Fake News Corner
How to go from belief to certainty in two lines, from The Times, Saturday 15th September:
MI5 believed Michael Foot was Soviet informant
Truth about former Labour leader emerges 23 years after he sued The Sunday Times for libel
And thus Mr Murdoch’s conservative-leaning press creates fake news and brings the entire industry into even greater disrepute. Nice.
Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way
(Joni Mitchell: Both Sides Now)
“…they simply materialized out of the moist air … growing all the while, until they formed smallish, imperceptibly slow-drifting, heavy-looking chunky white blobs hanging impossibly low at about 400 feet over the valley.
“Were they evolving intelligence?”
Johnny Head-in-Air – What’s happening to our sky?
Call me barmy if you like. But have the clouds somehow… changed their behavior, since you last looked?
As my legion of seven Likers, Spammers, Followers, Commenters and Those No Longer Reading This, muh li’l bogl will surely kno’, I walk my faithful schnorzer, Hunzi, twice a day in the exurban space that passes for our local park.
Past playing fields and over railway lines, through gorse-infested heath and overgrown, entangled woodland, by the broad-flowing river’s banks, over the bouncing footbridge and along the cycle path that leads romantically past the sewage works to the industrial estate.
Yet among all of my fellow-travelling, dog-fancying companions tramping through the valley every day, I seem to be the only one who ever looks up at the sky.
In fact – call me barmy if you like – I have been staring at it curiously now for weeks, occasionally taking photographs to remind myself that what I am seeing is real, and consistent. Johnny head-in-air, I will post some as soon as I can obtain the technology.
It seems so long ago now, but from the first week in May through to the second week in August, we enjoyed virtually unbroken sunshine and – for these isles – intense heat. (Why, I do declare, it may have touched 29 degrees here! Surely the seven-horned Beast of the Apocalypse is upon us!)
There was a fortnight during that time, probably in June, when the busy sky, normally filled twice a day with vapor trails – (I wearily acknowledge that some of you might genuinely believe the white stuff emanating from the power-plants of commercial jetliners is Aluminum hydroxide, with which the Deep State and NASA are plotting to alter the world’s weather in order to make you pay more tax on your welfare checks and take away your guns. Now read on…) – filled, as I say, with vapor trails, was blue and tranquil.
I mentioned the absence of overflights at the normal times of the day, when holidaymakers and business types head out west across the coast and into the wild blue yonder, to one or two people I casually acknowledge most days, only to be greeted with nervous looks and polite shufflings.
Only one person advanced a theory, that it must be to do with training exercises for the big Royal flypast by the airforce, celebrating its centenary. I forebore to mention that there was no sign either of any military aircraft; the training reportedly taking place 300 miles away over the North Sea.
Otherwise, neither I nor anyone could think what might be causing it. Most hadn’t noticed, and few cared. And eventually, the planes came back. Had some unusual atmospheric phenomenon caused air traffic control to move our overflights elsewhere? I feel we need some clickbait here.
Since early August, when I got back from a week in France, where I had tired myself out by the Thursday – I haven’t been well – with workshops and concerts, and endured an enervating 12-hour multi-train journey home via two capitals, I’d also begun to notice that there might be something a bit – well – strange going on, up above the trees and beyond the wooded valley sides.
Oh yes, I know, call me barmy if you like. Clouds is clouds, they come in all shapes and sizes, and there they usually are, floating around up there, some white, some gray, and they either rain on you or they don’t, and there’s never two the same. La-de-da.
Perhaps I had not been in the habit of observing the clouds so critically in the past, but I honestly can’t remember any weeks during my 68 summers when they seemed to come so persistently in so many shapes and sizes, all crowding separately into the same broad patch of sky, all at the same time, for days on end – and all looking remarkably alike.
It’s what I’ve come to call “messy sky syndrome”.
You have, have you not, an ever-lengthening list of observably different “types” of clouds (see the internet for details).
Heavy cumulus clouds, those large white masses like like giant teddy bears with round, pricked-up ears, spying on us over the valley sides. Lowering gray rainclouds, filling the sky from horizon to horizon as darker clouds scurry beneath. That peculiar “weatherless” weather we often get around Christmastime, when the dome of Heaven is just a featureless pale-beige blank, there’s no sun, wind, rain or snow and it’s neither hot nor cold.
Flocculent “mackerel sky” cirrhus clouds, broken into small, perfectly aligned pieces betokening “a change in the weather”; lenticular, cigarlike clouds, often mistaken for UFOs, polished by the wind; high, thin altus, sometimes torn into mare’s tails by shearing, competing winds; and combinations thereof; clouds made by trails of climate-changing chemicals (no, not really), blown by the jetstream at 35 thousand feet between the troposphere and the stratosphere, where governments secretly fly their commercial airliners, spreading out and joining up in wispy, feathery veils; stripey altus clouds making interesting patterns; die-straight lines of gloom-laden weather fronts looming in from the distant Atlantic; raggedy black after-the-storm storm clouds, as if in a Victorian novel, streaming across the baleful face of the moon.
But how often do you see six, nine, ten different cloud types, all jostling messily at one and the same time for command of the sky; while divided sometimes into sections by distinct rivers of blue or odd, straight shadows cast by the invisible sun’s rays? And what’s with all these chunky, white blobs?
The other day, for instance. Hunzi and I headed out under a cloudless blue dome over the valley. A few minutes later, while crossing the footbridge we observed just a few thin puffs of white dust emerge faintly from the welkin, like anti-aircraft fire in the distance. As we watched, they grew and solidified – they were not blown into view by the wind, they simply materialized out of the moist air as the water droplets condensed in the heat of the late summer sunshine, until they formed smallish, imperceptibly slow-drifting, heavy-looking, chunky white blobs hanging impossibly low at about 400 feet over the valley – and began to flock together, growing all the while.
Within a few more minutes, the individual chunks were beginning to form co-operatives. Some were turning shadowy gray underneath as they thickened. Gradually, the sky was filled from every direction with more and more of these clumpy little cumuli, bonding together into one mass – yet retaining their discrete shapes – while off to the southwest, veiling the sun, covering a full quadrant of the sky had equally suddenly appeared a completely different type of formation, a broadly spreading region of cirrhus cloud made from tiny scales, like snakeskin.
Drifting beneath the mottled overcast were some brightly shining ribbons, pure white streamers of sea-clouds lancing in from the west; while woven among those here and there, although at greater altitude, were a few broken shreds of jet-trails; and transiting rapidly inland from the northwest at low altitude, in the distance, a line of raggedy, dark-gray remnants of storm clouds – although there had been no storm that we knew of. And with remarkable rapidity, the whole jumbled skyscape began to coalesce into a full overcast; but almost as soon, it broke apart again and the sun poured through, and the sky turned blue once more over the valley.
It was, to put it graphically, total chaos – a complete mess. And far from the only time we had observed a similar battle going on. It happens now, whenever we get a sunny – as opposed to a ten-tenths overcast, rainy – day. These small, chunky, white clouds miraculously appear, along with many other types, and self-organize into short-lived weather systems before breaking up again and vanishing.
It sometimes feels like they’re evolving intelligence.
On the train à grande vitesse back from the Loire, swishing silently across the vast and featureless tank-terrain of the Pas de Calais north of Paris, with its scattered wind turbines and clumps of no-more-than-40-years young trees outlining broad fields with practical-looking irrigation gantries, occasionally dotted with postwar-reconstructed farmsteads and tiny hamlets, where I often think we could profitably layout London’s sixth airport and leave poor historic Harmondsworth village standing, I photographed an amazing display of those blobs; those weighty, chunky blobs of cumulus, behaving almost with cloud-intelligence as they progressively marshalled themselves into one enormous military formation that stretched for miles towards the Belgian frontier.
“Something has changed…”
Has it always been like this? Am I just foolishly imagining that the clouds today seem different from the clouds I’ve carelessly only half-observed in the past; clouds, for instance, as depicted by John Constable’s landscape paintings seen in galleries, that always seem like late-Georgian society: so well-ordered and forming coherent – if possibly a little threatening – structures in the distance, to point up the fragility of his nostalgic interpretations of a vanishing bucolic way of life – the Pathetic Fallacy immured in art? What is the message of the blobs?
“There is anywhere from 5 to 8% more water vapor circulating throughout the atmosphere than there was a generation ago.” (Guardian article on superstorms)
What are our new skies, our disruptive, rogue clouds; our unexpected emergences and heavy, low-hanging chunks of white and gray bumping about like dodgem cars before joining forces as self-organizing systems independent of the wind, our sinister “teddy bears” on the horizon, that never seem to move from day to day; those high, wispy shreds being ripped apart by fierce winds of change while lower clouds puff serenely by like Indian smoke-signals; our menacing, reptilian veils of cirrhus across the struggling sun; those well-drilled martial formations, trying to tell us now?
Sometimes I find myself on YouTube, clicking on videos posted by (invariably) Americans helplessly trying to explain everyday phenomena to paranoid viewers of even less sophistication; and yet marvelling at the images sent in by contributors of the most incredible, extraordinary cloud formations. Huge, rival black storm fronts shearing across one another as a Michelangelo light breaks through the angelic host between; great mushrooms of cloud thousands of feet high, polished into strange and frightening shapes by unimaginably powerful winds; terrifying funnel-clouds touching down on the prairie behind vulnerable clapboard farmhouses, where Mom, Dad and the kids are hopefully safe in their basement tornado shelters; impossible geometric figures intelligently designed by water, wind, heat and barometric pressure; spectacular sunsets; the seemingly tranquil white mashed-potato whorls of violent hurricanes when seen from space. These Americans all think cloud phenomena are signs of God’s righteous anger, and fall to their knees like savages.
Being an island, we don’t have magnificent, awesome skies like the Americans or the Russians do. Or any weather extremes, come to that.
It’s only a feeling. Something has changed; something in the air. Things “up there” are not quite the same as they’ve always been. Messy sky syndrome – with blobs – is the new normal: the relationship between the sun and the atmosphere seems to be rebalancing.
It’s probably just those damned Deep State chemtrails, I tell you. They’re changing the weather to suit the demands of late capitalism.
I was Dudley Sutton
The death, aged 85, in a London hospice, after a long illness, of the actor known as ‘Dudley Sutton’ reminds me that I was once ‘Dudley Sutton’.
The event has received a gratifying amount of publicity, considering that his glory days were quite far behind him. For several years during the 1980s and early 90s ‘Dudley’ famously played the part of ‘Tinker’ Bell, a louche character in a popular TV comedy-drama series about a roguish antique dealer with a heart of gold, mysteriously called just ‘Lovejoy’, starring the diminutive Ian McShane. Always wearing a flat cap, Tinker was the reliable sidekick, the much put-upon bloke who helped shift (and fake) the antiques – a familiar character on the London scene.
Emerging from RADA and the famed Joan Littlewood company in the East End, ‘Dudley’ was a busy character actor, as the hardworking and versatile B-listers of stage and TV screen are known, who pop up here and everywhere playing odd parts; often in surprising productions. In addition to the usual quota of terrible films and long-departed TV soaps and sitcoms, ‘Dudley’ worked with directors of the calibre of Ken Russell and Federico Fellini. He seems to have been a much-loved colleague, judging by the many tributes pouring in.
None of them recognising that I was the real ‘Dudley Sutton’.
‘Dudley’ had a distinctive, fruity burr of a voice that got him a lot of work doing commercial voiceovers. It’s what keeps most jobbing actors alive. In the late 1970s and early 80s, after a failed shot at a career in TV news, I too had been getting increasing amounts of work writing scripts for what are known as ‘corporates’ – short training and promotional films, audiovisual presentations and the like. That was in the days before digital handheld cameras and PowerPoint.
Because it worked out cheaper for the producers, a little more lucrative for me; and because I had done quite a lot of presentation work on radio and had a vaguely familiar voice, certainly to a London audience, a fluent reader, I would frequently be cast to do the voiceover narrations of my own scripts.
So valued are writers, that you could be paid as much just for reading out the words for a few minutes as you got for spending two whole weeks researching and writing the actual script*. I soon gained a reputation for ‘one-take’ reliability and professionalism; but I wasn’t yet getting enough commissions to pay the mortgage.
So, imagining foolishly that I could possibly make a career out of it, I signed to the leading voiceover artists’ agency, Talkies. The agency was attached to the Redwood Studios in London’s Soho, where I did a lot of the recordings. There, they kept a growing bank of sample voice tapes that producers and their clients could listen to, and select what and whom they imagined had the most appropriate style to deliver the message: the ability to do accents; funny, straight, authoritative, newsy, shouty and so on, to which I added my own dulcet tones.
Anyway, another year or so went by and I was still struggling along, having had absolutely no work at all from the agency; not even a 30-second commercial. One day, while recording the narration for one of my scripts, I asked André, the boss, what had happened to my demo tape, because it didn’t seem to be producing much money, and a chap needs to eat. Was there something wrong with my voice, or me, maybe?
He duly looked into it, and with some embarrassment Beth, the woman who ran Talkies, got back to me to confess that my tape had accidentally been filed under the wrong artist’s name.
Reader, the name on the sticky label adhering to my voice tape was ‘Dudley Sutton’!
I can’t honestly claim he was getting all the work that wasn’t coming to me. By then it was too late anyway; I had moved on, signing up for a job as a badly paid writer with a terrible advertising agency out in the sticks. I’m now a retired domestic caretaker with nothing to do but this. My career, needless to say, never took shape in quite the way ‘Dudley’s did, the old impostor. Nor did I ever go to RADA….
* (I once got paid £90 for 30 seconds’ work, being the voice of a newsreader coming out of the radio on the sideboard in a Stephen Frears TV drama… = £94 million a year, pro rata!)
GW: The rain it raineth, every day
Hurricane Florence: “Radar data from the Morehead City, NC radar showed that Florence’s outer spiral bands began dumping heavy rains over the Outer Banks and much of Eastern North Carolina on Thursday morning. Rainfall amounts of 0.5 – 1.0 inch per hour were common, with a few heavy cells generating higher rainfall rates. A Personal Weather Station in Emerald Isle, NC picked up 2.9” of rain in just 40 minutes at 10 am EDT.”
“The most concerning forecast continued to be from our top model for forecasting hurricanes, the European model, whose 0Z Thursday run predicted that Florence’s stall would occur very near shore along the NC/SC border, with the hurricane then traversing the northern half of the coast of South Carolina just offshore, until making landfall Saturday night near Charleston. This would allow Florence to keep its eye over water, greatly increasing the amount of rain it can generate, and would subject a very long stretch of coast to high winds and a destructive storm surge. Our other top models–the GFS, HWRF, UKMET, and HMON–all predicted Florence would move ashore near the NC/SC border, then turn to the west-southwest over land. On this track, Florence would still keep a large part of its circulation overwater and dump extreme rains, but would not bring a devastating storm surge and hurricane-force winds to a long stretch of coast. By Sunday, Florence should be headed due west towards the Appalachian Mountains.” (Wunderground)
The biggest threat is from the storm surge, coming on top of the normal 5-ft tides experienced along a section of the Carolina coastline. These may be increased at this time of year by what are called King Tides – what we call Spring tides – associated with the full moon.
STOP PRESS: Friday pm, 5 dead. (Sunday: 14 dead) We don’t understand. All the weather reports and Bob Henson at Wunderground have Florence stalling over Wilmington, S Carolina; then tracking southwards, down the coast to Georgia. But the tracking on the Weather Channel maps shows it moving inland as a Cat 1, and then curving northwards toward Ohio, Washington DC, New Hampshire – past New York – and on up into Maine and Nova Scotia…. What is going on? (Answer yes, that’s what it’s doing.)
Anyway, there’s now extensive flooding, the town of New Bern near Wilmington is under 10ft of water. A lot of silly people – over 300 – didn’t evacuate when warned, and are trapped in their attics, calling for help. Tough?
Caribbean: Isaac is just chuntering on as a Tropical Depression into the Caribbean, not hitting anything much as it passes between Cuba and Dominica. There’s no prediction of it strengthening as yet. Update: Sunday, Isaac has fallen apart and is no longer even a Tropical Depression. Sorry folks, nothing moreto see there.)
Meanwhile: “Meteorologists are also keeping an eye on yet another tropical disturbance that’s spinning in the western Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane center is giving the system a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm within the next five days. Heavy rainfall and gusty winds are expected across portions of north-eastern Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana on Friday and Saturday.” (USA Today)
India: While we’re wazzing (school slang, perfect word) about Florence, “Days of heavy rain from 05 Sept. caused flooding in several districts of Odisha in eastern India, affecting around 90,000 people. … at least 41 locations recorded more than 100 mm of rain in 24 hours to 06 September, 2018 and a further 25 locations the next day.
Turkey: State Meteorological Service reported that wide areas of the Marmara region, including Istanbul, experienced thunderstorms that began during the afternoon of 13 September. Şarköy in Tekirdağ Province recorded 105.6mm of rain in 24 hours to 14 September. The city of Kastamonu was hit with large hail (that) smashed windows of vehicles and buildings and damaged roof tiles. Meanwhile: “Raging flood waters swept through the town of Ronda in Malaga, southern Spain yesterday, 13 Sept. In a similar fashion to the flooding that struck in Toledo earlier this week, streets turned to rivers after a short period of torrential rain. Local observers said that over 50 mm fell in just 30 minutes. (Floodlist)
Western Pacific: “Tropical Cyclone Mangkhut (much bigger and fiercer than Florence) formed over the North West Pacific Islands on 07 Sept. and moved toward Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, causing wind damage and some flooding from heavy rain. Since then Mangkhut has strengthened and is moving towards the Philippines (now as a maximum Cat 5 Supertyphoon, with wind speeds exceeding 200 mph). It is forecast to continue west-north-west and reach northern Luzon and the Babuyan Islands (Philippines) on 14-15 Sept. Heavy rain, storm surge and strong winds, flooding and landslide are likely to affect the northern Philippines, southern Taiwan and possibly next Hong Kong and parts of southern China around the Pearl River (pop. 150 million).
Saturday pm: 12 dead. Sunday: “Over 60…” 100 mph winds start to batter Hong Kong. 2.6 million evacuated.
Hawaii: “Tropical Depression Olivia continues to move west away from Hawaii. Heavy rain and winds from Olivia downed trees, knocked out power and prompted evacuations of several homes on Hawaii’s Maui island but spared the state widespread damage Wednesday.” (USA Today)
British Isles: Former Cat 1 hurricane, now downgraded to Tropical Storm, Helene is on track to make waves up the Irish Sea on Tuesday, probably as a weakening depression passing between Wales and Ireland. Meanwhile a new intruder, Subtropical Storm Joyce seems to have appeared out of nowhere. Little tracking info is available as yet, but it looks to be on-course for Galicia, the Spanish province north of Portugal, and thence possibly up through the Bay of Biscay into Brittany or a bit further north to southern England, on the heels of Helene.
Save the world
Scientists at Imperial College, London, have called on the UK government to plant trees and use less chemicals to take carbon dioxide from the air. (Deep breath….)
“Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, called the report ‘crucially important’ for the UK’s low-carbon future. ‘It shows the UK can take its carbon emissions down to net zero by around mid-century.’ He pointed ahead to a major report coming from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change next month, which is expected to find that the world must achieve net zero emissions by 2050 to meet the Paris agreement targets. (Guardian report)
What the fuck, who are these idiots kidding? Do they not read?
“António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, told global leaders this week that the world has ‘less than two years’ to avoid runaway climate change. ‘If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change,’ Guterres said during a speech at the U.N. headquarters in New York.”
Guterres is not the only climate pessimist. Leading climate scientists contributing to the Arctic News website are fully committed to sometime between 2026 and 2030 as the final stage in an inevitable extinction event that will eradicate human civilization and, possibly, humans – along with most other species.
Has, in fact, already begun.
What do they mean by “runaway climate change”? Well, we’re talking possibly 10C degrees of warming within “a few years”, as a result of the loss of Arctic sea ice leading to enhanced warming of the region, where more than 50 Gt of methane gas lies trapped on the seabed and in the surrounding permafrost. The gas, up to 300 times more potent as a heat-retainer than CO2, is already pouring out and concentrations are rising alarmingly fast.
Permanent loss of the polar ice will, according to some scientists, mean the center of cold air moving to Greenland, with a corresponding shift in the center of the circumpolar jetstream winds. A huge change would then be expected in the ocean currents surrounding the pole, with corresponding effects on the weather in the northern hemisphere.
The planet has not warmed overall by more than 1 degree at any time in the past 1.5 million years. The Paris targets are a sop to Western governments reluctant to promote a less consumptive economy: they are totally meaningless in terms of real-world emissions, which cannot be reversed in time whatever extreme measures we take. And we are not about to take any.
Oh, and by the way – it takes 30 years for a tree to mature sufficiently to make a measurable contribution to CO2 absorption. That’s if it hasn’t been felled and burned for biomass.
Unfortunately, in a warmer world forest fires will increase, emitting massive quantities of CO2 and reducing the capacity of the world’s remaining forests to absorb it.
Paying for our mistakes
IN 2017, Trump put a man called Barry Lee Myers in charge of the nation’s weather bureau, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Myers has no scientific qualification but is the CEO (and younger brother of the founder) of AccuWeather, a multimedia enterprise that profits mightily from selling forecasts and advertising on its outlets.
Two interesting things about AccuWeather are that it invented and has patented the “secret” formula for calculating, not what the temperature actually is, but what it “feels like”; there’s a lesson there somewhere; and its long-range forecasts are found to be mostly bullshit.
Wikipedia has a more interesting story that illustrates the grotesque corruption involved in the relationships between politics and industry.
“On April 14, 2005, U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced the “National Weather Service Duties Act of 2005” in the U.S. Senate. The legislation would have forbidden (my italics) the National Weather Service from providing (free) information directly to the public. The legislation was generally interpreted as an attempt by AccuWeather to profit off of taxpayer-funded weather research by forcing its delivery through private channels. The bill did not come up for a vote. Santorum received campaign contributions from AccuWeather’s president, Joel Myers.”
The story illustrates a possible ulterior motive for Trump’s crusade against scientific information and his gutting of the EPA and other federal agencies involved in the public promulgation of, among other important subjects, climate research. Presumably, rather than a reflection of the President’s anti-scientific bias, or of his crass and untutored insensitivity, it is a sop to party funders who can increasingly charge people for this somewhat vital service.
The final thing about AccuWeather is the annoying paywall they’ve erected on their website. If you want ad-free reports on extreme weather events, your old Granny Weatherwax moans, they expect you to pay for them, regardless of whether or not the ads can ever actually sell you anything – because you don’t live in bloody America.