More shootdown of the “severe weather is increasing” hype

From World Climate Report: No Change in Storminess

As we enter the winter season, we all realize that if a large snow storm forms anywhere on the planet, someone will immediately appear and claim we are witnessing the effect of global warming. However, winter storms (aka extratropical cyclones) are tough to sell to the public given the images of cold, snow, wind, and misery at the low end of the temperature scale. So if winter storms are a hard sell, hurricanes (aka tropical cyclones) are nothing short of ideal – warm water, heavy rain, wind, and misery in already warm parts of the world.

But, it turns out that in either case, new research reported in the scientific literature finds little in the way of changes that are unusual in today’s climate of “global warming.”

The first article appeared in Tellus written by five scientists with Germany’s Hamburg University who were investigating changes in the recent behavior of extratropical cyclones. Sienz et al. (who tend to get a bit technical) begin noting:

“Extratropical cyclones are the major source of intra-annual climate variability in mid-latitudes. Huge damage is caused by intense storms and heavy precipitation associated with extraordinary intense baroclinic vortices [i.e., extratropical storm systems –eds.]. The growth and intensity of these vortices are determined by sea surface temperatures, baroclinicity and large-scale teleconnections (for example the North Atlantic Oscillation, NAO) which might be altered in an anthropogenic climate change”.

With respect to what we might expect to see with storm behavior, they note:

“For the northern hemispheric winter the majority of scenario simulations show a slight decrease of the total number of cyclones, while, on the other hand, there are hints that the number of intense cyclones increases. However, models do not agree with respect to these conclusions, in particular if individual regions are considered.”

In other words, we have no clue what should be happening to cyclonic storms in the Northern Hemisphere as a whole and even less so for particular regions.

It help better understand what has been happening, the team gathered what are called “re-analysis” data from September, 1957 to August, 2002; these data are created by a model but the data are derived from a large collection of observations on a daily basis. Re-analysis data are quite popular now in climate change research, and despite some limitations, they are showing up everywhere in the literature. From the re-analysis data, the team computed four different measures of cyclone intensity including “geopotential height in the centre of a cyclone, mean horizontal gradient of the geopotential height in the neighbourhood, cyclone depth, all measured at 1000 hPa, and relative vorticity in the cyclone centre at 850 hPa.” Let’s not turn this into an advanced class in atmospheric science—so it will suffice to say that these are all very credible measures of the intensity of a storm event. Sienz et al. report “no significant trend could be found in [any] of the cyclones quantities”. In their conclusions section, they note “The absence of a significant trend in the cyclone parameters for the whole North Atlantic is consistent with the findings of” other scientists who have explored the same issue.

You might argue that evaluating storm activity from 1957 to 2002 is hardly a long enough time period for conducting any meaningful, long-term climate analysis. Maybe you’d prefer something a bit longer? Well, then you are in luck. A recent article in Geology allows us to peer back over 5,000 years of storm activity—so let’s have a look.

The research was conducted by a pair of earth scientists from Rice University who were funded by British Petroleum. We suspect that given this fact, their work was held to a higher standard of review compared to other submissions to Geology, and they apparently survived and the work is published in a highly respected outlet.

In some coastal areas, lagoons form and in a few special locations, the topography is just right for capturing overwash sediments from extreme storm events. Given the study area in southern Texas (near spring break paradise South Padre Island), the Wallace and Anderson team could reconstruct extreme hurricane (i.e., tropical cyclone) events going back 5,300 years. The area subsided at about that time producing the right conditions for recording intense storms of the past, but prior to 5,300 years ago, the lagoon was not in a position to record large hurricane events.

Wallace and Anderson collected 37 different cores within the lagoon (Laguna Madre), and they used radiocarbon dating and grain size analysis to detect large events in the past (big storms produce big sediments). When looking at the period 5,300 to 900 BP [before present], they conclude:

“Although high-frequency oscillations between warm and dry and cool and wet climate conditions have occurred in Texas through the late Holocene, there has been no notable variation in intense storm impacts across the northwestern Gulf of Mexico coast during this time interval, implying no direct link between these changing climate conditions and annual hurricane impact probability. In addition, there have been no significant differences in the landfall probabilities of storms between the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico during the late Holocene, suggesting that storm steering mechanisms have not varied during this time.”

In discussing any link between sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic and hurricane activity, the authors are dismissive of the link and suggest that “[r]ather, intervals of frequent intense hurricane impacts (i.e., ca. 4400–3600 yr B.P., 2500–1000 yr B.P., 250 yr B.P. to present) can be correlated with periods of fewer El Niño events and increased precipitation in tropical Africa.” They conclude

“Current rates of intense hurricane impacts for Western Lake, Florida, Lake Shelby, Alabama, and Laguna Madre, Texas, do not seem unprecedented when compared to intense strikes over the past 5000 yr.”

We continue to feature evidence from throughout the scientific literature showing that storm activity around the planet is not increasing in activity, whether we feature extra-tropical or tropical storm events. While the global warming alarmists contend we are impacting these storms, the facts suggest otherwise.

References:

Sienz, F., A. Schneidereit, R. Blender, K. Fraedrich, and F. Lunkeit. 2010. Extreme value statistics for North Atlantic cyclones. Tellus A, 62, 347-360.

Wallace, D.J., and J.B. Anderson. 2010. Evidence of similar probability of intense hurricane strikes for the Gulf of Mexico over the late Holocene. Geology, 38, 511-514.

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26 Responses to More shootdown of the “severe weather is increasing” hype

  1. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    It seems so ameteurish for the alarmist camp to continue promoting the direct link. You NEVER hear them propose how the link works in a lucid and concise manner, just that it might. Then all the Big Guys blurt out their statements, still, never giving even a simplified reason. It’s just repeated and regurgitated, a droning opiate. Once again, geology shows what has been known for time immemorial: climate changes. There is no such thing as an “unprecedented” weather event. Yet the droning continues, taken up by the green lobby like a biblical verse.
    All funded by citizens, who for the most part, are sick of the waste, the droning, and the politics…

    Now I’m droning…..jeez…

  2. Patrick Davis says:

    Here in Aus the BoM is predicting, and is being spashed across the Aussie MSM en masse, a higher than normal cyclone season.

  3. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    Did you know extratropical cyclones are synoptic scale low pressure weather systems

    Synoptic scale (also known as large scale or cyclonic scale) is a horizontal length scale of the order of 1000 kilometres (about 620 miles) or more.

    Extratropical cyclones, sometimes called mid-latitude cyclones or wave cyclones, are weather systems that occur in the middle latitudes of the Earth outside of the tropics, having neither tropical nor polar characteristics that are of the order of 1000km.

  4. Philip Bradley says:

    Although high-frequency oscillations between warm and dry and cool and wet climate conditions have occurred in Texas through the late Holocene

    This would appear to be the significant finding.

    That considerable climate change on the century scale is normal.

  5. charles nelson says:

    There’s a great bit of Southern Hemisphere weather…a system sweeping up the west coast of New Zealand…I’m sure it’s got an eye!
    http://tropic.ssec.wisc.edu/real-time/austeast/movies/gmsirn/gmsirnjava.html

  6. Bloke down the pub says:

    ‘The research was conducted by a pair of earth scientists from Rice University who were funded by British Petroleum’

    During the Gulf oil spill Obama consistently used the the name British Petroleum to divert attention from his own shortcomings and onto a foreign company. This was despite the fact that the company had been known as BP for some time and that Americans owned the most shares. As he was pissing off the Brits by his attitude then, for consistency sake the company should be referred to as BP now.

  7. David says:

    Paul Homewood – thanks for that very comprehensive list.
    Surely the likes of Gore, Mann and our own dear Cameron and Huhne should be sent these links – because as far as their ilk are concerned, ‘climate’ only started thirty years ago – or certainly that part of it linked to dear old CO2….
    Oh – and before anyone comes up with the little gem about ‘current weather events cause greater losses’ – of COURSE they do, because there are more people (especially in urban areas); they are richer, and consequently own more property which can be damaged…

  8. Billy Liar says:

    Let’s face it, even the current ‘above average’ hurricane season seems to have fizzled out.

  9. Ralph says:

    Surely, hurricanes are generated by a difference in temperatures, not by total temperatures. This is why frigid Mars can have global hurricanes. The critical element has to be the difference in temperature between sea and atmosphere, and not any supposed ‘critical temperature’ of the oceans.

    .

  10. AndrewR says:

    Paul Hudson the english weather forecaster (BBC) speaks about the hype on yorkshire local tv.
    9 mins and 2 seconds into the show.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mj5m
    This is the same guy who supposidly had access to the hacked CRU emails before they were published.

  11. Mark says:

    “When looking at the period 5,300 to 900 BP [before present], ….”

    Loved the before present (BP) reference! Reminds me of my time at the Standard Oil of Ohio (SOHIO) R&D labs just before British Petroleum (BBP) obtained majority ownership of SOHIO (1978) with the development of Prudhoe Bay.

    Imagine how much longer took to re-crunch data sets (ie “Re-analysis data are quite popular now in climate change research”) back in the days when you had to punch out cards for the compiler every time you wanted to do an new analysis- and then try to get time on the main frame the run the program……… When HP came out with their reverse polish notation calculator that would do AVG, STD, %CV, etc. I never punched another card again.

  12. “…Wallace and Anderson collected 37 different cores within the lagoon (Laguna Madre), and they used radiocarbon dating and grain size analysis to detect large events in the past (big storms produce big sediments)…”

    IIRC, didn’t Mann et al do this same thing, only using a smaller sample size (and tying that small sample to global results)?

    And I believe his results were the exact opposite…

  13. cromagnum says:

    O/T, but i think this is worthy of its own posting:

    Carbon trading will fail because property rights cannot exist for gases
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/economics/b-no-way-of-counting-carbon/story-e6frg926-1226169137559

    “…….But Abbott’s instinct is accurate on a much deeper level.

    Emissions trading is a beautiful idea in economic theory. However, it fails the practicality test.
    Markets are built on credible, tradable property rights. Physical property rights are definable and can be isolated for the purposes of ownership. These dimensions enable them to be traded. Even intangible intellectual property rights meet these criteria through their design, but greenhouse gas emissions cannot meet them. One person’s emissions cannot be differentiated from another’s.

    They are the same chemical compounds, whether emitted by another or created naturally. As a consequence, imposing a local price in the absence of a global price, when the externality of greenhouses gases is also global, fails the test of economic logic.It doesn’t compare with previously trialled sulphur dioxide emissions trading, which created a local price mainly to address the localised externality of acid rain. And sulphur dioxide isn’t a by-product of the energy engine of our entire economy.

    The impossibility of identifying local greenhouse gas emissions in isolation to attach a technical property right provides the basis for the right being attached to the process of emitting. But emissions permits carry the same structural flaw because carbon accounting standards aren’t as accurate as traditional financial accounting…….”

  14. The research was conducted by a pair of earth scientists from Rice University who were funded by British Petroleum. We suspect that given this fact, their work was held to a higher standard of review compared to other submissions to Geology, and they apparently survived and the work is published in a highly respected outlet.

    Seeing that, in the field of geology, tons of research is funded by “big oil”, as “big oil” employs a good portion of geologists working in the field, this isn’t an issue. It’s the numbers, the math, and accuracy that counts, not the source of the funding. Climate Science could take a lesson from this, but… well… we know they won’t.

    PS. I’m a former geology student (♫ “Geology School Drop-out” ♫) and it was as likely I would have worked for one of the big oil companies as I would have the government.

  15. TomL says:

    Maybe they should go back to “Anglo-Persian”. ;-)
    Oil companies would be very interested in prehistoric hurricanes because of the potential of big storms to wash coarse sediments across the continental shelf and into deep water.
    A couple of decades ago, nobody thought it was possible to get large volumes of sand out into thousands of feet of water 100+ miles from shore, but it is now quite clear that it happens. Just not under everyday conditions.

  16. G. Karst says:

    Ralph says:
    October 18, 2011 at 5:08 am

    Surely, hurricanes are generated by a difference in temperatures, not by total temperatures. This is why frigid Mars can have global hurricanes. The critical element has to be the difference in temperature between sea and atmosphere, and not any supposed ‘critical temperature’ of the oceans.

    I think if one wants to refer to global storm intensity, one must speak of the delta P between the equator and the poles (Northern latitudes). This delta P is directly related to the delta T, between these latitudes.

    GW warms the higher latitudes DECREASING equatorial/polar delta T, hence delta P, ergo general intensity (weather) should DECREASE in intensity, while we warm. However, warming has stalled and cooling expected. Increased storms should result as equatorial/polar delta T hence P develop. This of course holds only in a general global perspective ie climate.

    As I have always said – it is cooling we should fear, NOT warming. Warming is a pleasant walk in the park. GK

  17. SSam says:

    henrythethird says:

    “IIRC, didn’t Mann et al do this same thing, only using a smaller sample size (and tying that small sample to global results)?

    And I believe his results were the exact opposite…”

    Actually Mann was trying to infer a temperature trend from the sediment. As far as I know, he did not even account for the fact that the are of his study tends to be pounded pretty hard by hurricanes.

  18. Stephen Brown says:

    With regard to floods in East Anglia in the UK, this might be of interest:-
    “Since the seventeenth century, at least seven floods have been classifiable as a disaster.”
    http://rsta.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/363/1831/1293.full

  19. Organized Entropy says:

    Sitting here looking out my window at the Laguna Madre, I know first-hand that this area is great for this kind of research. When big storms hit Padre Island (Hurricane Brett) they slice right through the island to the Laguna, carrying the material from the dunes on the Gulf of Mexico beach as much as two miles to the Laguna. The washovers created by these events fill in fairly quickly and dunes build again. Normal settling of silt creates nice varves that record storm histories. This process is slowly moving the island south and west. Bob Morton, Geology of Barrier Island Systems 1993, in the Texas Barriers chapter proposes that the island is about 5000 years old and formed as sea level rise slowed early in this interglacial period. With Padre Island National Seashore having the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, we actually ended up with a nice little place to study coastal geology and how it has responded to tropical storms, sediment starvation (USACE) and all the other wonderful things we do to our coast line.

  20. Desertyote says:

    Michael J Alexander
    October 18, 2011 at 7:48 am

    ###

    Add BP has a vested interest in the validity of the results asa they are the ones with millions of dollars worth of equipment sitting out unprotected in the paths of hurricanes.

  21. Organized Entropy says:

    Now that I have bragged on this area, I have to admit, it isn’t near as great as it sounds when we have a major red tide going on. Eyes burn, throat hurts and a few million dead fish on the beach will be smelling great for the next few days/weeks. I need Al Gore to visit so we can get a really good cold front to put this red tide to bed.

  22. Gary Hladik says:

    “Extratropical cyclones are the major source of intra-annual climate variability in mid-latitudes.”

    Intra-annual climate variabilty? You mean weather?

  23. Norman says:

    Be careful if you question the hypothesis that AGW is increaing extreme weather on the Skeptical Science web site. I was doing this in the thread James Powell ebook thread..

    The moderators started to delete my posts (without warnings) I did not include material in violation of the comments policy. Then they seem to have banned me from posting at all. I try test messages but they do not post.

    I guess it is an echo chamber. They cannot tollerate opposing views. Wonder how many other are banned? I used to see some opposing views but these people no longer have posts. Wonder if they also were banned from posting.

    I think Science of Doom is tollerant of opposing views. Not sure about Tamio in Open Mind.

  24. Louis says:

    “The growth and intensity of these vortices are determined by sea surface temperatures, baroclinicity and large-scale teleconnections… which might be altered in an anthropogenic climate change”.

    Wherever there is a “might” there is also an implied “might not”. If the growth and intensity of vortices “might” be altered by AGW, then it is also implied that they might not be. The question becomes, which is more probable? Is “might” more probable than “might not”? They don’t say. But if they are equally probable, then the statement has no scientific value. It would be like someone saying, “The stock market might go up tomorrow.” That statement does me absolutely no good in trying to decide whether to buy or sell because the probability is not stated.

  25. We all know geologic time is slow compared to human memory. We all know the rules of physics and chemistry worked the same way Tertiary as they do in the Quaternary. We all know empirical data trumps models. No surprise in any of this, is there?

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