Three More Months To Go

Because 2011 isn’t over yet.

UPDATE

Some suggest that the increase in U.S. disasters is only a ruse, the attempt by bureaucracy to expand. I think that goes far beyond cynicism, bordering on the state of denial.

Here’s another opinion: not from a government or disaster relief agency, but from a giant in the re-insurance industry:

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75 responses to “Three More Months To Go

  1. I sure someone will come along very soon and say that disasters stopped in 1998. Or that there is an obvious natural cycle that explains all this. Keep up the good work.

    [Response: It's the Leprechauns.]

  2. Yes, we are on natural and free decline.
    Backwards!
    caw

  3. Nah – there will be more and worse disasters from the imminent ice age that we all know is coming any day now…if not this year then next year, or the year after…

    Heat is like a bouncing ball – what goes up must come down – it’s natural :(

    /s

    Thank you, and keep up the good work, Tamino. I refer people to your articles often.

  4. Perhaps a version overlaid with GISS anomalies (exogenous factors included, since they are responsible for many of those disasters).

    The new “normal” indeed.

  5. Sure would like to know how all that increased precipitation could come about to cause the 6mm ocean level drop. More Joules going around to increase the atmospheric vapor average by 4%? (Read 7% per 1C rise)

    More snow in winter per Rutgers and less snow left in summer per me based on Rutgers data (Incl. 2 million sqkm of Greenland).

  6. What is this a graph of? Just trying the URL is the graph produces only an oracle error message. It says it is a count of disasters. In the US? Globally? Just a count, or death-weighted, or cost-weighted, or what? All disasters, or just weather/climate related?

    [Response: Just typing the URL into the address bar of my browser take you to this site.]

  7. It’s hockey sticks all the way down, isn’t it?

  8. I’ve been reading about EMDAT, the international disasters database, for some months now (on and off).

    There is a skewing post 1998 due to a change in reporting sources (the press started to be used). In Europe this gives rise to a substantial rise in reported flood disasters. However allowing for that bias the evidence supports the conclusion that there has been an increase in European flood disasters since 1991 – PDF here, see fig 2. It’s worth noting that the graph in Tamino’s post shows an increase from around the same time.

    What is interesting is that the number of disasters reported (worldwide) for Earthquakes, Epidemics, and Other, do not show as great a rise as for hydro-meteorological (floods/droughts etc) in recent decades, see here. This suggests that the ‘fashion’ for reporting disasters in the press, and increased impact of communications (e.g. internet worldwide rollout), and the increase in population, do not explain all of the increase in hyrdro-meteorological disasters.

    [Response: This graph shows the number of disasters declared for government response by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. I doubt that "fashion' for reporting disasters in the press" is relevant, or that increased population increases the number of floods.]

    • Tamino – I’d actually give more credit to Chris R than you seem to. FEMA is unlikely to have used a consistent disaster reporting metric over half a century (my understanding is that disaster declarations are actually driven to some extent by state governors and decisions by the President’s office), so one could discuss the “fashion” for reporting disasters by that agency. And I would argue that increased population makes it more likely that a flood is declared a disaster. I think the comparison to earthquakes makes for a potentially decent baseline.

      (though I note that for floods, potentially, the Army Corps penchant for building flood control in one place, increasing the probability for flooding elsewhere, making it more difficult to disentangle the anthropogenic climate change signal on flooding from other anthropogenic influences) (similar to the problem with wildfires that forest management and careless fire use can change the frequency of forest fires)

      (yes, this is treading dangerously near Pielke territory, but not _all_ of their ideas are dumb)

      (in any case, while I expect to see a climate signal in weather-based disasters, the rate of disaster accumulation in that graph is much larger than what I would expect from a purely climate-change driven trend)

      [Response: Of course there are multiple factors which affect the number of declared disasters, and inconsistency of government response is one of them. But do you really think it's plausible they're responsible for *all* of the increase? Does climate change have nothing to do with the fact that we broke the record (one which was set just last year) with less than 3/4 of the year over?]

      • Again, if these disasters are truly unique, then the trend should show that. There’s nothing in the last 2 years worth of temperature that’s overly unique. So why would a gradual change over 30 years all of the sudden result in weather going crazy in only the last 18 months?

        I look at the EMDAT and FEMA trends and the cynic in me sees a bureacracy trying to expand. If you go to the FEMA website, the rules for disaster declaration are such “that an incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond state and local capabilities and that Federal assistance is necessary. In addition, Federal law restricts the use of arithmetical formulas or sliding scales based on income or population as the sole basis for determining the need for federal disaster supplemental aid.”

        http://www.fema.gov/rebuild/recover/evaluation.shtm

        So not only is it based on the state’s inability to cope (which is obvioulsy increasing over the last 3 years with the recesssion), it’s specifically NOT based on mathematical formulas and populations. I find it an unsupportable stretch to say that the number of FEMA-declared disasters is an indication that things are getting worse.

        [Response: I find it more than a stretch, and utterly unsupportable, that the increase in FEMA-declared disasters is primarily (let alone entirely) due to "bureacracy trying to expand" or recession-caused state-government inability. Perhaps such claims say more about you wearing the kind of blinders which would attribute the increase to "only the last 18 months" than it does about FEMA courting self-preservation.]

      • I certainly believe that climate changes have likely driven an increase in flooding, wildfires, and, possibly, drought in the US… its just that the factor of 4 increase over 50 years is so much larger than the underlying climate trends, that I have trouble believing that it is a climate-dominated trend.

        For example, look at the underlying precip and drought trends from the EPA Indicators report: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/indicators/pdfs/CI-weather-and-climate.pdf. Certainly, both precip and, more importantly, extreme one-day precip events have grown in magnitude/frequency… but we’re talking about a few percent for total precip, and maybe 50% for extreme one-day precip… I guess that disasters can be non-linear with precip increases, but a factor of 4 still seems several times higher than I would have expected… even though Munich Re, which presumably uses an independent methodology, also shows a factor of 4 increase (though globally, and since 1980).

        If there was clear attribution of this increase in weather disasters to climate change, I would expect to have seen highly publicized papers on the topic… (yes, I _do_ expect there to be a climate signal, and I expect that climate signal will grow over time, just not a signal as large as the two charts you show).

      • Dean, there’s more to climate than just temperature…
        (just stating the obvious for some, I guess).

    • Recent flood increases in some areas can be attributed to man attempting to better control floods, for example “Flood enhancement through flood control” (Criss and Shock in 2001):

      http://geology.gsapubs.org/content/29/10/875.short

      Likewise for fires, though the aggressive anti-fire-oooops-the-fuel-built-up practices of the past have been rescinded. Reworking major river control devices may be more complicated than letting fires burn, though.

  9. Gavin's Pussycat

    For a moment I was thinking you were referring to the GMU Wegman investigation… if only

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/cd/TheForeverWar%281stEd%29.jpg

  10. Looking at this graph makes me wonder about the sanity of those libertarian/tea-party types who want to eliminate FEMA.

    • It would put an end to FEMA-declared disasters. What’s not to like? :) :)

      • Of course…
        How foolish of me not to realize something so obvious.
        No FEMA=no disasters.
        I feel so much better….

      • sorry, “breaking the thermometer” idea is already patented by European Union and French government. Find something else ! :]

    • Tom,
      One would be pretty hard pressed to find a more sell-deluded group than the Tea Party mainstream. Talk about being duped (which we did here in a slightly different context: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/god-help-texas-rick-perry-wont/#comment-54385

      Various sources have shown that the Tea Party has close ties to Koch and receives funding from them:

      http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/04/right-wing_backers_koch_industries_we_dont_specifi.php

      Think Progress has published on Koch and how they are now a major player in the oil derivatives market and basically invented the scheme. The link below provides a brief chronology of how Koch arrived at the position that they themselves described in 2009 as:

      “(Koch presentation to ICE boasts that Koch is) … on the level of transnational big banks and can now be considered one of the world’s top five oil speculators.”

      http://thinkprogress.org/report/koch-oil-speculation/

      The derivatives market has very little government regulation and is basically used to pillage the US citizenry at the gas pump on a national scale and that citizenry of course includes the Tea Party supporters. The country gets as much from Koch as it did from Enron. But this is all OK with the Tea Party no form of corporate regulation is allowed and they are more than happy to finance corporate greed. And they’ll elect Rick Perry if they can to make sure that Koch greed is protected from any form of regulation.

      Their undying belief in free market system is something of an anachronism given the statistics the Quarterly Report published by the Treasury Department’s Office of the Controller of the Currency Administrator of National Banks .

      Five Banks Account For 96% of the $250 trillion in outstanding US derivative exposure. This level of concentration would seem to repudiate the idea of free markets. See for example Table 3

      http://www.occ.gov/topics/capital-markets/financial-markets/trading/derivatives/dq211.pdf

      The banking solvency crisis and associated balance sheet recession is becoming a great litmus test to determine if any of these candidates have the economics wherewithal to even know what’s going on. By and large from what I have seen anyway they are showing that this crisis is way over their heads. The moderators of the debates rarely if ever ask them any thing of substance pertaining to it. The single most important issue at play and no one seems to have much to say about it at least that I have seen.

      • The Tea Party is an example of how a mass movement can be started over a completely nonexistent issue. Tea Partiers are CONVINCED that taxes keep going up. Show them the BEA statistics that taxes have been going down for ten years, and that we now have the lowest taxes since 1958, and they simple won’t believe you–it’s the government, so we can’t trust it, they say. They just “know” that taxes have gone up.

        I now understand what it was like to live in Germany in the 1920s.

      • In my humble opinion those of the teaparty are merely useful idiots for the Koch empire.
        But I’m wondering if they will continue to throw their tantrums when disaster comes knocking on their own front doors.

  11. That ought to scale with population density, shouldn’t it? Also, some fraction of that is industrial accidents and the like.

    [Response: Not this year. This year's 84 disaster declarations include flood, hurricane, severe storm, wildfire, but no industrial accidents.]

    • There is actually a geographic bias, although it’s not directly driven by population density. Since declarations are counted per state per event, the flooding in the northeast affected many more states than the wildfires in Texas. Texas got 2 declarations for wildfires, but Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene got 13 declarations from Puerto Rico to Maine.

  12. Or it may be “Disasters spike a year before temperatures, so temperatures lag disasters.”

  13. It’s the sun.

    If the sun went out – no more disasters … well, maybe one more; but after that, nada.

  14. It’s an urban disaster island effect. That makes a strong argument to stop rebuilding after a disaster strikes, as it will only strike again.

    Nope, I have it: cosmic rays are causing disasters; an idea first put forth in 1937 by HG Wells in ‘Star Begotten‘:
    ‘But these cosmic rays have a lot of energy, considering their size. They knock atoms about when they hit them. And we and our belongings are made of atoms. A lot of them, a great lot of them, a real douche of cosmic rays, might cause all sorts of tissue diseases, blow up mines, strike the matches in our pockets.

  15. There’s three more months to go. It could still go down.

  16. “There’s three more months to go. It could still go down”

    That would be due to some of those negative-disaster disasters wouldn’t it? It looks to me like there is a shortage of negative-disaster disasters not an over-abundance of regular disasters.

    • Negative disasters–where everybody hits the lottery? Or all the children really are above average?

      One thing’s for sure–bumper crops are going to be few and far between in the US this fall. (And actually, bumper crops aren’t always great for farmers because they tend to depress prices excessively–or so I’ve heard.)

    • David B. Benson

      Horatio, this calls for poetics.

      • Horatio Algeranon

        With weather-related disasters all around
        This year’s total hit a FEMA peak
        But not to worry, it could still go down
        The year’s not over — there’s still a week.

        Horatio could not think of a word that rhymes with “months” that means “maximum” (And actually, “months” is a hard one to rhyme with period).

      • Horatio Algeranon

        And if anyone has a problem with that change, they’ll have to take it up with the “poe-etic” licensing board. (If Horatio is not misaken, Kevin McKinney is chairman of the poe-etics board so feel free to send nasty emails to him)

    • Heh heh. Knowing a bit about Neven, I’m sure that was a poe. But ‘negative disasters’… I like it :-)

  17. Plotting disasters against global average temperature shows a significant correlation. By the time global temperature has reached 2 C above the average for 1950 to 1980, FEMA (if it still exists) should be declaring a major disaster about every 2.5 days.

  18. And in the meantime ‘quick wins’ that could go some way toward mitigating at least some individual and societal vulnerabilities are being missed due to the human psychological effects and the corporate pressures, which act to feed the perpetuation of inappropriate risk-mitigation policies (e.g. NFIP):

    http://www.npr.org/2011/09/07/140247999/learn-lessons-from-disasters-no-thanks?ft=1&f=1001&sc=tw&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    • Dagnabbit. That bwasted wabbett has a weal gwaph. I’ll wemember for next time.
      My gwaph had a nice line of wabbit dwoppings heading upwards.

  19. Tamino,
    “This graph shows the number of disasters declared for government response by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency. I doubt that “fashion’ for reporting disasters in the press” is relevant, or that increased population increases the number of floods.”

    Whilst the EMDAT data clearly carries the risk of press bias due to reporting sources – see my links, especially the Europe one. The FEMA data should, as you say, be less prone to such effects. Although there’s always the risk of changes in government readiness to declare emergencies. That both show a significant increase, for USA, Europe and the World implies there is a real factor behind it – i.e. AGW.

    I’m just trying to cover all my bases and make the case sound before writing about this on my blog.

  20. Wouldn’t this graph be more acceptable if it was upside down? surely this is a case where the group think of the majority, created by intricate paths of social networking by people who are aligned with conventional scientific practices can be seen to have negative effects on our relationship with natural world.

    M Morano

    • The upside-down graph is the hallmark of minority groupthink; those aligned with dubious scientific practices that create an artificial world where up is down, cold is hot and hot is not. You know, the world where warming stopped in ’98 and Arctic ice melt is no big deal because an ice age cometh.

  21. Pete Dunkelberg

    On the not so funny side, India and Pakistan are severely flooded again.
    http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/09/26/328357/india-and-pakistan-floods-hit-ten-million-people/
    Where will the new normal water cycle strike next?

  22. Chris,

    The problem is the threshold for what the government declares a disaster. From FEMA Wikipedia entry, referencing the report listed under the quote, the threshold has changed over the years, which will skew the reporting.

    “Over the years, Congress increasingly extended the range of covered categories for assistance, and several presidential executive orders did the same. By enacting these various forms of legislative direction, Congress established a category for annual budgetary amounts of assistance to victims of various types of hazards or disasters, it specified the qualifications, and then it established or delegated the responsibilities to various federal and non-federal agencies.”

    Bea, Keith, “Proposed Transfer of FEMA to the Department of Homeland Security”, Order Code RL31510 (updated 29 July 2002), Report for Congress, Congressional Research Service: Library of Congress.

  23. The numbers only go back to the 1950’s on your plot. Any idea what they were reporting in the 1800’s or earlier?

    • Certainly. That way we can subtract the number of 19th century disasters from the number of 21st century disasters, then subtract the number of 1950s disasters and we’ll have numbers small enough to look harmless and that even the innumerate can grasp.

  24. Maybe there are some other useful correlations. What about the number of page views at WUWT vs Global Economic Turmoil? Of course you may have to send Anthony a FOI request, but I’m sure he’d oblige….

  25. Remember some Republicans like Ron Paul are calling for FEMA to be disbanded. If you built your house where a tornado happened to pass by, then tough. Your church or your relatives can look after you.

    It is like the Simpsons episode where a comet nearly destroys Springfield. Moe the Bartended says; “Let’s burn down the Observatory to make sure this never happens again”. Obviously disbanding FEMA will stop all these disasters.

  26. Its no good posting the Munich Re graph Tamino. The delusionists are sure that the big insurers are in on the scam too.


  27. Some suggest that the increase in U.S. disasters is only a ruse, the attempt by bureaucracy to expand. I think that goes far beyond cynicism, bordering on the state of denial.

    Here’s another opinion: not from a government or disaster relief agency, but from a giant in the re-insurance industry:

    So I take it that you are denying the insurance industry’s role in the grand global conspiracy to destroy America (and take away our guns)?

    (Just to be clear, this post is tongue-in-cheek. Shouldn’t even have to say that, but it’s so hard to distinguish a parody from the genuine article these days.)

    • I’m not saying that it’s solely an attempt to expand bureaucracy, but it’s clear that even according to FEMA’s own guidelines, the number of disasters is not an indicator of the strength and damage of these disasters.

      The graph and following discussion seems to discount any non-increase in strength/number of storms. FEMA says that a major factor is the state/local ability to address the damage, which has clearly been deteriorating over the last two decades. The original post doesn’t address this one bit… in fact, the post discounts this as any factor at all

      [Response: Since the "original post" has only one sentence, a simple statement of fact which makes no claims whatever, your statement that it "discounts this as any factor at all" is an outright lie. You are a liar.]

    • Since Munich RE is a Bavarian firm, this is clearly opening up the possibility of a Godwin’s/Poe’s twofer. . . which led me to wonder how many other Internet “Laws” one could work in to a single comment. But that could be quite an OT rabbit–or Rabbet–hole:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/6408927/Internet-rules-and-laws-the-top-10-from-Godwin-to-Poe.html

  28. Thanks Dean,

    All the information I’ve come across regarding disaster trends indicates that they are vulnerable to human bias. However for me the most telling thing is that whilst there has been an increases in hydro-meterological disasters (floods, droughts etc) all of the sources; EMDAT, Insurers (Munich Re / Swiss Re), and now FEMA show an increase. Yet for the information where a delineation is shown (Munich Re & EMDAT) there is no comparable trend in reporting of other natural disasters (disease, pests, volcanoes, earthquakes).

    My only concern is how much of the reported increase in disasters is due to other extraneous factors, and how much of the hydrometeorolgical is due to AGW. How much counts, particularly in terms of trying future extrapolations. And whether this is a worrying trend, i.e. more worry than AGW already warrants. But I am in no doubt that the trend is up and that an underlying element is due to hydrometeorological disasters due to AGW (increased atmospheric humidity), and that as AGW proceeds the impact will intensify.

    The insurers Swiss Re, in a recent report, find: Both observational trends and recent climate model studies support indications of an increase in the number of intense storms. These aren’t people who are swayed by fashions either in society or the media. Their job is risk, as an organisation they live or die by how well they assess that risk. Given my wider reading of the primary science (my hobby), that insurers are saying there’s a problem is enough for me to take the matter seriously.

    Dan Hughes,

    Interesting. But FYI ;) – it doesn’t attempt to explain the lack of trend in non-hydrometeorlogical/climate disasters. Although to be fair it’s two years old.

    • Just because you aren’t yet seeing an upward trend in diseases doesn’t mean you won’t.

      Climate change will cause species that have been isolated from us to leave their natureal habitat and increasingly bring them and their diseases in contact with us. Flooding leads to the contamination of water, and thus to the spread of waterborne diseases. Drought concentrates contaminants and makes people more desperate for whatever water is available. Land that warms more quickly than ocean will tend to change ocean circulation so that algae which would normally be carried out to sea will remain along the coasts — creating the giant algae blooms and deadzones as the blooms die off — and the same principle that keeps algae near the shore should keep sewage closer as well, helping to concentrate bacteria and strengthen the lateral gene transfer that leads to enhanced antibiotic resistance.

      And then there are the dust storms…

      Dust storms like the one that plagued Sydney are blowing bacteria to all corners of the globe, with viruses that will attack the human body. Yet these scourges can also help mitigate climate change

      Dust storms spread deadly diseases worldwide
      John Vidal, Saturday 26 September 2009
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/27/dust-storms-diseases-sydney

      • A sixth way… the heat and drought that kill off crops and livestock will make countries more likely to fight over limited resources, and for a variety of reasons war has always been conducive to the spread of disease.

      • .. at which point I would have to cry ‘Alarmism!!’

        If this kind of logic – which I’d have to say makes jump after jump with minimal evidence – was made by a climate denialist then we’d be all over it straight away.

        Contact with new natural habitat is being driven by deforestation and the bush meat trade, neither of which are directly driven by climate change. There is no evidence that I am aware of that local currents have been affected by climate change, and lateral gene transfer for antibiotic resistance is unlikely to be a problem at sea; in any case, sewage discharge is not related to climate change, more a basic lack of investment. And I’d be interested to see the research showing intercontinental tele-infection by dust storms.

        Try sticking to watershed-change induced famine and/or population shift, and sea level rise making many cities uninhabitable. That’s bad enough to be going on with. Adding something like disease which is can be mitigated – indeed far more people die right now than should be the case – does not help.

      • Timothy Chase,

        You don’t have to lecture me on what’s coming. My hobby is reading the science. I’m all too aware of how serious the situation is.

        I’m interested in what’s happening now, because we are seeing the impacts of AGW now!

        I’d particularly like to know if the disaster metric is arguably ahead of what we’d expect of models. SLR rise is slow. The impacts of the Arctic are nebulous, although we’re clearly seeing the first stages of a developing impact upon mid lattitude weather, which matters to me as I’m in the mid lattitudes (UK). But this disaster metric is arguably the most crucial to humanity from a practical point of view. We know the long term threat AGW poses, but how much of a threat is it in the short-term?

        I agree with Stu Ostro’s view that AGW impacts on weather are already being seen and that there is a role for AGW in the 2010 Russian drought and Pakistani floods, along with other instances. I’ve recently stumbled upon what looks like a new mid-lattitude summer impact of the loss of Arctic sea-ice.

        Andrew Dodds,

        With regards deforestation and greater human interaction with jungle. There is one acronym that sums up how dangerous these sorts of changes in interaction can be, and how consequently we can expect dangerous ramifications from AGW: That acronym is HIV.

      • Chris, I wasn’t lecturing you but sharing something I thought people might find interesting.

      • Climate Change and Disease: Introduction

        I listed six reasons why I expect climate change to result in an upward trend in disease, and Andrew Dodds responded:

        .. at which point I would have to cry ‘Alarmism!!’

        If this kind of logic – which I’d have to say makes jump after jump with minimal evidence – was made by a climate denialist then we’d be all over it straight away.

        I wasn’t aiming at nuance or debate, but merely listing reasons why I would expect there to be such a trend.

        My comment was specifically in response to Chris R’s statement:

        All the information I’ve come across regarding disaster trends indicates that they are vulnerable to human bias. However for me the most telling thing is that whilst there has been an increases in hydro-meterological disasters (floods, droughts etc) … there is no comparable trend in reporting of other natural disasters (disease, pests, volcanoes, earthquakes).

        There are reasons, multiple reasons to expect an upward trend in disease as the result of climate change. (But I do recognize that under high emissions scenarios drought may be sufficiently strong and widespread to reduce the prevailence of some diseases.) And I raised this point not as a matter of sounding the alarm but as I find it a matter of some interest. I do not think that disease will be the greatest challenge that we will face in this century. As far as I am concerned disease, floods, rising sea levels, storms and heat waves are less important than drought and famine. Nevertheless the rest of these will present challenges and shouldn’t be ignored. They are just likely to cost fewer lives.

        I hope you don’t mind, but rather than simply touch on the issues that you raised, I would like to go into each of the points I raised in some additional detail in the six parts that follow.

        Part I: Animal Migration

        I had stated, “Climate change will cause species that have been isolated from us to leave their natureal habitat and increasingly bring them and their diseases in contact with us.”

        Andrew Dodds responded, “Contact with new natural habitat is being driven by deforestation and the bush meat trade, neither of which are directly driven by climate change.”

        That is like saying that climate change is driven by changes in the orbit of the Earth and solar radiance, therefore it can’t be driven by our emission of greenhouse gases. There can be multiple causes. One does not exclude another.

        For one example, independent of flooding, increased rainfall in a warming world may expand the range of rodents that carry the hanta virus:

        The caseload of HCPS increased 5-fold above baseline in the Four Corners states in 1998-1999. Regions that had received increased rainfall in 1998 were especially affected. A large majority of the 1998-1999 case patients reported indoor exposure to deer mice. Hantavirus outbreaks can occur in response to abiotic events, even in the face of extensive public education and awareness.

        Brian Hjelle and Gregory E. Glass (2000) Outbreak of Hantavirus Infection in the Four Corners Region of the United States in the Wake of the 1997-1998 El Nino-Southern Oscillation, J Infect Dis. 181 (5): 1569-1573.
        http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/181/5/1569.full

        Other diseases spread by rodents are also likely to do expand their ranges with increased temperature and rainfall.

        Interestingly, water- and food-borne diseases also seem to do better with higher temperatures:

        In addition, most cases of water-and food-borne gastroenteritis, particularly illness related to Campylobacter and Salmonella, exhibit a distinct summertime pattern of occurrence. Although it is possible that seasonality is due to behavioural patterns (e.g., barbecuing or swimming in the summer), the association between warmer temperatures and disease suggests that rates of water-and food-borne illness are likely to increase with rising temperatures.

        Brian Hjelle and Gregory E. Glass (2000) Outbreak of Hantavirus Infection in the Four Corners Region of the United States in the Wake of the 1997-1998 El Nino-Southern Oscillation, J Infect Dis. 181 (5): 1569-1573.
        http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/181/5/1569.full

        I would be remiss, however, if I didn’t mention how global warming makes it possible for mosquitos to survive through the winter by reducing the period over which freezing takes place, thereby making them endemic to a region year round, a drama which is being played out in Taiwan with respect to hemorrhagic dengue fever:

        Furthermore, cosmopolitan genotypes of DENV-2, the causing agent of Taiwan’s largest-scale epidemic of dengue/DHF in last thirty years, had been gradually and effectively replacing Asian genotype 2 in the Philippines since 1998 and entered Taiwan in 2001 [40]. This cosmopolitan genotype of DENV-2 is different from the Asian 1 and Asian 2 genotypes of Taiwan’s DENV-2 isolates from 1981 to 1998 and the American/Asian genotype of Taiwan’s isolates in 2005, when the majority of dengue cases were dengue fever [41]. In other words, the more virulent genotypes/strains of the same serotype that have emerged during later years have resulted in more severe and/or larger-scale epidemics of dengue/DHF in many Asian countries [37], [39].

        Shang C-S, Fang C-T, Liu C-M, Wen T-H, Tsai K-H, et al. 2010 The Role of Imported Cases and Favorable Meteorological Conditions in the Onset of Dengue Epidemics. PLoS Negl Trop Dis 4(8): e775. doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000775
        http://www.plosntds.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000775

        Part II: Flooding

        Regarding the West Nile Virus, we find that higher temperatures, elevated humidity and extreme precipitation events each contribute to the increased prevailence of the disease:

        Results

        Increasing weekly maximum temperature and weekly cumulative temperature were similarly and significantly associated with a 35-83% higher incidence of reported WNV infection over the next month. An increase in mean weekly dew point temperature was significantly associated with a 9-38% higher incidence over the subsequent 3 weeks. The presence of at least 1 day of heavy rainfall within a week was associated with a 29-66% higher incidence during the same week and over the subsequent 2 weeks. A 20-mm increase in cumulative weekly precipitation was significantly associated with a 4-8% increase in incidence of reported WNV infection over the subsequent 2 weeks.

        Conclusions

        Warmer temperatures, elevated humidity, and heavy precipitation increased the rate of human WNV infection in the United States independent of season and each others’ effects.

        Jonathan E. Soverow et al. (July 2009) Infectious Disease in a Warming World: How Weather Influenced West Nile Virus in the United States (2001-2005), Environ Health Perspect., 117(7): 1049-1052.
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2717128

        It has been projected that extreme precipitation events will result in the greater prevailence of waterborne diseases in the Great Lakes area:

        Overall, the models project that extreme precipitation events will become 10% to 40% stronger in southern Wisconsin, resulting in greater potential for flooding, and for the waterborne diseases that often accompany high discharge into Lake Michigan.

        Using 6.4 cm (2.5 in) of daily precipitation as the threshold for initiating combined sewer overflow into Lake Michigan, the frequency of these events is expected to rise by 50% to120% by the end of this century.

        Jonathan A. Patz, et al. (2008) Climate Change and Waterborne Disease Risk in the Great Lakes Region of the U.S., Am J Prev Med; 35(5)
        http://www.sage.wisc.edu/pubs/articles/M-Z/patz/patzetalAJPM08.pdf

        Dengue and malaria are both associated with higher temperatures, elevated humidity and greater rainfall:

        A diagnostic study of the effects of climate change in Mexico’s human population, which was published in September, 2006, by Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology and National Institute of Public Health stated, “In some states we found an increase in the incidence of diseases transmitted through vector [dengue and malaria] associated with the increase in temperatures and with rainfall as a co-variable.”

        Horacio Riojas, head of the environmental-health unit at the National Institute of Public Health and the lead author of the study, says that the recent trend of higher temperatures and humidity permit the population of dengue mosquitoes to increase in endemic places like the southern state of Chiapas as well as in new regions like the northern state of Chihuahua. Riojas adds that the vector is finding new niches where it can survive.

        Eliza Barclay (22 March 2008) Is climate change affecting dengue in the Americas?, The Lancet, Volume 371, Issue 9617, Pages 973 – 974,
        http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(08)60435-3/fulltext

        Water- and food-borne diseases (such as Campylobacter and Salmonella) are also expected to increase as the result of higher temperatures and extreme precipitation events:

        Large water-borne disease outbreaks have been linked to extreme precipitation events, which are expected to increase in frequency in coming decades (Figure 3). In addition, most cases of water-and food-borne gastroenteritis, particularly illness related to Campylobacter and Salmonella, exhibit a distinct summertime pattern of occurrence. Although it is possible that seasonality is due to behavioural patterns (e.g., barbecuing or swimming in the summer), the association between warmer temperatures and disease suggests that rates of water-and food-borne illness are likely to increase with rising temperatures.

        Brian Hjelle and Gregory E. Glass (2000) Outbreak of Hantavirus Infection in the Four Corners Region of the United States in the Wake of the 1997-1998 El Nino-Southern Oscillation, J Infect Dis. 181 (5): 1569-1573.
        http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/181/5/1569.full

        Part III: Drought

        I had stated, “Drought concentrates contaminants and makes people more desperate for whatever water is available.”

        Kovatis states as much in relation to pathogens in a Bulletin of the World Health Organization:

        Drought can also lead to increased concentrations of pathogens in surface water and to hygiene-related diseases.

        Kovatis, R. Sari. El Niño and human health. Bull World Health Organ [online]. 2000, vol.78, n.9 [cited 2011-09-30], pp. 1127-1135
        http://www.scielosp.org/scielo.php?pid=s0042-96862000000900008&script=sci_arttext

        In particular, waterwashed diseases spread more easily under drought conditions :

        Bradley showed that all the diseases that are commonly considered waterborne can also be transmitted by the waterwashed route, and that the latter was epidemiologically more important under conditions of water scarcity as, for example, in rural and periurban areas in developing countries. The water-washed transmission route is also likely to be important even in areas with an adequate water supply but where personal and/or domestic (including food) hygiene is poor-Operation Clean Hands, recently launched by the American Society for Microbiology (Cassell and Osterholm 1996), is an example of the recognition of the need to reduce water-washed disease transmission in a highly developed society.

        D. D. Mara and R. G. A. Feachem (January 1999) Water- and Excreta-Related Diseases: Unitary Environmental Classification, Journal of Environmental Engineering, 125:334-339
        http://www.bvsde.paho.org/bvsacd/cd46/unitary.pdf

        Included among the water-washed diseases that may be exacerbated by drought conditions are the superficial
        trachoma and scabies and intestinal shigella dysentery.

        Part IV: Ocean Circulation and Lateral Gene Transfer

        I had stated, “Land that warms more quickly than ocean will tend to change ocean circulation so that algae which would normally be carried out to sea will remain along the coasts – creating the giant algae blooms and deadzones as the blooms die off – and the same principle that keeps algae near the shore should keep sewage closer as well, helping to concentrate bacteria and strengthen the lateral gene transfer that leads to enhanced antibiotic resistance.”

        Andrew Dodd responded, “There is no evidence that I am aware of that local currents have been affected by climate change…”

        These changes in ocean circulation due to global warming have been observed:

        Delayed early-season upwelling and stronger late-season upwelling are consistent with predictions of the influence of global warming on coastal upwelling regions.

        John A. Barth et al. (March 6, 2007) Delayed upwelling alters nearshore coastal ocean ecosystems in the northern California current, PNAS vol. 104 no. 10, pp 3719-3724
        http://www.pnas.org/content/104/10/3719.full

        They are resulting in deadzones along some coasts:

        Eastern boundary current systems are among the most productive large marine ecosystems in the world. Their productivity arises from wind-driven upwelling of nutrient-rich water into the photic zones of coastal oceans and supports 20% of global fishery yield (1). Upwelling also transports oxygen poor waters onto productive continental shelves, where respiration can further reduce watercolumn dissolved oxygen (DO) content and thus subject coastal ecosystems to the risk of hypoxia or anoxia.

        Chan, F., J. A. Barth, J. Lubchenco, A. Kirincich, H. Weeks, W. T. Peterson and B. A. Menge (2008), Emergence of anoxia in the California Current
        large marine ecosystem, Science, 319, 920.
        http://www.whoi.edu/cms/files/Chanetal_anoxia_science2008_51503.pdf

        The mechanism and its relation to global warming is explained in some detail in McGregor (2007):

        20th-century intensification of coastal upwelling SST records for the 20th century suggests an influence of global warming on the temperature evolution and upwelling intensity at site GeoB6008. The rapid 20th-century cooling at Cape Ghir also coincides with the rise in atmospheric CO2 (Fig. 2C). This reflects the influence of CO2 on the land-sea thermal contrast in NW Africa and, in turn, on the alongshore winds driving the upwelling. According to the mechanism proposed by Bakun (1990), increased atmospheric CO2 concentration could lead to warmer surface air temperatures (SATs) over land relative to those over the ocean, particularly at night time when radiative cooling is suppressed by the blocking of outgoing longwave radiation by CO2. The increased SAT deepens the thermal low-pressure cell over land, while a higher-pressure center develops over the slower-warming ocean waters. The winds blow clockwise around the high and anticlockwise around the continental low. The coast represents the boundary separating the two centers. Therefore, along the coast, the wind is oriented alongshore and southward (equatorward), which thus drives the upwelling and negative SST anomalies.

        McGregor, H.V., Dima, M., Fischer, H.W., Mulitza, S.(2007). Rapid 20th-Century Increase in Coastal Upwelling off Northwest Africa, Science, 315( 5812), 637-639.
        http://www.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@sci/@eesc/documents/doc/uow057056.pdf

        Andrew Dodd continued, “… and lateral gene transfer for antibiotic resistance is unlikely to be a problem at sea; in any case, sewage discharge is not related to climate change, more a basic lack of investment. ”

        Contaminants, such as radioactive material or toxins, tend to become more concentrated the further up the food chain you go. The same principle, it seems, applies to antibiotic resistance, and it is applicable in our oceans:

        A total of 134 viable bacteria samples were isolated from the cloacal swabs of predatory fishes. Isolates were characterized by Gram-stain morphology and tested for resistance by using the Kirby-Bauer disc diffusion method. Thirteen drugs (penicillin G, piperacillin, ticarcillin, cefotaxime, ceftazidime, ceftiofur, amikacin, gentamicin, ciprofloxacin, enrofloxacin, doxycycline, chloramphenicol, and sulfamethoxazole) were selected for this study…. Sharks sampled in the Florida Keys exhibited the greatest resistance to a wide selection of drugs. Resistance to at least one drug was found in each of the six study sites and in all of the fish species sampled. Multidrug resistance was also documented in most of the study sites…. The findings of this study confirmed the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in marine predatory fishes from multiple taxa and multiple geographic locations.

        Jason K. Blackburn et al. (2010) Evidence of Antibiotic Resistance in Free-Swimming, Top-Level Marine Predatory Fishes, Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 41(1):7-16.
        http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1638/2007-0061.1

        It at least one case a plasmid appeared to be a major vector for the transmission of antibiotic resistance in a marine environment:

        The present study was aimed to detect the plasmid profile, the role of plasmid associated multiple antibiotic resistance of Vibrios isolated from coastal waters of Kerala. The isolated plasmids from antibiotic resistant Vibrios were tested for the presence of integrons using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to elucidate the presence of plasmid borne integron, a key element in horizontal gene transfer. 100 isolates of Vibrios from water samples of shrimp farms and coastal landing sites were tested for the antibiogram profile to 22 antibiotics and the presence of the plasmids. Antibiotic resistance studies revealed that 78% were expressing multiple antibiotic resistance (MAR), defined as the isolates having resistant to more than three resistance determinants.

        Manjusha, S. and Sarita, G. B (2011) Plasmid associated antibiotic resistance in Vibrios isolated from coastal waters of Kerala,
        International Food Research Journal 18(3): 1171-118
        http://www.ifrj.upm.edu.my/18%20(03)%202011/45)IFRJ-2010-143.pdf

        As for lack of investment, we might eliminate a disease such as tuberculosis in the developed nations, but if we fail to do so in the developing nations where the use of antibiotics is less regulated, such diseases may come back to haunt us, and they may do so after acquiring antibiotic resistance. Tuberculosis has been making a comeback. Furthermore, if climate change hits our economies hard, there may not be the resources necessary to invest.

        Part V: Dust Storms

        I had stated, “And then there are the dust storms.”

        Fungi stand out in this area:

        One of the best examples of dust-borne pathogens is the small outbreaks of coccidiomycosis (caused by the fungal pathogen Coccidioides immitis) that occur annually in the Americas following dust events. One of the first links to be made between long-range transport of desert dust and ecosystem health was the isolation and identification of a terrestrial fungus (Aspergillus sydowii) as the causative agent of a Caribbean-wide sea fan disease from atmospheric samples collected in the US Virgin Islands. An outbreak of aspergillosis in caged desert locusts was documented following a dust event in Bikaner, India. Of those dust-associated isolates we have identified using DNA sequencing of the ribosomal gene ~20 % are species known to cause disease in a broad range of plant and animal life and ~10 % are known opportunistic human pathogens. Although dose is certainly an issue when determining risk from exposure, it should not be surprising that dust-borne pathogenic species capable of surviving atmospheric transport are capable of causing disease in downwind ecosystems.

        Griffin, D.W. (2005) Clouds of desert dust and microbiology: A mechanism of global dispersion. Microbiology Today. 32:180-182.
        http://www.sgm.ac.uk/pubs/micro_today/pdf/110506.pdf

        You may want to look up other papers by Griffen if this is a topic that interests you.

        Part VI: War and Human Migration

        There are numerous ways in which war is likely to result in increased transmission of diseases. One of course is the likely decline in sanitation. But I have touched on that previously in relation to flooding. So at this point I will focus on human migration.

        Regarding dengue, and more broadly, other vector-borne diseases, Eliza Barclay states:

        Experts have cited the increased mobility of people within countries, from rural communities to cities and across international borders as another key contribution to the spread of dengue. You can reintroduce into a population a vector-borne disease if you have enough travel”, said Fauci.

        Eliza Barclay (22 March 2008) Is climate change affecting dengue in the Americas?, The Lancet, Volume 371, Issue 9617, Pages 973 – 974,
        http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(08)60435-3/fulltext

        Earlier I suggested the possibility of reintroduction with respect to tuberculosis even though this isn’t a vector-borne disease.

        In any case, this was by no means meant to be comprehensive, but I would like to believe that for those who are interested it could serve as an introduction to a topic of considerable significance.

      • Nice job of supporting the statements you had made briefly, Timothy! I was unaware of much of this research, and strongly suspect I wasn’t the only one.

      • Thank you, Timothy.

      • Timothy, Understood.

        And thanks for such a useful and detailed reply.

  29. Bias could be probably alleviated by using the geophysical catastrophe as a baseline to correct for change in definition of catastrophe. This would help to separate change caused by climate from change caused by policy.

  30. Interesting paper by Mendelsohn and Saher ” The Global Impact of Climate Change on Extreme Events” , one of the Tables track extreme events in the US, Thunderstorms, Hail and Tornadoes 1960-2008 in regards to intensity.
    Shows decline in Hail and Tornadoes, increase in Thunderstorms. Don’t know how you correlate with Fima. Quality verses quantity?

    [Response: Mendelsohn and Saher do not represent "quality," they just offer boring, same-old-same-old denial from economists who utterly ignore the scientific literature. I suggest readers take note of Joe Romm's pwnage.]