Hell and High Water

Europe is broiling and the U.S. is reeling.


More than 340 people are dead as a result of the spate of tornados which struck the American southeast. Several sources have driven home the point that this event can’t with certainty be linked to global warming, after all we’ve had many tornados before. For a long time I’ve been squarely in the “we can’t link single events to global warming” camp. It’s time to change.

No, we can’t link the outburst of tornados to global warming “fer sure.” Likewise, you can’t link any single case of lung cancer to cigarette smoking “fer sure.” Not even one.

But face facts: when it comes to lung cancer, it’s irresponsible not to mention cigarette smoking. The same applies to global warming and extreme weather. As Kevin Trenberth has said:


It is irresponsible not to mention climate change. … The environment in which all of these storms and the tornadoes are occurring has changed from human influences (global warming). … With global warming the low level air is warm and moister and there is more energy available to fuel all of these storms and increase the buoyancy of the air so that thunderstorms are strong. … On average the low level air is 1 deg F and 4 percent moister than in the 1970s.

It’s time to mention climate change regarding a large number of extreme weather events. The Russian heat wave of 2010. Pakistani floods the same year. Australian floods last year. Australian drought for a decade before that. The European heat wave of 2003. Maybe — just maybe — the extremity of Hurricane Katrina. Each of these events took its toll in human life. And that’s what’s at stake: human life.

Sure we’ve had weather-related distaters before. But a pattern is emerging, one of both extremity and frequency, which is solid enough to make the insurance industry sit up and take notice. Enough to make the Pentagon sit up and take notice. It goddamn well ought to be enough to make you sit up and take notice.

In fact it’s gotten to the point that it’s no longer unusual to have two extremes happen at the same time. The Russian heat wave and Pakistani floods are an example. And we’ve got one now — while the southern U.S. suffered disastrous storms, Europe experienced the April equivalent of a heat wave.

Remember how the deniers crowed about last December being the second-coldest December in the Central England Temperature record? I wonder how Anthony Watts will spin this April being the first-hottest April in the CET record. How about having to fight wildfires in April, not just in England but in Scotland?

It may not seem like much to raise temperature by 1 deg.F and humidity by 4%. But when that applies to the entire planet, there are consequences. One of the consequences is more, and worse, extremes. Like heat waves, tornados, hurricanes, even winter snowstorms. And it’s not just a problem for the future — we’ve already reached the point where it is irresponsible not to mention climate change.

It’s bad news, very bad, because it will take its toll in human life.

But there’s worse news. It’s going to get a lot worse, because global warming will continue due to the greenhouse gases we’ve already put in the atmosphere. There’s no way to stop that. So expect it to get worse, expect it to take a more drastic toll in human life — because it will.

Worst of all, there’s even more terrible news. It will end up being a hell of a lot worse than it has to be, because of the obstruction by a few. The deniers aren’t just creating confusion, they’re paralyzing society when things are getting critical. They already have blood on their hands, they already deny both reality and responsibility, and they will have a hell of a lot more blood on their hands. Because the cost of inaction is: human life.

I’ll continue to do what I can, come hell or high water. Expect both.

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47 responses to “Hell and High Water

  1. The Wonderer

    You missed the H, I think it should be Kevin Trenberth.

    [Response: Fixed, thanks.]

  2. Here in Perth, Australia it is still drought that will be our undoing. We’ve had 50mm of rain this year, after the driest winter last year. We normally get our rain between May and September… We are hoping we will get some rain, but the outlook is bleak. No rain is forecast for the next week. Our dams are basically dry now, and we are almost totally reliant on groundwater and some desal. It’s ok for us people, we won’t run out of water any time soon as we are rich enough to basically import water, but the local vegetation and farming around here are suffering terribly. Sad days.

  3. Tamino, I am not sure who said what first, but you are linking to an article from Think Progress posted at 29 April 2011 quoting an email by Kevin Trenberth, and over at Climate Progress on April 26, 2010 at 2:12 pm I stated:

    First, global warming is never the only causal factor for a given storm. There are always local conditions and moreover for any given event it is always possible to trace back the lines of causation at least until the big bang itself. Moreover, if anything were different within the past that at least potentially could affect a given storm then in all likelihood it does affect the storm to some degree — if only because it results in one or another subatomic particle being in a different state — resulting in a storm which is slightly different from another the storm as it would exist under some alternate history.

    However, the above analysis does not take into account the chaotic nature of the weather – and given the chaotic nature of the weather, if one goes back only a few weeks, in all likelihood a slight difference would be amplified such that the storm which we observed along our timeline would not exist. And although an almost different storm in a different place might very well exist it would be so different that we would have no reason for considering it the same storm.

    Now as global warming has been taking place at least since the industrial revolution, it most certainly has been a major factor in all of the weather that we have experienced since at least the middle of the twentieth century. And as such it most certainly has been a major factor in any given storm.

    However, one can never say that it was the only factor in any given storm. The view that there is one cause for any given effect is simply an illusion resulting from the limited nature of human cognition — which typically traces back the lines of causation for any given event only so far and in any given explanation is necessarily limited to a explanations that involve a finite number of elements as causal factors.

    … then I expanded on this shortly afterwards at April 26, 2010 at 4:05 pm:

    Joseph Romm wrote as an inline response to 32, “JR: Ah, I see. Many different ways to phrase this. Yours is on the strong side.”

    Essentially, yes.

    Technically speaking, the claim that “Global warming was a major factor in the recent record floods” would be a corrigible proposition, and as such later knowledge might count against it. For example, if a climate model were to later show that a given region or season is an exception to the rule and more severe floods or storms actually became less common, this should properly be regarded as disconfirmation for the proposition as it would apply to that region.

    As such one might wish to make the more conservative statement that, “Global warming was likely a major factor in the recent record floods.” But I would argue that the reluctance to state of a particular instance (whether it be a given storm, flood, extreme year or decade) that global warming was (likely) a major factor is a relic of the Cartesian standard that requires absolute certainty.

    I would probably go with “likely.” But in either case, we don’t normally apply the Cartesian standard to either common everyday or scientific propositions where later evidence may at least potentially count against one or another proposition. And I would argue that one really shouldn’t apply the Cartesian standard in this case, either. Perhaps a defensive move on our part in reaction to the “skeptics”?

    In either case more a matter of philosophy than anything else I suppose, and both the physics and politics of climate change are much more interesting.

    I wasn’t aware of what Kevin Trenberth was thinking for at least several weeks, and was more or less writing extemporaneously and waxing philosophically. But I find no small pleasure in that Trenberth and I were thinking along similar lines.

  4. Pete Dunkelberg

    Thank you Tamino! Drought, flood, heat waves, storms and death, but more profits to Big Carbon. You must have come to the conclusion that there has been too much of this in a short time for a statistical analysis to be necessary! I think this will a topic across the net now, and some progress may ensue.

  5. John Mashey

    Don’t forget the recent drought/fires in Texas</a< which reliably elects Joe Barton.

    Oklahoma, home of James Inhofe has similarr problems.

    Recall that the models generally say that Hadley Cell extension from warming moves precipitation from US SouthWest into Mid-West.

  6. Actually what probably gets the closest to showing the similarity between what I was thinking and Trenberth’s position is the following comment30 I posted at Climate Progress on April 26, 2010 at 12:42 pm:

    I had stated that you had written, “Both you and Stu Ostro take the position that, ‘Of course, Ostro pointed out there was no way to know if global warming had ’caused’ the record floods.'”

    In contrast I would argue that you could say that, “For all intents and purposes global warming was a major factor in the recent record floods.” Or perhaps even strike the preamble, “For all intents and purposes”. Then again this might complicate a discussion or debate — if one of the other participants pushed to get you to explain what you meant.

    Trenberth qualifies his position to the effect that it should be the default position that global warming was a factor in extreme weather, and then it up to those who would argue otherwise to make their case. I make a similar point here in comment 32 in the same thread on April 26, 2010 at 2:12 pm:

    Technically speaking, the claim that “Global warming was a major factor in the recent record floods” would be a corrigible proposition, and as such later knowledge might count against it. For example, if a climate model were to later show that a given region or season is an exception to the rule and more severe floods or storms actually became less common, this should properly be regarded as disconfirmation for the proposition as it would apply to that region.

    As such one might wish to make the more conservative statement that, “Global warming was likely a major factor in the recent record floods.” But I would argue that the reluctance to state of a particular instance (whether it be a given storm, flood, extreme year or decade) that global warming was (likely) a major factor is a relic of the Cartesian standard that requires absolute certainty.

    I like that we were thinking along the same lines, but obviously his statement carries a great deal more weight — and I particularly like how he brings in the additional water vapor — which implies great moist air convection and as he points out more energy being released as water vapor condenses out of the atmosphere.

  7. CORRECTION: That should have read, “…greater moist air convection…”

  8. Heraclitus

    The CET record, and the UK wide one a well, was about half a (proper) degree above the previous record(2007), which itself was about half a degree above the earlier pack of records. This is extraodinary. Does it warrant a mention in the media here? No, not really.
    The cause seems to be very similar to the cause of the cold December weather – unusual blocking patterns over the North Atlantic and the Arctic. Climate change anyone?
    Every sane person must share the evident anger underlying your post. Thank you for continuing to do what you can, it’s easy to be so disgusted by the degenerate state of humanity on display in this debate that you withdraw yourself from it to avoid facing the unpleasant reality. I’m tempted to become such a denier. I’ve come to see this as a deliberate tactic, to disgust peope out of debate. And a sadly effective one.

    [Response: Stand firm.]

    • Timothy Chase

      You write, “I’ve come to see this as a deliberate tactic, to disgust peope out of debate. And a sadly effective one.” The denialism disgusts, it numbs, it makes you feel hopeless and it makes you angry. Any one of these can be paralyzing. I might try offering advice. Perhaps to the effect of you can’t disown the feels but have to acknowledge them, acknowledge that they are justified — then set them aside and let the facts that you wish to understand and that care be what motivates you. But I for one have difficulty getting past each of the reactions I have listed. And yet if one is to avoid the paralysis and move forward one must.

      • Heraclitus

        Tim, thanks for the reply (and also Tamino’s more succinct but equally valuable response). Numbing, hopeless anger sums up the feelings very well, but as you say, acknowledging this is important. The pure denialism itself I find easier to deal with – that I can understand the motivation helps – it is the relentless downplaying, duobt dispersion that I struggle with most. It’s much more exhausting, at least if one assumes honesty as a default in others.

  9. Tamino says: “For a long time I’ve been squarely in the “we can’t link single events to global warming” camp. It’s time to change.”

    I’ve had my concerns about this “single events non-linkage” for some time: to my mind, climate always influences weather events, so that likewise climate change will always influence weather events. It has always been so. The “we can’t link single events to global warming” notion has IMHO been badly-worded. The detail is of course in the form that the influence takes, which is in some cases relatively straightforward e.g. warmer air being capable of carrying more moisture as defined by a simple physics equation; with tornadic supercells, on the other hand, that detail remains to be fully understood.

    The very dry spell here in the UK has had a respite in the form of a thundery plume that destabilised over the past 48 hours: I understand the wildfires across Wales are all now extinguished and growers are all very relieved by the welcome rainfall, this one included!

    Cheers – John

    • Andrew Dodds

      I’m from the UK.

      April was, to use the technical term ‘A bit scary freaky’. I got sunburnt on a trip to Stoke on Trent.. in April… then in Swansea.. also in April.

      Still, the rain only added up to a couple of inches.

  10. Norway and Denmark also had record high temperatures for April.

    Here’s an article from Norway:

    – Record April warmest for 100 years

    http://www.newsinenglish.no/2011/05/04/record-april-warmest-for-100-years/

    • IIRC, it was the hottest in the nationwide record, which goes back to 1901, for Norway. April 1901 was not hotter which you can be lead to believe.

      I hate when they write “Hottest since 1901″ when they mean “Hottest on record (which started in 1901)”.

  11. John Brookes

    That CET graph – looks, dare I say it, rather hockey-stickish!

    Like Nathan, I’m from Perth in Western Australia. It doesn’t rain much here anymore. Luckily we built a desalination plant. We have a lot of groundwater too, and we are slowly sinking as we use this resource. A couple of years ago, we had a particularly wet year – but the rainfall was still below the long term average.

    Interestingly enough, back in 2006, farmers from the east of Australia were quite happily apportioning blame for their long drought to climate change. But how times and attitudes have changed. A good season or two (except for those who were totally flooded this year), and all is forgotten.

  12. John Mason wrote:

    I’ve had my concerns about this “single events non-linkage” for some time: to my mind, climate always influences weather events, so that likewise climate change will always influence weather events. It has always been so…. The detail is of course in the form that the influence takes, which is in some cases relatively straightforward e.g. warmer air being capable of carrying more moisture as defined by a simple physics equation; with tornadic supercells, on the other hand, that detail remains to be fully understood.

    I think part of the problem is that people have asked themselves whether it is possible that such an event could have taken place in the absence of global warming. Sure, it is possible. But applying the same sort of reasoning one might argue that any series of events might occur in the absence of global warming — if one simply waits long enough. But in either case statistically it could be highly improbable that such an event would have taken place in our time.

    Of course one might argue that there is some sort of threshold of significance such that a series of events moves one past the threshold — but whatever threshold one sets, if a series of events can move one past the threshold so can a single event. Besides, what threshold would be reasonable in this case?

    It will always be a matter of degree. Depending upon how far a skeptic wanted to push, he might choose to ask whether it is logically possible that a given weather event or series of events would have occurred in the absence of global warming. But by that standard one could never attribute any effect to any cause — which is absurd.

    I think one of the points Trenberth was especially good at making was how no event can be attributed fully to human causes or to natural causes. It isn’t that one event was due to anthropogenic global warming and the other to the Indian Monsoon. There are no single causes that operate independently of one-another, but instead events are the products of many causes at many different levels of analysis.

    When that fellow was shot, was he killed by the bullet, the blood loss, the gun, the pulling of the trigger or the intent of the shooter? What one assigns as the cause of death will depend upon one’s context and what is appropriate to that context, whether one is approaching it as a doctor, physicist, gun manufacturer or prosecutor.

    We’ve had just this sort of argument in the case of the Arctic blocking that resulted in the atmospheric blocking that lead to the monster heatwave in Russia last year and pushed the Indian monsoon southward, leading to the unprecedented flooding in Pakistan. You could attribute the heatwave and the flooding to the atmospheric blocking and argue that such blocking is the sort of event that one can expect to take place in nature, or that the flooding was due to the monsoon, but if one pushed back further, asking what lead to the blocking, then it became clear that global warming had played a role.

    One gets a sense for the “different levels of analysis” from the following:

    It is commonly thought that the climate response to anthropogenic global forcing should be distinct from the patterns of natural climate variability. But on the basis of studies of nonlinear chaotic models with preferred states or ‘regimes’, it has been argued that the spatial patterns of the response to anthropogenic forcing may in fact project principally onto modes of natural climate variability. Here we use atmospheric circulation data from the Northern Hemisphere to show that recent climate change can be interpreted in terms of changes in the frequency of occurrence of natural atmospheric circulation regimes. We conclude that recent Northern Hemisphere warming may be more directly related to the thermal structure of these circulation regimes than to any anthropogenic forcing pattern itself.

    Corti et al. (29 April 1999) Signature of recent climate change in frequencies of natural atmospheric circulation regimes, Nature 398, 799-802

    When the authors state, “It is commonly thought that the climate response to anthropogenic global forcing should be distinct from the patterns of natural climate variability,” this view that they are responding to roughly corresponds to the view some events or more broadly, patterns of variability, will be unmistakeably due to anthropogenic global warming. In fact, this view that they are criticizing pushes the “no single event” position further, asking whether changes in frequency might themselves be judged signatures of anthropogenic global warming — where what has been the common view is that while individual events cannot be attributed changes in frequency can.

    However, nature is behaving as it would in the presence of a forcing and it is largely indifferent to the nature of that forcing. Nevertheless, given our understanding of the phyics we can state the main cause of that forcing: the increasing levels of greenhouse gases that are due to fossil fuel combustion. The question is largely a matter of how far back you take the analysis. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases explain the change in frequency, but they also explain the higher temperatures, higher levels of humidity, the greater evaporation, the moist air convection and the frequency and severity of storms. And while we may not be able to trace the exact line of causation leading from one parcel of greenhouse gases being emitted to a particular storm or house being flooded, we have every reason to believe that our emissions were a causal factor in any storm, and the accumulated greenhouse gases and accumulated energy in the climate system a major factor in any major weather event of recent times.

  13. In Portland, we’ve had a record-breaking April as far as rainfall is concerned. Thankfully, this is much milder than tornadoes or wildfires. But there are just too many records being broken.

  14. Tamino, you write in the main essay:

    No, we can’t link the outburst of tornados to global warming “fer sure.” Likewise, you can’t link any single case of lung cancer to cigarette smoking “fer sure.” Not even one.

    But face facts: when it comes to lung cancer, it’s irresponsible not to mention cigarette smoking. The same applies to global warming and extreme weather.

    It has been pointed out before, but it deserves to be pointed out again and again that many of the front organizations that have played a role in denying anthropogenic global warming were also involved in the denial campaign surrounding the health effects of tobacco use.

    Please see:

    For those who are interested, here is a list in alphabetical order of 32 organizations involved in both the denial campaign surrounding tobacco and that surrounding Anthropogenic Global Warming. I also researched the organizations to see which would appear to be libertarian, including a source for each.

    Blowing Smoke: 32 Organizations…
    http://climate-guardian.com/smoke

    Prodominantly, it isn’t honest doubt that motivates the “skeptics” but economic interests and political ideology in the service of economic interests. And it has been since the 1970s.

    Many here are aware of the role played by the Koch brothers in the creation of the Tea Party Movement:

    Reports indicate that the Tea Party Movement benefits from millions of dollars from conservative foundations that are derived from wealthy U.S. families and their business interests. Is appears that money to organize and implement the Movement flows primarily through two conservative groups: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.

    In an April 9, 2009 article on ThinkProgress.org, Lee Fang reports that the principal organizers of Tea Party events are Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Works, two “lobbyist-run think tanks” that are “well funded” and that provide the logistics and organizing for the Tea Party movement from coast to coast. Media Matters reported that David Koch of Koch Industries was a co-founder of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), the predecessor of FreedomWorks. David Koch was chairman of the board of directors of CSE. CSE received substantial funding from David Koch of Koch Industries, which is the largest privately-held energy company in the country, and the conservative Koch Family Foundations, which make substantial annual donations to conservative think tanks, advocacy groups, etc. Media Matters reported that the Koch family has given more than $12 million to CSE (predecessor of FreedomWorks) between 1985 and 2002.

    Koch Industries has denied specifically funding Freedomworks or tea parties directly, however. The company’s director of communications wrote “”Koch companies value free speech and believe it is good to have more Americans engaged in key policy issues. That said, Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no ties to and have never given money to FreedomWorks. In addition, no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties.” Koch’s director of communications did affirm, however, that the company funds Americans for Prosperity (AFP). TPM’s Lee Fang reports that “AFP was founded in part by the company’s Executive Vice President, David Koch. He is currently the chairman of the board of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.”

    Tea Party

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Tea_Party

    The Koch brothers created Citezens for a Sound Economy which later became Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks.

    Please see:

    Among the hundreds of organizations that have received support from Koch companies and/or the Koch foundations are Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Prosperity Foundation*. In 1984, Dr. Richard Fink, Charles and David Koch and Jay Humphries co-founded the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, then known as Citizens for a Sound Economy Foundation. Over time the participants in CSE and the CSE Foundation developed different visions. In 2004, CSE became FreedomWorks and the CSE Foundation was renamed Americans for Prosperity Foundation. AFP Foundation created a 501(c)(4) organization, AFP. AFP and AFP Foundation have grown to more than 1.6 million members in all 50 states, with 31 state chapters and affiliates and more than 80,000+ donors. David Koch is chairman of the board for AFP Foundation, which has a citizen-education mission.

    Koch and Americans for Prosperity/Citizens for a Sound Economy

    http://www.kochfacts.com/kf/koch-and-americans-for-prosperitycitizens-for-a-sound-economy

    However, the Koch brothers are only part of this, albeit a big part.

    Please see for example:

    I don’t want this to become an endless professorial lecture on the general outlines of American conservatism today, so let me turn to the question at hand: who’s really behind recent Republican legislation in Wisconsin and elsewhere? I’m professionally interested in this question as a historian, and since I can’t bring myself to believe that the Koch brothers single-handedly masterminded all this, I’ve been trying to discover the deeper networks from which this legislation emerged.

    Here’s my preliminary answer.

    Telling Your State Legislators What to Do:
    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)

    The most important group, I’m pretty sure, is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and (surprise, surprise) Paul Weyrich. Its goal for the past forty years has been to draft “model bills” that conservative legislators can introduce in the 50 states. Its website claims that in each legislative cycle, its members introduce 1000 pieces of legislation based on its work, and claims that roughly 18% of these bills are enacted into law. (Among them was the controversial 2010 anti-immigrant law in Arizona.)

    Who’s Really Behind Recent Republican Legislation in Wisconsin and Elsewhere? (Hint: It Didn’t Start Here)
    William Cronon, March 15, 2011

    http://scholarcitizen.williamcronon.net/2011/03/15/alec

    More recently we have the Supreme Court decision that corporations as artificial persons (in contrast to “preferred [flesh and blood] speakers”) are a disadvantaged class whose contributions to the political campaigns of parties and individuals constitutes a form of free speech that ought to be protected – and kept secret if they so choose. I have posted this elsewhere but it bears repeating…

    The Supreme Court recently decided that corporations as artificial persons constitute a disadvantaged class and that their financial contributions to political campaigns and causes constitute a form of speech protected by the principle of freedom of speech and thus should face few restrictions:

    2. Austin is overruled, and thus provides no basis for allowing the Government to limit corporate independent expenditures. Hence, §441b’s restrictions on such expenditures are invalid and cannot be applied to Hillary. Given this conclusion, the part of McConnell that upheld BCRA §203’s extension of §441b’s restrictions on independent corporate expenditures is also overruled. Pp. 20-51.

    (a) Although the First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” §441b’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. It is a ban notwithstanding the fact that a PAC created by a corporation can still speak, for a PAC is a separate association from the corporation. Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy-it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people-political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence…. The Government may also commit a constitutional wrong when by law it identifies certain preferred speakers. There is no basis for the proposition that, in the political speech context, the Government may impose restrictions on certain disfavored speakers. Both history and logic lead to this conclusion. Pp. 20–25.

    Supreme Court of the United States: Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, No. 08–205. Argued March 24, 2009-Reargued September 9, 2009-Decided January 21, 2010

    http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-205.ZS.html

    Such rights — granted to “artificial persons” who appear to be legally obligated to eschew all morality in favor of maximizing shareholder value — and are subject to shareholder lawsuits when they fail to do so. Then a few key individuals at the very top who appear to prefer a general population that is ignorant and jingoistic and thus more malleable.

    It would appear that this is what we are up against — and have been for some time.

  15. John Mashey

    During the 1990s, I visited Perth half a dozen times and thought it was a really pleasant area, a clean, beautiful city (one of my favorites) with climate reminiscent of San Diego . Paddling canoes along the Swan and stopping off at the docks of the wineries was one of our best wine tours ever.
    Another good time was visiting Rottnest Island and seeing the quokkas (desal for them?), and of course the nearby beaches were great and Freemantle was lively fun.

    There is much sea-level infrastructure in/around Perth and this is fairly flat country near the coast. See some images.

    Give the expected movement of precipitation and sea-level rise, it’s unclear what this will be like in 2100… I really liked this place, I wish I could feel better about it.

  16. Fielding Mellish

    This might be an isolated incident, but I saw Jim Cantore state on the Weather Channel that he is convinced that climate change is driving the increasing incidence of unusually severe weather events. His narrative was much like that we’ve seen from Jeff Masters–a lifetime of weather observation that leads him to conclude that the increasing weather weirdness is climate change, not BAU. It was a weird deal where he was on location somewhere, a WC person in the studio asked him about the climate change connection, he said his experience covering the events over the years has convinced him that climate change IS driving the severe weather events, and then the segment cut off abruptly and went to what appeared to be a test pattern before moving to a commercial. I wish I had a recording of it (I think it was on Saturday, May 8, but it could have been Friday, May 7), as the ending happened very fast. Maybe others saw the same segment and can verify what I think I saw. The cutoff reminded me of some Cold War, spy, or Big Brother movie, or a Star Trek sequence. Regardless, I’m now more of a fan of Jim Cantore.

  17. LazyTeenager

    I have been paying attention to various climate, I’ll believe anything, skeptic arguments and it seems to me there is a concept missing. That is, to get extreme floods and storms, bodies of cold and warm air need to interact.

    I have formulated the hypothesis that for this to happen there must be increased equator to poles transport of air in the atmosphere. For example north polar air would be displaced into Russia, Europe and the USA while the Arctic, having a relatively small surface area would get a lot warmer.

    The driver for this process is the radiation credit at the equator and the deficit at the poles.

    The consequence of this should be a trend in the direction of air transport, aka wind direction and speed. Has this kind of trend been studied and is it a plausible idea?

  18. One “extreme” event might be bad luck, when it gets to half a dozen in as many months, it starts to sound suspicious…

    Presumably you can do some statistics on the frequency of “extreme” events and how it may have changed over the decades (grouping say floods, heat waves, cyclones, tornados, etc greater than some “big” size).

  19. “I wonder how Anthony Watts will spin this April being the first-hottest April in the CET record.”

    I believe the script runs something like this: the cold December is proof that it’s not really warming. The hot April is proof that the CET record is being manipulated.

    • Heraclitus

      I suspect that it will be more along the lines of ‘well you explained how the cold December was countered by warmer air in the Arctic [ignoring the fact that we didn’t accept that argument at the time], so this warm weather is cancelled out by the cold air over Canada’. It’s the kernal of truth in the argument that will be appealing to the more moderate readers, though of course it ignores the wider problem of climate change that both events exemplify.

    • Nah, that’s just the UHI. All that construction work for the Olympics…

  20. Related interest: Trenberth slides from last August workshop on “near real-time attribution”.

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/csi/meetings/attrworkshop_2010/group1_breakout1.pdf

  21. For those who might have missed it:

    Exclusive interview: NCAR’s Trenberth on the link between global warming and extreme deluges
    New England, Tennessee, Oklahoma…. Who’s next?
    Joe Romm interviews Kevin Trenberth, June 14, 2010

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/06/14/ncar-trenberth-global-warming-extreme-weather-rain-deluge

  22. Pete Dunkelberg

    Lazy Teenager: First, take seriously the energy of storms. Get a grasp of “latent heat” and its role. Then look up things like “Hadley cells” and “Walker circulation”, not to mention the jet stream. Then take your questions to the Wonder Blog

    http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/show.html

    clear some things up about meteorology (take a peek at Captial Climate now and then) and then try http://skepticalscience.com/

  23. Susan Anderson

    Thanks for all the good reasoning; excellent arguments.

    Timothy Chase, I “borrowed” your tobacco list and have used it; here’s what it looks like without the links, for posting in link-averse sites. I’ve put a link to the actual comment at the end, but am posting this largely because it might be useful.

    begin quote:
    The relevance to the subject matter, which I realize is a little attenuated, is that so much money is pouring into misinformation that the man on the street can prefer to think it’s all nonsense since many of these sound quite reasonable. Once you know they supported tobacco, however, it paints a different kind of picture. The information about each on may be found on either or both of Sourcewatch and ExxonSecrets:

    1. Acton Institute
    2. American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
    3. Alexis de Tocquerville Institute
    4. American Enterprise Institute
    5. Americans for Prosperity
    6. Atlas Economic Research Foundation
    7. Burson-Marsteller (PR firm)
    8. Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW)
    9. Cato Institute
    10. Competitive Enterprise Institute
    11. Consumer Alert
    12. DCI Group (PR firm)
    13. European Science and Environment Forum (defunct)
    14. Fraser Institute
    15. Frontiers of Freedom
    16. George C. Marshall Institute
    17. Harvard Center for Risk Analysis
    18. Heartland Institute
    19. Heritage Foundation
    20. Independent Institute
    21. International Center for a Scientific Ecology
    22. International Policy Network
    23. John Locke Foundation
    24. Junk Science (Steven J. Milloy)
    25. National Center for Public Policy Research
    26. National Journalism Center
    27. National Legal Center for the Public Interest (NLCPI)
    28. Pacific Research Institute
    29. Reason Foundation
    30. Small Business Survival Committee
    31. The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC)
    32. Washington Legal Foundation

    http://timespeople.nytimes.com/view/user/57076816/activities.html

    (originally borrowed from RealClimate, I think)
    It was interesting that Russell Seitz chose to label it a “DO NOT READ” list. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Seitz who has one of the most acute voices in the business, and he appears not to be a denier, but it was unlike him to change the meaning in such a sloppy way. I had an earlier post about scientific literacy as well, so it was not innocent. However, it was 14 months ago.

    • Susan Anderson wrote:

      Timothy Chase, I “borrowed” your tobacco list and have used it; here’s what it looks like without the links, for posting in link-averse sites. I’ve put a link to the actual comment at the end, but am posting this largely because it might be useful.

      I am glad you have found it useful. And don’t worry about borrowing from it (zero interest rate) or “liberating it” — if you happen to be of that political bend. I consider myself pro-capitalist but some things rise above politics and this is one of them. Anyway its open source.

      I believe there are a few links beyond the SourceWatch and Exxon Secrets. TobaccoDocuments.org for #24: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, FrontPageMagazine — which is sympathetic towards #23:Junk Science, the Naomi Oreskes article at New Statesman for #15: George C. Marshall Institute. Then the websites of a few of the organizations themselves. But yes, mostly SourceWatch and ExxonSecrets. Great resources.

      Susan Anderson wrote:

      It was interesting that Russell Seitz chose to label it a “DO NOT READ” list.

      I see what you mean. Actually as Objectivists we got the impression from ARI (a quasi-libertarian organization that at the time was being lead by the intellectual heir of Ayn Rand) that we weren’t supposed to read from those we disagreed with. Something to do with sanction of the victim and the idea that you would by purchasing such material you would be giving money to and supporting the ideas you are opposed to. But I figured you couldn’t criticize something if you didn’t read it. So I read Kant, Marx, St. Augustine. Plato, Heidegger, Sophocles — what have you.

      Same principle here. Identification precedes evaluation.

      I may not have read their material but I believe it is of value if people research these organizations — and that includes reading their material. If they have the time and inclination. And that is the function of the list. Leads for research — to whatever degree people are interested in researching them.

      Anyway I have bumped into Russell Seitz before at Real Climate. Responded to one of his comments and he responded to one of mine. Don’t know quite what to think but I haven’t really dug much.

  24. Here in the UK we seem to be having a shift to our seasonal pattern, and it’s being noticed by quite a few people I chat to. I’m careful not to ‘prime’ them – although I do steer the conversation to the weather (Not hard in the UK). Two local farmers have been having problems with dry Springs (when the crops need rain) and wet summers (when the crops need dry to ripen).

    The new pattern appears to be:
    1) Dry unusually warm spell earlier in the year (Late Mar/April/May). Caused by high pressure systems dominating.
    2) Persistant low pressure dominance in the summer when we’d normally expect to see the Azores high impacting the UK and giving us hot dry spells.

    Note 1.
    Over the last few days there’s been a ‘thundery breakdown’ of the recent high pressure. Such an occurence is more typical of July/August weather.
    Note 2.
    As mentioned in Tamino’s post the recent blocking high has been very similar to the Warm Arctic Cold Continents pattern of the last 2 winters, but with the centre of action of the high being further south – thus bringing warm air to the UK.

    The ‘new’ annual pattern seems to have started with the summer of 2007. Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more. ;)

    I’m trying to examine this anecdotal observation I outline below using ESRL, but the warm periods in the first part of the year aren’t long and at the same time in the year, and the wet summers since 2007 aren’t so far out of the norm that they stand out. Furthermore, as with the recent warm spell, the pattern isn’t homogeneous over the UK (Scotland’s had low pressures). However if this pattern persists the pattern will stand out with more years.

    The best I can do is test this ‘hypothesis and predict yet another wet summer (July/August) for the UK, dominated by low pressures without an assertion of the Azores High.

    We’ll see…

  25. Susan Anderson

    Objectivist? Yikes!

    Despite having been on the “wrong” side of a number of issues in the past, Fred Seitz’s younger cousin Russell (you’ll find him in Mooney and Oreskes) appears to be mostly pro real science at this present. He does have a sharp, eviscerating, and amusing pen. In a different style, Greenfyre, and to some extent Eli Rabett, are also playful and amusing.

    Greenfyre praises his targets for demonstrating how deep in the muck and mire they can go. It is so reassuringly sane and on the money. Before he lost his oomph (I hope only temporarily) Marc Roberts of Throbgoblins also had a habit of hitting the bullseye.

    I was interested in a simplified version because many sites censor comments with multiple links. I should make a practice of linking to your original so people can look for the many nuggets contained in your detail.

    It was fun to revisit my earlier self before I got so exhausted and sour, going great guns about scientific integrity. sigh …

  26. Thanks for speaking so plainly and forcefully, Tamino.

  27. The same can be said about the recent Aust floods – while eastern Aust was inundated, the southern west coast was burning – so bad was the floods that even at home, much of the bush fires happening in WA was unfairly ignored.

    I’ve laboured on that point myself; indulging in this “debate” over climate change does nothing but encourage continual paralysis. The deniers will do like any faithful; continue to deny the facts, while pretending to be open-minded – reminding us that all they ask for is proof. As you say, we cannot truly pin any actual case of lung cancer to tobacco or weather event to climate change – it’s a loop hole they’ll exploit until the water is shoulder high.

  28. ‘…it’s a loop hole they’ll exploit until the water is shoulder high.’

    This is news to me, none of the models have predicted sea level that high.

    • Susan Anderson

      If you’ve been following the news, last week it came out that the estimate has gone up, as expected by those of us watching realtime developments and global inactivism. It’s now about 1 1/2 meters if I remember correctly.

      A little fossicking around should find the original item – it’s been widely presented in the last week.

  29. Susan Anderson wrote:

    Objectivist? Yikes!

    Yep. For a while I wanted to become the next Leonard Peikoff. As it was, there was the break between Leonard Piekoff of the Ayn Rand Institute and David Kelley who went on to form the Institute for Objectivist Studies, then the break with George Reisman who formed The Jefferson School. While I had remained on the side of ARI with the Kelley/Peikoff split, I had some exchanges with Reisman to try and find out what had happened in his case and didn’t like what I heard.

    I went on to form The Objectivist Ring, a webring that sought to promote dialogue — and for a while was on again off again seeing my homesite of the ring (my site) place higher in the major search engines (including Google and Yahoo) than either that of ARI or IOS for “objectivism” and “objectivist.” But there were 40 websites on the ring, including The Free Radical out of New Zealand (I was their webmaster for a while but living in New Mexico), a monster website owned by Jimbo Wales who went on to form Wikipedia, Barbara Branden and someone special by the name of Chris Sciabarra.

    Anyway, I figure it helps for people to know that when I argue that certain wealthy individuals or corporations are waging a war on science in the pursuit of profits it is not because I am a socialist or something and when I talk about libertarianism or Objectivism I might have some idea what I am talking about. Personally I think government should play a somewhat larger role than your traditional libertarian. I believe in public schools, trash collection, sewage system and innoculation against diseases.

    But even if you are libertarian you pretty much have to admit that pollution is a violation of the property rights of the individual whose property you are polluting. And if you are Objectivist you should realize that by the primacy of existence that identification precedes evaluation and science takes precedence over political ideology. Besides, what we would normally call human civilization has been around for less ten thousand years. What we do in this century will have repercussions for the next 100,000 years. That is a great deal longer than the existence of any human ideology. We owe it to ourselves, our forebearers and our descendants to get this right.

    Susan Anderson wrote:

    I was interested in a simplified version because many sites censor comments with multiple links. I should make a practice of linking to your original so people can look for the many nuggets contained in your detail.

    Or just improve upon it and link to yours.

    Susan Anderson wrote:

    It was fun to revisit my earlier self before I got so exhausted and sour, going great guns about scientific integrity. sigh…

    Just do what you can, but remember to take care of yourself — otherwise you can’t really help others for very long.

    • Susan Anderson

      Thanks for the history – good lesson.

      On burnout, I wasn’t talking about in general. (Though the conversation has gone seriously downhill rather than progress being made. At one point the CRU hack was effectively compared to McCarthyism but it didn’t stick, only the lies stuck.) I was talking about that March ’10 article where I hope and think I managed to be clear about what science is and does.

      Anger is a great spur to action, but a terrible influence on effective communication.

  30. Susan Anderson wrote:

    At one point the CRU hack was effectively compared to McCarthyism but it didn’t stick, only the lies stuck.

    What I think of is the break-in, likely under the direction of certain powerful individuals, in order to obtain material intended for use in a well-orchestrated smear campaign against numerous individuals regarded as political enemies. Sounds an awful lot like Watergate to me, although not in the way that Delingpole meant it. But why should a British rag reporter have any better a grasp of US history than your average American?

    Susan Anderson wrote:

    Anger is a great spur to action, but a terrible influence on effective communication.

    Agreed — and genuine dialogue a rare and difficult artform. But at a minimum it would seem to require the shared goal of understanding rather than the short-term, pragmatic desire for political advantage and is antithetical to the us vs. them mindset.

    • “Genuuine dialogue a rare and difficult artform.”

      So true. But where only one side has the “goal of understanding rather than the short-term, pragmatic desire for political advantage,” another difficult artform–Socratic questioning–can emerge. And it can still shed quite a lot of light.

  31. Temperature anomaly for april in Paris ((homogenized data) and CE since 1676 :

    The podium in Paris (SD for april = 1.5) :
    2007 : +5.4
    1865 : +5.2
    2011 : +5.1

  32. Bernard J.

    Tamino.

    Kudos for your strong stand and explicit framing of the climatological sequelæ. There’s a lot of resistance to those who are pointing out the results of human-induced climate change (I’ve copped it from my comments about the January Queensland floods, to the point of being threatened with physical violence), but it needs to be said.

    One thing I’m wondering is whether there is a composite index that quantifies the collective magnitude of global extreme weather events? I’d be very interested to see how such an index changes with time.

  33. A small sigh for the world as Europe continues to broil [it really is, no rain of substance], the Russian grain crops have been better than expected, in light of the deep dry-out of soils [up to 3 meters] during last years extended heatwave. Winter-wheat harvest looks to be good. Read: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13583287 Should help curtail the exploding world food prices.

  34. Come hell or high water, expect both…here you go:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44441386/ns/weather/

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44449393/ns/weather/

    Any questions?

  35. Over at SKS, “Kevin C” posted a python script that reads in GHCN data and runs it through your standard temperature anomaly gridding/averaging procedure. It is all of 65 lines!!

    He used it to show how similar the raw vs. adjusted and rural vs. urban global-temperature results are.

    So… folks here who know any loudmouth deniers (especially engineer/programmer types) who have been going on and on about UHI, homogenization, etc. have a great opportunity to embarrass said deniers (especially deniers who like to tout their own scientific/technical prowess).

    Show ‘em the 65-line python script (linky here: http://skepticalscience.com/watts_new_paper_critique.html — scroll down a bit for the code) and ask them why they’ve been unwilling/unable to tackle such a straightforward project in all the time they’ve been yammering about UHI, data adjustments, etc.

  36. Oops — copy/pasted to the wrong browser window. Never mind…