Extreme caution best in assessing future weather
By Madhav Khandekar.
Published in The Starphoenix July 6, 2012
In the viewpoint article Extreme weather becoming norm (SP, June 28) Lidsay Olson, vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, provides a glimpse of weather extremes for various regions of Canada and warns Canadian to be prepared to live with such extremes over the next several decades. Olson refers to the study on future weather extremes done by Gordon McBean, former assistant deputy minister of Environment Canada. When did Canada witness a climate free of extreme weather, is what Olson fails to explain to Canadians.
Extreme weather is an integral part of the Earth’s climate.
Throughout the recorded history of the Earth’s climate, extreme weather events have always occurred somewhere, and are caused by large-scale atmosphere ocean flow patterns and their complex interaction with local/regional weather and climate features. An examination of the 20th century climate of North America reveals that the decades of 1920s and 1930s, known as the Dust Bowl years, witnessed perhaps the most extreme climate over the Great American Plains and elsewhere. There were recurring droughts and heat waves on the Canadian/American Prairies.
The prairies also witnessed some extreme cold winters during the 1910s and 1920s – for example in 1907 and 1920. We meteorologists still do not fully understand why the climate of North America was so anomalous during the 1920s and 1930s.
During the 1950s and 1960s most of Canada witnessed extreme cold winters, especially on the prairies where record breaking low temperatures (Edmonton at minus 45C and below in the 1960s) were registered. In Ontario and Quebec, cold and snowy winters was a norm during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Parts of the Canadian Atlantic witnessed long winters with lots of snow. Spring ice jam on the St. John’s River was a common occurrence during the 1960s and 1970s. The recent decades of the 1980s and 1990s have witnessed a warmer climate across most of North
America and worldwide.
Madhav Khandekar is a retired Environment Canada scientist with more than 50 years of experience in weather and climate science, and an expert reviewer of the IPCC 2007 Climate Change Assessment.
Gordon Fulks supplies some commentary by email:
Your newspaper Op-Ed is excellent. I especially liked your statement:
“Extreme weather is an integral part of the earth’s climate.”
Because climate alarmists are selectively using extreme weather events to sell a climate catastrophe from carbon dioxide, it is very important for us to point out that “abnormal weather” is perfectly normal. When I lived in Santa Barbara, California with its very placid climate, there were stories of an extraordinary mid-19th century heat wave where the temperature exceeded 130 F. There is some dispute as to whether the temperature could have gotten that hot but little doubt that it was extremely hot. And the globe as a whole had not yet come out of the “Little Ice Age” at that point.
Similarly, we have had substantial hot spells here in Portland, Oregon where the Pacific Ocean normally keeps our temperatures moderate, just like Santa Barbara. One of those hot spells occurred a few years ago with the temperature reaching 106 F over several days in late July. Alarmists would say “that is consistent with Global Warming.” But a previous and more unusual one occurred in early July 1942 when the mercury reached 107 F downtown and 105 F at the airport. That was especially unusual because it occurred more than a month before our average summer temperatures peak and at a time when climate alarmists say the world was cooler than it is today. Of course, as you point out, the reality is that the Dust Bowl era was probably more extreme than our recent warm period which is still lingering.
Such reasoning carries no weight with extremists in journalism:
who say such things as:
“Peter Stott, of the UK’s Met Office, said: “We are much more confident about attributing [weather effects] to climate change. This is all adding up to a stronger and stronger picture of human influence on the climate.”
But the researchers also said that not every extreme weather event could be attributed to climate change. For instance, the extremely cold British winter of 2010-11 – starkly exemplified by the satellite picture of the UK and Ireland covered in white on Christmas Eve, as snow gripped the nations – was owing to variations in the systems of ocean and air circulation.”
In other words, extremely cold weather can just be ignored as due to natural causes, while extremely hot weather is extremely significant and probably anthropogenic! The British winter of 2010-2011 was the second coldest in the 350 year Central England Temperatures.
As scientists with excellent credentials, we can easily dispute the stupidity coming from other scientists and their media allies. But we will never be able to convince this media of the need to understand the logic of science before taking the word of government scientists selling a fraud. Why? Because it is almost impossible to convince ignorant men that they are ignorant.
Thanks again for writing the Op-Ed and thanks to Professor Brian Pratt of the University of Saskatchewan for suggesting that you do so.
Gordon J. Fulks, PhD (Physics)
Corbett, Oregon USA
P.S. to others: Madhav Khandekar, PhD is a well-known meteorologist who worked for Environment Canada for 25 years: