance of a crime. His circus needs a crime as justification, and to go after targets for conspiring or lying about that “crime”. It is a clever, but flimsy legal fiction, as Barnes shows it could apply to a lot of political discourse.

And social media is an unlikely place to apply some legal standard, since people, robots and puppets say all kinds of things often hiding behind handles.  In case you have forgotten, Dave Chappelle reminds us what the internet is like in the classic video  What if the internet was a real place?