Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two tragic incidents at San Luis Pass

Two tragedies happened near San Luis Pass to two Houstonians. One reported in The Galvestin County Daily News by Rhiannon Meyers:

GALVESTON — A Houston man died after he was tossed from a boat near San Luis Pass late Saturday morning. His brother swam to safety.

Richard Story, 32 of Houston, and his brother Emmett Story III, 35, of Baytown, were in a 20-foot center console boat about 3.5 miles offshore near San Luis Pass when the surf got rough, said Peter Davis, chief of Galveston Island Beach Patrol.

Rogue waves hit both sides of the boat, knocking the brothers from the boat, Davis said. Richard Story disappeared, but Emmett Story swam to shore, Davis said.
I have no idea what kind of freaque wave that can "hit both sides of the boat." Any kind of waves can knocking people from the boat and be called "rogue" waves now-a-days. The report went on:

About 12:22 p.m., a second person on the beach spotted Richard Story lying on the beach two miles east of San Luis Pass, Aiello said.

A Coast Guard flight mechanic and rescue swimmer performed CPR, she said. Richard Story was flown to The University of Texas Medical Branch, where he died, Davis said.

During that time, winds were blowing from the south/southwest at 14 mph with gusts up to 17 mph, said Josh Lichter of the National Weather Service. He had no information on waves.
In a separate incident, Michael Wright of The Fact reports:

SAN LUIS PASS — A Houston man drowned Sunday afternoon during a beach excursion with friends.

Martin Gaitan was pronounced dead at the scene about 2 p.m. Sunday after two witnesses tried to pull him out of the water.

Sheriff’s officials did not know Gaitan’s exact age, but estimated he was between 38 and 40 years old. He was a carpenter.

Sheriff’s Investigator Jack Langdon said Gaitan was wearing blue jeans and a heavy shirt when he entered the surf. Langdon said Gaitan also “smelled strongly of alcohol.”

“I think he stepped off into the swift water and couldn’t swim,” Langdon said.

Langdon said a Houston man jumped into the water to try to save Gaitan, but Gaitan was too heavy and almost pulled his would-be rescuer down with him.

“He was just about to go under,” Langdon said.

A second man jumped in and together the two managed to pull Gaitan’s body out of the water.

Langdon said Gaitan was visiting the beach with two friends, one of whom was fixing lunch when Gaitan decided to go for a swim.
San Luis Pass, according to the Wikipedia, is a strait of water at the south-western end of Galveston Island off the shores of the U.S. state of Texas. It connects the sheltered waters of West Bay to the open Gulf of Mexico. Here's a picture of the fishing pier:

In a peaceful place like this, who could believe that there could be two tragedies nearby here on the same day. It is certainly depressing to realize that it had happened. Are they preventable? We do think so! But tragedies happen always when they are least expected. I guess there is not much science can do to prevent the preventable from still happening at any rate. Our heartfelt prayers are with the victims' families!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

"Science by intimidation" by "A Desperate Man"

The title of today's blog is made from the title of two great, must read articles: "Science by intimidation" in today's Globe and Mail of Canada by CBC Commentator Rex Murphy, and "A Desperate Man" in IBD Editorials Monday.

Mr. Murphy's article starts with two general comments:

Truth may enter the world by many doors, but she is never escorted by force. I thought that was a lesson learned long ago, and learned by none more tellingly than scientists. Real scientists, actually, have learned it. A new amalgam has emerged however, the scientist-activist, and for that specimen it's a lesson passed by.

In the dawn of the Enlightenment, it was scientists who were hauled before tribunals and inquisitions. Galileo is the arch example, the pioneer empiricist who rejected the ancient Earth-centric model of the (then known) universe, and for his pains earned the attention and wrath of the distinctly unscientific Inquisition.

while the IBD ediotorial was more to the main point:
Radicalism: In another example of junk science run amok, NASA scientist James Hansen wants oil executives put on trial for giving "misinformation" about his global warming theory. Is this where society is headed?
As both articles respond to the idiotic character calls himself a scientist by the name of James Hansen. He is Algore's "leading scientist" but no one else' s. He recently made some rancid testimony in the congress that made some "main-stream" drive-by media types huff and puff insanely such as the U.K. Guardian's Sheppard. I am happy to bring up these two sober reactions the sane world needed.

As the IBD editorial summarized Hansen's nonsense in essence:
Put the oil men on trial, he says, because it's "a crime" for them to "have been putting out misinformation" that places doubt on his unproved — and unprovable — premise that man's use of fossil fuels is warming Earth.

We wonder: Will it be up to NASA's secret police to make the arrests that will be necessary to drag these men before the tribunal?

Al Gore, the most famous face of the global warming-industrial complex, has been saying for years that the debate is over, that science has declared humans are responsible for climate change.

He, of course, is wrong. There are skeptics in the scientific community, literally thousands of them.

Many are on the leash, however, afraid to speak out for fear of being bullied, denied research grants and ostracized for expressing politically incorrect doubt. For them, the debate is indeed over.

Those who refuse to be browbeaten, though, are in danger of seeing their careers ruined or, perhaps someday, sharing a prison cell with the oil executives Hansen wants to try.

Criminalize dissent: That's one way to ensure the debate is over.

Hansen's comment is revealing. It's the sort of declaration made by a desperate man trying to hang on to his declining relevance.

Hansen knows the climate of fear he has stoked is receding as more people start to see through his nonsense. He's just trying to stir up some storm clouds.

A small caveat: Hansen is a NASA bureaucrat, somehow I doubt NASA fully embraces Hansen's nonsense. But I could be wrong. Anyway IBD correctly sounds the alarm that allowing Hansen's nonsense means "we are headed for a dangerous place. Only in totalitarian systems is dissent a criminal offense."

As Mr. Murphy points out:

Not all the world shares Dr. Hansen's vision of imminent ecological Armageddon. Serious minds, seriously disinterested in the subject, throw up caveats all the time. They question the models of climatological speculation; they question the peculiar mix of man-made and other likely sources of climate dynamics; they question some of the data gathering and some of its interpretation; and they question the very maturity of the highly complex, and experimentally deficient science of global warming itself.

They seriously question, too, the massive policy prescriptions that are being insisted upon as necessary in response to the scientific determinations of man-made global warming. There is lots of room for different, honest opinion on questions so large and complex, questions at the terribly complicated intersection of science, politics and economics.

But, to Dr. Hansen's agitated mind, those who raise such questions, who inject skepticism into the global warming debate, are "deniers." The word here is becoming commonplace, but it remains a singular slur. A clutch of the global warming believers like to cast all who would argue with them into the polemical pit, the pit being that dissent from orthodox opinion on global warming as the equivalent of Holocaust denial. It is a shameless and vicious tactic, and hardly accords with the nobility that is suppose to drive the conscience of those out to save the planet. Dr. Hansen is overfond of the specious and chilling analogy: He has written of the "crashing glaciers serv(ing) as a Krystal Nacht" and, although he later repented of the metaphor, compared coal trains to "death trains - no less gruesome than if they were boxcars headed to crematoria, loaded with uncountable irreplaceable species." This week, Dr. Hansen went a step even more noxiously forward.

He called for a tribunal, or as I prefer to call it, an Inquisition, to put on trial for crimes against nature and humanity, the CEOs of the big oil companies who, according to Dr. Hansen's frantic view of things, feed the public "misinformation" about the climate crisis. Again the implicit model is to Nuremberg, as the man attempts to put concern for a future - let us call it a probability - on a moral and factual par with the unquestioned, historical, shattering enormity of the Nazi Holocaust.

Is this a scientist speaking? If so, it is more than curious that in the 21st century it is the scientist calling for the secular equivalent of an Inquisition. More to the point, are these the words of a man really certain of his truth, or one who - with the anxiety of the fanatic - is trying to shield it from all rigour of skepticism and inquiry? In either case, I do not question at all the assertion that it is the voice of a man who is neither a friend to reason or science. This is the voice of the scientist-activist consumed with his own virtue and fearful of all dispute.

Science has no need of tribunals or trials, no need of Nuremberg justice, or analogies with the Holocaust. James Hansen's words this week were an offence, an offence against inquiry, against science, against moral seriousness. They were a piece of insolence against the idea of debate itself.

Indeed James Hansen is "a man who is neither a friend to reason or science"! I have heard Hansen talk once in an AGU meeting. What I found strange of that talk was that he kept alluded to the name of Jule Charney and claimed that he collaborated with Charney. As Noman Phillips puts it, Jule Charney (1917-1981) WAS "one of the dominant figures in atmospheric science in the three decades following World War II. Much of the change in meteorology from an art to a science is due to his scientific vision and his thorough commitment to people and programs in this field." I can see the desire of many trying to connecting themselves to Charney in order to impress people. But Charney passed away 7 years before Hansen latched himself to his Godfather Algore and making global warming mumble jumble, I have serious doubt if Jule Charney had ever knew Hansen or care about his work. Hansen is just a little person in science that no scientist in their right mind would willing to admit any association with him. So he had to resort to dropping the names of dead giants who can't talk back. He has been a desperate man for a long time!

Monday, June 23, 2008


Following the news around the world is also a good chance to learn about different places of the world. Today we learn about Saltburn-by-the-sea, a town and seaside resort in the north east of England. A scenic place as can be seen by the following pictures:

Today's news in the Northern Echo reports some dramatic rescue this past weekend "when a man was airlifted to hospital with facial injuries after being thrown from a boat in gale whipped seas" as reported by Chris Brayshay in "Anglers thrown from boat in gale" and
Another four men, from a second boat, managed to struggle ashore after their craft capsized during a memorial fishing competition off Saltburn seafront, on Saturday.
The fishing competition is an annual event
in memory of local plumber, 50- year-old father-of-two Jim Maidens, who drowned in similar circumstances, in 1998.

He was swept overboard by a freak wave close to Pennyfs Hole, at Huntcliffe.

But this weekend there were gale warnings, and "the anglers setting out to sea" notwithstanding the warnings. Coastguard officials were not happy, but all were safe in the end. So this is one the good stories to report with a good ending.

No one should confront the gale warnings and expect similar result. Especially when honoring the memory of some one who was "swept overboard by a freak wave" and drowned there.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Still another -- miracle needed!

This depressing news in of Alaska is entitled "Fairbanks family hols vigil for son missing of Australian coast." It reports that Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw are holding vigil in their Fairbanks home as Australian search and rescue units continue to comb the central New South Wales coast for their missing son, Jeremy Earnshaw, 23, who was swept into the Pacific Ocean by wild waves off Snapper Point in the Munmorah State Conservation Area on Monday afternoon.

Here's what happened:

According to Australian sources, Jeremy was sightseeing with his girlfriend, Christina Cuppitt, and another young couple on his day off from Youth With A Mission in nearby Newcastle when the unexpected struck.

Jeremy and Jesse Lee, also with YWAM, an inter-denominational Christian worldwide ministry, were walking along rocks on Snapper Point when a freak wave washed them into heavy seas that had been pounding the coast for several days.

Witnesses lost sight of Jeremy immediately after he was swept into the water, and he has been missing ever since.

A flotation device was thrown to Lee who managed to stay afloat in the crashing surf until a helicopter rescue winched him to safety. He was hospitalized for hypothermia and released.

The same familiar plot again: walking along coastal rocks when a freak wave washed them away!

The Australian police had already told the parents to “prepare ourselves for the inevitable, that he probably is not alive”. Let our best wishes and prayers be with the parents, miracle can happen and hope it can happen to this family.

Walking along a beach or coastal area is the most enjoyable thing and it can be peaceful and tranquil. Why can't we make it stays that way? We can explore Mars and go to the Moon, but no one cares to do something to make our beach and coast safer for human life. Why?

Friday, June 13, 2008

A wasteful tragedy

Here's a tragedy happened at Yanchep of Australia as reported by Jake Sturmer of WAToday yesterday:

The 35-year-old was walking her two dogs on the beach about 9.30am when one dashed into the water and got stuck on a reef.

The woman ran into the ocean after the dog and a freak wave swept her underwater.

The dog returned to shore, but the woman reappeared a short time later face down in the ocean.

A witness called the police who mobilised their helicopter to search for the woman.

She was found dead an hour later.

I can only characterize it as wasteful. But it is still another variation of onshore freaque wave tragedy.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bad Science -- A grand tradition

The title for this blog is borrowed from the National Review article by Roy Spencer. Even I don't know much about Spencer, this kind of title suggests that he is clearly among Algore's "overwhelming majority."

Mr. Spencer asked and a few good questions in the article, for instance, he asked "Just how certain are we that recent warming really has been caused by SUVs spewing carbon dioxide and cows belching methane?" Answer: "After all, the greater the cost of the advertised fixes, the more certain we must be that the scientific consensus really is more than just a political statement."

Here's another: "And why should the science of global warming be so uncertain?" and a good answer: "Mostly because it is a whole lot easier to make scientific measurements than it is to figure out what those measurements are telling us about how the natural world works." Then he quoted Mark Twain as saying “Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please.” I like this quote. Sadly many scientist distort things even without facts. he also pointed out this famous Twain quote: “There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture from such a trifling investment of fact.”

As someone working on the Great Lakes, I am interested in Spencer's comments on Great Lakes water level:
one you might not have heard about is the recent decline in Great Lakes water levels which is (of course) also due to global warming. For instance, Lake Superior water levels in 2007 reached near-record lows.

I say “near-record” because a similar decline was observed in the early 1920s which culminated in the record low lake level of 1926. From reading media reports of the 1926 event, one can see the continuing tradition of experts to predict events that non-experts (the public) recognize to be foolish. A Duluth Herald editorial at the time gave the common sense explanation for low lake levels:
The weather bureau has issued a report on low lake levels…the Great Lakes watershed is in a cycle of light precipitation…levels will come back when…the dry cycle is succeeded by a wet one. There have been dry cycles before….and for every dry cycle there has been a wet one to follow…
But the “experts” had a very different take on the issue, as reported in the May 27, 1926 issue of Daily Mining Journal:

Ultimate extinction of the American side of the falls at Niagara is mathematically certain unless water levels in the Great Lakes are raised.

I have a difficult time reading that statement without laughing. But I suspect it wasn’t meant to be a joke.
The article is really about commenting on global warming as:
While the global-warming debate will probably slow down for some number of months, it will likely return with a vengeance sometime after the fall elections. This is, of course, unless our eight-year stretch of no warming continues. Since January of 2006 when Al Gore announced we have only ten years left to save ourselves, the globally averaged satellite measured temperature of the lower atmosphere has fallen by one degree Farenheit. Last month was the fifth-coolest month in the 30-year satellite record.

If global warming doesn’t get its act together pretty soon, there will be a lot of scientists (and more than a few politicians) who will look pretty foolish — but only to those who remember the foolish predictions. Since we still remember a few scientists in the 1970s who were announcing the arrival of a new ice age, I am hopeful that we will also be reminded of the catastrophic warming forecasts when they also fail.

But by then we will have moved on to new kinds of environmental catastrophes to predict and wring our hands over. After all, we scientists are human, too, and we must preserve our traditions.
I could hardly wait to get my hands on his new book "Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor "

A tragedy over Gulf of Guinea

I was away last week to attend this year's WISE 2008 meeting in Helsinki, Finland. There were plenty of news that happened during the last few days I couldn't care less. This following tragic news from Galway News last week couldn't depress me more:

THE heartbroken family of the Galway woman killed by a freak wave in Ghana this week spoke of a daughter with loads of dreams and ambition - and a big heart.

Natalie Higgins had only been in West Africa for nine days, fulfilling her dream of working at an orphanage as a volunteer.

But there was disbelief when news filtered through at the weekend that the 24 year old from Abbeyknockmoy had been swept to her death by a freak wave.

Natalie had been in Ghana for just nine days doing voluntary work in an orphanage
when she and a number of colleagues went on a trip to the coast on Saturday.

Apparantly they were walking along the edge of the water, washing the sand from their feet, when an undercurrent swept them out to sea. Two were rescued but efforts to save Natalie were not successful and her body was later recovered from the sea.

All I can think of dreadfully is "It happened again!" This time in the northwest part of the Gulf of Guinea. Same kind of stories happened time and again in different parts of the world ocean. So sad, so unnecessary, and so unexpectedly. Other than the heartbroken family, local beach officials and coast guards, not that many people seem to care. So it just a freaque wave, an undercurrent of some sort, some lip service, and another tragic case filed.

Can someone doing something about it? There are tons of research fundings threw at people worrying about 0.1 degree increase in temperature 100 years from now. But no one has given any effort even trying to consider some aspect of the elusive nearshore and onshore freaque waves around the world.

Yes, I walked along the beach bordering the Baltic Sea last week and enjoyed it tremendously. It was serene, tranquil and peaceful as always. But I did wondering what if there is a sudden freaque wave rushing in. Thank God there wasn't one. No one know when or where it will happen, but it will happen some time, somewhere, somehow. Research is needed, but save lives is not reason enough for academics and research community to do research on?