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Dr. Victor Venema


Dr. Victor Venema

Contact

Meteorological institute
University of Bonn
Auf dem Huegel 20
53121 Bonn, Germany

Email: Victor.Venema@uni-bonn.de




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Publications

Date Publication
15.11.2007 Article: Two adaptive radiative transfer schemes for numerical weather prediction models
V. Venema, A. Schomburg, F. Ament, and C. Simmer
Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 7, 5659-5674
SRef: 1680-7324/acp/2007-7-5659
12.09.2006 Article: Statistical characteristics of surrogate data based on geophysical measurements
V. Venema, S. Bachner, H. W. Rust, and C. Simmer
Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics, 13, 449-466
SRef: 1607-7946/npg/2006-13-449
26.07.2006 Article: A Stochastic Iterative Amplitude Adjusted Fourier Transform algorithm with improved accuracy
V. Venema, F. Ament, and C. Simmer
Nonlinear Processes in Geophysics, 13, 321-328
SRef: 1607-7946/npg/2006-13-321

Latest Blog Posts

  • 25.04.2017: "Hiatus": Signal and Variability

    Stefan Rahmstorf, Grant Foster and Niamh Cahill just summarized the statistical evidence for the mirage people call the "pause" of global warming in their new article: "Global temperature evolution: recent trends and some pitfalls."

    The Open Access paper is clearly written; any natural scientist should be able to follow the arguments. The most important part may be a clear explanation of the statistical fallacies that lead some people to falsely claim there was such a thing as a "hiatus" or "slowdown".




    Suppose that Einstein had stood up and said: I have worked very hard and I have discovered that Newton got everything right and I have nothing to add. Would anyone ever know who Einstein was? ... The idea that we would not want to be Einstein, if we could overturn global warming ... how exiting would that be? Of the tenth of thousands of scientists there is not one who has the ego to do that? It's absurd, it is absolutely unequivocally absurd! We are people.


    I have studied the "hiatus" problem hard (1, 2, 3, 4), read this new paper and I have nothing to add. Unfortunately.





    Well, okay, maybe one thing. Just because a trend change is not statistically significant, does not mean you cannot study why it changed. It only means that you are likely looking at noise and thus likely will not find a reason. But if you think there may be a great reward in the result that can make high-risk research worthwhile. Looking at how small the trend differences are and knowing how uncertain short-term trends are, I am not going to do it, but anyone else is welcome.





    That there was no decline in the long-term trends also does not mean that it is not interesting to study the noise around this trend. The biggest group in the World Climate Research Program studies Climate variability. That by itself shows how important it is.

    This blog is called Variable Variability. I love variability. It is an intrinsic property of complex systems and its behaviour over temporal and spatial averaging scales can tell us a lot about the climate system. It also has large impacts. Droughts and floods fuelled by El Nino are just one example. It is a pity most people just want to average this away.


    One man's noise may be another man's music


    Now that we take the climate system into unknown territories predictions of the seasonal, annual and decadal variability have become even more important to plan ahead and protect communities. Historian Sam White suggests that the problem of the little ice age in Europe was not the cold winters, but the unpredictability of the weather. Better predictions will help a lot in coping with climate change and already produce useful results for the tropics.

    Variability lovers of the world, let's stand up for the importance of our work and not try to faithlessly justify it with middle of the road research on overstudied averages.




    Related reading

    Cranberry picking short-term temperature trends

    Statistically significant trends - Short-term temperature trend are more uncertain than you probably think

    How can the pause be both ‘false’ and caused by something?

    Atmospheric warming hiatus: The peculiar debate about the 2% of the 2%

    Reference

    Rahmstorf, Stefan, Grant Foster and Niamh Cahill, 2017: Global temperature evolution: recent trends and some pitfalls. Environmental Research Letters, 12, No. 5, https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa6825.
    Source: Variable Variability

  • 24.04.2017: Signal and Variability

    Stefan Rahmstorf, Grant Foster and Niamh Cahill just summarized the statistical evidence for the mirage people call the "pause" of global warming in their new article: "Global temperature evolution: recent trends and some pitfalls."

    The Open Access paper is clearly written; any natural scientist should be able to follow the arguments. The most important part may be a clear explanation of the statistical fallacies that lead some people to falsely claim there was such a thing as a "hiatus" or "slowdown".




    Suppose that Einstein had stood up and said: I have worked very hard and I have discovered that Newton got everything right and I have nothing to add. Would anyone ever know who Einstein was? ... The idea that we would not want to be Einstein, if we could overturn global warming ... how exiting would that be? Of the tenth of thousands of scientists there is not one who has the ego to do that? It's absurd, it is absolutely unequivocally absurd! We are people.


    I have studied the "hiatus" problem hard (1, 2, 3, 4), read this new paper and I have nothing to add. Unfortunately.





    Well, okay, maybe one thing. Just because a trend change is not statistically significant, does not mean you cannot study why it changed. It only means that you are likely looking at noise and thus likely will not find a reason. But if you think there may be a great reward in the result that can make high-risk research worthwhile. Looking at how small the trend differences are and knowing how uncertain short-term trends are, I am not going to do it, but anyone else is welcome.





    That there was no decline in the long-term trends also does not mean that it is not interesting to study the noise around this trend. The biggest group in the World Climate Research Program studies Climate variability. That by itself shows how important it is.

    This blog is called Variable Variability. I love variability. It is an intrinsic property of complex systems and its behaviour over temporal and spatial averaging scales can tell us a lot about the climate system. It also has large impacts. Droughts and floods fuelled by El Nino are just one example. It is a pity most people just want to average this away.

    Now that we take the climate system into unknown territories predictions of the seasonal, annual and decadal variability have become even more important to plan ahead and protect communities. Historian Sam White suggests that the problem of the little ice age in Europe was not the cold winters, but the unpredictability of the weather. Better predictions will help a lot in coping with climate change and already produce useful results for the tropics.

    Variability lovers of the world, let's stand up for the importance of our work and not try to faithlessly justify it with middle of the road research on overstudied averages.




    Related reading

    Cranberry picking short-term temperature trends

    Statistically significant trends - Short-term temperature trend are more uncertain than you probably think

    How can the pause be both ‘false’ and caused by something?

    Atmospheric warming hiatus: The peculiar debate about the 2% of the 2%

    Reference

    Rahmstorf, Stefan, Grant Foster and Niamh Cahill, 2017: Global temperature evolution: recent trends and some pitfalls. Environmental Research Letters, 12, No. 5, https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aa6825.
    Source: Variable Variability

  • 10.04.2017: Upcoming meetings for homogenisation scientists

    There are several new meetings coming up that may be interesting for people working on homogenisation. If you know of more, please write a comment. Please note that the abstract submission deadline for EMS is already in 11 days.

    Urban climate summer school
    21-26 August 2017 | Bucharest, Romania. Registration deadline: 15 May 2017
    Climate monitoring; data rescue, management, quality and homogenization
    4–8 September 2017 | Dublin, Ireland. Abstract deadline: 21 April 2017.
    11th EUMETNET Data Management Workshop
    18–20 October 2017 | Zagreb, Croatia. Abstracts deadline: 31 May 2017
    C3S Data Rescue Service Capacity Building and 10th ACRE Workshops
    4-8 December 2017 | Auckland, New Zealand.
    Workshop - Data Management for Climate Services
    April 2018 | Lima, Peru.




    Climate monitoring; data rescue, management, quality and homogenization

    EMS Annual Meeting: European Conference for Applied Meteorology and Climatology 2017 | 4–8 September 2017 | Dublin, Ireland
    The abstract submission deadline: 21st April 2017.

    OSA3.1. Climate monitoring; data rescue, management, quality and homogenization
    Convener: Manola Brunet-India
    Co-Conveners: Ingeborg Auer, Dan Hollis, Victor Venema

    Robust and reliable climatic studies, particularly those assessments dealing with climate variability and change, greatly depend on availability and accessibility to high-quality/high-resolution and long-term instrumental climate data. At present, a restricted availability and accessibility to long-term and high-quality climate records and datasets is still limiting our ability to better understand, detect, predict and respond to climate variability and change at lower spatial scales than global. In addition, the need for providing reliable, opportune and timely climate services deeply relies on the availability and accessibility to high-quality and high-resolution climate data, which also requires further research and innovative applications in the areas of data rescue techniques and procedures, data management systems, climate monitoring, climate time-series quality control and homogenisation.

    In this session, we welcome contributions (oral and poster) in the following major topics:
    • Climate monitoring , including early warning systems and improvements in the quality of the observational meteorological networks
    • More efficient transfer of the data rescued into the digital format by means of improving the current state-of-the-art on image enhancement, image segmentation and post-correction techniques, innovating on adaptive Optical Character Recognition and Speech Recognition technologies and their application to transfer data, defining best practices about the operational context for digitisation, improving techniques for inventorying, organising, identifying and validating the data rescued, exploring crowd-sourcing approaches or engaging citizen scientist volunteers, conserving, imaging, inventorying and archiving historical documents containing weather records
    • Climate data and metadata processing, including climate data flow management systems, from improved database models to better data extraction, development of relational metadata databases and data exchange platforms and networks interoperability
    • Innovative, improved and extended climate data quality controls (QC), including both near real-time and time-series QCs: from gross-errors and tolerance checks to temporal and spatial coherence tests, statistical derivation and machine learning of QC rules, and extending tailored QC application to monthly, daily and sub-daily data and to all essential climate variables
    • Improvements to the current state-of-the-art of climate data homogeneity and homogenisation methods, including methods intercomparison and evaluation, along with other topics such as climate time-series inhomogeneities detection and correction techniques/algorithms, using parallel measurements to study inhomogeneities and extending approaches to detect/adjust monthly and, especially, daily and sub-daily time-series and to homogenise all essential climate variables
    • Fostering evaluation of the uncertainty budget in reconstructed time-series, including the influence of the various data processes steps, and analytical work and numerical estimates using realistic benchmarking datasets


    Related are the sessions: Metrology for meteorology and climate and Climate change detection, assessment of trends, variability and extremes.





    Urban climate summer school


    University of Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania
    August 21-26, 2017
    Registration deadline: 15 May 2017

    Organizers : Research Institute of University of Bucharest (ICUB), Urban Climate Research Center at Arizona State University (ASU), Urban Water Innovation Network (ASU-CSU), Society for Urban Ecology (SURE), Interdisciplinary Center of Advanced Research on Territorial Dynamics (CICADIT)

    Rationale and goals : Urban areas impart significant local to regional scale environmental perturbation. Urban-induced effects, simultaneously with impacts owing to long-lived emissions of greenhouse gases, may trigger additional physical and socioeconomic consequences that affect the livelihoods of urban dwellers. While urban areas amass more than 50% of the world population, and three of four Europeans live in a city, the systematic monitoring and assessment of urban climates, mitigation of and adaptation to adverse effects, and the strategic prioritization of potential solutions may enable enhanced preparedness of populations and local authorities. Such challenges call for enduring scientific advancements, improved training and increased awareness of topical issues.

    This summer school aims to provide structured information and skill-building capabilities related to climate change challenges in urban areas, with a primary focus of creating an active pool of young scientists that tackle the major sustainability challenges facing future generations. The critical areas to be covered refer to
    (1) modern monitoring of urban environments
    (2) modelling tools used in urban meteorology and climatology
    (3) adaptation and mitigation strategies and their prioritization
    (4) exploring critical linkages among environmental factors and emerging and chronic health threats and health disparities. Those attending can expect to gain an understanding of the state-of-the-art and be capable to use the most appropriate tools to address specific problems in their respective fields of interest.
    The summer school is intended for doctoral and post-doctoral students who already have basic knowledge and interest for urban climate issues.

    More information ...





    11th EUMETNET Data Management Workshop

    Zagreb, Croatia, 18 – 20 October 2017
    More information will appear later on the homepage: http://meteo.hr/DMW_2017

    Main Topics

    • Data rescue: investigation, cataloguing, digitization, imaging
    • Climate observations: standards and best practices, definition of climatological day, mean values
    • Metadata: WMO Information System (WIS), INSPIRE, climate networks rating guides
    • Quality control: automatic/manual of climate time-series, on-line data, real-time observations
    • Homogenisation of climate time-series from sub-daily to monthly scale, homogenisation methods, assessment of inhomogeneity
    • Archiving: retention periods, depository, climate service centres and data collections for scientific and public use, databases, data access, user interface, data distribution

    Call for Abstracts

    Presentations will be oral or posters. Abstracts should be written in English, short, clear, concise. Figures, tables, mathematical symbols and equations should not be included. Abstracts should be sent before May 31st 2017 and send to dmw2017@zamg.ac.at. Authors will be informed about the acceptance of their papers by the scientific committee early in September.

    Conference Venue and Programme

    The workshop will be held in the building of Croatian State Archives: Marulićev trg 21, Zagreb, Croatia.

    Wednesday, October 18th 2017

    08:30-09:30 registration
    09:30-16:00 sessions
    17:00 - guided tour, ice breaker

    Thursday, October 19th 2017
    09:00-17:00 sessions
    19:00 workshop dinner

    Friday, October 20th 2017
    09:00-15:30 sessions

    Further Information

    Conference registration fee is 80 €. Details on registration procedures and the workshop in general will be available
    on the website: meteo.hr/DMW_2017 (later)
    Contact: dmw@cirus.dhz.hr

    Scientific Organization

    Ingeborg Auer (ZAMG)
    Peer Hechler (WMO)
    Dan Hollis (UKMO)
    Yolanda Luna (AEMET)
    Dubravka Rasol (DHMZ)
    Ole Einar Tveito (MET Norway)





    C3S Data Rescue Service Capacity Building and 10th ACRE Workshops


    The C3S Data Rescue Service Capacity Building and 10th ACRE Workshops will be held at NIWA in Auckland, New Zealand during the week of the 4th-8th of December this year. There is no homepage on this meeting yet, but more information will follow later on: www.met-acre.net. This homepage also gives information on the previous annual ACRE workshops.





    Workshop - Data Management for Climate Services

    Taller – Gestión de Datos para los Servicios Climáticos

    Location: Lima, Peru
    Time: April 2018 (date to be defined)
    Organized by: CLIMANDES - Climate services to support decision making in the Andes Supported by: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
    Region: Ibero-American Countries
    Duration: 3 days (9:00 a.m. - 5 p.m.)
    Number of participants: 80 - 100

    Introduction

    The implementation of the WMO-led Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) strengthens the capabilities of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) through its five pillars (Observations and Monitoring; Capacity Development; User Interface Platform; Research, Modeling and Prediction; Climate Services Information System). In this context, SENAMHI and MeteoSwiss are developing the first workshop on "Data Management for Climate Services" focusing mainly on the first three of the mentioned pillars. The workshop will be carried out in Peru by members of the CLIMANDES project with the support of SDC and WMO.

    The workshop "Data Management for Climate Services" is addressed towards both the technical and the academic community involved in the implementation of national climate services. The workshop focuses on sharing knowledge and experiences from the provision of high-quality climate services targeted at WMO's priority areas and their citizens. The methodologies will cover topics such as quality control, homogenization, gridded data, climate products, use of open source software, and will include practical examples of climate services implemented in the Ibero-American region. The workshop will contribute to the continuous improvement of technical and academic capacities by creating a regional and global network of professionals active in the generation of climate products and services.

    Objectives

    • Strengthen data management systems for the provision of climate services.
    • Share advances in the implementation of climate services in the Ibero-American region.
    • Interchange with other NMHSs on best practices in climate methodologies and products.
    • Improve the regional and global collaborations of the NMHSs of the Ibero-American region.
    • Show the use of open-source software.

    Outcome The following outcomes of the workshop are envisaged:
    • A final report providing a synthesis of the main results and recommendations resulting from the event.
    • The workshop builds the first platform to exchange technical and scientific knowhow in Ibero-America (WMO RA-III and IV), and among participants from all other regions.
    • Hence, the workshop contributes to the creation of a regional and global network in which knowhow, methodologies, and data are continuously shared.

    Content

    The workshop will consist of four sessions consisting of presentations, posters and open discussions on:

    ● Session 1:
    • Data rescue methods: methods for data rescue and cataloguing; data rescue projects
    • Metadata: methods of metadata rescue for the past and the present; systems for metadata storage; applications and use of metadata
    • Quality control methods: methods for quality control of different meteorological observations of different specifications; processes to establish operational quality control

    ● Session 2:
    • Homogenization: methods for the homogenization of monthly climate data; projects and results from homogenization projects; investigations on parallel climate observations; use of metadata for homogenization

    ● Session 3:
    • Gridded data: verification of gridded data based on observations; products based on gridded data; methods to produce gridded data; adjustments of gridded data in complex topographies such as the Andes

    ● Session 4:
    • Products and climate information: methods and tools of climate data analysis; presentation of climate products and information; products on extreme events
    • Climate services in Ibero-America: projects on climate services in Ibero-America
    • Interface with climate information users: approaches to building the interface with climate information users; experiences from exchanges with users; user requirements on climate services

    Furthermore, hands-on sessions on capacity building, e-learning, the use of open-source software, and on ancestral knowledge in Ibero-America will take place during the workshop. The workshop is complemented by an additional training day on climate data homogenization and a field visit at the end of the workshop.

    Organization

    The Meteorological and Hydrological Service of Peru SENAMHI will organize the workshop on “Data Management for Climate Services” in close collaboration with the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology MeteoSwiss. The workshop is part of the project CLIMANDES 2 (Climate services to support decision making in the Andes) which is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

    For more information and to get notified when the date is known please contact: Climandes.

    Source: Variable Variability

  • 19.03.2017: Did the lack of an election threshold save The Netherlands?



    The Netherlands. Also known as flat Switzerland and as the inventors of the stock market crash. A country you think of so little that we were surprised by the international attention for the Dutch election last week. Although The Netherlands is the 17th economy in the world we are used to being ignored,* typically not making any trouble.

    But this time the three part question was whether after Brexit and Trump also The Netherlands, France and Germany would destroy their societies in response to radical fundamentalist grandpas campaigning against radical fundamentalist Muslims. The answer for the Dutch part is: no.

    To be honest, this was clear before the election. The Netherlands has a representative democracy. The government is elected by the parliament. The seats in parliament depend closely on the percentage of votes a party gets. This is a very stable system and even when Trump was inaugurated, the anti-Muslim party PVV polled at 20%, no way near enough to govern. The PVV survey results plotted below are in seats, 20% is 30 seats. Every line is one poling organization.

    Due to the Syrian refugee crisis the PVV jumped up in September 2015. They went down during the primaries as the Dutch people got to know Trump and the refugees turned out to be humans in need of our help. After getting elected, Trump favorability went up; Americans gave Trump the benefit of the doubt. The same happened to the PVV; if America elects Trump, he cannot be that bad? Right? Right? While Trump was trampling America as president and filled his cabinet with shady corrupt characters, the PVV dropped from 20% to 13% (20 seats).



    There is no guarantee the drop of the PVV was due to Trump, but the temporal pattern fits and the leader of the PVV, Geert Wilders, is a declared fan of Trump. People campaigning against the PVV made sure to tie Wilders to Trump. For example in this AVAAZ advertisement below. I hope AVAAZ will also make such videos for France and Germany.



    I would certainly not have minded the election being a few months later to give Trump the possibility to demonstrate his governing skills more clearly. This will also help France and Germany. In addition Germans know their history very well and know that German fascism ended with holocaust it did not start with it. It started with hatred and discrimination. The most dangerous case is France with its winner-takes-all presidential system.

    Fascism: I sometimes fear... (by Michael Rosen)

    I sometimes fear that
    people think that fascism arrives in fancy dress
    worn by grotesques and monsters
    as played out in endless re-runs of the Nazis.

    Fascism arrives as your friend.
    It will restore your honour,
    make you feel proud,
    protect your house,
    give you a job,
    clean up the neighbourhood,
    remind you of how great you once were,
    clear out the venal and the corrupt,
    remove anything you feel is unlike you...

    It doesn't walk in saying,
    "Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution."




    I expect that it also hurted the PVV that Wilders did not show up for most of the debates. Without the solution-free animosity of Wilder it was possible to have an adult debate about solutions to the problems in The Netherlands. Refreshing and interesting. The last days he did show up, the level immediately dropped, making clear what the main Dutch political problem is. Wilders.

    As the graph below shows the Dutch parliament will have 13 parties. This has triggered a debate whether we need an election threshold. 



    A poll made around the election shows that a majority of 68% would be in favor of an election threshold of at least 2 seats (1.3%) and 28% even favor a threshold of 5 seats (3.3%). As the map below shows such a threshold would fortunately still be on the low side internationally.


       <1%
       ≥1%, <2%
       ≥2%, <3%
       ≥3%, <4%
       ≥4%, <5%
       ≥5%, <6%
       ≥6%, <7%
       ≥7%
       Each chamber has a different threshold.

    I think a threshold, even a low one, is a bad idea. The short-term gains are small, the short-term problems are big and we risk a long-term decline of the Dutch political culture, which is already at a low due to Wilders. The arguments are not specific for The Netherlands. I hope these thresholds go down everywhere they exist.

    The main argument in favor is that small parties make it harder to form a coalition government. This is true, small parties need visible influence to make governing worthwhile and survive the next election, which means they get an over-proportional piece of the pie. This makes other coalition partners worse of, which makes negotiations harder.

    However, next to the small parties, which are hard to include in a government, we also have the PVV, which is hard to include because of their ideology and lack of workable ideas. The small parties in this election (PvdD, 50+, SGP, DENK, FvD) have 17 seats combined, while PVV has 20 seats. Getting rid of the small parties would thus reduce the problem by less than half. Not having large toxic parties in parliament would be at least as important.

    Also without small parties we now need four parties to build a government. The election threshold would need to be very high to reduce that to three parties. So the benefits are small.

    If the threshold were that high, an immediate problems would be that people voting for small parties are not represented in parliament and also less in the media. This is unfair.

    This can have severe consequences. In Turkey the election threshold is 10% and in 2002 they had a case where 7 sitting parties were below this threshold and a whooping 46% of all votes were without representation in the parliament. That is a big price to pay for making it somewhat easier to build a government.

    An election threshold also stimulates strategic voting, where people do not vote the party they agree with, but a party that will get into parliament or government. In the last Dutch election election a quarter of the voters voted strategically. The right wing VVD and the social democrat PvdA were competing for the number one spot. In the end they made a coalition government, which was thus not supported by the population, was highly unpopular and lost heavily this election. That is not a dynamic you want to enforce.

    Strategic voting can also mean that a new party that does have sufficient support to pass the threshold does not get votes because many do not trust they will make it and many keep on voting for an existing party they like less.

    Last week's Dutch election had a turnout of 80%. Having more parties means that people can find a better match to their ideas. A faithful ideologue may just need two parties, his own and the one of the enemy. If you just think of the left-right axis, you may be tempted to think you only need two or maybe four parties to cover all ideas. Whatever "left" and "right" means. It feels real, but has those funny names because it is so hard to define.

    Political scientists often add a second axis: conservative to progressive. The graph below puts the Dutch parties on both axis. Left to right on the horizontal axis and progressive at the top and conservative at the bottom. The parties that care most about the environment and poor people (GroenLinks, SP, Christen Unie, D66) are still all over the map. The vertical axis also shows how materialistic the parties are, with parties that care about the distribution of money and power in the middle and parties that find immaterial values important at the top and the bottom. In other words: we need multiple parties to span the range of political thought and have parties that fit well enough to get out and vote.

    Having a choice also means that it pays to pay attention to what happens in politics. American pundits like to complain that Americans are badly informed about politics and the world, but why would the voter pay attention? The US set up an electoral system where the voter has nearly no choice. The US has two parties that are way-out-there for most people.

    Because of the districts a vote nearly never matters, especially after [[Gerrymandering]]. There are just a few swing districts and swing states where a vote matters. That is really bad for democracy. Changing the system is more helpful than blaming the voters.



    Let me translate the party names for the foreigners. GroenLinks is a left-wing green party. D66 an individual freedom loving (liberal) party with a focus on democratic renewal. PvdA is traditionally a social democratic party, but has lost its moorings. SP is a social democratic party like the PvdA was two decades ago. GroenLinks and SP typically vote with each other, but GroenLinks are the educated people and SP the working class. (It is sad that does not mix.)

    VVD used to be a pro-business individual liberty party, but has become more conservative and brown. CDA a center-right Christian democratic party. Christen Unie is an actually Christian party that tries to follow the teachings of Christ and cares about the environment and the (global) poor. SGP is a quite fundamentalist Christian party that likes the Old Testament more. PVV is the anti-Muslim authoritarian party. For the Americans: Most of the policies of Bernie Sanders are Christian democratic (although they would use different words to justify them).

    That politics is much more than one axis can also be seen in a transition matrix. The one below shows how voters (or non-voters) in 2003 voted in 2006. A reading example is that people who voted CDA in 2003, voted CDA in 2006 in 71% of the cases and voted PvdA in 3% of the cases. There are many transition that do not follow the left-right axis or the conservative-progressive axis. People are complicated and have a range of interests.

     2006
    2003 CDA PvdA VVD SP GroenLinks D66 Christen Unie PVV Other Non voters
    CDA 71 3 6 6 0 0 4 2 1 6
    PvdA 3 59 2 20 3 1 1 1 1 9
    VVD 23 3 55 3 0 1 1 5 2 7
    SP 4 11 0 70 6 0 2 4 2 2
    GroenLinks 3 7 1 25 46 1 4 0 2 9
    D66 8 17 17 15 12 23 2 0 5 0
    Christen Unie 2 2 0 2 0 0 91 2 0 0
    LPF 7 4 18 14 0 1 0 36 5 15
    Other 10 2 2 10 2 0 7 2 57 7
    Non voters 6 6 3 9 0 0 0 5 1 70

    The main problem is on the long-term. An election threshold limits competition between parties. A threshold makes it harder to split up a party or to start a new one. That is nice for the people in power, but not good for the democracy within the party and for the voters. Parties become more vehicles of power and less places to discus problems and ideas.

    With a high threshold the party establishment can kick people or small groups out without having to fear much consequences. A wing of a party can take over power; neutralize others with near impunity. When a party does not function well, becomes corrupt, starts to hold strange positions or sticks to outdated ideas, voters cannot easily go to an alternative. In the map with thresholds above you can see that high thresholds are typical for unpleasant not too democratic countries.

    You see it in the USA where the corporate Democrats thought they could completely ignore the progressives because they would be forced to vote for them lacking a real alternative and in the face of grave danger to the Republic. Politics in Germany is much more about power (with a 5% threshold) than in The Netherlands, where politicians make compromises and try to get many people on board. There is no way to prove this but I think the election threshold is important for this.

    That is why countries with low thresholds have parties with new ideas such as environmentalism or the hatred of Muslims or old fashioned niche ideas like general racism. In the latter cases you may like that these ideas are not represented in parliament, but the danger is that it suddenly blows up and Trump becomes president. Then it is much better to have Wilders in parliament making a fool of himself, making public that many of his politicians have lurid and criminal pasts, and demonstrating that he cannot convert his hatred into working policies and legislation. It also gives the decent parties the possibility to respond in time to the real problems the voters of such parties have, which they project on minorities.

    The lack of competition also promotes corruption. It makes corruption less dangerous. In the extreme American case of two parties a lobbyist only has to convince party D that he can also bribe party R and both party can vote for a bill that transfers power to corporations on a Friday evening without any possibility of voters to intervene. In the extreme case the corruption becomes legalized and the politicians mostly respond to the wishes of the donor class and ignore everyday citizens. The disillusionment with democracy this creates makes it possible for anti-democratic politicians like Trump or Wilders to go beyond their small racist niche.

    So my clear advice is: Netherlands, do not introduce an election threshold. America, get rid of your district system or at least introduce more competition with a [[ranked voting system]].



    Related reading

    In Dutch: Which effects would an election threshold have had on the 2012 election? Welke effecten zou een kiesdrempel hebben?

    To my surprise The Netherlands already has a small election threshold, you need votes for at least one seat and otherwise there is no rounding up. See Wikipedia in Dutch on election thresholds: Kiesdrempel

    In Dutch: How good were the polls? Hoe dicht zaten de peilingen bij de uitslag?


    * Also Angela Merkel has visited The Netherlands only 6 times in her 12 years of rule.
    Source: Variable Variability

  • 05.03.2017: Global warming in the original Celsius scale

    A short post with a question of counterfactual history.

    The Celsius temperature scale developed by Anders Celsius (1701–1744) himself had 0 °C at the boiling point of water and freezing was 100 °C.

    It had the advantage that negative numbers would not occur in normal use. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686–1736) achieved this for his temperature scale by choosing the lowest temperature in his village or a brine mixture as zero. Negative numbers may well have been controversial at the time. Only in the 17th century the idea of negative numbers was accepted by western mathematicians.

    The forward scale we are used to was independently developed by several of Celsius' contemporaries. What would have happened if we had kept to original Celsius scale? Let's for clarity call this reverse Celsius scale the Freesius.

    In forward degrees Celsius global warming produces an upward curve. In our current culture that is associated with progress and growth.



    In degrees Freecius the same plots would look more depressing like this.



    If the temperature graphs had looked like the graphs of Arctic sea ice would that have changed the course of history? Would we have taken the problem seriously in the 1990s?



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    Source: Variable Variability

  • 21.02.2017: Politics is not rational



    Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election because people are not rational. Except for racists and millionaires it would have been in the best interest of everyone to have voted for Clinton. But we are not rational, we do not always look at our best interests. Real humans are not homo economii.

    That includes me. As a scientist it is my job to keep a cool head. I hope you will excuse me for thinking I do my job reasonably well. I like to see myself as rational, but naturally I am not, especially learning about the ultimatum game shocked my self-perception.

    It is a very simple and pure economic game. Reducing a problem to its essence like this has the elegance my inner physicist loves. In the ultimatum game, two players must divide a sum of money. The first player has to propose a certain division. The second player can accept this division or reject it. If the offer is rejected both players do not receive any money. In its purest form, the experiment is played only once and anonymously with players that do not know each other.

    Time for a short thinking pause: What would you do? How much would you offer as player one? Below which percentage would you reject the offer?


    Initially, I wondered why economists would play this game. Surely player one would would offer 50/50 and player two would accept. But that was my irrational side and my missing economic eduction. A good economist would expect that player two would accept any non-zero offer: it is better to get something than nothing, and that thus player one will make the smallest possible offer. Reality is in between. Many people offer 50%, but many also do not. These offers below 50% are, however, also regularly rejected. Player two is apparently willing to hurt himself to punish unfair behavior. This game and many variations and similar games lead to the conclusion: humans are not purely selfish, but have a sense of fairness.

    As a student of variability, for me the key aspect of the ultimatum game is its non-linearity. You either get something or nothing. In case of nonlinear processes, such as radiation flowing through clouds, variability is important. A smooth cloud field reflects more solar radiation than a bumpy cloud field with the same amount of water. The variability of the cloud water is important because the flow of radiation through clouds is a non-linear process.

    By sometimes rejecting low offers, player two gets better offers from player one. This is especially clear when the game is played multiple times with the same players. In the beginning quite large offers are rejected to entice larger offers later in the game. How humans evolved a sense of fairness to be able to also benefit from this in one-off games is not yet understood. Fairness is surprising because a cartoon version of evolutionary theory would predict that altruism is only possible among kin. But the empirical evidence clearly shows that fairness belongs to being human. (Just like competition.)


    Knowledge will come only if economics can be reoriented to the study of man as he is and the economic system as it actually exists.
    Ronald Coase


    Fairness is but one emotion that it not rational, not "productive". It offers some protection against unfairness, such as wages going lower and lower. Offering and accepting jobs are yes-no decisions under uncertainty for both parties. If there is one term that is often used in labor conflicts it is "unfair wages" or "unfair labor conditions". All the while economists wonder why unemployment is higher than the friction unemployment of rational actors and blame anything but their faulty assumptions.

    Anger is also not productive, but fear of anger forces the haves to make better offers to the have-nots. Amok runs are not productive, mass shootings are not productive, suicide attacks are not productive. I would venture that independent of the proclaimed rationalizations, they signal a lack of justice and fairness.



    The American election was also seen as unfair by many. The two parties had both selected historically unpopular candidates. Had the historically unpopular Trump not run, Clinton would have been the least popular candidate since polling started on this question. The main reason to vote was not to get other candidate.

    With both candidates and parties so unpopular, with the historical unpopularity ratings of Congress and Washington the enormous partisan tribalism in America is surprising. The main pride of both tribes seems to be that they are at least not members of the other tribe. The lizard people have managed to pit the population against each other, while they loot the country and drag the world down. Do help me in the comments how "they" did this.



    Many felt the election was a trap. In such a case one can expect irrational behavior. Or as Michael Moore elegantly said: Trump is the human Molotov cocktail they could throw through the window of the establishment. I am afraid the voters will find it was the window of their own house.

    One mistake the Democratic establishment made in their support for Clinton was to expect rational behavior. They learned about economics and its political counterpart [[public choice theory]]. Both theories assume rational behavior. The Democrat establishment assumed that the working class had no other options than to vote for them because the Republicans would make their lives even worse.




    Nic Smith, a self-described "white trash hillbilly from the holler" from coal country, on Trump voters: They are desperate to believe in something.

    In a rational world the establishment would be right and player two would take the non-zero Clinton offer, in the real world people are fed up with begin treated unfairly and seeing inequality and corruption jointly grow for decades. In the real world having to choose the lesser evil, election after election, over and over again, makes it ever more likely the voters will sulk. That the Democrat establishment had just put up their middle finger to half of their party during the primaries likely also did not help putting people in a more rational mood.



    Last year's presidential election was an extreme example, but a two-party system invariably mean that many people do not feel represented and are dissatisfied. [[A transferable vote]] would do a lot to fix this and gives the voters the possibility to vote for their candidate of choice without losing their vote.

    A two-party system is also much more prone to corruption. A large part of the politicians will be in save districts and do not have to fear the wrath of their voters. Where the voters do have some choice, the corporations only have to convince politician D that they will also bribe politician R and both can do so with impunity.

    A corrupt two-party system is not much better than a one-party system. In a representative democracy with more than two parties there would be real competition and the voters could vote for another politician.



    What can we do to break this ultimatum game? The rhetoric and tribalism in America is unique. Humans are social animals and our group is important to us, but the US tribalism in beyond normal. For example, 34% of Trump voters being willing to say Trump's inauguration was the biggest ever is not normal.

    Tribalism and emotions are not good for clear thinking and needs to be fought. The only thing we can change is how we act ourselves, we should try to reduce unnecessarily antagonizing people. When you have to say something bad about the corrupt Republican politicians in Washington make clear you mean them and do not use the term Republicans, which also means every single member of the group, most of whom also reject corruption.

    I am only talking about language. Please stand your ground, there is no need to keep on moving in the direction of corrupt unreasonable politics. That only signals you do not believe in your ideas. If there is one thing frustrating about US politics it is weak corporate Democrats continually moving in the direction of ever more corrupt Republican politicians in the name of appeasement and in reality because they have the same donors.

    Given the lack of a real choice one can also not blame the voters for every character error of their candidate and for all policies. For fashion icon Ken Bone the election was a choice between his personal benefit as coal worker and the greater good. Many Trump voters voted for Obama before. Some people say they voted Trump expecting him not to be able to execute his racist plans because they are unconstitutional. That may be a rationalization and for me Trump's overt racism would be a deal breaker, but not all of his voters are automatically bigots, even if many clearly are.


    Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
    Martin Luther King, Jr


    Most people simply voted the party they always voted. There are people who have their health insurance via the Affordable Care Act who voted Republican and are likely to lose coverage. They thought the Republicans would not do something as barbaric as repealing the ACA without replacement. Thousand of people will die every year when that happens, but the repeal means that billionaires will have to pay less for healthcare and they own the Republican politicians, so I am less optimistic they will not do it.

    Do not go around calling every Trump voter a personalized Donald Trump, make them an offer they cannot refuse. Especially the Democratic establishment should stop blaming everyone but themselves for not voting for their inevitable candidate. Rather than scolding their voters, they should make the left an offer they cannot refuse.

    That offer would be a non-corrupt candidate. That would be an offer Democrat and Republican voters alike would find it hard to refuse. It is, unfortunately, the one compromise the Democratic establishment is least willing to make. The people in power are in power because they are good at selling out to corporations.

    This video gives a good overview of the corruption in America and how it impacts normal people via politics and the media. Since corruption became worse the workers no longer shared in the increases in productivity and the politicians respond to the wishes of the donor class and not the working class. Readers from the USA may think political corruption is normal because it slowly and imperceptibly grew, but in its enormity it is not normal. It was much better before the 1970s it is much better in other advanced nations.



    Fortunately several initiatives have sprung up after the Trump election debacle and after Sanders showing it is possible to campaign for the presidency without taking donor money. As an offspring of the Sanders campaign Our Revolution will run a large number of candidates under one political and organizational platform. Similar, but very clear in their wish to primary and get rid of corporate Democrats, are the Justice Democrats.

    The non-partisan group Brand New Congress also wants to help (Tea Party) Republicans that do not accept money into Congress.

    The group 314 Action (inspired by π) work to get more Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) people into politics. If you love money and power, science is the weirdest career choice you can make. Thus I would expect the scientists that run for office to be mostly clean. The climate "debate" shows that nearly all climatologists are not touched by corporate corruption, while there are strong incentives for coal and oil companies to bribe them.

    Lets work to end corporate rule, get the corporation out of politics and send them back to take care of the economy.


    Following The Ninth: In The Footsteps of Beethoven's Final Symphony.

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    Chris Hedges: We Are All Deplorables. "My relatives in Maine are deplorables. I cannot write on their behalf. I can write in their defense. ... I see the Christian right as a serious threat to an open society. But I do not hate those who desperately cling to this emotional life raft"

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    Political Polarization in the American Public - How Increasing Ideological Uniformity and Partisan Antipathy Affect Politics, Compromise and Everyday Life

    North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy by Andrew Reynolds, Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    A law professor's warning: we are closer to oligopoly than at any point in 100 years. Economically. The political power of the corporations is also increasing

    The first days inside Trump’s White House: Fury, tumult and a reboot. "Trump has been resentful, even furious, at what he views as the media’s failure to reflect the magnitude of his achievements, and he feels demoralized that the public’s perception of his presidency so far does not necessarily align with his own sense of accomplishment."

    An important piece for poll nerds by Nate Silver: Why Polls Differ On Trump’s Popularity?

    Variable Variability: The ultimatum game, a key experiment showing intrinsic fairness and altruism among strangers


    * Photo at the top, Be Human, is by ModernDope and has a creative commons CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
    Source: Variable Variability


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