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Comment Re:Minor Fluctuation? (Score 1) 560

Small changes in a global average temperature are extremely important, because we don't ever experience "average" conditions. The frequency distribution of temperature can be roughly approximated by a normal distribution and the full range of the distribution (i.e. "natural variability") is large, relative to projected changes in the mean.

However, even a small shift in the mean of the distrbution results is much more dramatic changes in the tails of the distribution (i.e. "extreme" conditions). These changes include experiencing moderately hot weather more frequently and having the extremely hot weather be much hotter than it has been in the past. Our organization has studied this in detail for a number years at local scale. We typically see events that were 1 in 30 year heat waves in the historic climate (1970-2000) which are projected to be on the order of 1 in 5 events for the future. The details vary depending on what part of the distribution you're interested in (90th/95th/99th precentile), but the trend is always the same: more hot weather and hotter hot weather.

See this figure from the IPCC's Special Report on Extremes (SREX) for a good illustration if distribution shifts.

The last 20 years or so of climate science have focused on means, mostly because we haven't have the computational resources to study climate at high resolution (both spatially and temporally). That has been changing fast in the last few years and we're likely to see a lot more analysis and research on extremes in the future.

Comment Re:Lots of smoke, little fire? (Score 3, Interesting) 209

In a statement emailed to the Star by her spokesperson...

OK, who do you trust? The spokesperson for a minister with no scientific background and who has no idea what actually happens on the ground, or the scientists who have spent their entire careers working for below-market pay just because they love the pursuit of knowledge?

And come on, a savings of $443k a year for a federal library with over a hundred years of data? That paltry savings is just a drop in the bucket for the federal budget. That's the cost of around five people per year, when it probably cost hundreds of millions of dollars to do the research and collect the data of the course of the decades.

Comment It's great until they crash or get lost (Score 2) 18

That you can send UAVs into areas or conditions for which it would be dangerous to send humans is definitely an advantage. However, for any unmanned equipment you are still taking on the risk of loosing expensive machinery. Some of my coworkers in coast survey once lost an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) at the end of a survey mission and the bosses were _not_ happy being out a few million dollars. There were heavy tides and currents at the time, so it had the potential to crash or get hit by a boat or something. No one knows what happened. Same principle probably applies to UAVs except that communication is easier when you're not underwater.

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