Posted by: Michael Ritter | February 29, 2012

NOAA 2011 Arctic Climate Change Report



Posted by: Michael Ritter | October 3, 2011

The Physical Environment on Flipboard

One of the best ways to consume news on the iPad is with the Flipboard app ( Flipoard links to rss feeds, Twitter, and Facebook to bring you the news that most interests you.The app ingests feeds and formats them in a pleasing, magazine-like format easy for browsing.   View a short passage from the article and tap to see more. Create favorites, share your discoveries, and follow your favorite curators.

Flipboard is currently featuring The Physical Environment Twitter feed under the Tech & Science section.

Posted by: Michael Ritter | January 7, 2011

The Physical Environment Daily

Personal and professional obligations are keeping me from updating this blog on a regular basis. To keep up with daily geoscience related news, subscribe to my “The Physical Environment Daily” newspaper of news shared on Twitter.


Posted by: Michael Ritter | January 4, 2011

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 47,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 10 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 276 posts. There was 1 picture uploaded, taking a total of 211kb.

The busiest day of the year was January 14th with 632 views. The most popular post that day was Google Earth Before and After images of Haiti Quake.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were,,,, and

Some visitors came searching, mostly for physical environment, ocean food chain, food chain, ocean food web, and marine biome food web.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Google Earth Before and After images of Haiti Quake January 2010


Crucial Marine Food Chain Link Withers December 2006


Exploring Effects of the Haitian Earthquake January 2010


Vital Ocean ‘Carbon Sink’ Nearly Full May 2007


Catastrophic earthquake overdue for Los Angeles July 2008

Posted by: Michael Ritter | December 14, 2010

The Geoscience Channel

I’ve created a new blog called the Geoscience Channel devoted to sharing geoscience-related videos every Tuesday and Thursday. Find it at The Geoscience Channel on WordPress.

Posted by: Michael Ritter | November 28, 2010

Gil Grosvenor: Why We Need Geography

Description from the site: “National Geographic Society Chairman of the Board Gil Grosvenor discusses why effective democracy requires geographic literacy, and other benefits of geographic education. Get resources and learn more about what National Geographic is doing to support geography education at

Posted by: Michael Ritter | October 21, 2010

NOAA Arctic Report Card 2010

NOAA has released its 2010 Arctic report card, and it’s not good. Return to previous Arctic conditions is unlikely.


See the report here

Posted by: Michael Ritter | September 15, 2010

TedTalk – Rob Dunbar: The threat of ocean acidification

“Rob Dunbar hunts for data on our climate from 12,000 years ago, finding clues inside ancient seabeds and corals. His work is vital in setting baselines for fixing our current climate — and, scarily, in tracking the rise of deadly ocean acidification.”

I applaud CNN for attempting to answer questions about ‘Climategate’ but  the article falls flat on one of the most important questions asked: “What impact did ‘Climategate’ have on the case for global warming.” Here is the response:

The e-mails appeared just weeks before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change held in Copenhagen in December 2009.

At the time, many climate change experts claimed the files were stolen in an attempt to undermine the talks. “Given the wide-ranging nature of change that is likely to be taken in hand, some naturally find it inconvenient to accept its inevitability,” IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told reporters in the Danish capital.

“The recent incident of stealing the e-mails of scientists at the University of East Anglia shows that some would go to the extent of carrying out illegal acts, perhaps in an attempt to discredit the IPCC.”

After its completion, the December Copenhagen climate conference was widely seen to have failed in its aim of agreeing a global deal on climate change.(1)

CNN’s answer implies that the emails led to the failure of the Copenhagen Conference. It does not, however, enlighten the reader to the true impact of the emails on the “the case for global warming”. Instead, the answer tries to relate the emails to the failure of the Copenhagen Conference. The Copenhagen Conference wasn’t about making a case for global warming, it was an attempt to do something about it. The failure of the Copenhagen Conference was not due to the case for global warming, it was due to the failure of participating countries to agree on how to respond and the level of responsibility each much bare. If you want to know why the conference failed, turn to the BBC. CNN’s answer says nothing about the impact of the emails on the case for global warming.

Reporting like this does not inform the public and offers poor answers to the pressing issue of global warming and climate change.

1. CNN (2010) Q&A: ‘Climategate explained’. Last accessed July 7, 2010

Posted by: Michael Ritter | May 5, 2010

News reporting, The Laframboise report, and the IPCC

A news article titled “Last in Class: Critics Give U.N. Climate Researchers an F” on the Fox News site recently caught my eye. Its subtitle states “A group of 40 auditors from across the globe have released a shocking report card that flunks the U.N.’s landmark climate change research report”. Keep in mind that I don’t regularly read Fox News, the article appeared in a feed from my iCurrent page. From the title, I assumed it would be a critique of the science contained in the IPCC reports. (Note to self: quit assuming things). The article discusses the recent “Laframboise report” released by concerning an analysis of sources used by the IPCC. The organization has taken issue with statements made by chairman Rajendra Pachauri that the IPCC reports mostly rely on peer-reviewd sources.

The Laframboise report appears to consider any source that was not published in a peer-reviewed journal as grey literature. I didn’t see a breakdown of the grey sources categorizing them by secondhand newspaper articles, government reports, academic books, etc. Comments appended to the “How to Audit” document indicate that books are considered grey sources and not peer-reviewed. All academic books I have been involved with have gone through a peer-review process. To be accurate, those auditing should have investigated which books were or were not peer-reviewed.

Although correct in its reporting, the Fox News article is rather shallow in its analysis. Fox News provides feedback from both IPCC supporters and climate change deniers. What they don’t do, is to look deeper into the story. Their headline may lead one to believe that the Laframboise report debunks climate change science. All the report does is tally the IPCC sources. And in the last paragraph Fox News states that “Others are calling for a more cautious approach than spending public or private dollars on discredited scientific research.” Characterizing the IPCC reports as “discredited” is a misnomer. Questioning the IPCC’s conclusions, yes, but few of the conclusion have been outright discredited with equally valid research.

In a bit of journalistic slight of hand, Ms Laframboise states that “For years we’ve been told the UN’s climate bible bases its conclusions solely on peer-reviewed scientific literature”. What she should state is that Professor Pachauri has stated on several occasions between 2007 and 2009, that the IPCC reports relied on such. If one digs past these statements, the public has been been told that grey literature was indeed used .

The Laframboise report provides very little valuable information to the public in order to ascertain the validity of the science underlying the IPCC reports. The Laframboise report is only a challenge to comments, some unfortunate, by the IPCC chair. The fundamental issue that remains unaddressed by the Laframboise report is the validity grey literature. Just because research appears in a doctoral dissertation, which is reviewed by the candidate’s dissertation committee, does not weaken its validity. Until such a review is completed, one can never know if the hoopla over the issue of grey literature has any basis in fact. Alarmist and lackluster reports such as those produced by do little to further our understanding of climate change or the process of doing scientific research.

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