Weather amnesia

Post by Dr. Ryan N. Maue

Dr. Judith Curry is quoted in a classic Seth Borenstein AP screed connecting disparate extreme weather events into a tidy AGW-narrative:  “Sometimes it seems as if we have weather amnesia.”

The AP article states:  ‘Judith Curry of Georgia Tech disagreed, saying that while humans are changing the climate, these extremes have happened before, pointing to the 1950s.’

She is correct but just who/what is she disagreeing with?

This AP article sets up the typical “arguing amongst experts” debate where the non-expert journalist assembles the narrative. (Flashback article here at WUWT December 2010:  AP 2010 World Gone Wild | unadulterated trash)

The AP article begins:

“Nature is pummelling the United States this year with extremes. Unprecedented triple-digit heat and devastating drought. Deadly tornadoes leveling towns. Massive rivers overflowing. A billion-dollar blizzard. And now, unusual hurricane-caused flooding in Vermont. If what’s falling from the sky isn’t enough, the ground shook in places that normally seem stable: Colorado and the entire East Coast. On Friday, a strong quake triggered brief tsunami warnings in Alaska. Arizona and New Mexico have broken records for wildfires.”

Of course we know that natural disasters occur globally, and are often modulated by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (e.g. El Niño and La Niña).  This is not new science and it is not controversial.  All climate scientists should understand this natural variability and be able to discuss the teleconnections and atmosphere-ocean feedbacks historically observed in previous strong El Niños and La Niñas since the 1950s.  For instance, a major long-lasting La Niña occurred in the 1950s which left Texas with a historic, record drought.  The Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon mentions this often in his media correspondence.  The strongest La Ninas lead to Texas droughts.  The 2010-11 La Nina led to the Texas drought of this spring and summer.  It is not immediately clear how the few tenths of a degree in global warming may have changed the character of this drought compared to the 1950s.  Scientific research is required to answer this question — which should be published in the peer-reviewed literature.  On the spot expert testimony often turns out to be incorrect as Mother Nature continues to operate contrary to conventional wisdom.

Dr. Jeff Masters, owner (blogger) of private weather forecasting company Weather Underground is first quoted: “I’m hoping for a break. I’m tired of working this hard. This is ridiculous. I’m not used to seeing all these extremes all at once in one year.”

I’m sure Masters is tired of the website hits and advertising revenue, but this statement is not scientific but anecdotal.  To my knowledge, Masters does not generate peer-reviewed scholarship as I have not come across a paper written by him.  Examining the 1910s, 1950s or 1970s for similar frequency of extreme events may surprise many including him.

The AP article continues:

“What’s happening, say experts, is mostly random chance or bad luck. But there is something more to it, many of them say. Man-made global warming is increasing the odds of getting a bad roll of the dice. Sometimes the luck seemed downright freakish.”

Who says what?  I request a roll call vote.  Man-made global warming has not been explicitly connected to any event of 2011.  The evidence or proof of this statement has not (yet) been created, published, or disseminated.  Similar statements were made with respect to the Russian Heat Wave and Pakistani Floods of 2010 as well as the record cold winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11.  Again, without concrete and rigorous research, that statement is anecdotal especially with the nebulous usage of “experts say” and “many of them say”.  Who?

The insurance company Munich Re calculated that in the first six months of the year there have been 98 natural disasters in the United States, about double the average of the 1990s.

How does this compare to the 1910s, 1950s, 1970s, 1980s, or 2000s?  Perhaps the 1990s were especially quiet when it comes to US natural disasters.  Again, a little context would help.

“I think this year has really been extraordinary in terms of natural catastrophes,” said Andreas Schrast, head of catastrophic perils for Swiss Re, another big insurer.

Yes, it has been extraordinary — but why?  Is it perhaps the record strong La Niña?

One of the most noticeable and troubling weather extremes was the record-high nighttime temperatures, said Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. That shows that the country wasn’t cooling off at all at night, which both the human body and crops need.

“These events are abnormal,” Karl said. “But it’s part of an ongoing trend we’ve seen since 1980.”

Dr. Karl’s quotes are likely out of sequence.  Nighttime temperatures were indeed warm, but there clearly is a meteorological or climate explanation for this.  Karl apparently says this:  “Individual weather disasters so far can’t be directly attributed to global warming, but it is a factor in the magnitude and the string of many of the extremes, Karl and other climate scientists say.”

So, let’s summarize:  if individual weather disasters cannot be directly attributed to global warming, then what on earth is causing them?  Hello?  Anyone?

NASA’s Dr. Gavin Schmidt to the rescue?

While the hurricanes and tornado outbreaks don’t seem to have any clear climate change connection, the heat wave and drought do, said NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt.

Well, that doesn’t narrow it down much.  Some events can be attributed to global warming but some can’t.  We need a list.

This year, there’s been a Pacific Ocean climate phenomenon that changes weather patterns worldwide known as La Niña, the flip side to El Niño. La Niñas normally trigger certain extremes such as flooding in Australia and drought in Texas. But global warming has taken those events and amplified them from bad to record levels, said climate scientist Jerry Meehl at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Dr. Meehl contends, according to the AP article, that AGW has exacerbated the effects of the historic La Niña from bad to worse.  That is a testable hypothesis and likely further research could answer that claim.  Until then, it is just that, a hypothesis.  But, at least we have La Niña mentioned.  However, the way the article is written, it seems as if Masters, Karl, and Schmidt knew nothing of the historic La Niña.

Now we come to Dr. Curry:

Judith Curry of Georgia Tech disagreed, saying that while humans are changing the climate, these extremes have happened before, pointing to the 1950s.

“Sometimes it seems as if we have weather amnesia,” she said.

Disagreed with what/who?  Her reference to the 1950s harkens back to a time when Texas droughts and East Coast hurricanes were the norm — extreme events occurring with unprecedented frequency and ferocity.  It is also a time when the Pacific Ocean was in a “cool phase” of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation [PDO] while the North Atlantic was in the middle of a warm Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation [AMO] phase.  Pacific cold — Atlantic warm.  It’s a story we’ve heard Joe Bastardi telling on television for months now as we have returned to such a warm-cold ocean basin asymmetry.

The final expert NOAA’s deputy chief Kathryn Sullivan provides nice anecdotes, but no substance.

Thus, as the 2010s continue on — with the winter of 2011-12 likely being at least a moderate La Niña year (and cold as hell) — expect more weather and extreme events like the 1950s.

Hopefully our weather amnesia does not cause us to be ill-prepared for winter 2011-12.

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41 thoughts on “Weather amnesia

  1. Cute Picture !! Can I suggest a caption?

    “gees my head… I just have to stay away from that bubbly… way too much CO2 !”

  2. A rerun of last winter? Good. That’ll give us another mild winer here in Buffalo (in terms of snowfall) while the fine folk in DC & NYC deal with blizzards. I can live with that.

  3. What’s this old fashioned idea of relying on peer review? As we know now it’s become more than enough to publish statements and analyses “in discussions in internet fora” in order to kill published research ((c) William Connolley) . Therefore we can hereby conclude that Gavin understands nothing at all about climate, for example, and his entire scientific production should be thrown to the bin. Like everybody else’s.

    You see, I got.convinced to that by various discussions in internet fora…

  4. If there is weather amnesia, then its agenda driven. The GW nuts want you to forget all the science you were trained and follow the sound of their voice, just follow the sound of their voice

  5. They are starting it again; a new propaganda campaign. An attempt to get people to believe that there is something historically extreme about the current weather when there isnt. They count on people not be able to put things in context historically. In recent climate history, summers were on average hotter in the 1980′s than now. Winters were colder, or as cold in the 1950′s than now. We are not even close to climate extremes of the past when inspecting the climate data back 100, 000 years or more. Irene was not an epic hurricaine, it barely made Cat 3.

  6. The Arizona fire was caused by two campers who left a fire unattended (and who have now been charged). What in the world do this fire, earthquakes, and a minimum tropical storm hitting New York have to do with global warming? These so called scientists are ridiculous, and the reporter is an idiot. How much money does AP have invested in carbon trading and other green pyramids?

  7. Cause-and-effect is very easy to establish.

    If it’s bad, it’s caused by global warming/climate change.

    If it’s good, it will be gotten rid of by global warming/climate change.

  8. Here’s my prediction.

    The alarmists will keep on alarming, hoping for more funding, ignoring the history, the science and the facts.

    And the climate will just keep on a-doing what a climate’s gotta do.

  9. AGW is only modeled for droughts and heating. It doesn’t do floods and cooling. It also doesn’t do quakes and volcanoes.
    No it’s not climate change (as modeled) at all.
    It’s Comet Change. The Comet was rumored to have broken in two, but it turned out to be a hoax.
    Earth is breaking up instead…well….darn it…I read it on the Internet.
    It’s Labor Day Weekend, relax.

  10. Dr. Curry makes a very important point, one in which I was reminded of yesterday:
    If we truly want to know if today’s weather is much worse or less worse than 50 years ago, for example, one needs only to ask those who have been around long enough to make the comparison.
    I can tell you that the weather in the 70′s was much like it is today, and the octogenarians of today can tell you that the weather of the 30′s was much hotter than the supposed 90′s.
    Go ahead, ask around.

  11. I think that you will find that Australian floods, Pakistan floods and Texas drought have all happened before many times and at times worse than these most recent.

    Human action can change local weather but climate? I do not think so.

  12. The insurance companies say that it’s all the fault of man made global warming and that it’s going to get worse. I wonder what possible financial benefit they might gain by raising the perceived risk of disaster? Probably a coincidence.

  13. At the moment, we have aproximately a +0.3degC anomaly. Is anyone seriously suggesting that such a trivial change can be responsible for recent events? If so what will happen with a + 2 degC anomaly?

    If a +0.3degC anomaly is truly causative of recent events, then what was the weather like during the MWP, the Roman Warm Period, the holocene optimum? How did these guys cope in what must have been very much more extreme conditions and without the many resources which are available today?

    A dose of realism is desperately required. Presently there has been no significant climate change, ex hypothesis, recent extreme events cannot be due to climate change.

    A tornado that hits a town does more damage than one that remains solely confimed to the plains. A tornado that hits a city wreaks more damage than one that merely hits a town. Precisely where a tornado may hit, is random caused by a combination of chaotic factors. Likewise, a huricane that makes landfall is more significant than one that does not, and where landfall is made can have a serious impact on the extent of damage and casualties. It is nothing more than random patterns.

    The inescapable and inconvenient fact is that extreme weather events (huricanes and tornadoes) are at a relative low, not high. We have not experienced a repeat of the dustbowl of the 1930s.

    People’s perception of matters is being distorted merely by better global reporting.

  14. I’m not liking this part of your article:

    “To my knowledge, Masters does not generate peer-reviewed scholarship as I have not come across a paper written by him. ”

    Sounds much like the baloney we get from the hockey team; if you’re not an approved hockey team “climate scientist” then your opinions aren’t worth considering. Look, if Masters is talking garbage then call him on that garbage – don’t try and say he’s not allowed to talk or his opinions are worthless. [And in this case he IS talking garbage]

  15. Warn nighttime temperatures are not all natural but they do matter to averages and thus making headlines. to wit;
    .CLIMATE…
    1) 7/29 TIED FOR THE 3RD HOTTEST TEMP IN DC HISTORY W/ A READING OF
    104
    2) THRU YDA THIS YR IS TIED W/ 2010 FOR THE HIGHEST AVG MAX TEMP -
    90.1. THIS YR IS ALSO TIED W/ LAST YR ON HIGHEST AVG TEMP – 81.2
    3) ON 7/22…AT 3 PM DCA RECORDED A HEAT INDEX VALUE OF 120
    4) THIS SUMMER OVERALL HAS THE 2ND HIGHEST AVG MIN TEMP – 72.2
    5) 3 OF THE 4 HIGHEST MIN TEMPS IN HISTORY WERE RECORDED THIS YR -
    JUL 22-24 W/ READINGS OF 84, 84, AND 82

    The trouble with all that screaming about DCA is what they are not screaming about which is all the other local DC airports. One of the reasons why DCA had such warm average lows is lack of radiational cooling. That is partly because the sensor is near the river. But on radiational cooling mornings with no wind DCA runs 2-3 degrees warmer than everywhere else including other stations near the river like Patuxent (which is well to the south, closer to the ocean etc) DCA is often 10F warming than other Arlington VA stations. On mornings with some wind, the discrepancy is not as large. Here’s one explanation. A year old story from WUWT explained some problems with national ASOS: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/06/01/hot-air-in-washington-dc-more-asos-failures/

    Here’s a picture with the WUWT view on the left, and the view in August when I captured it:

    About 20 feet of darker colored gravel around the sensor. I’ve tried to get local weather forecasters (and reporters) interested so they can go take a look (e.g. in the early morning on a radiational cooling morning and bring thermometers) without any luck.

  16. I love the way insurance companies use the one metric of rising payouts for weather related damage to try and make a connection with global warming, yet not one insurance company has ever got in trouble over having to pay out for these phenomena. Why? Because insurance premiums have rocketed and a lot more people are now getting insured, and inflation has conspired further to make payouts look much bigger than they really are.

    It reminds me of the casinos who make stars out of the people who win big payouts from them, in order to rope in more punters to their tables and slot machines, knowing that with the odds being in their favour, they will make far more revenue by doing so. In the west, we call that good business practice.

  17. “Weather Amnesia” is clever, but no, that isn’t really what people suffer from. For the MSM, weather has become big business, and the perfect storm of hyping of Irene is a good example, but only the tip of the Petermann Glacier (which calved recently, to the utter shock and horror of climate “scientists”). However, peoples’s memories are bad, and they do rely on that, plus a laziness in people to fact-check. All of this works hand-in-glove to the adavantage of the Alarmist “scientists” whose primary concern is in keeping the Alarmist gravy train chugging along for at least a little while longer.
    Funny how Curry still clings to the notion that we are “changing the climate” somehow. She seems so reasonable otherwise.

  18. “Hopefully our weather amnesia does not cause us to be ill-prepared for winter 2011-12.”

    It won’t me, especially after the last two here in southern England. We’re starting our lists for the winter storage boxes of tins, dried stuff etc already. A cool summer, an early autumn and no doubt a cold November and hard winter to come. Even in the kind of (small) urban area I live in, the snow and ice have been a significant problem, both practically and, certainly, financially – much of the problem being caused by just such official weather amnesia and incompetence as is described here.

    This coming winter we’ll be paying a whole lot more for our electricity and gas too, large chunks of that increase being due to C02 taxation and subsidies to useless windmills that are increasingly disfiguring our country. I am Welsh, though living in England, and the plans to destroy some of the most beautiful parts of Wales with such monstrosities proceeds apace. Planning laws are to be changed to facilitate even more of these expensive white elephants, mainly to benefit the landowning classes (like our Prime Minister’s father-in-law) as they draw the subsidies from their mates in politics. .

    Save Powys!

    https://www.facebook.com/ConservationofUplandPowys?ref=ts

  19. I believe that Judith Curry’s comment has been misconstrued. Read it again. She is disputing the remarks of kevin et al.

    JFD

    [RyanM: kevin is not quoted in this article.]

  20. omnologos says:
    September 3, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    What’s this old fashioned idea of relying on peer review? As we know now it’s become more than enough to publish statements and analyses “in discussions in internet fora” in order to kill published research ((c) William Connolley) . Therefore we can hereby conclude that Gavin understands nothing at all about climate, for example, and his entire scientific production should be thrown to the bin. Like everybody else’s.

    You see, I got.convinced to that by various discussions in internet fora…

    In certain undisciplined disciplines, most egregiously Climate Science, Pal Review has so degraded the quality of published literature that internet fora now provide a far more comprehensive and rigourous sampling and challenging environment.

    Deal [with it].

  21. Dr. Maue,

    You said you think the NH Winter of 2011-2012 will be “cold as hell”. What specific regions are you forecasting this for, and what exactly do you base that on?

  22. Munich Re is a part of, if not the biggest part of, the “Big Reinsurance Lobby” and they are always pushing the idea that there are more and more disasters because it makes them more important. The message is, “Hey, Big Insurance, the world is going to Hell in a handbasket! You need us to cover your asses when you inevitably can’t deal with skyrocketing claims!” What is true is that there are a lot of disasters now that would have been just weather a long time ago. What is not true is that this is somehow a change in the weather, rather, it is due to more people living in more places with more and pricier stuff in the path of weather events. Rather than tackle the real issues, which are mostly that people aren’t very well aware of the risks they take with weather, instead perpetuate the importance of reinsurance by tackling a boogie man that isn’t actually responsible for a rise in claims while saying you are tackling the reason. And roll in the cash…

  23. I do not understand why we keep talking about global warming. It will either be slight, 1 degree C per doubling of C02 or it will be large, 11 C per doubling or somewhere in between. The point is there is nothing we can do about it. China is growing at 10% a year and the other emerging countries at 6%. China’s C02 emissions are already 50 times the US emissions and when you add on the other emerging counties esp India, you get almost 100 times. If the US, Canada and Europe stopped emitting C02 today, it would make no difference except to the dead people in North America and Europe. So it does not matter if you turn your thermostat down and shiver all winter or if you walk to work or any of the crap the environmentalist groups suggest. The only thing North America and Europe can do is prepare. Start building cooler housing, cooler cities, plant trees, use wood for buildings, stop using the heat retentive materials that are making our cities to hot to live in, stop paving roads, stop cutting down forests for more buildings. North America and Europe should use only nuclear energy for electricity, gas for heat and gas for car fuel.The governments of North America and Europe should stop impoverishing their citizens with carbon taxes and help them to prepare. It is sad that when we have an actual crises, the only thing our governments can do is make money off it by taxing their citizens more. The only thing environmental groups seem to do is protest against nuclear energy and call for more green taxes. If the planet wants to fix this then all countries should use nuclear energy to make electricity. Counties that have sun all day can use solar for small instalations when the price comes down enough to make it sustainable. If it is not affordable, it is not sustainable.

  24. More specifically, Munich Re has been funding a considerable amount of the Carbon Cult’s “research”, with the hope of laying off much of its risk onto electricity, mining and oil companies. If they can “prove” that the disaster was “caused” by Detroit Edison or Texaco through the medium of carbon, they can share the expense.

  25. timetochooseagain says:
    September 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Munich Re is a part of, if not the biggest part of, the “Big Reinsurance Lobby” and they are always pushing the idea that there are more and more disasters because it makes them more important. The message is, “Hey, Big Insurance, the world is going to Hell in a handbasket! You need us to cover your asses when you inevitably can’t deal with skyrocketing claims!” What is true is that there are a lot of disasters now that would have been just weather a long time ago. What is not true is that this is somehow a change in the weather, rather, it is due to more people living in more places with more and pricier stuff in the path of weather events. Rather than tackle the real issues, which are mostly that people aren’t very well aware of the risks they take with weather, instead perpetuate the importance of reinsurance by tackling a boogie man that isn’t actually responsible for a rise in claims while saying you are tackling the reason. And roll in the cash…
    ***************
    It’s simpler than that – it enables Munich Re and other re-insurers to increase premiums. Daylight robbery is the polite term, I think.

  26. As usual the issue is that any Company willing to find research in a field will only do it in the hope of getting something out of it, therefore undermining its findings ..

  27. Global warming was no doubt responcible for the oklahoma dust bowl back in the 30s too.
    Had to be, since extreme weather events only occur due to our meddling. Sure a fluke of 1 year might be just random chance, but you need a lot of weighted global warming dice to have several years of drought, right??

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Bowl

    1930 to 1936 (in some areas until 1940).

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