The American Meteorological Society is offering up an opportunity to submit comments on a draft policy titled: AMS Policy Statement on National Weather and Climate Priorities which you can view as PDF at the AMS draft statements web page.
In the first paragraph they start with:
The United States faces growing environmental challenges stemming from weather and climate impacts. Hurricane Katrina, the current East coast drought, the 2007 California wildfires, this winter’s storms, and other recent events are shaping nearly every aspect of American life.
My first reaction was that they’ve been listening to too much op-ed from Al Gore regarding hurricanes and climate, particularly since any link between hurricane frequency, hurricane damage, and climate change has been unproven.
In fact I find the statement totally political, and not at all reflective of the lessons we’ve learned from recent scientific papers on the subject, or even the last two hurricane seasons. Both 2006 and 2007 were widely predicted by some alarmists to be troublesome. But in the case of 2007, it morphed from lion hearted pronouncements of a very active hurricane season to lamb-like actuality of a season that was well below normal. Even beleaguered FEMA got into the act by claiming “forecasters say this hurricane season could be nearly as destructive as 2005“. Of course, that didn’t happen.
This came of the heels of NOAA making predictions on the 2006 hurricane season “that a very active hurricane season is looming” where they also raised the spectre of Katrina. Lots of media outlets got in on that looming threat action, but in the end, even CNN had to admit that the 2006 hurricane season “bowed out quietly“.
Did any of these organizations, AMS included, stop to think that maybe we just don’t fully understand what drives an active hurricane season just yet? For example, when we look at hurricanes that have made landfall in the last 150 years, there appears to be no discernible trend, and none that seemingly coincides with observed warming trends.
On top of that, just last month, NOAA issued a press release saying that “There is nothing in the U.S. hurricane damage record that indicates global warming has caused a significant increase in destruction along our coasts.” The source of the press release was the National Hurricane Center, from Chris Landsea, one of the researchers for the scientific paper that spurred this pronouncement as well as the NHC science and operations officer. They “get it” at NHC, it appears.
So when I read the first paragraph of the new draft AMS policy statement linking Katrina and climate in the same paragraph, I had to wonder, are they paying attention? Or is this just another attempt at scaremongering to make the problem sound worse than it really is? And when we see them comment on “…this winter’s storms”, again, preceded by the word “climate”, while we are in the middle of a deep La Niña, I have to wonder if the comment is again more about wording for political gain than an affirmation of the science.
Then there are the recent wildfires in California. Many of those fires were the result of arson or as one agency calls it “domestic terror“, and not global warming. The conditions that cause the Santa Ana winds commonly associated with these fires in Southern California are seasonal, and well understood.
In my opinion, at the minimum, the Katrina-climate connection needs to go. If you feel the same way, you can email comments on the language in the draft document to the AMS at email@example.com
Now as for the rest of the draft, I’m pretty much OK with it. It appears they are suggesting that the infrastructure used to measure and monitor our planet has been falling into disrepair, and is in need of more attention and funding. Given the recent study by John Goetz that shows a number of weather stations worldwide have been closed, and with my surfacetstations.org project finding stations placed in sub-optimal locations like parking lots, rooftops, sewage treatment plants, and copper mines for lack of better locations, I’d have to agree with the AMS statement that:
…investment have been based on prior year allocations rather than future needs. As a result, they have not kept pace with evolving demands.
I also wholly agree with the need to keep our satellite monitoring at the top of the game. where they say:
Congress and the incoming Administration should also work together to identify and develop the funding needed to support the coming new generation of operational polar orbiting and geostationary satellites, surface radar networks, etc.
But please, let’s leave Katrina out of the policy statements, lets not have the AMS sounding like FEMA at a news conference by raising the spectre of a hurricane that clearly has nothing to do with climate change.