Dust flux, Vostok ice core

Dust flux, Vostok ice core
Two dimensional phase space reconstruction of dust flux from the Vostok core over the period 186-4 ka using the time derivative method. Dust flux on the x-axis, rate of change is on the y-axis. From Gipp (2001).

Monday, January 20, 2020

Another exciting adventure in the US medical system

Well, perhaps not so exciting.

I was in Washington a couple of weeks ago for the AGU Chapman conference on the East Asian Monsoon. My trip there was long enough that I needed a dialysis session, which I had tentatively arranged through Fresenius. I had identified a clinic near the conference, and had received word that they would schedule me in for either the Tuesday or the Wednesday that I was there. Unfortunately, my phone was not working properly, so I needed to have them contact me via the hotel. There was also a brief hang-up over the transfer of necessary medical records from Canada, but everything seemed to be in order by lunchtime Tuesday--I had been introduced to my coordinator and was advised to wait for their call.

This meant that I had to run back to the hotel lobby during every break (of which there were several) to see if the clinic had called. Making matters worse, I was never given any direct number to call the clinic directly, so I had to go through the company's national switchboard each time, and deal with a different operator who had to locate my file and see how things were going. Every time I was advised to await their call.

It was the same thing on Wednesday. Await their call. And by evening, it seemed clear I was not going to get dialysis--I was flying back on Thursday afternoon, and would have a session in Toronto on the Friday. No explanation, or indeed any attempt a communication, seems to have been made. I have to add that the situation at the hotel was mildly chaotic as well, as the hotel had just been bought by a new operator and was undergoing transformation to a European-style hostel, and their phone system was a little bit erratic. It was impossible to call out, for instance. I thought it possible that a call from the clinic might have been missed . . . except whenever I called, they told me they hadn't called yet.

By Thursday, the fluid levels were high enough that I had a little trouble breathing, but luckily my potassium levels stayed below the point where it triggers heart attacks (the main worry of the nurses back home) and I was able to survive until Friday.

I don't officially know the reason I was ultimately rejected for dialysis. I suspect it was that I may have triggered a poverty alert--no phone, and staying at a hostel (it wasn't actually a hostel yet, but the hotel was listing itself as such). I gather that under the US rules, if a poor person somehow tricks a medical clinic into providing some medical care, and then can't afford to pay, the clinic has no real recourse. Having a national operator is one more way of heading off poor people before they get in the door. They were willing to let me die because they thought I might not be able to pay a $200 bill.

It's a mad, mad, mad world

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The History of the East Asia Monsoon

So I went to Washington DC last week for the AGU Chapman Conference on the East Asian monsoon. I found it to be a very rewarding conference, and even learned a bit about navigating around Washington on transit, as I was on a limited budget.

The conference was in AGU headquarters, which is near to Dupont Circle.

Not all that far from the Mall, although I didn't visit this time.

Speaking of scientists . . .

I was speaking during the opening session, which was about climate dynamics (and its role on the changes in monsoonal strengths through geologic history). A major dynamic role has been the rise of the Himalayan mountains and the Tibetan Plateau during the period of interest, and there is still a lot of debate about the importance of these tectonic events on the development of the monsoon. Some of the modeling studies suggest that the mountains only change the specific location of the rainfall, and that monsoon behaviour may occur even if there were no continents at all.

My work was based on analysis of global to regional proxy data sets, and has been summarized in all these places. Unfortunately, due to limited time, after working through the phase space reconstructions, I had to rush through the statistical computation part, and wasn't certain whether any of the message made it to the audience ungarbled. Fortunately, I was able to learn that at least some members of the audience understood the message.

The afternoon sessions were all about paleoceanographic records of the monsoon. Over the past decade, the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP, formerly ODP and DSDP) has put down a number of boreholes in the Indus and Bengal Fans, and other boreholes in the Huang He fan and the Sea of Japan also provide useful records of at least some parts of the monsoon. The records I studied were generally global in scope--these other records allow for regional variations to be studied.

The next day's sessions dealt with continental environments (a common issue was the change in photosynthetic pathways of plants in response to environmental change during the Miocene) and records of continental erosion. Erosion is important because either rising mountains or increased rainfall will lead to increased erosion.

The last session was on modeling the effects of tectonic uplift as well as changes in the timing of the uplift, because there is still some disagreement about when the Tibetan Plateau was formed. I mean disagreement between it being less than 10 million years ago to more than 40 million years ago, which is a significant difference of opinion for something so recent.

The last portion of the conference was to break up into groups for focussed discussions on topics of interest leading to the testing of several hypotheses proposed at the start of the conference. I started off in the wrong room, so I was  with the tectonic modeling people rather than the climate modeling people, but was still able to ask about whether anyone had successfully had chaos appear in their model output. Results were inconclusive.

For the second group meeting I joined the combined discussion between the climate modelers and the paleoceanographic records group. Over the course of the discussion I eventually managed to come up with a proposal. See if the modelers observe chaos, and see if they can tell which style of chaos they have. Such chaos will be manifested as spatial variability in some climate effects, such as the location of the maximum rainfall. The models may have the type of spatial variability modeled correctly, but the specific timing of variations will be incorrect. That spatial variability will be recorded in the widely spaced paleoceanographic records which already exist. They type of chaos observed in the models will tell us what to look for in the cores; from the cores we can obtain the correct timing of the modeled chaotic spatial variations of the monsoon system.

Exiting the Metro Station at Dupont Circle

I wasn't sure how the last part of the conference would go--early on, many of the old hands were of the opinion that nothing ever comes from these things. But I thought it was pretty rewarding, particularly as it was during these sessions that I came to realize that people felt that whatever I was doing was worthwhile.

Alone in my corner of the world, I had never been sure.

Night flight back to Toronto

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

A year of deflation was pretty good for gold miners

I have been showing the long-term graph of US dollar index vs gold for some time, arguing that the last twelve years have, on average, been deflationary.

Since early 2008, the gold price has risen from ~900USD per oz to nearly 1500 USD/oz, whereas the US dollar index has risen from about 72 to nearly 98. Richard Russell seems to have been right, with his bet of 50% gold and 50% US dollars.

Now, here's a thought. If the graph trending upward and to the right is deflation, how does inflation plot?

Down and to the right (rising gold, falling dollar). Deflation and inflation are not opposites . . . they are perpendicular.

In the above graph, even though the trend has been deflationary, there are inflationary and disinflationary intervals as well.

From about mid September last year until the end of August, we had pretty steady deflation. But on much shorter timescales, individual actions are on the inflation-disinflation axis. (I have not decided what to call the opposite of deflation - perhaps #$!?@!?).

My thesis of the past several years is that deflation is good for the price of gold companies. So let's see how one did.

Franco Nevada is a royalty streaming company with about 80% of its revenues coming from precious metals production. This company is a good one to test the hypothesis as it is more likely to be affected by economic factors such as the price of gold and less affected by company-specific factors as would be the case for a mid-tier producer.

From late September 2018 to about the end of August of this year, Franco Nevada embarked on a powerful price advance from about $80/share to $130/share--a 62% gain. This gain corresponded with the period of deflation, where both gold and the US dollar index were rising.

Similarly, a quick look at other companies including SSR Mining, Wheaton Precious Metals, Wesdome, Semafo, and even a small exploration company like Bravada showed strong gains over the same period.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Gold x USDX has a convincing breakout in phase space

I'm getting back into the swing of phase space reconstructions in preparation for next month's presentation in Washington

Something we have been going through for some time.

Gold x USDX (the product of gold the gold price and the US dollar index) broke out in the summer of 2019 (similar to this post) in most convincing fashion. As we speak, the trajectory of the system has moved away from any of the previous areas of Lyapunov stability.

Generally speaking, the bigger this product, the better for mining companies. So economically, they ought to be doing pretty well right now. Unfortunately, that number seems set to decline for the near future, but we'll see how things go going forward. Trump seems determined to drive down the value of the US dollar

Note that the current excursion is much more substantive than the one we had in 2011, when the gold price ran to $1800/oz.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Help me cross the square

The wind rises, and the days grow short.

In a trench is a group of men. They sit together, but each is alone in his thoughts.

Happier times in the public market? Performing on the sports field? Father swinging the scythe in the wheatfield? Your wife? Your children?

You are going to die. You know this. You are among the last holdouts as the Bolsheviks destroy all resistance throughout Russia. Your position is surrounded, and the Bolsheviks are ready to crush you beneath the weight of their guns and armour. All of you are going to die, in today's battle or another that will soon follow.

This is not the worst. Your family are class enemies. They will die too. Your only hope may be that your children are young enough to be spared and adopted into a new family. Maybe you have sung enough to them that they will hear your voice, see your face--in dreams.

They have made no secret of their plans. The churches will be destroyed, the Men of Cloth--all will be gone. Every cultural touchstone that has given your life meaning will soon be wiped from the earth.

Someone begins to sing.

A song of a blind, dying man, who is asking for help to cross the tumult of the public square so he can die in peace in the fields of his youth. (Spoiler - he doesn't make it)

You join in.