Changing the Conversation: Extreme Weather and Climate

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 5:21 AM GMT en Junio 06, 2011

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Changing the Conversation: Extreme Weather and Climate

It has been an exceptional year of tornadoes in the U.S. Hundreds have died and several cities have been especially hard hit(Jeff Masters on Living on Earth). Ultimately, I will talk about these tornadoes and climate change and bring, at least temporarily, closure to my discussion on event attribution and climate change. (First in Series, Second in Series)

First, I want to write a couple of casual observations about forecasts and warnings. In 1953 there was a tornado in Flint, Michigan that killed more than 100 people. Many comparisons have been made between that 1953 tornado and the 2011 tornado in Joplin, Missouri. One of the comments that I have heard is that comparing 2011 to other years in terms of risk to human health, we can say that the health risk is less in 2011 than 60 years ago. The logic in the argument is that we have many more people in the U.S. today, and hence, if the risk was the same, then more people would have died in 2011. Standing alone, this is a peculiar argument, but it got me to thinking about risk.

Several times this year I have heard mayors of towns say that the warnings they had received for either tornadoes or floods have saved many lives and property. If you go back and check the forecasts, there are cases when a high probability of tornado activity has been predicted several days in advance. When it gets down to actual tornado warnings, the mayors in interviews say that people had 25-30 minutes to prepare, to take cover. Compared with the 1953’s state of knowledge and the ability to forecast both these long-term forecasts and short-term warnings are stunning advances. What stands at the basis of these advances? Observations, predictive models, and the ability of models to ingest and use those observations in forecasting. There is technology, and there is a lot of scientific theory and plain smartness tied up in those models and their interpretation. When we talk about federal science budgets for weather and climate, we are talking about predictions and risk assessment and warnings and knowledge which provide the opportunities for individuals and organizations to make good decisions.

If there is less risk to human health in 2011 than in 1953, then much of that risk reduction is due to improvements in model-based predictions.

Back to climate change. In my previous entries on event attribution I argued that the media discussion of the attribution of specific extreme events, primarily, contributed to the political argument rather than to the communication of scientific knowledge. As such, the primary product of this media discussion is to build and maintain doubt. Since that last blog, Christine Shearer and I completed and published an article in IEEE Earthzine, called Changing the Media Discussion on Climate and Extreme Weather. All I will do here is to highlight some of the arguments that we made:

1) We assert that a journalist’s question that asks a scientist to provide a yes-or-no answer to whether or not an extreme event is “caused” by climate change is, scientifically, ill posed.

2) That scientists are part of the conversation, and it is their role to participate in such a way that leads to a scientifically correct question.

3) The question in number 1 is ill posed for a number of reasons, but at the top of the list is because it requires the scientist to suppose there are two climates: one with and one without anthropogenic warming. We only have one climate, and we see the warmer climate, the moisture air, and the extreme weather evolving in that warming climate.

If you’re interested read the article. More generally, there are some very good articles in IEEE Earthzine. Christine Shearer and I have gotten a number of good comments on the paper, and through it all, I was interviewed by Tony Wood of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who wrote a nice story. This led to me getting an email from a Hal Hartung who maintains a web site on Anthropogenic Peat. Mr. Hartung made an interesting comment to me concerning the discussion of global warming which is: given that greenhouse gases are well known to hold energy close to the Earth, those who deny an anthropogenic impact on weather, need to pose a viable mechanism of how the Earth can hold in more energy and the weather not be changed. Think about it.

r

P.S. One of my former students, Amanda Graor, wrote me to correct an error in the original posting of this blog. Here is her blog on volunteering in Joplin.








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Quoting yonzabam:
If you think that current climate change is due to 'natural variation', rather than anthropogenic greenhouse gases, you ought to say what particular factor you believe is driving temperatures upwards. It will have to be consistent with the observations that the stratosphere has cooled (although some claim ozone depletion explains this) and that most of the warming so far is attributable to an increase in night time minima.



Excellent question.

I used to believe that Greenhouse Gases were the primary driver of the Climate. This was before I looked at the actual facts. I also am switching my belief on the Climate system, slightly. I used to believe that oceans were the primary driver of the Climate, but now I believe that changes in GCC are the primary drivers of the climate. The oceans have noticeable influence on the Climate, but are not the primary drivers of the climate.

The AGW assumption is based off of the notion that increased Carbon dioxide would then produce an increase in Temperature. But many prominent scientists, including renowned physicist Dr. Miklos Zagoni are realizing that this notion contradicts energy balance formulas.

Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi has published recent papers that show it is impossible for Carbon Dioxide to create "Catastrophic Global Warming."

The reason being, as seen in a fairly recent Peer Reviewed paper, is that Natural Changes in Global Cloud Cover have three times the impact on surface temperatures, than Greehouse Gas Emissions.

In order for an object to keep constant temperature, energy in = energy out. The warming since 1979 indicates that there is an energy imbalance in the Earth's Climate System.

Overall, Outgoing Longwave Radiation, or (OLR) has been increasing slightly. This contradicts the CAGW belief that increased GHGs would reduce Outgoing Longwave Radiation, therefore warming the Earth.




The slight increase in Outgoing Longwave Radiation is consistant with reductions in Global Cloud Cover, or (GCC) since 1979, since Decreased Cloud Cover creates an increase in OLR, since Clouds trap OLR.




However, the net effect of all clouds being removed, would actually create warming. This is because the clouds reflect more incoming energy, than they trap outgoing energy.


Quoting Climate4you.com

The overall reflectance (albedo) of planet Earth is about 30 percent, meaning that about 30 percent of the incoming shortwave solar radiation is radiated back to space. If all clouds were removed, the global albedo would decrease to about 15 percent, and the amount of shortwave energy available for warming the planet surface would increase from 239 W/m2 to 288 W/m2 (Hartmann 1994). However, the longwave radiation would also be affected, with 266 W/m2 being emitted to space, compared to the present 234 W/m2 (Hartmann 1994). The net effect of removing all clouds would therefore still be an increase in net radiation of about 17 W/m2. So the global cloud cover has a clear overall cooling effect on the planet, even though the net effect of high and low clouds are opposite (see figure above). This is not a pure theoretical consideration, but is demonstrated by observations (see diagram below).



So therefore, since OLR has been increasing by the order of several Watts per Meter squared since 1979, indicates that Global Warming is being caused by increases in Incoming Radiation from decreasing Cloud Cover. This is contrary to the claim by CAGW Proponents that OLR should be decreasing. This would also increase the Outgoing Energy, as observed, since less Cloud Cover would create Outgoing Energy. Since the Outgoing Energy is less than the incoming energy, the Earth warms.

In conclusion, the Earth has been warming due to natural changes in GCC, not Increased Carbon Dioxide.
Member Since: Abril 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting Snowlover123:


The graph ended in 1995. Since then, the Earth has not warmed, and has even cooled on some datasets.



Oh, really? Try the NASA dataset:


With respect to the 1951-80 average:

91 0.35C warmer
92 0.13
93 0.13
94 0.23
95 0.37
96 0.29
97 0.39
98 0.56
99 0.32
00 0.33 Average for the decade 0.31C warmer than the 1951-80 average.


01 0.47
02 0.56
03 0.55
04 0.48
05 0.63
06 0.55
07 0.58
08 0.44
09 0.58
10 0.63 Average for the decade 0.55C warmer than the 1951-80 average


Member Since: Julio 20, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2933
Quoting yonzabam:



Your graph does not include recent warming. The graph in this link has an insert to illustrate that the present is warmer than the Holocene 'Optimum'.


Link


The graph ended in 1995. Since then, the Earth has not warmed, and has even cooled on some datasets.

Member Since: Abril 1, 2010 Posts: 9 Comments: 2699
Quoting McBill:

First, I don't recall any "trashing" any papers lately. I'm thinking that if you guys had a leg to stand on, you wouldn't keep making stuff up. Second, I'm guessing that you're referring to the paper by Fall et al in the Journal of Geophysical Research. What exactly do you think that paper showed that cast serious doubt on the GISS temperature record? I realize that specifics aren't your thing, but maybe give it a try this one time.



LoL, selective memory eh?

On your GISS item, the following comes to mind

1,200 KM smoothing

Homogenization of data

Extrapolation of data

Huge holes in coverage

Multiple alterations/corrections to past and present data sets

You want to run our lives based upon the resulting interpretation of such? Nope!

Member Since: Junio 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting McBill:

Who said it was? When you get done arguing with that straw man, let us know.


Noted. I may have been misled in my accusation and too vague in my reasoning.

Quoting McBill:

I hate long goodbyes.


Ah, but now I have conversation with a decent bit of reciprocation. (Well I did for a minute there.) I also missed your reply to the DDT issue. Link

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting McBill:

Yeah, so we continue to rely on petroleum as our principal source of energy. I mean, there's no chance of the price of oil going up significantly, is there?




You should keep up. Why don't you do some reading on Bussard's Polywell NUCLEAR FUSION REACTOR. Or Bloom technology. Or Solar Power. Or Windmills. Or the TURBINES IN DAMS. Can we do more? Hell yes! But there are a lot of underlying problems here that we need to solve without going all gung-ho and unilaterally treating symptoms, so that the problem just pops up again in a brand-new shiny suit. Come on now, you can't post the things you post and not be intelligent. Use that intelligence.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting McBill:


The weather report says there's a 90% chance of rain this afternoon, I'm gonna take an umbrella to work. Similarly, if the NHC say that a cat 5 hurricane is likely to pass over my house in a few days, I'm going to find somewhere else to be. I'm guessing you'll want to wait a couple of eons until all of the data is in before making such decisions but, hey, that's what natural selection is all about.

Maybe you're just counting on Mother Earth to look after you.








Probability is good, no argument there. But you did not read correctly. Mother Earth will look after herself. You and me are expendable. Per the Cat. 5 metaphor, let me know where your exo-planetary evacuation shelter is and let's get headed there, I'll bring the whiskey. But let's not throw silver iodide in there because we think it might disrupt the whole party.

Point being there are clearly environmental issues present, but carbon is not the sole proprietor. I think the issue is much larger and much more ethically challenging than that. How lovely would it be that one little element, the most abundant in the universe to our knowledge and the basis for most life on Earth, was THE problem? Wishful thinking.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
286 - that is where the paper you trashed was published _


Link
Member Since: Junio 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting RMuller:
Did Michael Mann purposefully commit fraud in his hockey stick graph?

Link


I think it is debatable but more importantly a mute point, as singling out an individual does nothing for the debate other than cast doubt on the validity of any side. It is like the "Capitalists are bad. Communists are bad. Democrats are bad. Republicans are bad." idea: the system is not the problem- the exploiter archetype does not care which system he exploits, so long as he can continue to exploit it. I refer you to The Selfish Gene by Dawkins, specifically the section on the "Prisoner's Dilemma."
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting yonzabam:




Joy, someone competent. That is indeed an issue, or rather THE issue of variation. But please refer to the arguments in the edit (of post 287). Further, bacteria and other micro-organisms are the important part of life, and thus it is really an argument tainted by a bias for "cute fuzzy things." And even more so for a preference to land based life. Did Pompeii consciously bury the city?

Your argument is also heavily lacking the importance of the element of population control, as pop. density is a prerequisite of virtually all our problems. And I believe your "paraphrase" is actually longer than the original translated quote (upon investigation, the quotation and translations are largely variable, so my accusation was incorrect and I apologize for that). Not to mention that if humans are causing Climate Change, then your argument is paradoxical as killing humans would be the logical solution.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting yonzabam:
If basic food prices double due to increased crop failures caused by higher temperatures, we in the west will just pay it. For many in the developing world, that won't be an option.
If basic food prices double due to increased crop failures energy costs caused by higher temperatures irrational fear resulting from extrapolation, we those of us in the west that can afford to will just pay it. For many in the developing world, that won't be an option.

So what is the difference? Both have the same effect, but only one is the result of a blink of observations largely extrapolated into the distant future.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
The fact that the Earth's climate has fluctuated naturally in the past will be of little comfort to the millions of environmental refugees and famine victims who will suffer in the future due mainly to the excesses of the rich west.

If basic food prices double due to increased crop failures caused by higher temperatures, we in the west will just pay it. For many in the developing world, that won't be an option.

Prior to the development of agriculture there may only have been about 15 million hunter gatherers on the planet. Today, there are 7 billion people, many of whom live a subsistence existence. To paraphrase Stalin - "One human death is a tragedy. A million is a statistic".

If you think that current climate change is due to 'natural variation', rather than anthropogenic greenhouse gases, you ought to say what particular factor you believe is driving temperatures upwards. It will have to be consistent with the observations that the stratosphere has cooled (although some claim ozone depletion explains this) and that most of the warming so far is attributable to an increase in night time minima.

Member Since: Julio 20, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2933
The big picture though is that Earth is a big girl,

She should call Jenny....

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
McBill-
I would like to (before proceeding to mock you and many like you) say that being environmentally conscious and working to live on this planet as guests (rather than in the viral method that our species tends to exhibit) is a good thing. Our "throw away" society needs some good redirection.

The big picture though is that Earth is a big girl, and she can handle her own problems. Our climate has been cycling for a long time now. Ice Ages (which incidentally don't put much Ice between 45 north and south, the majority portion) and warmer ages come and go. So here's a bit of perspective that I feel is quite important for any scientist or science minded individual to keep in mind. It's nothing new: you probably have all the pertinent information in your head already. You people apparently disregard how brief our experience of this planet is.

Let's be very generous and say that we have been able to measure carbon content in the atmosphere for 100 years (though I think these measurements started in the 50's or 60's? I'm not quite sure, and it doesn't really matter for my argument even if we were able to measure them in the Paleolithic), yet the Earth has been around for what, 4.5 eons? What percent of this planet's life are we (well, not me- apparently you and a vast majority of other monomaniacal paralogistic psuedo-scientists, although the orations are more characteristic of a Baptist Minister than a scientist) basing our arguments on here?

In fact, let's be obsessively generous and say (for the sake of argument) our observational scientific history started in the beginning of the paleolithic, 2.6 or so million years ago. Even if our planet were only one billion years old, that would still be only .26% of the planet's life time. Can you accurately reproduce Crime and Punishment, word for word, in it's entirety with no knowledge at all of the book or it's plot, from reading only two or three pages?

Good science is objective rather than subjective, is it not? Let's do good science.

(edit: I completely forgot to add that most of the continents used to be joined. Is it good or bad that they are more widely spaced now? Is the number "5" going to be wearing a tuxedo or a dress at the wedding? In case the point of the last two questions escaped you, I shall rephrase: Are we supposed to affect, not effect but affect "Climate Change"?

Should we not then stop the lion from chasing it's prey? Have you not thought about the consequences of even pulling "weeds" so as to allow only the produce to flourish; and then should our farmers stop producing food? How did we make the instruments to measure carbon emissions?

Surely nothing in any scientific instrument was produced in a factory that emits carbon, and neither was any computer or printing press that enables you access to this information; Clearly the preceding statement is satirical and pointed at the importance of looking at the big picture.

We can take that line of thought as far as- "Well, if the Industrial Revolution never happened, we wouldn't have a problem with climate change."- which is debatable but reeks of Schrodinger's Cat and is in any case completely incapable of being proved one way or the other.

But I digress. Read some Lovelock, he explains it better than I. Unless of course you are simply trying to be a "go green" activist who picks a side in a situation which can not be reduced to "either..., or..." and proceeds to pick out information that supports their belief whilst shutting eyes and plugging ears to anything contrary or neutral, in which case I say "to each his own" and proceed to someone of more progressive discussion.

Well, I've said my peace. I may look in again, but probably not, as this issue is not something that will be solved in the comments section of someone's blog.)

Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting Snowlover123:


? I have been proving that they have been able to survive with less ice cover.

Quote:
Globally, the first decade of the 21st century has been warmer than the so-called Holocene maximum.

That is again, completely false.




Your graph does not include recent warming. The graph in this link has an insert to illustrate that the present is warmer than the Holocene 'Optimum'.


Link
Member Since: Julio 20, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 2933
Quoting McBill:

Actually, when I say published, I'm talking about a paper published in a legitimate scientific journal, not a web site set up by a college drop-out weatherman. And, if I'm not mistaken, neither of the 2 papers published that used Watts' data have found any systematic bias (or at least no warm bias) in the temperature record.

Got anything else?






Look it up --
A G U ?
Member Since: Junio 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting McBill:

Rusty, the climate models have been predicting that as CO2 rises, the Earth will get warmer and Arctic sea ice will decline. And, lo and behold, as CO2 has risen, the Earth has been getting warmer and Arctic sea ice has been declining.

Go figure.

Photobucket

Graph from here.




Time to adjust the Earths thermostat isn't it?
Member Since: Enero 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting McBill:

Yep, GISS. You got something better, you should publish it. You got something published that cast doubt on the GISS temperature database, please share.



Here ya go. They met the criteria to be published !

Make sure you understand what that means before you complain about it. . . . .

http://surfacestations.org/
Member Since: Junio 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
If you (as in any of you) haven't read James Lovelock's GAIA, I would recommend you do so. It is a small book, the Oxford Press copy I have being 142 pages but is quite the interesting read. I was under the impression it was common material for anyone in the Climate Change topic...

(edit: Reason being that these comments seem to be a little on the monomaniacal side reminiscent of the Climate Change Politician rather than the "Climatologist", and GAIA does a nice job of sharing the bigger picture [In my opinion])
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CatfishJones:


HA. Some extinctions, which coincidentally Darwinian selection accounts greatly for, of a few species mar the accomplishment of sustaining life on a larger than bacterial level in a bewildering variance for a least a couple billion years?


What you said :)

http://www.darwinawards.com/
Member Since: Junio 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting McBill:

Rusty, the climate models have been predicting that as CO2 rises, the Earth will get warmer and Arctic sea ice will decline. And, lo and behold, as CO2 has risen, the Earth has been getting warmer and Arctic sea ice has been declining.

Go figure.

Photobucket

Graph from here.




GISS ! How good do you think the records were from Central Africa in the 1800's, let alone right now -- check it ?
Member Since: Junio 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting Ossqss:


Hummm, on the track record part, just sayin (ª¿ª)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction


HA. Some extinctions, which coincidentally Darwinian selection accounts greatly for, of a few species mar the accomplishment of sustaining life on a larger than bacterial level in a bewildering variance for a least a couple billion years?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting CatfishJones:


How about the people who died from the resulting Malaria outbreak, or that the ozone hole may just be a venting solution. 21% oxygen. 1% higher, the probability of combustion raises by 70%. Seeing as the planet is not a fireball, I'd say that points to a regulation system. Our planet may know a thing or two about chemistry, seeing as her track record is pretty good.


Hummm, on the track record part, just sayin (ª¿ª)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extinction
Member Since: Junio 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186
Quoting McBill:

Right, there's no such thing as the ozone hole and DDT didn't almost kill off the bald eagles.

So how about the moon landings?



How about the people who died from the resulting Malaria outbreak (no DDT), or that the ozone hole may just be a venting solution. 21% oxygen. 1% higher, the probability of combustion raises by 70%. Seeing as the planet is not a fireball, I'd say that points to a regulation system. Our planet may know a thing or two about chemistry, seeing as her track record is pretty good.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting cyclonebuster:


You need to look at arctic ice to tell you that information if the planet is warming or not. It is the Earths air conditioner!


I'd say it is more of a thermometer. (edit: Thermostat would probably be a better metaphor) The AC unit is mainly cloud cover %. Ice wouldn't much matter if no sunlight etc. were reflected. (edit: or rather it would be mostly vapor, if not all. But then that also depends on ozone concentration.) I'm assuming all of you have read the GAIA hypothesis by Lovelock?
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RustyShackleford:
Temperature is dropping from last year. If this was truly C02's fault it would be rising but this whole year is colder than last.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


You need to look at arctic ice to tell you that information if the planet is warming or not. It is the Earths air conditioner!
Member Since: Enero 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401


Record Events for Mon Jun 6, 2011 through Sun Jun 12, 2011
Total Records: 2817
Rainfall: 414
Snowfall: 2
High Temperatures: 1440
Low Temperatures: 66
Lowest Max Temperatures: 192
Highest Min Temperatures: 703


Member Since: Enero 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
What you think Dr. Rood can computers tell us that?
Member Since: Enero 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting Ossqss:


Computers tell us exactly how little we actually understand about our planet! You just can't understand that part, but you will eventually. No disrespect, just sayin.

Watch what happens with respect to volcanic activity, short term, as an example, or our lack of knowledge on cosmic ray cloud production as I have posted about prior.

The models, to date, mean very little with respect to actual results.

We think we know more than we really do, and that is proven everyday. out>


I am sure they can can give us range of how hot it would get.
Member Since: Enero 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting cyclonebuster:


It's a good question. What will keep our planet cool if there is NO sea ice? What do computers tell us about this? How HOT will the planet get without ANY sea ice?


Computers tell us exactly how little we actually understand about our planet! You just can't understand that part, but you will eventually. No disrespect, just sayin. (We program them with what we think)

Watch what happens with respect to volcanic activity, short term, as an example, or our lack of knowledge on cosmic ray cloud production as I have posted about prior.

The models, to date, mean very little with respect to actual results.

We think we know more than we really do, and that is proven everyday. out>
Member Since: Junio 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8186

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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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