Category Archives: Climate Science Reporting

A Comment On The Nature Article – “Time To Raft Up- Climate Scientists Should Learn From The Naysayers And Pull Together To Get Their Message Across, Says Chris Rapley”

There is an interesting Nature article which was published this week

Rapley Chris, 2012: Climate science: Time to raft up.  Nature. 488, 583-585 doi:10.1038/488583a

with the subtitle

Climate scientists should learn from the naysayers and pull together to get their message across, says Chris Rapley.

In this Nature Comment, Chris Rapley makes a serious fundamental error, in my view.  He writes that

“….the voices of dismissal are trumping the messages of science.”

However, in my view, that is not the correct way to frame the problem. One reason that there has been little progress in effective climate policy is that the message on climate science that is presented to the public and policymakers is incorrectly too narrow. Climate issues, as influenced by human activities, are much more than a global average surface temperature anomaly threshold.

The issue of whether limits should be sought on atmospheric concentrations of CO2 is not all there is to the role of humans in the climate system, nor should climate mitigation and adaptation risks not consider the variations and longer term trends in the natural climate system. As Dan Sarewitz and my son said with respect to risks from adding too much CO2 into the atmosphere “We know enough!” on the threat from added CO2.

My son’s book

The Climate Fix by Roger A. Pielke Jr.

makes this case convincingly.

However, the added CO2, as important as it is, is but a part of what humans are doing to the climate.

The need for this broader viewpoint has been emphasized in international and national assessments;

Kabat, P., Claussen, M., Dirmeyer, P.A., J.H.C. Gash, L. Bravo de Guenni, M. Meybeck, R.A. Pielke Sr., C.J. Vorosmarty, R.W.A. Hutjes,             and S. Lutkemeier, Editors, 2004: Vegetation, water, humans and the climate: A new perspective on an interactive system. Springer, Berlin, Global Change – The IGBP Series, 566 pp.

National Research Council, 2005: Radiative forcing of climate change: Expanding the concept and addressing uncertainties. Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, Climate Research Committee, Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, Division on Earth and Life Studies, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 208 pp.

but the leadership of the climate science community who are communicating with policymakers and the public are ignoring these assessments.

This was the reason we wrote our paper [of which all of the authors are AGU Fellows]

Pielke Sr., R., K.  Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D.  Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E.  Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J.  Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases.   Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American   Geophysical Union.

As just two examples, first in my post from yesterday

Follow Up On The AMS Statement On “Climate Change’

after a set of e-mail exchanges, Danny Rosenfeld agreed that

1. On a regional scale, the aerosols can be the dominant anthropogenic climate forcing.

2. On a global scale, the aerosols might be in par with the GHG. We just don’t know

In our paper,

Pielke Sr., R.A., A. Pitman, D. Niyogi, R. Mahmood, C. McAlpine, F. Hossain, K. Goldewijk, U. Nair, R. Betts, S. Fall, M. Reichstein, P. Kabat, and N. de Noblet-Ducoudré, 2011: Land  use/land cover changes and climate: Modeling analysis  and  observational evidence. WIREs Clim Change 2011, 2:828–850. doi: 10.1002/wcc.144

the abstract reads

This article summarizes the changes in landscape structure because of human land management over the last several centuries, and using observed and modeled data, documents how these changes have altered biogeophysical and biogeochemical surface fluxes on the local, mesoscale, and regional scales. Remaining research issues are presented including whether these landscape changes alter large-scale atmospheric circulation patterns far from where the land use and land cover changes occur. We conclude that existing climate assessments have not yet adequately factored in this climate forcing. We conclude that existing climate assessments have not yet adequately factored in this climate forcing. For those regions that have undergone intensive human landscape change, or would undergo intensive change in the future, we conclude that the failure to factor in this forcing risks a misalignment of investment in climate mitigation and adaptation.

The public is more perceptive of reality than is often realized. It is the neglect of proper consideration of the actual diversity of climate science issues that, I feel, explains at least part of what Chris reported in the Nature article as

A recent UK survey found that about one-third of the public agrees with the statement “We can trust climate scientists to tell us the truth about climate change” and that about one-third disagrees.

As a way forward, we have proposed a different approach that is in summarized in our paper

Pielke Sr., R.A., R. Wilby, D. Niyogi, F. Hossain, K. Dairuku, J. Adegoke, G. Kallos, T. Seastedt, and K. Suding, 2012: Dealing  with complexity and extreme events using a bottom-up, resource-based  vulnerability perspective. AGU Monograph on Complexity and  Extreme Events in Geosciences, in press.

where our abstract reads

We discuss the adoption of a bottom-up, resource–based vulnerability approach in evaluating the effect of climate and other environmental and societal threats to societally critical resources. This vulnerability concept requires the determination of the major threats to local and regional water, food, energy, human health, and ecosystem function resources from extreme events including climate, but also from other social and environmental issues. After these threats are identified for each resource, then the relative risks can be compared with other risks in order to adopt optimal preferred mitigation/adaptation strategies.

This is a more inclusive way of assessing risks, including from climate variability and climate change than using the outcome vulnerability approach adopted by the IPCC. A contextual vulnerability assessment, using the bottom-up, resource-based framework is a more inclusive approach for policymakers to adopt effective mitigation and adaptation methodologies to deal with the complexity of the spectrum of social and environmental extreme events that will occur in the coming decades, as the range of threats are assessed, beyond just the focus on CO2 and a few other greenhouse gases as emphasized in the IPCC assessments.

The adoption of the bott0m-up, contextual vulnerability approach fits better with the concept of the “honest broker” as discussed in my son’s book

The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics by Roger A. Pielke Jr.

than does the current climate science leadership’s excessively narrow top-down, outcome vulnerability approach. In my view, the “naysayers” include this leadership, as exemplified by the new AMS Statement on Climate Change.  I recommend rewriting what Chris Rapley writes to

Climate scientists should include the diversity of perspectives on the role of humans and natural processes and pull together to get this broader message across.

Then, perhaps, by using the bottom-up, contextual vulnerability approach, we can then finally make progress not only on the CO2 issue, but also on all of the other aspects of risks from the climate system.

source of image

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“Changing The Climate Change Debate” – A Message From A News Article From 2001 That Is Just As Needed in 2012

On February 19 2001, the Fort Collins Coloradoan posted the following article

“Changing the climate change debate”

by Kevin Darst. The article had the subtitle

“CSU researchers want to look at factors other than greenhouse gases”

In over 10 years, unfortunately, the “leadership” that is completing climate assessments, such as for the IPCC reports, has learned little about the behavior of the real climate system.

I have reproduced the entire article below except for the picture of me with the caption

“Taking a different view: Colorado State University atmospheric science professor Roger Pielke wants to see additional factors such as land use included with greenhouse gas emissions in climate change research.

Tom Stohlgren’s quote

“It’s difficult to describe a complex system, and there’s no more complex system than the earth”.

is highlighted in a box.

The article itself reads

If forecasters can’t predict the weather more than five days out, how can scientists predict it a century from now.

That’s what Roger Pielke wants to know.

“The bottom line is that climate is an integrated earth system problem,” said Pielke, the state climatologist and a Colorado State University professor. “You can’t predict it past next season.”

Pielke, who was in San francisco Sunday for the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, is concerned too much stock is put in long-term predictions based solely on increased carbon dioxide levels.  Those assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on the Climate Convention and the United States National Assessment, predict sharp rises in temperature by 2100.

But land-use trends should also be figured in the model, Pielke said. A U.S. Geological Survey study Pielke contributed to suggested irrigation along the Front Range prompted cooler, wetter summers for Rocky Mountain National Park by putting  more water vapor in the air.

“You can’t explain weather or climate by one factor,” Pielke said. Weather prediction is very difficult. Seasonal predictions are more difficult. It should be no surprise that predicting 50 years from now is hard.”

Still, people eat up such predictions without examining the shortfalls, said Tom Stohlgren, an ecologist for the U.S. Geological Survey and a CSU professor.

“All the caveats get left out”,  Stohlgren said. “as a public, we’re satisfied with a quick and easy answer.

“It’s difficult to describe a complex system, and there’s no more complex system than the earth.”

Climate predictions, however, shouldn’t be considered as absolute truth, said Dennis Ojima, the senior scientist at CSU’s Natural Ecology Laboratory.

“They’re looking more or less at the physical interactions of the climate system and the various scenarios….involved with greenhouse gas warming,” said Ojima who also serves as the Great Plains coordinator for the National Climate Change Assessment.  “It’s part of the tool kit.”

Instead of focusing on predictions, scientists should focus on a region’s vulnerabilities, Stohlgren and Pielke said.  For Colorado, that means the chance of epic droughts. It can also mean positives such a longer growing seasons for farmers and less crop damage from frost.

Ojima agreed.

Doing a little bit of both is prudent,” he said of predictions and vulnerability studies.

In the meantime, the uncertainty of man’s impact on the earth worries Stohlgren.

“We’re putting a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” Stohlgren said. “We’re not sure what the long term effects are.”

But as technology advances, all three are confident those advances could help scientists better understand the intricate relationships between climate factors.

This article could be just rereported in 2012.

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Update On The Indian Monsoon By Madhav Khandekar

The following is an update that Madhav has sent us. For context, see the post

Guest Post “June 18, 2012 – A Commentary On 2012 Monsoon progress over India By Madhav Khandekar

” Are man-made factors behind erratic Monsoon? ( The Hindu, August 12 2012)

A recent article from the Hindu ( a well-read English daily in India) discusses if the erratic behaviour of this year’s monsoon is due to “man-made” factors (increased CO2, aerosols etc) and whether such factors may adversely impact monsoon behaviour in future. This year’s monsoon has been erratic in its progress since early june, but this is not unusual! Rarely ever, monsoon season progresses ‘smoothly’ with evenly distributed rainfall everywhere! This year’s monsoon was projected by most climate models to be a deficient monsoon and it now appears that this year’s monsoon will go down as another deficit monsoon like in 2009, 2004 and 2002.

However, this year’s monsoon has also produced some heavy rainfalls and extensive flooding! Early in June there was extensive flooding in the northeast, then in southeast and since the last three weeks, there have been heavy rains and localized flooding in parts of central India! In some locales rainfall amounts of 100mm or more per day have occurred in parts of central India. Also western and northwestern parts of India have received some decent rains in last ten days or so. The  monsoon report from the India Met Department for the week 8-15 August 2012  shows cumulative rainfall since June.

Yes, it is true that overall the large-scale monsoon circulation patterns have weakened in the last fifty years, contrary to most climate models’ projection of a ‘more vigorous’ monsoon in a warming world! Why has the large-scale monsoon weakened in the last fifty years is a ‘mystery’ and there is a definite need to investigate this aspect further. Are aerosols ( identified as ABC-Asian Brown Cloud) impacting monsoon adversely? Indian monsoon circulation patterns are primarily governed by large-scale atmosphere-ocean patterns ( the ENSO phase, the IOD-Indian Ocean Dipole in the equatorial Indian Ocean,  the equatorial stratospheric QBO- Quasi-Biennial Oscillation, the Eurasian winter snow accumulation, etc) and are NOT impacted by aerosols or the recent warming of the earth’s climate at this point in time.

Seasonal prediction of monsoon is still fraught with several uncertainties and most climate models have achieved only a limited success in simulating or predicting monsoon rainfall on a seasonal time-scale.  A simple operational model (see my ppt talk at Heartland Institute’s Conference in May 2012) can often provide a useful guidance for seasonal prediction of monsoon rainfall over India and vicinity.

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New Paper “Summer-Time Climate Impacts Of Projected Megapolitan Expansion in Arizona” By Georgescu Et Al 2012

Figure 1 from Georgescu et al 2012: with caption  “Observed time series of the mean summer-time temperature and diurnal temperature range at an urbanizing and non-urbanizing station”.

I was alerted to a news report on the excellent Nature Climate Change article by Matei Georgescu and colleagues.

Georgescu, M. et al 2012: Summer-time climate impacts of projected megapolitan expansion in Arizona. Nature Climate Change. doi:10.1038/nclimate1656

with the abstract [highlight added]

Efforts characterizing the changing climate of southwestern North America by focusing exclusively on the impacts of increasing levels of long-lived greenhouse gases omit fundamental elements with similar order-of-magnitude impacts as those owing to large-scale climate change. Using a suite of ensemble-based, multiyear simulations, here we show the intensification of observationally based urban-induced phenomena and demonstrate that the direct summer-time climate effects of the most rapidly expanding megapolitan region in the USA—Arizona’s Sun Corridor—are considerable. Although urban-induced warming approaches 4 °C locally for the maximum expansion scenario, impacts depend on the particular trajectory of development. Cool-roof implementation reduces simulated warming by about 50%, yet decreases in summer-time evapotranspiration remain at least as large as those from urban expansion without this mode of adaptation. The contribution of urban-induced warming relative to mid- and end-of-century climate change illustrates strong dependence on built environment expansion scenarios and emissions pathways. Our results highlight the direct climate impacts that result from newly emerging megapolitan regions and their significance for overcoming present challenges concerning sustainable development.

The news article by Rebecca Thomas on this new research article is reproduced below [with highlighting]

ASU study: Urban sprawl might cause higher summer temps

TEMPE, AZ (CBS5) -We live in a desert and expect our summer heat.

But, how much worse can it get?

According to a new study by Arizona State University’s School of Geographical and Urban Planning and its School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, temperatures in a large portion of our state could jump between 2 to 7 degrees in the several decades as a result of urban sprawl.

They say because we live in the fastest growing megapolitan in the United States, we could see an expansion of what we’ve come to know as the “Heat Island Effect.”

Basically, the more concrete you have in terms of buildings and roads, the hotter it gets during the day.

And, because concrete and asphalt absorbs and then releases heat, it cools off less at night.

“Further potential urbanization can make things considerably warmer,” said Matei Georgescu, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Using growth projections by the Maricopa Association of Governments for Arizona’s Sun Corridor, which includes Phoenix, Prescott, Tucson and Nogales, researchers identified potential temperature increases by 2050.

“Worst-case scenario locally, we’re looking at an increase during the summertime of 7 degrees,” said Georgescu.

Best-case scenario with less growth, we’re looking at a 2- to 3-degree increase in summer temps.

Georgescu says even if the Sun Corridor grows unchecked, maximum potential temperature increases could be cut in half by simply painting building rooftops white.

“What happens is a lot more of the incoming radiation is reflected back to space,” he said.

Looking ahead, Georgescu points out there are things we can do to offset the consequences of urbanization, such as planting trees for shade.

Using porous asphalt will prevent run-off and allow monsoon rain to be absorbed and then released back into the atmosphere.

“Direct evaporation is an immediate cooling effect, he said. So, it allows for an additional way to cool the local land surface.”

Georgescu stresses this is an important area of study because urbanization-induced warming can have up to three times the impact on our climate than green house gases.

“Really, what this tells you is there is tremendous opportunity for Arizona to grow sustainably and incorporate different strategies for adaptation and mitigation.

If you’d like to read more about this ASU study, it’s published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

This excellent study is yet another example of why the role in human climate forcings must broaden well beyond just the role of added greenhouse gases. We have urged this broader view, for example, in our paper

Pielke Sr., R., K.  Beven, G. Brasseur, J. Calvert, M. Chahine, R. Dickerson, D.  Entekhabi, E. Foufoula-Georgiou, H. Gupta, V. Gupta, W. Krajewski, E.  Philip Krider, W. K.M. Lau, J. McDonnell,  W. Rossow,  J. Schaake, J.  Smith, S. Sorooshian,  and E. Wood, 2009: Climate change: The need to consider human forcings besides greenhouse gases.   Eos, Vol. 90, No. 45, 10 November 2009, 413. Copyright (2009) American   Geophysical Union.

Other news articles on the Georgescu et al 2012 study include

ASU Study: Arizona will only get hotter by Jared Dillingham


City Temps May Soar From Urbanization, Global Warming by Michael D. Lemonick

where the end of the article reads

“It’s possible, it’s practical, and it could cut the projected temperature increase in half,” Georgescu said. Unfortunately, he added, it doesn’t help at all with another urbanization-related problem. When you pave or build over undeveloped land, you seal in whatever moisture there is in the soil. It can no longer evaporate, which cuts off an important source of humidity, and ultimately, of rain.

“So one of our take-home messages,” he said, “is that to be truly sustainable, you can’t just focus on temperatures. The climate system isn’t only about warming.”

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Filed under Climate Change Forcings & Feedbacks, Climate Science Reporting, Research Papers

Guest Post By Madhav Khandekar “Climate Catastrophe Or Media Hype?”

In response to Madhav Khandekar and Tom Harris’s interview in PJ Media titled

Climate Catastrophe or Media Hype?

which starts with

Subjected to a continual bombardment of catastrophism from climate activists, the public can be forgiven for assuming that recent extreme weather events, especially heat waves in North America, are unusual. Citizens would have little reason to suspect that most records for these phenomena were set many years ago.

But they were.

Madhav has provided us with the following summary:

” The current long, hot & dry summer in many parts of the US has prompted a number of climate scientists to sugget that this heat wave in the US and similar heat waves in Europe ( in 2010 & 2003) are linked to human-added CO2 over the past several years. I believe it is important to analyse past heat waves in the US and eslewhere before linking current heat wave to human-added CO2.

In the North American context, the decades of 1920s and 1930s ( known popularly as the Dust Bowl years) witnessed possibly the most anomalous climate of the 20th century, with recurring droughts and heat waves on the Great American Plains ( Canada as well as the US). The decade of the 1930s saw long and recurring droughts on the Canadian-America Prairies. There were locations (in Canada and US) where very little rain fell for the entire year or more in the 1930s! The highest temperature (at 45C)  ever recorded in Canada was in a town in Saskatchewan in July 1937. Toronto, the largest city in Canada recorded its highest temperature ( at 41C ) on three days in July 1936. Several locations in US Midwest and in the Canadian Prairies recorded unusually high temperatures during the 1920s and 1930s. Meteorologists and climate scientists still do not fully understand why the North American climate was so anomalous! Human-added CO2 was certainly NOT a factor for such the long and recurring droughts (and associated heat waves) then!

The European heat waves of 2003 and 2010 have been now attributed to large-scale atmospheric patterns ( with a blocking development) and NOT to increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2. In the monsoonal climate of India ( and south Asia) , a heat wave of few days to a week or longer duration often develops during the premonsoon months of April-June. Such heat waves ( with maximum temperatures at 43C and above) are associated with mid-tropospheric flow and possible delay in the arrival of monsoon rains. Heat waves in Australia are generally linked to ENSO phase producing less rainfall (reduced cloud cover) and dry soil condition. Heat waves in central Africa in particular, are associated with the movement of the ITCZ and associated rainfall patterns.

There is a definite need to understand the mechanics of heat waves in different parts of the world before linking recent heat waves in Europe and the US to human-added CO2.”

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Mike Smith’s Post “Science by Press Release: The Story About Washington, DC’s Heat”

Update: On the weblog Climate Depot it is written that

Climatologist Dr. Pielke Sr. Taunts Hansen

This is a complete mischaracterization of the intent of my post. I respect Jim Hansen, and, while I disagree with him on a number of climate issues, we agree on others (such as the domaint role of the oceans as the metric to diagnose global warming). In my post below, I am challenging Jim to reconcile his view that if the added CO2 footprint on the climate is so convincing, what is the purpose of the large funds being spent to make multi-decadal regional climate predictions in the coming decades.  The term “taunt” is perjorative and is not appropriate.

************Original Post********************************

Mike Smith, author of the outstanding book When the Sirens Were Silent and writer of the weblog “Mike Smith Enterprises Blog” has an insightful summary of Jim Hansen’s climate predictions.

Mike’s post was motivated by Jim’s op-ed article in the Washington Post based on his PNAS paper that appeared on Monday. I highly recommend reading Mike’s post of August 6 2012 that assesses the lack of skill in Jim’s forecasts

“Science by Press Release: The Story About Washington, DC’s Heat”

See also

Is Jim Hansen’s Global Temperature Skillful?” Guest Post by John R. Christy

In addition to Mike’s review, there is another implication from Jim Hansen’s claim in his Washington Post op-ed

Climate change is here — and worse than we thought

Jim wrote [highlight added]

In a new analysis of the past six decades of global temperatures, which will be published Monday, my colleagues and I have revealed a stunning increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers, with deeply troubling ramifications for not only our future but also for our present.

This is not a climate model or a prediction but actual observations of weather events and temperatures that have happened. Our analysis shows that it is no longer enough to say that global warming will increase the likelihood of extreme weather and to repeat the caveat that no individual weather event can be directly linked to climate change. To the contrary, our analysis shows that, for the extreme hot weather of the recent past, there is virtually no explanation other than climate change.

Since Jim does not need a climate model to reach his conclusion, and since the climate models have shown no skill in predicting the changes in the regional climate statistics that he discusses in his post, he is actually telling us we do not need to spend the millions of dollars in making climate predictions for the impacts communities for the coming decades.

Jim supervises  such modeling at GISS (e.g. Gavin Schmidt). While I endorse the use of climate models to improve our understanding of climate processes and of assessing the limits on predictability, vast sums of money are being used (wasted – e.g. see) to just make multi-decadal climate forecasts for the impacts communities.  If Jim is to be consistent with his message, he would call for the end of funding for such multi-decadal regional climate predictions and redirect that funding to effective mitigation and adaptation activities.

If Jim would like to respond to this request for consistency, I would be glad to present his response as a guest weblog post. Jim has completed a guest post on my weblog in the past;

Guest Weblog By James E. Hansen

so there is a precedent for such a dialog.

If Jim elects to respond to Mike Smith (or  to John Christy’s) post, or to my comments on the need to redirect funding away from multi-decadal regional climate predictions, I will be glad to post unedited.

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My Involvement With The Watts Et Al 2012 And McNider Et Al 2012 Papers

With respect to the discussion paper

Watts et al, 2012: An area and distance weighted analysis of the impacts of station exposure on the U.S. Historical Climatology Network temperatures and temperature trends [to be submitted to JGR]

and the JGR in press paper

McNider, R. T., G.J. Steeneveld, B. Holtslag, R. Pielke Sr, S. Mackaro, A. Pour Biazar, J. T. Walters, U. S. Nair, and J. R. Christy (2012). Response and sensitivity of the nocturnal boundary layer over land to added longwave radiative forcing, J. Geophys. Res.,doi:10.1029/2012JD017578, in press. [for the complete paper, click here]

I have been alerted that there is a lot of discussion on Twitter concerning my involvement with these studies, and that I did not disclose my connection.  In Watts et al 2012, I assumed this was quite clear as Anthony wrote in the acknowledgement in the paper

Special thanks are given to Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. for inspiration, advice, and technical proofreading of this study.

It seems the twitters did not actually read the Watts et al paper.

To be very specific, I did not play a role in their data analysis. He sent me the near final version of  the discussion paper and I recommended added text and references. I am not a co-author on their paper.

I am now working with them to provide suggestions as to how to examine the TOB question regarding its effect on the difference in the trends found in Watts et al 2012.  The TOB effect could result in a confirmation of the Watts et al conclusion, or a confirmation (from a skeptical source) that siting quality does not matter. In either case, this is still a game changing study.

I am a co-author on the McNider et al 2012 paper.  In reading the full list of authors, this is clear.

I recommend those who are communicating about my involvement in this research also read the entire papers before they comment.

I hope this sets the twittering to rest. :-)

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