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It's very simple math. You flip a penny once, and there is a 1-in-2 chance it will come up heads. You flip a coin twice, and there is a 2 to the 2d power (1-in-4) chance it will come up heads both times. Flip it three times, and there is a 2 to the 3d power (1 in 8) chance that Abe Lincoln will be smiling. By the time you've flipped the coin 20 times, you're up to a 1-in-a-million chance that the coin will land as heads each and every time. In Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Guildenstern realizes that fate is guiding the coin as it lands the same way in over 100 tosses.

The simple heads/tails, yes/no, binary calculation underlies the routine of living. Orange juice, or none? Arrive at work early, or late? Will it rain, or not? Will a batter hit the ball, or strike out? Will this May be warmer or colder than the average May of the 20th century? Unlike the coin toss, some of these binary results aren't produced by pure chance; a person who forgot to pick up orange juice last night won't have any for breakfast, and a batter on steroids will hit a weak pitcher's ball.

NOAA May 2012This May was, in fact, warmer than the 20th century average May. It was the second warmest on record, calculates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And - this is the scary part - it was the 327th month in a row (over 27 years) that a month has been warmer than the same month in the 20th century average. The odds of that happening are 2 to the -327th power, or 2.73046341 x 10 to the -98th power. For a bit of context, there are roughly 5 x 10 to the 20th power stars in the universe. Or, for those of us mathematically-challenged folk, the odds of that happening are REALLY, REALLY, REALLY LOW.

But, hey, it's just a coincidence, right? It's not like fate, or human activity, or weather on steroids, has a hand in any of this, right?

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Comment Preferences

  •  coins (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    AlyoshaKaramazov

    I am under the impression that each time you flip a coin, it is a 50 50 chance, -- each time, no matter what came up prior to the next flip. Still 2 ways it can go; still 50 50.

    Just Win, Baby. -- Al Rodgers, Feb. 24, 2012

    by OLinda on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:31:49 PM PDT

  •  Synchronicity. I'm teaching scientific notation (12+ / 0-)

    right this minute (well, 10 minutes ago) in summer school. Now we're having a snack and I'm obviously checking out Kos. I'm going to show them your diary title and have them write it out on the board for fun. Thanks for a little moment of synchronicity.

  •  More precisely... (8+ / 0-)

    ...the odds of that happening are 1.0.  As in, it's happened.

    The odds of it happening by chance, assuming equal probability of a higher- or lower-than-average monthly temperatures, is astronomically low.  Given such an astronomically low probability, the alternate hypothesis--that temperatures are being non-randomly driven higher--appears correct.

    Even climate change deniers realize this; that's why most ascribe the rise to sunspots, or anything else, other than human activity.  But human activity is the best hypothesis going; nothing else even comes close.

    (Oh, I forgot the Global Kooling Krowd, but they're just wackos.)

    The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

    by TheOrchid on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:37:20 PM PDT

    •  Not sure (if I were to be pedantic) (5+ / 0-)

      that "the alternate hypothesis--that temperatures are being non-randomly driven higher--appears correct" - it might be more nearly appropriate to say that the alternate hypothesis is far more likely.

      And, given the catastrophic downside of behaving as if it weren't (i.e., business as usual), far safer to treat as reality.

  •  Too bad you're preaching to the choir here. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller

    I can't think of any way to get beyond the noise delivered by the Climate Change Deniers for this to get into the minds of the rest of the population.  Thanks, though, for a bit more ammunition in the fight!

    -8.88, -7.77 Social Security as is will be solvent until 2037, and the measures required to extend solvency beyond that are minor. -- Joe Conanson

    by wordene on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:38:13 PM PDT

  •  Help me out here - what is wrong (maybe it's not) (0+ / 0-)

    with the following reason for this trend:

    The reason for the rise in temperatures is the heat island effect. For example, here in Norfolk, VA May was actually the hottest on record at an average temp of something like 63.4, beating out 1945 which was 62.5

    But, as compared to 1945, Norfolk is now built up, with more roads (concrete vs. grass), more buildings, more a/c units spewing out hot air, etc.  So, the fact that the average temp is up .9 degrees is nothing, it's just the heat island effect, which is really more like 3 - 5 degrees, so actually it's cooler now when you take this effect into account.

    Any thoughts?

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:46:25 PM PDT

    •  Where were the temperatures... (0+ / 0-)

      ...reported in the diary above sampled from?  That might be a good place to start.  For example, if they wre sampled in places where the heat island effect wasn't relevant, that would affect your hypothesis.

      The road to Hell is paved with pragmatism.

      by TheOrchid on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:50:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  It's the official temp, which is at the airport (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, 207wickedgood

        I'm not sure where it was in 1945, the airport was there, so maybe it was the airport.

        Got into it with a "denier" on a blog and felt like I couldn't answer this point too well.

        To me, I have to believe that, as much as they can, meteorologists have taken this into account.  It just wouldn't make sense that they haven't allowed for this fact in some manner. But, I don't know.

        Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

        by absdoggy on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:56:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  And jets probably run hotter than props (0+ / 0-)

          and more planes flying now.  Probably more runways and more nearby buildings. The set of monitoring stations simply wasn't set up with the idea of tracking temps over multiple decades for treding. But it's the data we have so they try to use it.

          There are attempts to correct for UHI, but it is all rather black box. Good like getting the before/after data and the the algorithnm.

    •  Because that effect (5+ / 0-)

      has been carefully controlled for.  In particular, trends in urban stations are compared to trends in relatively nearby rural stations and eliminated if they show a marked bias.

      Also, whilst it does lead to larger uncertainty bars due to the smaller data set, one sees essentially the same temperature trend if one looks at only rural stations.

      “What’s the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we’re willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?” - Sherwood Rowland

      by jrooth on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 02:14:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  That's been checked. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      207wickedgood

      The Berkeley group, funded in part by none other than the Koch brothers, did a very thorough check of that sort of effect. The standard reported temperatures were essentially unaffected  by anything like that. However, the stats in the diary are bogus, as I shall discuss below, even tough anthropogenic global warming is very real.

      Michael Weissman UID 197542

      by docmidwest on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 04:12:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Because there are no cities in the ocean. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RLMiller, Bronx59

      The oceans are getting warmer. No cities there.
      The Arctic is melting. No cities there. Greenland's icecap is melting. No cities there.
      Rural areas are warming. No cities there.

      The trend on land is corrected for urban effects by NASA, NCDC, and HAD/CRU before computing global temperatures.

      We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

      by Keith Pickering on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 07:42:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Still better odds (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, OLinda, jfromga, 207wickedgood

    than those of our politicians actually doing something.

    •  I hear your frustration, (0+ / 0-)

      but this type of statement actually hurts your cause, if your cause is for PEOPLE to assume THEIR roles in our democracy.

      The politicians are inactive, or bought-off, PRECISELY because too many people are apathetic, or averse to, politics.  And one reason they're averse, is because too many people make statements like yours.


      "A recent study reveals Americans' heads are larger than they were 150 years ago but sadly there is no indication that the extra room is used for anything." - entlord

      by AlyoshaKaramazov on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 02:01:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  After giving it some thought, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, jfromga, Hastur

    I think that most of the people who have problem with climate-change and evolution, is that they don't trust that science can know what has happened on the planet over the last millions of years (or last thousands, if you're a creationist).

    Then again, I don't hear anyone complaining when physicists talk about some galaxy being a million light years away.  Which would mean that a million years must have passed for the light to have traveled that far.

    Conclusion:  Religionists don't like to think.


    "A recent study reveals Americans' heads are larger than they were 150 years ago but sadly there is no indication that the extra room is used for anything." - entlord

    by AlyoshaKaramazov on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 01:58:56 PM PDT

  •  The chance of flipping a coin 100 times and (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek

    getting exactly 50 heads is slightly less than 8%.

    all morals are relative, but some are more relative than others.

    by happymisanthropy on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 02:03:41 PM PDT

  •  BTW you have a flaw in your calc (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frank Knarf, Cedwyn, docmidwest

    you're assuming independence each month which is pretty obviousl not true. If we're +2 degrees this month, then we start of next month with all that enegy still in the system. So of course we're almost certain to be above the average again in the next month.

    Flipping coins is memoryless. Climate has a memory.

    •  that's the point: (0+ / 0-)

      some things (e.g., flipping coins) are random, and some are not. Although weather should be random, greenhouse gases are changing that - loading the dice, if I can mix my metaphors of chance.

      Panelist, Netroots Nation 2012, "Coal and the Grassroots Fight for Environmental Justice." @RL_Miller

      by RLMiller on Sat Jun 16, 2012 at 06:07:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  the stars may lie (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller

    but the numbers never do (Mary Chapin Carpenter, I Feel Lucky).

    But surely random chance allows of such an anomalous outcome, as long as our bell curve stretches as far as Andromeda.

  •  What did one Venusian Ghost say to the other (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller, GDbot, Hastur

    Venusian Ghost:OK OK for the trillionth time I was wrong to say there was no such thing as Global Warming.

  •  Wonderful specificity (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller

    though I'm not sure re the "binary" model, as specifically appropriate for long-term analysis, since there are century- and millennial-scale records of periodic variability out there.

    That said, I completely agree with the basic premise (and the bulldozing of nuance by facts), and am appalled re the consistency of 327 more-than-the-previous-century's-average, and our willingness to ignore those signals.

    If you were counting cards, what would you expect next?

    We are embarrassingly oblivious savants, we humans.

    Bequipped at apocadocs.com.

  •  Something like 10^80 atoms in the whole universe. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RLMiller

    Which is merely 1 quintillionth of the title of this diary.

    We are all in the same boat on a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. -- G.K. Chesterton

    by Keith Pickering on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 07:38:50 PM PDT

  •  To be fair, there is something you're ignoring (0+ / 0-)

    Important preface: I am not into denialism.

    The basic issue I have is that any mechanism that would cause one month to be warmer than the 20th century average is likely to be fairly long-term.

    In other words, this is not equivalent to a fair coin coming up heads 327 times in a row, but rather to a loaded coin coming up heads 327 times in a row—and the real question is what loaded the coin, and how much (it is not a question of if, at least in my mind).

    We don't want our country back, we want our country FORWARD. --Eclectablog

    by Samer on Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 10:42:43 PM PDT

  •  An entire comment string concerning the non- (0+ / 0-)

    independence of the temperature data items and the problems with using probability equations intended for coin tosses to deal with climate information has been hidden by the Guardians of the Faith.

    Those of you who can might find it interesting to view the material.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sat Jun 16, 2012 at 06:27:52 PM PDT

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