Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
The new Washington
Post Weather website
Jump to CWG's
Latest Full Forecast
Outside now? Radar, temps
and more: Weather Wall
Follow us on Twitter (@capitalweather) and become a fan on Facebook
Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 02/23/2011

Global warming, extreme events and weird weather

By Andrew Freedman

I've never been a fan of absolutes. People who espouse rigid beliefs - be they about climate change, religion, or politics (or a mix of all three) - instinctively make me question their evidence. As a reporter, I tend to see things in varying shades of gray, rather than black and white, and I gravitate towards stories that are full of nuance and complexity, where absolutes are rarely, if ever, to be found.

For this reason, the oft-made assertions that "global warming will make the weather more extreme" or that warming "caused" a particular severe weather event to occur, make me cringe.

There are core scientific findings in climate science that most climate researchers, and most science journalists, including myself, no longer consider to be hotly debated, such as the conclusion that most of global warming is very likely due to manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide.

However, within climate science there is a seemingly limitless set of uncertainty ranges and error bars - even about the core conclusion mentioned above. (Mental note: "error bar" would be an excellent name for an actual bar).

One of the areas where the science is advancing, and the uncertainties remain large, fascinates me more than the rest: the relationship between long-term climate change and extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfall and snowstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes.

nashville-floods.gif
Rainfall amounts from flood event around Nashville, Tn. May 1-2, 2010. Source: NASA

Although the ties between climate change and extreme weather events often elicit absolute statements from advocates on various sides of the climate change issue, the reality is that while much can be said, much remains unknown. The challenge for reporters as well as scientists is to accurately convey both the scientific findings and the uncertainties surrounding them.

Many journalists, politicians, and climate scientists have run into trouble by portraying the links between climate change and extreme weather in stark terms, rather than shades of gray. On a weekly basis I see headlines along the lines of "Global warming caused [insert extreme weather event here]." I've written some of these stories myself, although hopefully I've managed to steer clear of directly attributing an individual weather event to global warming.

Last week, two high-profile studies on the detection and attribution of extreme precipitations events were published in the journal Nature, again bringing the issue of extreme weather events and climate change to the forefront. Coming on the heels of a remarkably snowy winter for many parts of the U.S., and massive flooding in Pakistan and Australia last year, the media treated these studies as a major story, and rightfully so.

The studies offer a look at how far climate science has come in shedding light on the ties between extreme events and global climate change, as well as how much more research is needed in order to help society adapt to a climate in which past assumptions about extreme events often no longer hold true.

nashville-floods-2.gif
This May 3, 2010 photo, shows an aerial view of a flooded neighborhood in Nashville, Tenn. Source: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File

One of the studies examines trends in precipitation extremes throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere, while the other investigates one particularly damaging flooding event in the U.K. in 2000. Both of the studies find that human activities have likely tipped the odds in favor of such precipitation extremes. A previous study in 2003 had found similar results with regard to the deadly European heatwave that year.

As exemplified by these two studies, there is mounting evidence that the fingerprint of human-caused climate change can already be seen in the statistics of some types of extreme weather. Primarily these are precipitation extremes and warm temperature extremes, including heat waves. Other studies have also found possible manmade links to trends in hurricane intensity, and there is ongoing research examining potential changes to drought severity and frequency as well.

The physical mechanism behind the link between warming global average land and ocean temperatures and more frequent heavy precipitation events is rather simple to understand - as air warms, it can hold more water vapor, which means that more water can then be squeezed out of the atmosphere as liquid or frozen precipitation. However, the devil is in the details, since there are discrepancies between computer-simulated changes in heavy precipitation and observed changes (the observed changes are more significant than those in the simulations).

It's important to note that studies do not show that every type of extreme weather event will become more common, more severe, or both, in a warming world (shades of gray, remember?). For example, there is nothing to suggest that tornadoes have become more common or severe in recent decades, or that they will in the future due to a warmer climate. Plain old weird weather that has nothing to do with climate change will still occur in a warming world.

Thus, claiming that every odd occurrence is linked, at least in part to human-caused climate change is inaccurate. As NASA researcher and Real Climate blogger Gavin Schmidt wrote last week:

...Not all extremes are the same. Discussions of 'changes in extremes' in general without specifying exactly what is being discussed are meaningless. A tornado is an extreme event, but one whose causes, sensitivity to change and impacts have nothing to do with those related to an ice storm, or a heat wave or cold air outbreak or a drought."
There is no theory or result that indicates that climate change increases extremes in general. This is a corollary of the previous statement - each kind of extreme needs to be looked at specifically - and often regionally as well.

At the same time, ignoring the growing evidence that certain types of extreme events are already shifting, or claiming that a single study proves there is no climate change link with extreme weather - as a Wall Street Journal op-ed writer did last week - is also flat out wrong, and not just because of the two studies published last week (don't just take my word for it, the authors of the study published a letter to the editor late yesterday correcting some of the writer's misconception).

A report published by the Bush administration in 2008 (based in part on the work of the U.N. IPCC, but focusing specifically on North America) had already concluded that human activities are associated with changing characteristics of certain kinds of extreme weather events, and the evidence keeps on accumulating . Scientists meanwhile, are refining their methods of attributing extreme events and the way they are changing to various causes, among which are greenhouse gas emissions.

Regarding extreme temperatures, the report stated: "Human-induced warming has likely caused much of the average temperature increase in North America over the past fifty years and, consequently, changes in temperature extremes..." And on the precipitation front, the report found, "Heavy precipitation events averaged over North America have increased over the past 50 years, consistent with the observed increases in atmospheric water vapor, which have been associated with human-induced increases in greenhouse gases."

The report did not find, however, links between climate change and tornadoes, or many other weather phenomena, once again illustrating the pitfalls of an absolutist approach.

By Andrew Freedman  | February 23, 2011; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Freedman  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: Slowly warmer, rain late Thurs.
Next: Snow in San Francisco? Could happen late Friday

Comments

"There are core scientific findings in climate science that most climate researchers, and most science journalists, including myself, no longer consider to be hotly debated, such as the conclusion that most of global warming is very likely due to manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide."

Then why can't we see the data and the methods?

Even before Climategate, the people doing the core 'research' wouldn't release their data. Anyone who asked to look at their findings met with a brick wall. When Phil Jones couldn't duck the question any more, he sheepishly announced that the raw data was such a mess that 'it would probably be impossible to reproduce our results'. C'mon, Phil, you got caught fudging your data, admit it.

Just because major scientific organizations release statements of solidarity with the AGW faithful, it does NOT follow that all members of those organizations buy into it. But that fallacy is the cornerstone of the AGW argument - that all those scientists are monolithic on global warming. That's preposterous.

Honestly, we heretics - sorry, 'deniers' - have more open minds than you give us credit for, but before we restructure the economy of the entire world, you're going to have to make your case. And just repeating over and over again, without any particularly compelling evidence, that 'the science is settled', just isn't going to cut it.

Like you were told in grade school: Show your work.

Posted by: snibbor0 | February 23, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I'll bet Joe Romm wrote this piece for Andrew Freeman.

CWG = POS

Posted by: NyallsStJohnSmytheIV | February 23, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

It's certain that a variety of AGW (Anthropomorphic Global Warming) deniers' number-free climate models are true. But on the other hand, clear and simple, CO2 is a greenhouse gas. Raise this in the air and, as simple as keeping a window shut, more heat stays in.

But despite this CO2 stuff, it's clear that the events we're seeing - (melting glaciers, more extreme weather, thinning arctic ice, colder weather for Europe, melting permafrost, species migrations, massive Antarctic ice shelves breaking off, more droughts in Russia and the prairies, record temperatures), are all coincidences of some sort.

We also have a whole army of dishonest and evil scientists who are not reporting honestly on what they're seeing.

We also have big oil and big coal steadfastly reassuring us that there's nothing to see here - and heaven knows, they certainly have our best interests in mind, but... but sometimes I wonder...Could the simple explanation that ties it all together (AGW), be the right one?

Posted by: dlweld | February 23, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Interesting post Andrew. I believe you make an excellent point against absolutism and "settled sciences". Over the past year, I have definitely detected trends/changes in the debate including...

Two studies = "mounting evidence"?

Weather (events) = climate (change)?

Hurricane intensity increasing? http://www.coaps.fsu.edu/~maue/tropical/global_running_ace.jpg

And to top it off the 2008 government report linked above focuses only on the increase in the Atlantic storm intensity which magically coincides with the long-known AMO cycle. And it forgets to mention the "expected" increase in snowy winters!

Posted by: MattRogers1 | February 23, 2011 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Keep these excellent, readable articles coming, Mr. Freedman. They provide interesting information, and, side benefit, they drive the IMBOF types nuts. (It Must Be Obama's Fault)

Posted by: dustygroundhog | February 23, 2011 11:45 AM | Report abuse

andrew,
like you, i "cringe" when people attribute specific events to global warming (or mock global warming during a snow storm...). the atribution of the specific effects of warming are much much much more difficult to project than the basic physics, confirmed by years of data, of greenhouse gas.

dlweld, you asked,
"Could the simple explanation that ties it all together (AGW), be the right one?"

well, of course it's the right answer. but it's much more boring than imagining "they're out to get me" (by taking away my car or money whatever).

matt,
seriously, i'd like to know more about the "'expected' increase in snowy winters!"

are you saying someone has predicted this? or this is what has been observed? i remember an article here this winter about some oscillation causing cold air to "spill" down to virginia. it that part of it? and/or is it more that the potential for increased moisture in the air could bring more snow?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 23, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Matt, thx for commenting. There have been many more than two studies showing increases in precip extremes, possibly tied to a warming climate - thus the use of "mounting evidence." In fact, the likelihood that precipitation extremes (both heavy rains and drought conditions) will increase in a warming world is considered by many scientists to be one of the more robust conclusions, and was included in the IPCC 2007 assessment.

The 2008 CCSP report does mention increased snowfall in the northeast and parts of Canada, although I didn't closely dissect that section for this article.

Also, on the hurricane intensity question, the consensus statement put out by researchers on various sides of that debate offers a very good overview of the current state of research. http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n3/abs/ngeo779.html

Posted by: afreedma | February 23, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, please address the question of whether increased rainfall is accompanied by increasing, more severe, droughts in some areas.

Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | February 23, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Andrew, yes, it does mention the Northeast snowfall in conjunction with the northward shift in winter time snow extent. It does not reference any expected southward shift of snow cover extent as we have seen the last two winters (above normal extent in Northern Hemisphere). http://moe.met.fsu.edu/snow/

Posted by: MattRogers1 | February 23, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Common sense tells me that warming is a good thing. A winter beach is narrow and coarse and a summer beach is wide and fine. The beach form is determined by wave energy.

So far, however, there is no experimental evidence in favour of CO2 as a tipping point trigger for heat as measured for ambient air temperature. All evidence suggests heat islands around urban centers.

Read "The Chilling Stars" and rewrite your un-biased column, or check out Pier Corbyn's long range weather forecast accuracy. I'll let you Google the references.

Posted by: artesian1 | February 23, 2011 12:28 PM | Report abuse

matt,
interesting snow link there. those are observations, right? they do seem to show an ever-so-slight increase in winter snowcover and an even slighter decrease in summer snow. is it a statistically significant amount?

is there any "theory" or paper(s) or anything predicting/explaining increased snow in the context of AGW?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 23, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I think there are some altered patterns relating to rainfall and drought. Some of these changes may be due to temperature change, but the link between temperature change and planetary wave [jet stream] patterns needs to be clarified since jet stream pattern changes are the main force driving temperate-zone weather regimes.

In general global warming should result in a poleward movement of the Rossby circulation [jet stream] westerlies in each hemisphere, and a possible weakening of the Rossby circulation as temperature contrasts between poles and Equator are lessened.

In lower latitudes the subtropical highs may expand, leading to greater areas of drought where warm air sinks. The monsoonal trough or ITCZ may stay closer to the Equator, but may also move greater distances northward and southward with the seasons.

Such factors as ENSO and the Madden-Julian Oscillation will exert greater importance in tropical latitudes. Tropical wet and dry seasons may be more pronounced with different seasonal duration.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | February 23, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

artesian1, you said,
"So far, however, there is no experimental evidence in favour of CO2 as a tipping point trigger for heat as measured for ambient air temperature. All evidence suggests heat islands around urban centers."

see:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

"it's the urban heat island effect" is false argument #22:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/urban-heat-island-effect.htm

not sure i understand your "tipping point" reference with respect to co2 warming. "tipping point" is really just a red herring as warming w/o a "tipping point" will still occur. nonetheless, skepticism about co2 as a greenhouse gas is addressed in many arguments including #29, 40, 41, 84 and maybe #137 among others.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 23, 2011 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman wrote, " ... As a reporter, I tend to see things in varying shades of gray, rather than black and white, and I gravitate towards stories that are full of nuance and complexity, where absolutes are rarely, if ever, to be found."

Yes, you prefer the nuanced phrase "consistent with", instead of actually stating that some weather event can be directly attributed to catastrophic, man made, someplace other than the United States, warming. Very nuanced of you. You get to imply it, without actually stating it. So very nuanced.

You also wrote, "For this reason, the oft-made assertions that "global warming will make the weather more extreme" or that warming "caused" a particular severe weather event to occur, make me cringe."

It may make you cringe, but it doesn't stop you from participating in it, does it?

There is my personal favorite of yours -
Australians Link Climate Change and Deadly Fires

Did you "cringe" when you wrote, "The deadliest bushfires in Australian history continue to rage out of control, having already claimed at least 181 lives, according to the BBC. As the country takes stock of the staggering losses incurred over the weekend, some policymakers, scientists, and journalists are already laying part of the blame on global climate change.?

You somehow failed to mention in that column the real reason for the drought, the Indian Ocean Dipole, and the real reason for the fires, an arsonist. But you did mention "climate change".

You wrote an entire column about the drought and fires without using the words IOD, Indian Ocean Dipole, arson, or arsonist! But you did mention "climate change" 8 times!!

Did you "cringe" as you wrote that? I know I cringed when I read it.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 23, 2011 1:25 PM | Report abuse

How about this one -
Expert: Blizzards "consistent with" climate change

Did you "cringe" when you wrote, "As is often the case with extreme weather events, the recent record snows have sparked spirited discussions about global climate change. Some climate change skeptics, such as Oklahoma Republican Senator James Inhofe, seem to think the snow is evidence against manmade climate change. Most climate scientists think otherwise, however."?

Just curious.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 23, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse

I LOVE this "nuance"! Check this one out -
Freedman: Increasingly Going to Extremes

You wrote, "As a swollen Mississippi River breached levees last week, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program released a report that warned of more heavy precipitation events and associated flooding in the coming years due to global climate change."

You didn't come right out and blame the flooding Mississippi River on "climate change". Heck no. That wouldn't be nuanced at all! No, yours is the much more subtle and nuanced approach.
Step 1 - Write about it as the event is occurring.
Step 2 - Mention the event and how horrible it is.
Step 3 - Point to some study that "links events like this" to climate change.

But never come right out and say that climate change is responsible for this particular weather event. So very, very, very nuanced.

Just write things like, "Keep reading to learn more about the risk of future climate extremes in the U.S. How extreme will this week's weather locally be?"

And, "The report, which is part of a series of narrowly focused climate science studies published by the Bush administration, found that extreme weather and climate events have been occurring with increasing regularity and severity in recent years in North America, largely as a result of human-induced climate change."

Did you cringe when you wrote that, or did you pat yourself on the back for your brilliant nuance?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 23, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Next thing you know they'll be talking about snow in San Francisco!

Posted by: larryn703 | February 23, 2011 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Steve - As you know, there is a solid theoretical underpinning for the conclusion that precip extremes (both heavy rains and drought) will increase in frequency and severity in the future. But so far, at least according to the 2008 CCSP report, the drought signal has been fuzzier to discern in N. America. I have not interviewed drought experts, such as Columbia's Richard Seager, recently, so I may be behind the curve on that, and perhaps studies have identified a clearer signal either here or other places around the world.

Posted by: afreedma | February 23, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Andrew for your reply. I recall a study done by ECMWF that seemed to indicate that increased rainfall was just about offset by drought extremes. But this was quite a while ago and I have not followed the question much since. So, perhaps we are both behind the curve on this important issue and/or there is nothing much new to report.


Posted by: SteveT-CapitalWeatherGang | February 23, 2011 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman, I can honestly see where more co2 in the atmosphere would increase the warmth in the atmosphere would produce rain events, bigger hurricanes, thunderstorms but what about the extreme cold? A few years back stories was circulating of warmer winters less snow, rainy winters was to be the norm in the east coast, which again is perfectly understandable, but again where does the record breaking cold fit into the global warming scenario? Even certain snow events could be linked to warming when the gulf moister overruns the cold air, but this is rarely the case. So if climate change makes extremely cold winter, we will all freeze to death? Just a question, nobody has ever convinced how the warming is causing the horribly cold winters?

Posted by: donniewv | February 23, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman, I can honestly see where more co2 in the atmosphere would increase the warmth in the atmosphere would produce rain events, bigger hurricanes, thunderstorms but what about the extreme cold? A few years back stories was circulating of warmer winters less snow, rainy winters was to be the norm in the east coast, which again is perfectly understandable, but again where does the record breaking cold fit into the global warming scenario? Even certain snow events could be linked to warming when the gulf moister overruns the cold air, but this is rarely the case. So if climate change makes extremely cold winter, we will all freeze to death? Just a question, nobody has ever convinced how the warming is causing the horribly cold winters?

Posted by: donniewv | February 23, 2011 4:49 PM | Report abuse

A recent study shows that global warming will cause an increase in earthquake activity. It also will, for sure, increase the divorce rate and promote homosexuality among women in their twenties.

Posted by: JerryB2 | February 23, 2011 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman, today you wrote, "For this reason, the oft-made assertions that "global warming will make the weather more extreme" or that warming "caused" a particular severe weather event to occur, make me cringe."

But in August 2008, while criticizing a Washington Post reporter, you wrote, "As the climate warms it increases the likelihood of certain weather events, such as bouts of extreme precipitation or temperature. According to the work of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, journalists are on solid scientific ground when they bring up climate change in the context of extreme weather events."

In that very same column of yours, you wrote, "Two prominent bloggers in the climate change arena also had strong, but very different, reactions to Achenbach's piece. Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado praised the story for its "nuanced" approach, while Joe Romm of Climate Progress came out swinging at Achenbach, calling his piece, "a typically uninformed journalistic 'backlash' piece, whereby a reporter creates a straw man and then sets it on fire.""

You put quotation marks around the "nuanced" as used by Roger Pielke Jr.! But today, you tout your own preference for nuance.

My how times change. I suppose I should be thankful for it.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 23, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse

The real problem, it seems to me, is the difficulty that the AGW theorists have had in predicting future weather patterns. What got AGW so much attention was not merely the hypothesis that the Earth was warming, but the assertion that warming would come with catastrophic results. Scientists began predicting tragic consequences. But those predictions didn't pan out. Now, the trend is simply to blame bad things on AGW after the fact, or quibble over a little more precipitation in one area or a little less in another as being in the same league as the grandiose predictions that never came true.

At this point, AGW looks good on paper, but has been frustrating resistant to real world application.

Another hole in the science is its normative analysis. In other words, what is the "optimal" climate? Are we in it right now? If not, is the optimal cooler? Warmer? Why? When AGW theorists claim that warming will create horrible effects, the natural corrolary is that cooling would be beneficial. Is that correct?

Posted by: Sycamancy | February 23, 2011 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Climategate open my mind and I don't believe that many clime change scientist are telling the truth. Many operate to get grant money, fame or free lavish conference trips based on our tax dollar. For some global waring is a religion.
DanNJ

Posted by: system317 | February 23, 2011 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I see lots of back and forth from weather geeks about whether the rising atmospheric CO2 levels and climate changes we're seeing are related to or even caused by human activity. I think it's hard to argue that rising CO2 level is not occuring and net disappearance of glaciers and polar sea ice, rising sea level and bulk ocean temperature, and rising average atmosphere temperature are imaginary, and will not have disruptive consequences for humanity at some point. So maybe we should focus on what we're going to do when a billion people want to migrate to the US when there is no more glacial meltwater flowing down from the Himalayas into India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma. And even if that isn't reason enough to figure out how to burn less carbon-based fuel (on the chance that there might be something to the idea of AGW), there's a finite amount of the stuff, and burning it is nasty. If we can't figure out a good reasong to do that for ourselves, $200/barrel oil and $6 gas will help convince us I think...

Posted by: Laura_8068 | February 23, 2011 6:43 PM | Report abuse

Andrew says: "...as air warms, it can hold more water vapor, which means that more water can then be squeezed out of the atmosphere as liquid or frozen precipitation. However, the devil is in the details, since there are discrepancies between computer-simulated changes in heavy precipitation and observed changes...'

Nearly every day our air warms and holds more water vapor. Some days there is enough instability for clouds, showers, or thunderstorms. The season for thunderstorms should lengthen since they are warm phenomena. First link I found for thunderstorm trend was "Long-term variability of thunderstorms and thunderstorm precipitation occurrence in Cracow, Poland, in the period 1896-1995" which states "The analysis also found that the annual average number of days with thunderstorms in the winter season has increased, especially during the last 30 years."

Second link was "Extreme Weather Trends Vs. Dangerous Climate Change: A Need for Critical Reassessment" which states "However, a careful analysis of observed data on world-wide extreme weather events does not reveal any increasing trend in these events, thus suggesting a mismatch between reality and the hypothesis of dangerous climate change" This article was published in the much maligned "Energy and Environment" which does not censor alternative views.

The jury is still out, but if indeed the water cycle is increasing (not necessarily the same as extreme events), that is a negative feedback and climate sensitivity will be correspondingly lower, so no need to worry about Greenland melting anymore. The main problem with Andrew's statement is that the climate models do not have sufficient resolution to depict the kinds of localized extreme events that have been noted. Widespread events, for example river basin flooding, show no trend, but what does show trends is new records in individual rain gauges or a small group of gauges.

That is due to the weather: once the water is "squeezed" out by the cooling and causing the cooling that Andrew didn't talk about, the global warming is no longer a factor for that area and surroundings. The topography, the surface air convergence and the frontal boundary movements are all naturally bounded and driven. The main AGW variable is heat which is just one factor that can predominate or be overridden by other factors. It would have a more local effect prior to extreme weather, e.g. triggering those winter thunderstorms.

Posted by: eric654 | February 23, 2011 8:32 PM | Report abuse

Walter, as steve or somebody pointed out in a recent post, the oscillation is just a measurement and didn't cause anything. It is a measurement of some effects, of which the causes are a complex combination of weather and climate (natural cycles and man made e.g. ice loss).

Posted by: eric654 | February 23, 2011 8:37 PM | Report abuse

You said:
" There are core scientific findings in climate science that most climate researchers, and most science journalists, including myself, no longer consider to be hotly debated, such as the conclusion that most of global warming is very likely due to manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide."

You might want to reconsider that.
\The GreenHouse Effect (GHE) was quantified by Svante Arrhenius in his 1896 paper.
He identified that when an added energy photon is added to an added Greenhouse gas (GHG, principally CO2) that global warming ensues. or as Arrhenius put it:
"if the quantity of carbonic acid (CO2) increases in geometric progression, the augmentation of the temperature will increase nearly in arithmetic progression."
This conclusion has become the IPCC Mantra that "More GHGs means more warming" (AR4, WG1, Ch1, p116).

The problem is that this conclusion is not valid, and the error was not identified by the presumed peer review of the paper.
When one considers the actual circumstances of the GHE on Earth, it is obvious that
1. At all times there is an excess of GHGs over the number of energy photons in the air available for the GHE. At the peak daily temperature then the Earth is radiating the peak number of IR photons, which presumably get used in the GHE process, as confirmed by the saturation of the GHE absorbable frequencies.. At all lower temperatures the number of photons is lower, hence the number of GHGs in use by the GHE is lower.. At 289K the average, it is about 30% lower that at 313 K or 40C, since the GHE is lower, some of the GHGs which were being used in the GHE are now unused or excess. This would also be true at the all time peak measured temperature of 58C (331K). Basic observations that there exists GHG water that is not at the ~900C temperature of an absorbed photon confirms this.
2. The GHE increases when both an energy photon and a GHG are available. OR since there is always excess GHGs whenever the number of photons increases, for example every morning when the sun rises.
3. The GHE does NOT increase, when only the GHG is added. For example, if there is no added energy photon, (which happens every night as the incoming energy, (& hence the radiated IR energy is reducing), then the addition of an added GHG only results in adding a GHG to the excess already in the air., BECAUSE there is no added photon to interact with the added GHG. All available photons are already interacting with existing GHGs to produce the existing GHE warming.. This is confirmed experimentally every night, or any time the temperature reduces. It is also confirmed whenever it rains and the number of GHGs Water Vapor doubles or triples but the GHE temperature does not change.

As a consequence the Arrhenius /IPCC conclusion should be changed to "More Energy Photons causes more GHE warming."

For more info see "Gravity causes Climate Change" in www.scribd.com.

Posted by: JDoddsGW | February 23, 2011 9:19 PM | Report abuse

JDoddsGW said "All available photons are already interacting with existing GHGs to produce the existing GHE warming."

I don't think it is very meaningful that 'all available photons are interacting the GHGs". What matters is whether more photons leave the atmosphere or less as a function of GHG concentrations. There are IR photons captured by IR satellite over the entire earth at all times of the day in all weather. There are very few photons leaving the surface sometimes, and other times there are lots of GHG and clouds absorbing many and reemitting them downwards, but there are never zero photons leaving.

Because there are never zero photons leaving the atmosphere, a change in GHGs will always have some effect, albeit in some cases very small.

Posted by: eric654 | February 23, 2011 9:31 PM | Report abuse

When asked in 1993 about the validity of "global warming" by a reporter, I felt a trap, so I said "the signature of climate change is in the increased frequency and amplitude of extreme events." The reporter said "huh?" I said "more extremes, more often," which made sense to the reporter. The 1988 Midwest drought and 1993 flood were still on a lot of people's minds.

I feel we are dealing with *both* ends of the probability distribution, skipping the middle. Climate change can nudge us toward having way too much or way too little. Although there have been a number of named hurricanes, the US has been spared direct hits lately. Other parts of the world not. Who knows if/when our turn is coming?

Scientists take observations (count cards) of what Mother Nature is dealing. We come up with a system (model) to predict an outcome and place our bets. The question is "will she change the blackjack deck when we aren't looking?"

Posted by: theshredder | February 24, 2011 12:42 AM | Report abuse

Laura_8068 wrote, "And even if that isn't reason enough to figure out how to burn less carbon-based fuel (on the chance that there might be something to the idea of AGW), there's a finite amount of the stuff, and burning it is nasty. If we can't figure out a good reasong to do that for ourselves, $200/barrel oil and $6 gas will help convince us I think..."

There is an old proverb that says, "Be very careful what you wish for, you just might get it."

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 24, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

One should quickly realize the cost of Global weather going nuts by simple glance at our sky and you will see - abnormally beautiful sunsets, square clouds, dispersing “contrails”, falling down dead birds.
Instead of fresh breath after rain, chilling nightfalls and steady winter temperature we are getting hot and sticky nights, humidity after rain and melting to the ground snow few times per season (I’m talking Eastern Canada).
Sure this is “normal” for somebody 20 years old, but I still remember other climate pattern and I still love to have fresh air after rain.
In 1970s tremendous radio signal was sent over the globe by Russian army’s monstrous installations - so call over-horizon radars. “Woodpecker” (this signal was called) sent millions species dead around the globe since then. And nobody hear it because it will go trough the brain screwing the fine tunning. Does any of scientists do the research? I’m pretty sure not many and their findings are not publicized. Any human (and this is us) geo-engineering are seems to covered-up well. Until it publicly discussed let us enjoy over-horizon hurricanes, earthquakes in no-fault zones and falling birds last songs.

Good Night reading - Tom Bearden "Fer-de-Lance"

Posted by: AnatolyIgnatiev | February 24, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

The interesting thing about global warming science is that no matter what happens it is held up as proof of global warming. A scientific principle should be able to be proven and disproven. It would be like Newton saying that gravity exists whether the apple falls to the ground or floats away. One proves and the other disproves gravity. What do scientists say will disprove global warming? Their predictions of future weather events so far have missed the mark by wide margins every time. What have they gotten right? Pollution is a bad thing and needs to be addressed, but don't create phony problems like man made global warming to deal with it.

Posted by: bd223 | February 24, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Andrew,
excellent turn of phrase...those who are espousing absolutes are seldom true scientists...now please do a little math in public....chart the increase in the worlds population...multiple by the CO2 we exhale...pick any of the numbers used for increased emissions and we see that the human ANIMAL is a significant part of the equation....then a lot of those people rely on methane producing animals etc etc AND cars....but until population growth itself is item #1 of the discussion, we will be baying at the moon

Posted by: illegitimatinoncarborundum | February 24, 2011 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"What do scientists say will disprove global warming?"

(i'm going to assume by "global warming", you mean the theory that rising co2 levels are causing global warming.)

that's easy! 30 or 40 years of constantly cooling global temperatures, along with a theory for why all that co2 wasn't responsible for the warming since the 70s.

the thing you're talking about with the "weather events" is just that: WEATHER. that's not CLIMATE. these predictions about how global warming will affect WEATHER by causing droughts here or monsoons there or more/less snow here/there are (should be, anyway) expressed with much, much less certainty than the basic theory that co2 causes warming.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 24, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse

walter-in-fallschurch wrote, "that's easy! 30 or 40 years of constantly cooling global temperatures, along with a theory for why all that co2 wasn't responsible for the warming since the 70s."

Do you hold the current catastrophic, man made, global warming theory to the same standard? Do you require 30 or 40 years of constantly warming temperatures, along with a theory/explanation why the warming isn't natural? Other than the, "we can't explain it any other way" excuse currently offered?

You know this reminds me of something else! The other day, you gave a very similar answer. But in that answer you wrote, -
--begin quote--
"of course there are. if temperatures were to actually start dropping - and continue to drop for 30 or 40 years - that might disprove it.

if those temperature drops were found to be not associated with NAO, PDO, ENSO etc - that might disprove AGW.
--end quote--

In that answer you specifically said those temperature drops would need to be found to be NOT associated with "NAO, PDO, ENSO", etc..., in order to satisfy you.

Then, in a later thread, you wrote this in reply to a study that I linked to, -
--begin quote--
mr.q,
"great pacific climate shift"?

aka, "it's the PDO"?

really? that's #57...
http://www.skepticalscience.com/Pacific-Decadal-Oscillation.htm

http://www.skepticalscience.com/images/PDO_vs_Temp.gif
--------------

arctic tipping point:
wow... so arctic ice isn't doomed? (it is... read on)

--end quote--

It would seem that you eschew any natural cause for the rise in temperature, while at the same time demanding proof that natural causes are not involved should there be a decrease in temperature. Aren't you trying to have it both ways?

If you don't think there can be any natural cause to the rise in temperature, why would you think there could be a natural cause to a theoretical decrease in temperature?

Do you think that there is no component of natural causes currently associated with the recent minuscule rise in temperatures?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 24, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Mr Q, the strategy of skepticalscience is divide and conquer. They show in the PDO gif Walter linked above that PDO is flat for a century and temperature has risen for a century, QED. Repeat for solar, cosmic rays, whatever else they want to. The problem is that part of the rise in the 90's was PDO, not AGW and ignoring that detail makes the analysis worthless.

Here's an oversimplified natural sequence: some factor A warms the earth, then factor A drops but doesn't cause cooling. Factor B takes over and warms the earth having spent prior time "below zero" but not causing cooling. Thereby we see a continuous warming but looking at each factor they appear to average out to zero over the duration.

The main problem (and the problem with the graphic) is that PDO index is not a direct link to temperature, it is a measurement of various weather effects. What happens is that PDO, cosmic, solar UV and many other natural influences change the weather or are indexes of weather which change the sensitivity to slight warming from CO2 or solar TSI. They can themselves cause warming or cooling but only under particular conditions with the same sensitivity constraints.

I have little doubt that increasing CO2 will cause increasing global warming, maybe 0.5C in the coming century. All amplification of that warming depends on natural factors. There may be no amplification especially if we see the increase in the water cycle implied by the extreme event trend postulated above. The uncertainty is not in amplification (none or modest) but in natural warming and cooling factors (right now looks like a decade or two of cooling on the way)

Posted by: eric654 | February 24, 2011 11:45 PM | Report abuse

eric654,

This is not about skepticalscience. This is about Walter trying to have it both ways. Walter poo poos the possibility of natural influences, such as the PDO, in any recent warming. But he also says he will demand proof that natural influences, such as the PDO, did not cause a hypothetical cooling. According to Walter, after 30 or 40 years of cooling, combined with proof positive that the cooling isn't natural, that "might disprove AGW". Might!

So even if the temperature were completely flat for 30 or 40 years, that alone would not disprove AGW (perhaps he has forgotten what the W stands for). No, the temperature would have to decrease, AND you would have to convince him that natural factors were not involved. Then it might disprove AGW. Good grief.

I don't think he should get to have it both ways. He can't simultaneously poo poo natural forces playing a role in a temperature rise, while insisting he would need proof that they played no role in a temperature decrease.

I'm throwing the BS flag on the play.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2011 12:33 AM | Report abuse

Laura_8068 wrote, "And even if that isn't reason enough to figure out how to burn less carbon-based fuel (on the chance that there might be something to the idea of AGW), there's a finite amount of the stuff, and burning it is nasty. If we can't figure out a good reasong to do that for ourselves, $200/barrel oil and $6 gas will help convince us I think..."

Be careful what you wish for!

---begin quote---
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. consumers could see food costs spiking to levels seen during the food crisis of 2008 as higher commodity and energy prices force companies to raise prices on products lining grocery store shelves, the Agriculture Department said on Thursday.
---end quote---

Source of the above quote.

Can you name a single product that doesn't have an energy component in it? Either in its production or its distribution. Ever heard of the law of unintended consequences?

I wonder what food prices would be like at $200 a barrel.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 25, 2011 12:46 AM | Report abuse

All of this was in the memo that went out to the Team. It is funny how Andrew just spits out the party line. After years of making up links to weather they have seen it as a PR disaster when the weather doesn't go "their way". Look for a new strategy of deny and conquer.

Posted by: Tom8 | February 25, 2011 1:29 AM | Report abuse

mr. q.,
gee, glad to see you've been paying such close attention to my posts...! i don't think i'm being contradictory or trying to have it both ways.

my use of the word "might", which you've totally seized on way beyond its significance, was largely rhetorical. but strictly speaking "might" IS correct because there could still be an "unknown unknown." "might" is correct, just like now it technically correct to say scientists think co2 "might" be causing global warming.

it could be natural global warming (NGW?). smart people have thought of all sorts natural things it could be. that skeptical science website tries to go through all of them. i urge you to go on there and raise your points. i know eric has and found them tolerably polite etc...

if co2 levels keep rising and temperatures do start dropping, scientists would have some serious 'splainin' to do. they'd probably start by looking to natural factors like PDO etc, and if none could be found they WOULD have to totally revise their understanding of co2's role as a greenhouse gas.

we think co2 is a "greenhouse" gas. that's just a basic physics/thermodynamics thing. a simple science-fair level experiment can show that. of course the atmosphere is much more complicated than could be represented in a science fair, but all the feedbacks and complications are operating on a system where humans are pumping co2, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The author believes that: "most of global warming is very likely due to manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide." There is one giant problem with that: before you can even talk about causes you must demonstrate that global warming exists. Satellite global temperature measurements show that within the last thirty yars there was only one short spurt of warming. It raised global temperature by a third of a degree ib four years and the stopped in the year 2002. Cause: oceanic, not anthropogenic. A third of a degree may sound small but it actually amounts to half of what has been attributed to the entire twentieth century. It, and not any greenhouse effect is responsible for the unusually warm first decade of this century. Arctic warming which is very real is caused by warm Atlantic currents flowing into the Arctic, not greenhouse effect which is loudly touted by "climate" experts. You may want to tell me that Hansen proclaimed the arrival of warming to the Senate in 1988. So he did, and the warming he told us is totally phony. Satellites do not see any warming in the eighties and nineties. Instead of warming, this period consists of climate oscillations, up and down by half a degree, until the super El Nino of 1998 shows up. I know that NASA, NOAA and the Met Office show warming in the eighties and nineties.These curves are faked. In the second edition of "What Warming?" which is available on Amazon I show how it was done. It is a colossal fraud compared to which the Climategate is only the tip of the iceberg. It started in the late seventies and is still going on. A coordinating message to consider peak temperatures to be the real temperatures had to go out to produce the kinds of fake curves that they have produced.

Posted by: ArnoArrak | February 25, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

arno,
ahh.. the curves are faked, huh? do you think the data is faked or is it the statistical analysis? how many people are "in on it"?

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 25, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

walter-in-fallschurch wrote, "i don't think i'm being contradictory or trying to have it both ways.

Oh, you are definitely trying to have it both ways. You don't believe that nature has played a role in the minuscule rise, but that it might play a role in any temperature decrease. Do you remember my last reply to Steve T's comment? ;)

Take care, Walter. Watch out for that shift key.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | February 26, 2011 12:39 AM | Report abuse

"There are core scientific findings in climate science that most climate researchers, and most science journalists, including myself, no longer consider to be hotly debated, such as the conclusion that most of global warming is very likely due to manmade emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide."
You must have your head in the sand mate, as the Spectator in London is staging a hot debate on this in March this year? Your other assertion, that you contest absolutes directly contradicts the above statement. You have asserted global warming is caused by CO2! How do you know this? You fail to say why, and also those asserting it fail to release their data! Also so called scientific journals such as "Nature" have failed to ever publish a counter argument to CO2 as the causal factor for global warming! And now look at the things going on with McIntyre's experience with "Journal of Climate".
Now, I look at the graphs (no , not Al Gore's hockey stick ones), I see CO2 peaking hundreds of years after a warming episode; they are peaking in cooling. So simple logic states; how is that causing warming? I can go into more scientific counter arguments about water vapour, etc., but shall leave that to the scientists.
Out here in the real world, we see this argument as simplistic in the extreme. That's the extreme thing going on here. Otherwise temperatures seem to be in normal fluctuations of an interglacial with influences of La Nina and El Nino. We are damned lucky to be in an interglacial, as it's not going to be pretty when we descend back into ice age, which is inevitable. That's when the big droughts will occur, all the water will be frozen!
Earth has spent a greater proportion of its history in glacial/ice age. In fact if you look at graphs, we are about due for a glacial and those watching the big fiery ball in the sky think we're in for a cool time of it for a while to come ( maybe 2 decades.)
I suggest you spend more time observing the sun and become less obsessional about CO2 (... humans emit less than .02 of it). Those watching the sun predicted the recent big chills in London and USA, noone else did, so my money's on them at present.

Posted by: purpleshoe | February 26, 2011 2:47 AM | Report abuse

excellent job purpleshoe.

you've managed to pack 5 or 6 false arguments into that one post. try to see if you can find them answered here:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

Posted by: walter-in-fallschurch | February 26, 2011 10:06 PM | Report abuse

As a meteorologist, I've seen no convincing evidence of "bigger and stronger storms". All of the studies I've seen are either limited in scope or obviously flawed.

The earth has warmed. Humans are likely a driving force in this. I'm in no way a skeptic of greenhouse theory. However, so far, the "bigger and stronger storms" is just pure hype and speculation unsupported by comprehensive science.

Posted by: noweather | February 28, 2011 2:56 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2012 The Washington Post Company