Sunspots, how accurate is the count?

June 14, 2010 at 11:43 am | Posted in Sunspots | Leave a comment
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I’ve come across a very good site here.  In it, there is some serious discussion regarding the calculation of the Sunspot Number, and it’s deviation from the original Wolf number.  If you have the opportunity have a look, a fascinating site, well presented.

One very nicely organised piece is on the “Layman’s Sunspot Count”, trying to correct the two counts taken as being the official view, and  correcting them by removing specks that, in previous times, would not have been seen even with telescopes

Sense? Or Nonsense?

February 16, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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MP’s, accused of having their noses in the trough are forced to repay £1,100,000, making them pay for their excesses, retrospecively since 2004. No breakdown on how that money is split by year, but probably 5 years worth so approx £200,000 per year Good, great work make them earn their money.

Due to the MP’s, a new commission is set up, to make sure they don’t do it again, cost has been estimated at £6.3 Million. almost 6 times the total amount recouped, and a massive 30 times the average amount recouped.

Why? We already had a system in place that only needed strengthening, instead we have a totally new quango, which is still, although supposedly “Independent” appointed by MP’s which costs a damn sight more than the original sin. Great example of how Governments, and how our Government in particular, works.

Sunpots starting in earnest??

February 16, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It looks as though the sun is finally waking, since the start of 2010 (this is written on Feb 11th), we have had a grand total of 2 days without a spot being recorded on the face of the sun, this is a distinct improvement on 2009 where there were 76% of days throughout the year without any spots at all.

Of more interest however is the sunspot number, this is still consistantly below the number forecasted by NASA. In fact Solar Cycle 24 is still shaping up to be one of the quietest cycles of modern times, and that’s if you take the definition of modern back 100 years. Cysle 23 was one of the longest recorded, as 13.4 years, while cycle 24 looks as though it’s going to be a low powered cycle that may also be a long cycle. Many radio amateurs will be hoping for a bit more than what we’ve seen so far, as the 10M band has, as far as I’m aware, not been open since the end of cycle 23

Sunspots, or lack of them

September 15, 2009 at 10:51 am | Posted in Climate, Climate Change, Sunspots | 1 Comment
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We may, if we are lucky see a rare thing in the next few days, it is just possible that a sunspot may appear as the sun rotates round, the SOHO Behind satellite seems to be recording activity at high latitude, which should indicate a cycle 24 spot.  We are now at day 13 of the current spotless run, we had a brief 4 day spotted run before this current spell, but before that we had a full 52 days without any spots at all.

This year to date we have had 206 spotless days, that’s 80% of the days this year (not that the sun knows what one of our years is), with a total of 717 spotless days since 2004. The average number of spotless days since records began is 485 days, so we are climbing the listings for quiet cycles.

There have been various comments about the strength of this cycle with much criticism of Hathaway at NASA.  What has happened is that his forecast is early, as he had forecasted a much quieter cycle 25 rather than 24.  The last 3 cycles, 21, 22 and 23 were strong and short, although 23 was weaker than 22 and 22 was weaker than the big 21, but now the sun has switched off, at least as far as sunspots are concerned.  There was a period earlier in the year where it looked as though this cycle was starting to take off, but that lasted just over 2 months and the slumber resumed.

What does this do to the climate? Records show that during the Dalton minimum and the earlier Maunder Minimum parts of Western Europe had shorter growing seasons and much colder winters. Parts of the Northern American Plains In the US and Canada were also substantially cooler.  This year, many US Mid West States were substantially cooler than the norm.  Parts of the UK have had a washout of a summer, with a jetstream that has been consistently further south than is normal for the time of year.   Viewing the way the climate has behaved in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres this year, it seems that the warmer weather from sub tropical zones seems to be drawn closer to the equator, with the colder polar zones expanding, from the poles, giving a small net cooling of the whole planet, but with large regional variations.

Contingency Reserve

September 14, 2009 at 11:53 am | Posted in British Politics, Politics | Leave a comment
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Much has happened since my last post, but this one is concerned mostly with British Politics and the Economics thereof.  According to World Statesmen.org , we have a GDP of $2.31 Trillion (approx £1.6 Trillion) for the year 2008.  We have Government Spending again for the same year, 2008, 0f £575 Billion (Source, UK Public Spending).  This figure is expected to rise rapidly as can be seen here

UK Government Debt

UK Government Debt

Now much of that is central Government spending, in fact, from the same source, UK Public Spending, 76% of this total is Central Government spending, as defined by the Budget.

Now, first, let me say I’m not an accountant, but I have been involved in drawing up Budgets in companies and I know of two points that I believe need expanding, the first is the idea of a “Reserve”, a portion of the budget that is not allocated when the figures are drawn up, the other point is around the use of the Budget granted, “Spend it of we will not get the same next year”.

Reserve first.  Of the £575Billion in the 2008 Budget, what was the contingency set aside to cover emergencies?  I can remember in the past that the Thatcher Government raided the Contingency Reserve on more than one occasion and that our original incursion into Iraq was, supposedly, paid for out of the Reserve.  So how big is it?  Figures seem to be very hard to come by, but the overall Reserve seems to be close to 10%, so on 2008 figures, if it is 10% the country has a reserve of around £57Billion, which in my book is a huge amount of money.

Now the thorny subject of “I have to spend my Budget”.  In all the business’ I’ve worked in that draw up Budgets for the various departments, one thing more than anything else has attracted my attention.

  • Firstly, the current year’s Budget is ALWAYS based on the previous year’s budget, with an additional sum that usually is added to cover inflation
  • Secondly, ALL managers I’ve dealt with ensure that they spend their allocated budget, even if a portion, sometimes a substantial portion is effectively wasted by buying equipment or services that are not needed.  The old saying “What I want is not what I need” often applies, things are bought and paid for out of the Budget, they can usually be justified, but they are not necessarily needed to run the business, just they are wanted to make sure the budget is fully allocated and used.

So, the question is, are your Government Ministries any different? Have we had any Ministries come in under budget in the last ten years? I’m sure an FOI request would find out, but I think I can probably guess the answer without going to the expense.  Let’s, as a country, ask the Ministries to half their contingency reserves and hit their budgeted spending by spending money on what they need, not what they want.

As a further point, if anyone has details of how the budgets at the various Ministries are drawn up, I’d be very interested

Leadership? Pull the Other One

May 21, 2009 at 1:22 pm | Posted in British Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Today’s U Turn, agree to let the Gurkhas come and stay in a country that they risked their lives for. Amazingly it was originally refused on the grounds of COST to the economy. No thought of these people having risked and sometimes laid down their lives to keep us safe. Ignore any that say they are mercenaries, they have shown a devotion to this country that should shame many of the people that call themselves British.

Yesterday’s verbal U Turn. One comment saying that Hazel Blears had accepted that what she did was wrong. Another comment later in the day saying that the PM had “Full Confidence” in Hazel Blears. What passes for full confidence from “Our Illustrious Leader” must seem like a death sentence.

Which really brings me to the point of this post.

Where is the leadership within the country today? As I see it Cameron has played it reasonably well, with various MP’s being told “Go or face de-selection”. Where is the Executives response? Who has resigned from Labour? Who has resigned from the Government? And WHY would an election cause chaos?

The Departing Speaker

May 19, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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So he’s going.  The man who, having held the job for over eight years, didn’t know what MP’s were telling him yesterday.

I have seen blogs saying that he was pressured due to class warfare, that he was looked down on because he was a sheet metal worker from Glasgow.  What a load of bollocks

Betty Boothroyd was, at one time, a dancer in a revue.  What did people think of her?  A very, very good speaker

George Thomas was the first Speaker to be heard via any media, when the Commons was broadcast, during his tenure between 1976 and 1983. He was also a very good speaker, because he, his successor Bernard Weatherill and Betty Boothroyd all understood that the Speaker has to be impartial.  Indeed George Thomas’ impartiality made him enemies from his old (Labour) Party who accused him of favouring the Conservatives and Maggi Thatcher

I don’t believe that Michal Martin ever was impartial.

With the expenses row still in full swing, we need a clear out of MP’s who are there as if it’s a career.  Anyone who’s been in Politics without tasting the wider world and getting experience should be banned from being an MP.  Too many people nowadays work as a Researcher for an MP or a Party as soon as they leave University, they are then Selected to stand for a seat, sometimes they get lucky and get a safe seat, where is their experience of anything outside Politics??

Deflation?? Where??

May 19, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Out Today, Proof that Inflation is what we should really be worrying about, not deflation as the government and the so called experts are saying.
Information on CPI says this on the National Statistics web site

“A large upward pressure affecting the change in the CPI annual rate contribution came from transport costs due to purchase of vehicles, fuels and lubricants, and air transport. Car prices rose this year but were little changed a year ago, principally due to the price of second-hand cars. The price of fuels and lubricants rose by more than a year ago. The average price of petrol rose by 4.0 pence per litre between March and April this year, to stand at 94.4 pence, compared with a rise of 1.9 pence last year. This year’s price rise incorporates an increase in excise duty which took effect from 1 April.”

There was a further large upward pressure from communication, principally telephone equipment and services. Landline telephone charges rose by more than a year ago and the price of mobile phone handsets rose this year but fell a year ago.

Food Price inflation over the 12 months was 8.5%, and petrol has again increased since the figures were collected. In the figures the average Perol price is 94.4p/l I have not seen anything less than 97p/l in the last 2-3 weeks, with diesel now back over a pound a litre.

Remember, if inflation takes off, interest rates will have to rise, if rates rise there will be more defaults on mortages

Tracker Mortgages in the UK. Problems ahead??

May 1, 2009 at 9:13 pm | Posted in British Politics, Finance | Leave a comment
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Now, although I don’t like being a harbinger of doom, I currently do not see an easy way out of the situation I am about to describe below.

Business Cycles turn, at the moment we are at the bottom for interest rates as demand for goods in the “Real Economy” is so low, as the cycle turns, interest rates will have to rise, for savers, that will be welcome news, but for borrowers? Think this through, in the last 10 years in the UK, “Tracker Mortgages” have become the norm.  Currently, most people on Trackers are in a position where the repayment interest rate has dropped to between 1.0% and 1.5%, meaning that even if finances are stretched unless both partners lose their jobs then the repayments should be OK.

But, when the cycle turns, the Trackers will do just that, follow the interest rate up, meaning swinging increases in repayments, possibly in a short period.  Unless people are still paying their mortgage at their original rate and driving down the amount of capital owed, rather than reducing the payment to survive, the forthcoming interest rate rises will result in incresaed mortgage payments that that will match the previous decrease.  If people are finding it hard to repay now, how will they cope with the increases?  Any rate rise may not happen for up to three years, but when it does, if you are on a tracker, you are in trouble unless you can extend your mortgage or match the new payments.

We have one other thing that we need to consider in all of this, the Pound Sterling.  If it can maintain, or rise against, it’s current position against the other world currencies, then this change in the business cycle may be able to be postponed for a a few months, maybe a couple of years, but if the Pound slips again, look out for inflation rising, and as soon as inflation starts rising, the currency falls unless interest rates go up.  As it stands, it seems unlikely that Deflation, at least in the CPI, will take hold, especially with food inflation more like 5-7%

So what is the point of this post?

If you time it right, take all the advantage you can from the low rates that exist at the moment.

If you are unsure of your timing, I would get out of a Tracker within the next 12 months and move to a rate that’s fixed for 5 years if you can

whatever happens, it’s your decision, but as sure as eggs are eggs, interest rates will rise, avoid being hit by them as much as you can

UK Met Office vs others

May 1, 2009 at 9:14 am | Posted in Weather | Leave a comment
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Yesterday the UK Met office put out their long range waether forecast for the summer.  Overall prognosis Warm, Dry and Sunny.

I have a couple of problems with that, first, I think the UK Met Office is heavily biased towards the south of the country, specifically southern England.  Secondly it seems to be somewhat different to other forecasts I’ve seen.

The various forecasting groups, UK Met Office, European and US all use models that try to match previous weather with trends to predict what will happen months down the line. The variations that happen in a chaotic system, which is what the atmosphere is, mean that very small changes that happen today may have a huge effect further on in time, or conversly a competing change may cancel it totally.  This means that, past a time limit of just 3 days, variations mean that a standard weather forecast is, unless there are very strong trends, just a guess.  So here we are looking at 3 months!!

So let’s rewind a little and assume that the forecast models can manage to predict what will happen, it becomes obvious that there are significant differences because below is a graphic from the excellent Netweather web site

augusttemp

Now admitted, the temperature difference for Aug are small, but the graphic says that the average temperature for the whole country will be below average, whereas rain for august, from the same site is forecast to vary between a low of 80% for Northern Scotland to a high of in excess of 120% for Southern England.  Doesn’t look like too many BBQ’s for me

August Rain

August Rain

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