Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Bad Science = Bad Outcomes

[Note: this posting is intended as a backgrounder for reporters. Others will probably want to skip it.]

The single most important course I took in my meteorology-math-engineering education at the University of Oklahoma was "History of Science." Our instructor was from behind the Iron Curtain and was passionate about preventing science's misuse. For a full semester, we were drilled on the importance of the scientific method and how science is supposed to work. What we learned applied to all sciences.
Headline from 1978 "Science News" questioning whether
Dr. Ted Fujita's downburst hypothesis was "a lot of hot air"
The blog posting below about Governor Kelly's mask order has generated a lot of questions and some controversy. I have spoken with reporters in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. I've answered a number of questions online. Please allow me to write a little more to help put some things into perspective. My concern is wider than masks or Governor Kelly's order. It is the integrity of science.

The most important point:

Bad Science = Bad Outcomes
Science, properly practiced, is one of the greatest forces for good in the history of the world. But, bad science causes bad outcomes. Here are a few examples of bad science from medicine and from my primary field of meteorology.
  • Ulcers were believed to be caused by spicy food, even though there had never been a scientific study that pointed to that cause. For fifteen years, the medical profession rejected the work -- without counter-evidence -- of two Australian physicians who did studies and found ulcers were caused by a bacterium. They were given the 2005 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their discovery and for all of the mocking and ridicule to which they were subjected. Happy ending you say? What about the millions of people who died of bleeding ulcers in the interm who could have been saved with a simple antibiotic?
  • We have a gigantic obesity problem in the United States. In the 1970's and 80's, we were told, over and over, "To lose weight, eat bread and pasta." We now know that was completely wrong. But, that was the FDA/CDC's opinion; and was not based on careful scientific study. There was careful study that showed eating proteins and fats were the way to lose weight. Yet Dr. Atkins' work was mercilessly mocked, even though he had scientific evidence. Turns out, he was correct. We will be living with the results of the FDA/CDC's error for another generation.
  • If you are of a certain age do you remember, "In case of tornado, go to the southwest corner of the basement"? There had never been a study establishing that, either. It just seemed right to the Weather Bureau. When a study was done by a University of Kansas researcher, he found that southwest corner was the worst place to be. For two decades, Dr. Joe Eagleman's study was laughed at or ignored until it was confirmed by multiple independent studies. Eagleman showed that many people were dying because of the "southwest corner" advice.  
  • And, finally, if you saw Mr. Tornado on PBS last month, you learned that Dr. Ted Fujita was mercilessly derided over his discovery of downbursts, a previously unknown type of storm that caused airliners to crash. There was a downburst in Amarillo eleven days ago. After eight years professional torture and sleepless nights, the investigation of the crash of Delta 191 in 1985 irrefutably showed Fujita was correct. But, hundreds of people suffered unnecessary, fiery deaths from 1977-1985, not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars in lost aircraft. 
Bottom line: Serious harm can come from promoting -- let alone imposing by law -- actions merely because they "seem" right.  

Next: I have trouble trusting scientists that lie to us. 

Please note: In the video Dr. Fauci is asked, "Are you sure [we should not be wearing masks]?" He reiterates we should not be wearing masks because they are not effective.

Now, with no apparent new science, we are supposed to be wearing masks. Why? In Dr. Fauci's later words, "I want to make [mask wearing] a symbol..."

In his latest pronouncement, Dr. Fauci says it is our fault. On June 1, he said,
"An 'alarming large' number of American's are 'anti-science'"
What we have not heard Dr. Fauci say is, "A newly published study demonstrates..." All of this is merely his opinion. Dr. Fauci lied to us about HIV/AIDS in the 1980's so this not new behavior for him.

Please do not try to convince me my information is incorrect by quoting Dr. Fauci or the Surgeon General. I can easily be convinced if there is new, reliable science on the subject. When you interview a physician, epidemiologist, or a public health official, ask them provide you with a copy or a reference to new science, pertinent to mask use among the general public indoors and, especially, outdoors. Right now, it doesn't exist.

Are We Correctly Assessing the Risk? Perhaps not.
In the middle of a medical crisis, we are closing hospitals.
Kansas City Star, June 30
How many will die from heart attacks, strokes or traffic accidents because COVID closed their local hospitals?

For more: Please read my essay below. It contains a great deal of carefully-researched info.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Kansas Governor Kelly's Unfortunate Mask Order

This is really unfortunate. Based, in part, on communications I had with a Kansas physician and a reporter last night, it appears Kansas Governor Laura Kelly wanted to do this, did it, and will spend the next few days searching for a justification. Ready, fire, aim.

I gave our governor the benefit of the doubt through March and most of April. Mistakes were inevitable when facing a new foe. Now, this strikes me as a blend of authoritarianism and virtue signaling. Here's why: The typical justification for these measures is, "A vaccine is a few months away. We can be inconvenienced for a short period of time."

I hope so, but the problem is that we don't know if there will ever be a vaccine that is both safe and effective. There isn't a vaccine for the common cold. There isn't a vaccine for HIV. It took more than a decade to create a vaccine for measles. There is no long-lasting influenza vaccine. There is no vaccine for SARS after seventeen years.

Again: I hope there is a vaccine in a year. But, the odds suggest there will not be. Then, what?

So, let's look at the reality of the data and the science. Here are the facts: Kansas cases are up but deaths are down.
New York Times, 4:35pm, 6/29
It is no surprise that the number of cases have increased as things opened back up. What did they think was going to happen? We are in a pandemic. That said,

A hot summer is the perfect time to open up because the 
heat, humidity and sunlight (long days) weaken the virus. 

The peer-reviewed medical journal study supporting the above statement, published earlier this month, is right here. The actual data supports the study: cases up, deaths down throughout the United States as temperatures have risen.
Not only are temperatures hot in Kansas now, they are forecast to remain
hot during the next two weeks...well into July
Assuming you are not in one of the high-risk groups, contracting the virus in a weakened form is a good thing: in return for a mild illness (or even no illness if you get a case of COVID-19 in an asymptomatic manner), you get future immunity, likely for life (although this is not yet proven). This is highly valuable if the virus should strengthen, as some predict, in the autumn and winter.

More people contracting the disease builds what epidemiologists call "herd immunity." Depending on the study, once 42 to 60% of the population has contracted the virus, few others will get it because the virus runs out of carriers.

With mandatory masks or, later, potentially closing up again (we don't know the details of what the governor is going to order), we lose the opportunity to build immunity with mild cases for another ten months.

Even if the cases are not mild, hospital capacity is not an issue in Kansas. Below is a graph of currently available and projected ICU beds. At COVID's worst case, we'll still have 90% available.
Even the worst case, the top of the green tint, is a tiny fraction of
the ICU beds available in Kansas
So, until there is a vaccine or herd immunity, we are going to be wearing masks and impeding educations, jobs and lives for years. Our society cannot function in this way. I believe the riots we have seen this summer, after the justified fury over the killing of George Floyd, were worsened by young people wanting something to alleviate their boredom. This isn't healthy for any society.

Human beings seem to be hard-wired to want to "do something" (even if it is the wrong thing) in a crisis. So, what should we do? Here are my opinions based on the scientific literature I have read plus common sense:
  • By far, the greatest numbers of deaths are in nursing homes and residential centers. They should continue with precautions at the highest level.
  • I am in a high-risk group. People like me should wear masks, gloves (yes, I wear them when I am out) and carry viral disinfectant wipes. I want to see my grandchildren grow up!
  • If you are not feeling well, by all means wear a mask. That way, droplets containing the virus -- whether via sneezing or ordinary respiration -- will be somewhat contained. We want to, when possible, protect people at higher risk. 
  • Among the rest of the population, maintain distance if you wish but pretty much carry on. If a mask makes you feel more comfortable, fine! But, it should not be mandatory. Why? As recently as Saturday evening, I was listening to an MD on the radio saying that wearing a mask, day after day, hour after hour, is unhealthy. Others say it's fine. Given the amount of misinformation from the public health profession the last six months, I have no way of evaluating which is correct. 
  • In the unconstrained outdoors, I can see no value in wearing a mask. I posed the question about outdoor masks to an epidemiologist this morning. She did not reply. 
I wish to close by quoting the findings of a federal judge in Michigan who found there was no scientific input to or basis for Governor Whitmer's closure of gyms and similar businesses. The entire, rather extraordinary, ruling is here. Some portions are below.

"...this Court must uphold the Governor's Executive Orders as long as they are supported by some relation to the public health. Unfortunately, on the record before it, the Court has not been presented with any evidence that shows a rational relation between the continued closure of indoor gyms and the preservation of public health.
While the standard is extremely deferential here—if the Court can conceive of any set of facts that would support the Orders, it must uphold them and deny the injunction—the Orders must still connect the challenged prohibition with some fact or facts. At oral argument, the Court pressed Defendants on what data, evidence, or rationale supported the continued closure of indoor gyms. Defendants cited to the preambles of the Executive Orders and vaguely stated that indoor gyms are a "petri dish" of infection, but Defendants could not point to any facts in the record to support that statement. Defendants emphasized the low bar: all that needed to be presented was a reasonably conceivable set of facts that connected the continued closure to protecting the public health.
But when asked, even counsel was unable to state a rational basis to support the position that indoor gyms must still be closed. Defendants merely reiterated that a threat of transmission exists at indoor gyms, and the threat of transmission must be minimized...
...if Defendants can open or close any sector of the economy, at will, with nothing more than a vague reference that it is "dangerous," the potential for abuse is palpable."  [bold print added]

I couldn't agree more with the federal judge. Will Governor Kelly have better justification than Michigan's Governor Whitmer? I doubt it, as those facts do not seem to exist. I am concerned that when the masks fail to suppress the raw number of cases, Kelly will opt for another shutdown, as has already been rumored.

Governor Kelly, please reconsider: No mandatory masks, especially outdoors. 

© 2020 Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC

No More Need Be Said

This says it perfectly.
While I would rename some military installations and would put plaques on Confederate statues to add context, destroying our heritage -- good or bad -- is a terrible idea.

June's Required Reading

This is one of the finest pieces I have read since the coronavirus crisis began. It explains why so many are contemptuous of liberty and wants someone -- especially during the COVID crisis -- to lead them (even if in the wrong direction).

Every word is worth the read but, if you don't have time, consider the following:

When North Korean despot Kim Jong-un visits a factory or farm, he makes pronouncements for improvements. Such pronouncements are called “field guidance” or “on-the-spot guidance.” No matter how nonsensical, the pronouncements of the despot are revered and obeyed. 
In North Korea, there is no path forward that doesn’t begin with 100% obedience. There is nothing to be discovered, only edicts to obey. To serve the despot is the only purpose of life for North Koreans.
Andrew Cuomo is a beloved politician, despite having issued “field guidance” sending thousands of nursing home residents to their deaths. Even in May, after news of his disastrous nursing home orders were widely available, his approval rating was at 81%.  [Note: I had finished this about an hour before CBS News published the story referenced in the posting immediately below. The story proves my point that relying on government to do the right things is nothing but a formula for disaster.] 
Today, voices in opposition to the field guidance of politicians and experts are still being heard. But don’t take this for granted; tolerance for communicating opposing views is shrinking.
A March 2020 poll of Americans with 3,000 respondents showed strong bipartisan support for criminalizing speech. About 70% of those surveyed supported government “restricting people’s ability to say things” deemed as misinformation. Nearly 80% endorsed the conscription of health care professionals. Government seizure of businesses and property was supported by 58%. Over 70% supported the detention of COVID-19 patients in government facilities. The majority of those surveyed did not change their opinion even when told their views may violate the Constitution. 
When you see the riots and nonsensical things being said today, consider the above.

The rule of law, liberty and free enterprise are extremely fragile and we are in danger of losing them. And, we are giving them up without so much as a Letter to the Editor of our local papers.
  • With the Supreme Court decisions of the last two weeks, SCOTUS has told us in the clearest way possible the rule of law -- for the foreseeable future -- is a thing of the past. 
  • Cities are allowing rioters to run roughshod over private property -- ask the people who own (?) businesses in the CHAD area, among others.
Just twenty years ago, Venezuela was a free county and the richest in South America. Now, people are starving and surgery, when it is available, is being done on bloody operating tables because cleaning supplies are not available.

It can happen here. 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Public Health: Undoing 120 Years of Trust in Five Months

[Updated, 6/29, 12:20pm]

Good grief, what is next?! Why does anyone have faith in our government?!

[Original Post]

First it was wearing masks in the wide-open outdoors. I have written about that nonsense here, here, and here, among other places.

Then, it was Dr. Fauci and others deliberately lying to us about the use of masks indoors. I don't care whether it was intended as a "noble" lie or not. It was a lie and he, and the others, knew it at the time. People may have died as a result.

Now, we learn this:
Headline From "WattsUpWithThat"
So, physicians are going to limit the use of general anesthetic," not because it is in the best interest of the patient but because those gases 'contribute to global warming.'

Except they don't. The quantities used for medical care are so minuscule that they don't matter for climatological considerations. Regardless, patient care should be the sole consideration in these matters.

It is as if, on February 1, 2020, the public health intelligentsia said, "Let's see how fast we can tear down our reputation." They succeeded. In record time.

Sunday Fun: Because It Is 2020

Eureka is a town in far western St. Louis County, Missouri. In this time of turmoil, we should keep in mind the police are the first people we call for all types of assistance.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Saturday, June 27, 2020

African Dust: Dulling the Sunset

The African dust reached south central Kansas today. If you follow me on Twitter ( @usweatherexpert ), you've seen the discussions that -- in spite of what some speculated -- African dust dulls sunsets. To demonstrate, I was just outside taking a photo of a thunderstorm about 40 mi. northeast of my home that should have been a prime candidate for the gorgeous orange of Kansas thunderstorms at sunset. As you can see, blah.

Thank You For Reading!!

With all of the news recently, I forgot to mention that this blog went past the 6 million page view mark last week. Thank you so much for reading. 

And for the record, all of this content is: 
© 2020, Mike Smith Enterprises, LLC. 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Today's Tornado Risk

There is a significant tornado risk (brown) in two areas.
One includes Chicago, Milwaukee, Grand Rapids and the Quad Cities.

The second includes Colorado Springs, south Denver Metro and Pueblo.

Please keep an eye on the weather in these areas later today.

Beware of Computer Modeling Studies

This study was brought to my attention yesterday afternoon.
I tend to be skeptical of groundbreaking computer modeling studies, whether good news (above) or bad (more than 2.2 million would die of COVID in the U.S.). So, if you are indoors or in constricted areas outdoors, keep wearing those masks and washing your hands!!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

"NBC Nightly News" -- Making a Point I Don't Think It Realizes It Is Making

It is rare that I watch the national network newscasts because I can usually anticipate what they are going to cover, and how they are going to frame it, before they air.

Tonight is a perfect example. They ran a story with a lightly mocking tone toward those who are
not wearing masks.

Yet, take a look at this photo from later in the newscast. Savannah Guthrie, inside, in a studio with other people, is not wearing a mask. Yet, the reporter -- at night in the unconstrained outdoors with no one else visible in the scene -- is wearing a mask.
Whether NBC intends it or not, this conveys the message that masks are a political symbol, at least for some.

My advice is unchanged: Indoors and in a constrained outdoor situation? Wear a mask! At Yosemite or at the beach? You don't need it.

NBC also reported, at length, on the surge in cases in Houston and elsewhere and discussed it with various medical experts. Fine. But, what didn't they report? Deaths. Here's the likely reason why. Deaths, thank God, are way down. That doesn't fit the narrative. Below is the New York Times' graph as of this evening.
What might the explanation be? It may be more testing which is detecting asymptomatic cases or that the virus has become less lethal -- as some health experts predicted -- in the summer heat. But, reporting the surge in cases, in urgent tones, is misleading at best.

"Climate Pledge Arena"

At first I thought this announcement was a joke.

Amazon has purchased naming rights to a hockey arena in Seattle and naming it "Climate Pledge Arena."
What I don't know is whether they are doing this as a cynical public relations move or whether they really believe what they are saying. Specifically,
  • There is no such thing as "100% renewable energy." It doesn't exist. If they are referring to wind and solar, those are backed up with fossil fuels. The back ups are generators, powered by (usually) natural gas, that are in "spinning reserve" mode. That is necessary because wind is so unreliable. 
  • Wind and solar generating systems usually wear out much more quickly than expected which requires even more rare earth metals to be mined and environmentally awful disposal. The huge solar blades do not break down. They will be in the earth for millennia. 
  • It always amuses me that someone is pledging to do something 30 years in the future -- by which time the pledge will be forgotten. 
If Jeff Bezos really wants to improve the environment, while also helping the less fortunate (by lowering the cost of electricity), he should spend some of his vast fortune accelerating the development of next-generation nuclear. 

Caught a Downburst

This was yesterday afternoon. The thunderstorm was near Peabody, Kansas. If you look closely you can see the "foot" of the downburst spreading to the right near the ground. It is a time lapse.

For information on Texas downburst from last week, click here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Latest News From Hollywood

Details here

Wind Turbines: The Pruitt-Igoes of the Plains

J Droz
The above image is what I believe will be the eventual fate of wind farms in the Great Plains. 

Pruitt-Igoe was a Soviet-style housing project erected in St. Louis in the early 1950's. It was considered to be the future of urban housing. Instead, residents and neighbors hated it's awful design and residents hated the high maintenance and poor construction -- at 60% higher cost than the average public housing complex. After just 15 years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development began to discourage occupancy. It was dynamited in the 1970's. 
Pruitt-Igoe (P-I) became the poster child for urban blight and counterproductive urban development.

I thought of P-I fiasco when I was contacted yesterday about radar contamination during Sunday's storms.
That isn't an isolated instance.

Below is a map of wind energy radar blight from yesterday morning. Each of the circles is a wind farm.
Sunday evening, when violent storms occurred near Dodge City (left side of image), the wind farms clearly distorted both the wind speed and rainfall data (not shown).

And, as if these weren't enough problem enough, our misguided governor is announcing even more.

There is a reason wind energy for electricity was discontinued more than a century ago.
It is highly unreliable and expensive.
Today's wind turbines use rare earth minerals that could be used for far better purposes. Children are used to mine those minerals under abhorrent conditions. Of course, the media doesn't cover that because wind energy is politically correct.

Finally, even NPR has figured out the huge costs of wind turbine disposal.
To summarize, wind energy:
  • Interferes with storm warnings
  • Employs child labor
  • Creates vast "toxic lakes"
  • Highly unreliable 
  • Requires 24/7 fossil fuel backup
  • Expensive 
  • Huge disposal costs
Global warming is a problem. If you want to decarbonize, which we probably should do as a hedge, the way to do it is with next generation nuclear, not with 120-year old windmills. 

Let's stop installing more Pruitt-Igoes on the Great Plains and save up the dynamite.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

COVID-19 Precautions: Wait, What?!

Up until this week, the "narrative" was:

Yet, the latest (politically correct) precautions, issued today, exempt people of color:
The destruction of the credibility of the field of public health continues apace.

Too Awful For Words

Prior to the homicide of George Floyd, I had written that one of the best things that President Trump could have done was to send the national guard in to reinforce the Chicago Police for 2-4 months to help clear out the gangs that are terrorizing these unfortunate neighborhoods. It is extremely unfortunate that President Obama never saw fit to address the extreme violence in his home town. And Chicago's forlorn mayor almost certainly will not ask.

Given the tensions pertaining to police these days, I'm certain President Trump would not do that now. That's unfortunate. It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.

The mass killings in Chicago are a stain on our nation.

We'll give Dr. Thomas Sowell the last word.

Monday, June 22, 2020

95th Anniversary: Wichita Monrovians Defeat the KKK

[This story was delayed by yesterday's severe storm coverage]
Yesterday was the 95th anniversary of one of the greatest events in baseball history: The Negro League's Wichita Monrovians defeated the Klu Klux Klan 10-8. The Klan was being defeated in Kansas, so they agreed to the game to prove their superiority over black athletes and as a publicity stunt to bolster their rapidly dwindling membership.
The game was peaceful. The umpires ruled the KKK had to use baseball bats; striking the ball with a "cross" was forbidden. The story is simply amazing. And, there is more here.

While no city is perfect, Wichita was an early pioneer in civil rights. You don't hear much about the early Dockum Sit-In because it was peaceful and, more importantly, successful. Blacks won the right to eat at lunch counters in our city.

If you are looking for an alternative to the craziness, come and check out America's next great city.

P.S. And, this week, tip your cap for the Negro Leagues.

Central and Southern Plains Rainfall Since Thursday

Here is the rainfall since Thursday in the region where the wheat harvest was in progress. 

In a few areas, the harvest might resume this afternoon. I would expect it to be Wednesday before it gets back to full swing.

There was scattered hail damage, especially in the counties on either side of U.S. 83 from McCook south to the Oklahoma border.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Major Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Day for the Central Great Plains

Biggest Severe Thunderstorm Day So Far in
2020 Forecast to Occur Today 
There's so much going on today, let's break it down in detail so you can factor it into your Father's Day plans.
Noon Update For Damaging Winds

45% is a high risk of damaging winds -- in this case, forecast to exceed 75 mph. I would urge people in the purple-shaded areas to be prepared for power failures, bring cars indoors, and bring lawn furniture indoors. I would also have my devices plugged in now to get a full charge but remember to unplug them before the storms arrive. There is also a very good chance of giant hail in about the same area.

-- Original Forecast (still valid) Below--

Tornado Risk
There are two areas of concern. 
The brown areas have a significant risk. This includes Wichita and Omaha. The more likely time would be in the 5pm to 9pm time period. 

High Winds and Power Failures
Yellow is the significant threshold for wind gusts of 60 mph or higher. Red is an enhanced risk. In the hatched area, wind gusts of 75 mph or stronger are forecast to occur which means power failures are possible. 

Large Hail
Yellow is the significant threshold for hail 1" in diameter or larger. Red is an enhanced risk. The hatching is where hail 2" or larger are forecast to fall. 

  • Make sure you have at least two ways to get warnings (a weather radio and a smartphone app).
  • Charge all of your devices but take them off the charger when you hear thunder or skies darken. 
  • Have your storm shelter ready for use. 
  • Secure any heirlooms before the storms arrive. 
  • Put lawn furniture and items that can be blown about indoors.
I will update later today. 

Father's Day Fun: Just Another Evening in Kansas

Waves of wheat.

Not much in the way of waves on El Dorado Lake as the sun sets behind a line of thunderstorms.
Both photos taken Thursday evening.

Happy Father's Day!!

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Large Hail Destroyed the Wheat in Places

This image of a 3" hail stone was from the Rooks County, Kansas, emergency manager. It is in the north central part of the state and in the red area southwest of Plainville (see map below).

The map shows the two primary areas where hail fell.
click to show map in its entirety
Unfortunately, the extremely large hail fell north of Dodge City. Meteorologist Mike Umscheid got a dramatic photo of the supercell thunderstorm that produced the large hail approaching a ripe wheat field earlier this evening.