Archive for May, 2011

Tornadoes, fires and floods, oh my! Time to stop hiding our heads in the sand. Who benefits from our loading of the climate dice?

May 6th, 2011 No comments

[My apologies for weird formatting, I find it very difficult to deal with html embedded in text that I cut and paste!]

No doubt a locally cold winter helped many readers put behind them thoughts about last year’s worldwide record droughts, floods and heatwaves.

But the storms and firestorms are back with a vengeance, and neither the overall global warming nor our ongoing radiative forcing have stopped.I urge readers to take a look and reflect. There is, after all, a libertarian climate agenda of freeing markets and dismantling corporate risk-shifting and resulting over-regulation (as well as apparently serious suggestions from George Reisman and Stephan Kinsella that we start experimenting with atom bomb-based climate modification or other deliberate geo-engineering measures). 

Given the great heat sink that are the world’s oceans, we are only now feeling the forcing attributable to GHGs emitted 40 years ago (with a similar lag before the full effect of what we are emitting now will be felt). And the emissions of China and India are expected to double further before peaking in a few decades.

A few links and excerpts, in reverse chronological order:

Dr. Jeff Masters’ WunderBlog; April’s tornado outbreaks the two largest in history; Posted by:JeffMasters, 2:54 PM GMT on May 05, 2011



Stu Ostro, Weather Channel Senior Meteorologist, “The Katrina of tornado outbreaks“:

The atmosphere was explosively unstable with summerlike heat and humidity, interacting with a classic wind shear setup as a strong jet stream and upper-level trough crashed overhead….

The atmosphere is extraordinarily complex, and ultimately what’s happened the past month is probably a combination of influences, including La Nina, other natural variability, and anthropogenic global warming.

Extreme weather disasters, especially deluges and floods, are on the rise — and the best analysis says human-caused warming is contributing (see Two seminal Nature papers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding).  Last year, we hadTennessee’s 1000-year deluge aka Nashville’s ‘Katrina’.  And  Coastal North Carolina’s suffered its second 500-year rainfall in 11 years.

Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in December, “The term ‘100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year” (see Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”).

Former hurricane-hunter Masters has a good analysis of how the “Midwest deluge [is] enhanced by near-record Gulf of Mexico sea surface temperatures”

UPDATE:  “Persistent, heavy rains have helped swell the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to the highest levels ever recorded,” CNN reports.  And the rivers are still rising.

The Effect of Climate Change on Tornado Frequency and Magnitude:  “There is an obvious increase in tornado frequency between 1950-1999. This could be due to increased detection. Also this could be due to changing climatic conditions.”

For decades, scientists have predicted that if we kept pouring increasing amounts of heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, we would change the climate.   They specifically predicted that that many key aspects of the weather would become more extreme — more extreme heat waves, more intense droughts, and stronger deluges.

As far back as 1995, analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (led by Tom Karl) showed that over the course of the 20th century, the United States had suffered a statistically significant increase in a variety of extreme weather events, the very ones you would expect from global warming, such as more — and more intense — precipitation. That analysis concluded the chances were only “5 to 10 percent” this increase was due to factors other than global warming, such as “natural climate variability.” And since 1995, the climate has gotten measurably more extreme.

Multiple scientific studies find that indeed the weather has become more extreme, as expected, and that it is extremely likely that humans are a contributing cause (see “Two seminal Naturepapers join growing body of evidence that human emissions fuel extreme weather, flooding that harm humans and the environment” and links therein).

Beyond that, as Dr. Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained here last year: “There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms.”  He told theNY Times, “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.” 

Jeremy Hance;; Are US floods, fires linked to climate change?; April 28, 2011

“There have always been extreme events,” Peter Stott, a climatologist from the UK’s Met Office, told Yale360 in a piece on extreme weather and climate change. “Natural variability does play a role, but now so does climate change. It is about changing the odds of the event happening.”  

“By now, most people get that you can’t attribute any single weather event on global warming,” John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas’ state climatologist and a professor at Texas A&M University, told the McClatchy-Tribune news service. “But some things are clear: temperatures have been going up, and models all agree that the temperature rise will continue unless we get some massive volcanic eruptions or the sun suddenly becomes much dimmer.”

 Multiple torrential downpours are setting the stage for more 100-year floods in the coming days, as meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters reports today.

Several papers published in the journal Nature demonstrate that such extreme precipitation events in specific localities is the result of climate change and not an overactive imagination. The scientists studied the actual, observable precipitation patterns in the 20th century and then compared them to climate model simulations and a splash of probability to discover a close, predictive match up.

They claim that their results provide “first formal identification of a human contribution to the observed intensification of extreme precipitation.” The scientists, led by Seung-Ki Min at the Climate Research Division from Environment Canada in Toronto, say that the global climate models may, in fact, be underestimating the amount of extreme weather events, “which implies that extreme precipitation events may strengthen more quickly in the future than projected and that they may have more severe impacts than estimated.”

In another study, this one led by Pardeep Pall at the University of Oxford, looked at a specific weather event: the 2000 floods in England and Wales, which occurred during the wettest autumn since 1766. …

Climate change could signal prolonged droughts in American Southwest
Think the 1930s “Dust Bowl” was bad in the American West? Scientists have found evidence of “mega-drought” events that lasted centuries to millennia in the same region during warm, interglacial periods in the Pleistocene era (370,000-550,000 years ago). The evidence heightens concern over how the region will react to the modern day global temperature spikes.

The American Southwest is already predicted to get pretty dry during climate change, due to a drop in winter precipitation that would increase evaporation rates and lead to smaller snow packs that normally provide water during the warmer months.


New York Times, In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming, (August 14, 2010)

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Richard Nixon, not enviros, was responsible for meddling in energy usage

May 2nd, 2011 No comments

Rob Bradley, an erstwhile libertarian turned energy industry spokesman – and thus no friend of enviro-fascists (or libertarian critics like me) – provides a useful reminder of the history of government interference in energy (though he omits the Vietnam War and the role of gross pollution problems).

Below are excerpts from Bradley’s May 2 post at his Big Oil and Big Coal cheerleading blog, ‘Master Resource’ (emphasis added):

Remembering the Birth of Conservationism (Part I: President Nixon’s price controls, not Arab OPEC, produced energy crisis, demand-side politicization)

The oil crisis, contrary to popular remembrance, did not begin with the Arab Embargo of October 1973. It began with petroleum product shortages that arose in late 1972 when price controls became constraining. In February 1973, Senate hearings on fuel shortages … Expert testimony was heard about how 18 months of price controls were at the root of the supply shortfall, as were the lingering constraints of an earlier federal program designed to help the domestic industry in a time of oil surplus, the Mandatory Oil Import Program.

The U.S. Senate convened a meeting on energy conservation, identified as “the first congressional hearings to be devoted to this subject.” Demand was now decoupled from supply, creating an industry of thought, opinion, and passion as to what demand should be and what role government should play to correct oil-market problems. The game was rigged thanks to Richard Nixon, whose original 90-day freeze would be but the first of five price-control phases and the starting point for more than seven years of price-and-allocation regulation under the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act of 1973 (EPAA).

The March 1973 hearings attracted the first wave of energy conservationists and environmentalists from organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund, Friends of the Earth, and the Sierra Club.

Conservationism (as versus self-interested conservation) would now have a life of its own. Energy usage was a per se bad. Less was better. Energy appliances and motorized transportation would never be the same after President Nixon’s ill-fated action of wage and price controls.

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