Ringworld examined

Over the last few months, I’ve been a regular visitor at the web site of the NZ Climate Science Coalition, a loose affiliation of local global warming deniers who are trying (rather desperately) to influence the public debate about policy responses to climate change. I don’t want to go on about them at great length here, but I have been spending time debating and debunking some of their more outrageous misrepresentations (I’m being polite) of the science of the issue. Suffice to say they don’t like the Kyoto Protocol…

One man has been particularly vociferous in those debates – the “long range weather forecaster” Ken Ring. He believes that the Moon and its movements allow him to predict New Zealand’s weather years in advance. Random House publish Ring’s forecasts in a thick ring-bound almanac – the 2007 almanac is due out in September (and this year, there’s an Australian version). Ken is an aggressive debater — and denier — of global warming, but his grasp of the subject is rather idiosyncratic (I’m being polite again). You can find some of his views if you track back through this thread at the NZ CSC site, or get added perspective at Tim Lambert’s excellent Deltoid blog.

And so, in the course of dispute, I found myself undertaking to “audit” Ken’s forecasts. Not quite a climate audit, perhaps (not a hockey stick in sight), but an attempt to see if his published forecasts have any skill (ie, are they useful). Ring isn’t shy about claiming successes – after all, public profile helps to sell books (as I know) – but is there any real merit in his method? Has the world of weather and climate forecasting overlooked a real breakthrough?

I have therefore created a new Ringworld topic (see sidebar), and over the next couple of weeks I’ll be posting the first results of my review of Ring’s forecasts for the year to date. The posts won’t appear on the front page (if I can work out how to do that in Tinderbox…). Ordinary truffle and farm posts shouldn’t be affected too much.

Olives in England

Those who have delved deep into On The Farm may have stumbled on an article on global warming that I wrote for a New Zealand small farm magazine a couple of years ago. I’ve been keeping up with the issue ever since, thanks to excellent resources like RealClimate and Google’s news alerts. I’m certain that global warming is going to be a serious challenge for the world in the not-too-far-distant future, but I lean towards the optimistic end of opinion (ie, we can fix it, if we…). But I’m nowhere near as heroically optimistic as Marco Diacono, an Italian living in Honiton, Devon. As the BBC reports:

“Mr Diacono aims to bring in his first olive oil within the next seven years but just in case, he has planted an olive species used to frost and snow.”

I think they mean an olive cultivar, and I would guess we’re talking the Tuscan trinity — frantoio, leccino and pendolino — all of which are growing nicely at Limestone Hills. Even so, I would guess that there wouldn’t be enough heat (yet) to ripen the fruit — not commercially, at least — for a good many years. But I did note that while staying in Kew before Christmas, olives seemed to have become a trendy front garden tree — and there was even some black fruit to be seen. Time, perhaps, for a special English revision of The Olive Book.

Meanwhile, readers who have been waiting for news of our first olive oil will have to wait another year. Blackbirds ate the lot before I got the bird scarers organised. I am therefore planning autumn feasts with songbirds on the menu. Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie?