Amateur hour: National Journal experts on extreme weather mostly flacks

Haboob : SkyFOX Phoenix

Guest Post by Ryan Maue

Over at the National Journal, we get an insider’s view of the climate crisis:  a so-called debate about the effects of global warming on extreme weather.  In the Energy & Environment “expert blogs” section, a collection of articles is assembled “re-examining” possible links between recent weather events and global warming.  Roger Pielke Jr. was asked to participate and describes his contribution at his blog, which is linked and copied here:

From Roger Pielke Jr.’s blog:

My piece is essentially the same as what I provided to Yale e360 not long ago, just a little expanded.  The other submissions are far more interesting and in general would make great grist for an essay by the Bizarro World Chris Mooney.

David Hunter says some smart things about the science and while Rep. Blumenauer could not be more wrong about the science, he gets the policy conclusions exactly right.  Throughout there is the usual litany of recent extremes and their human and economic costs and assertions how they must be linked to human-caused climate change.  Support for these assertions are provided by mentioning news articles and NGO reports, several mentions of rolling a 13 with loaded dice and one extended analogy to splattering spaghetti sauce.

You’d think that with this line-up, William O’Keefe, the lone “skeptic” included in the round up would be able to hit a home run.  Instead, he strikes out.

Spaghetti sauce and dice?

Here is the link to Pielke Jr.’s submission over at the National Journal:  “Extreme Weather and Climate Change“.  Since the website is free, I am quoting the submission also for educational purposes and discussion (disclaimer). My highlights are in bold:

The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] defines “climate change” as a change in the statistics of weather occurring over 30 years or longer and persisting for decades. Thus, the detection of a change in climate requires long-term records. To suggest that particular extreme weather events are evidence of climate change is not simply wrong, but the wrong way to even approach the issue — every bit as much as the claims made during a particularly cold and snowy winter (or even several in a row) that such events somehow disprove climate change. Weather is not climate and short-term climate variability is not climate change.

The detection of changes in climate requires looking at actual data.

The data on events that have captured our attention this year — tornadoes, large-scale river floods (in unaltered river basins), and landfalling hurricanes — shows no evidence of trends in the direction of more extreme events. This should not be surprising, because even if we assume a strong signal in extreme events from human-caused climate change, the statistics suggest that it would take many decades, and probably longer, before such signals would be detected.

Given this context, claims that particular events can be attributed in a causal fashion to human emissions of greenhouse gases are simply unscientific if not fundamentally incoherent. It is true that overall damage from tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes has been increasing in recent decades. A recent literature review of extreme event impacts around the world found that everywhere that researchers have looked, this increase can be entirely explained by increasing value of property at risk and increasing exposures to these hazards.

Human-caused climate change is real and deserves effective policies in response. The making of claims that are scientifically unsupportable will not further that effort. When they assert a linkage between recent disasters and human-caused climate change, advocates for action actually empower their opponents by giving them an easy-to-hit target.

This is all the more ironic because the arguments for better adaptive responses and improving our energy policies in ways that reduce reliance on fossil fuels make good sense regardless.

Roger Pielke Jr. according to his About Me is a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  He actually does research in the field he is being asked to comment on — and publishes peer-reviewed literature — a standard that is commonly used to disqualify others who venture into the climate debate .  This means that he looks at data/facts and statistics on a daily basis.  However, who are the other experts that the National Journal has assembled?  How many of them have contributed an original thought to the issue at hand?  Turns out that they are all “political types”.

Let’s see:

This time it is with a group of political types, which so far includes Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), David Hunter (IETA), Gene Karpinski (LCV), Dan Lashof (NRDC), Eileen Claussen (Pew Climate), Carl Pope (Sierra Club), Nathan Willcox (Environment America) and William O’Keefe (Marshall Institute).

Rather than spoiling the fun, I encourage readers to wander over the National Journal and read the submissions by the above folks.

The arguments made by the politicians quote the recent Scientific American articles, Sharon Begley of Newsweak, and science czar John Holdren (of population control fame, a recurrent theme lately with Al Gore), and regurgitate the same old, tired talking points about every recent weather event caused by climate change (even though no one individual event can be attributed…).  I hope that additional “expert” contributions are included in the “debate”, as Pielke Jr. looks pretty lonely amongst all of those politicians/think tankers.

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July 6, 2011 2:22 pm

Now ain’t that nice……..
Temperatures have been going down for over a decade….
….sea levels are going down
And extreme weather events are going up because of global warming…………
The only thing going up is every intelligent persons blood pressure……..

Theo Goodwin
July 6, 2011 2:25 pm

“You’d think that with this line-up, William O’Keefe, the lone “skeptic” included in the round up would be able to hit a home run. Instead, he strikes out.”
Being in a room with Warmista, even a chat room or a blog, lowers one’s IQ by 50%. You have been warned. /sarc ophagus

July 6, 2011 2:26 pm

Ryan, Most of the readers here are familiar with Dr. Pielke Jr.
[ryanm: i know]

Paul Westhaver
July 6, 2011 2:48 pm

Extreme weather with no change in Climate.
That should be the headline. With no warming since 1998, it seems that the absence of warming would be a better candidate as a cause for a dust storm. just saying…..(Ignoring the weather isn’t climate principle)

July 6, 2011 3:02 pm

At every claim, every might and maybe, every could and pesky can, ask for the content of proof.
It’s very funny to see how agitated the climate snake oil hippie gets when asked for proof.

James Sexton
July 6, 2011 3:08 pm

Well, I see Jr. is still a bit of a fence rider, but ok. But fossil fuels are part and parcel of the way out of the economic doldrums we’re in right now, not some illusionary pipedream about green energy gifted to us by the energy fairy.

July 6, 2011 3:22 pm

You can shove all the actual data and peer reviewed science that shows that what they are preaching is completely wrong, and all they will say is, must be big oil…
I tire of the continued nonsense these ‘experts’ continue to spew out even though the know they are wrong.

July 6, 2011 3:25 pm

it ain’t the weather that got extreme, it’s most “experts” who got extremists

July 6, 2011 3:41 pm

Pielke Jr., is solid. Climate Science needs more like him.

Mark Reau
July 6, 2011 4:01 pm

Mr.Maue, I followed your recommendation to the National Journal. Not fun, more like Orwellian nightmare. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., WOW. My only hope is that it will stay cold long enough, that he will stick his hand in his own pocket for a change.

July 6, 2011 4:12 pm

I do like that William O’Keefe at least uses the term ‘Global Warming’, while the rest of the hacks, or flacks, use the much less specific, all inclusive, mutually diverse term, ‘Climate Change’! All climate realists, should use ‘Global Warming’ when debating the climate alarmists, they should not be able to change the subject just because the weather changes. (I.e. Global Warming stops, or slows down.) Ask the AGW scaremonger’s when they bring up ‘Climate Change’… Are we talking about ‘Climate Change’ or ‘Global Warming’? Lately it seems all they do is point to weather to prove the climate has changed, or is changing; they don’t say anything about how the earth is rapidly warming at an accelerating rate any more!?. It’s getting a little long in the tooth.

July 6, 2011 4:22 pm

And, for a giggle, read this again. The last paragraph is where the ‘science’ comes into play.
The joke being the total disregard for solar influence in the warming phase but its all powerful influence on the cooling phase. MMmmm. ??????
Why do I ‘flash back’ to Monty Python when I read about ‘climate science’ ???

Doug Badgero
July 6, 2011 4:34 pm

I agree with what Dr Pielke says about the science but am confused about why he believes William O’Keefe “strikes out”. Mr O’Keefe’s point seems to mostly be that we don’t know as much as we think we do about climate and any claims at this point involve considerable hubris.
I think agree with O’Keefe. One example being the claims around the feedback (sensitivity) coefficient. Is there any unknown more important to the debate? Yet both sides seem to refuse to consider the possibility that this parameter is not spatially nor temporally constant nor linearly variable. I suspect it is not. Of course if that is the case then no output condition can be calculated for any known forcing and we would all not have anything to argue about. The best we could hope for is determining the upper and lower limits of the attractor.

July 6, 2011 4:59 pm

I would like to take this opportunity to remember the Typhoon that saved the Japanese homeland from invasion many hundreds of years ago, and the English homeland from the Spanish Armada that a sudden and violent storm wrecked in the Channel. Apparently, Climate Change has been around a very long time, from Noah’s Ark to today, and works on both land & sea.

July 6, 2011 5:37 pm

Newsweak? Probably a typo. There was no ./sarq.

Rational Debate
July 6, 2011 5:40 pm

Kudos to Pielke Jr. for the comments copied here. That said, I have to take exception to one rather major part:

arguments for better adaptive responses and improving our energy policies in ways that reduce reliance on fossil fuels make good sense regardless

[emphasis added]
Reducing reliance on fossil fuels does NOT make good sense “regardless.” Reducing reliance on fossil fuels only makes good sense when there is a clearly better alternative available – and that trade off must include the cost of the alternative as a major aspect in deciding what is or isn’t “good sense” in this regard.
Indirectly yet literally killing people, or driving them into poverty, or slowing people’s ability to climb out of poverty, or worsening the standard of living for large numbers of people simply to reduce reliance on fossil fuels is the height of irresponsibility and is quite the opposite of ‘good sense.’

Dave Dardinger
July 6, 2011 5:50 pm

both sides seem to refuse to consider the possibility that this parameter is not spatially nor temporally constant nor linearly variable. I suspect it is not.

That always bugs me too. At best a constant climate sensitivity is an approximation which might be useful, like using 3.14 for the value of Pi. Though actually there are probably several variables which contribute to a given measurement of climate sensitivity.

July 6, 2011 5:52 pm

I am sick to death of this extreme weather insanity.
Here are the trends, or lack thereof.
“Fluctuations in some climate parameters”
“Here we report results on those parameters of which we have had experience during the last few years: Global surface temperature, Cloud Cover and the MODIS Liquid Cloud Fraction. In no case we have found indications that fluctuations of these parameters have increased with time.”
“The Weather Isn’t Getting Weirder”
“Gilbert Compo, one of the researchers on the project, tells me from his office at the University of Colorado, Boulder. “So we were surprised that none of the three major indices of climate variability that we used show a trend of increased circulation going back to 1871.””
“The Twentieth Century Reanalysis Project”
“Analysis of trends and of aggregated time series on climatic (30-year) scale does not indicate consistent trends worldwide. Despite common perception, in general, the detected trends are more negative (less intense floods in most recent years) than positive. Similarly, Svensson et al. (2005) and Di Baldassarre et al. (2010) did not find systematical change neither in flood increasing or decreasing numbers nor change in flood magnitudes in their analysis.”
Hurricane activity
“However, the global total number of storm days shows no trend and only an unexpected large amplitude fluctuation driven by El Niño-Southern Oscillation and PDO. The rising temperature of about 0.5°C in the tropics so far has not yet affected the global tropical storm days. ”
“Furthermore, the phase of enhanced hurricane activity since 1995 is not unusual compared to other periods of high hurricane activity in the record and thus appears to represent a recovery to normal hurricane activity, rather than a direct response to increasing sea surface temperature.”
Sea level rise rate
“It is essential that investigations continue to address why this worldwide-temperature increase has not produced acceleration of global sea level over the past 100 years, and indeed why global sea level has possibly decelerated for at least the last 80 years.”
Precipitation trend 1979 – 2004
“Trends have spatial variations with both positive and negative values, with a global-average near zero.”
Dust storms before 1959

July 6, 2011 5:59 pm

We must get the weather back under control.

“Recent historically low global tropical cyclone activity”, Dr. Ryan Maue,

Forest fires are really getting out of hand.

We believe that global warming since 1850 may have triggered decreases in fire frequency in some regions and future warming may even lead to further decreases in fire frequency. Simulations of present and future fire regimes, using daily outputs from the General Circulation Model (GCM), were in good agreement with recent trends observed in fire history studies.

The weird weather nonsense is a continuation of the great carbon con. Feel for your wallet. 😉

Bob, Missoula
July 6, 2011 6:02 pm

“Human-caused climate change is real and deserves effective policies in response. The making of claims that are scientifically unsupportable will not further that effort.”
How does Pielke Jr. justify the first sentence?

July 6, 2011 6:11 pm

I wager that should we enter a prolonged cooling cycle it will be blamed on man-made pollutants. Dr. Hansen will proclaim he was always rightwrong. A bit like wamcold.
Rasool SI, Schneider SH (July 1971). “Atmospheric carbon dioxide and aerosols: effects of large increases on global climate”.
Dr. S. Schneider et al. (using Dr. Hansen’s model).

July 6, 2011 6:22 pm

Droughts are killing the Earth while the biosphere has seen recent greening. Does it have anything to do with the ‘toxin’ co2?
The following study found that over a period of almost two decades, the Earth as a whole saw an increased greening of 6.2%. About 25% of the Earth’s vegetated landmass — almost 110 million square kilometres — enjoyed significant increases and only 7% showed significant declines.
Sahel is greening
Biological Productivity of the Tundra Has Increased Since 1981, Perhaps Due to Warming.
1982 – 1999
Fungal Co2 uptake forecast to increase

Lance Wallace
July 6, 2011 6:47 pm

Regarding O’Keefe “striking out”, at present he is nearly doubling the 2nd-highest guy (Pielke) with 19 “Agrees” to Pielke’s 10. The warmists are all in single digits.

July 6, 2011 7:21 pm

We want to be careful about using the term ‘amateur’ to mean non-expert.
The opposite to amateur is professional. But it seems that professionalism is part of the problem, where the mechanisms for the generation of funding for professional science seems to have had a corrupting influence on climate science.
Great scientists of the past were amateur, from the inventor and promoter of the differential calculus (G W Leibniz) to the inventor and promoter of evolutionary theory (Charles Darwin). And, of course, it was an amateur, Steve McIntyre, who blew the whistle on the hockey stick graph. This was constructed and promoted by professionals with a clear professional interest in the results it served to express.
In fact, it is almost necessary for a AGW sceptic to be an amateur. On the one hand a sceptical professional scientists would threaten his/her funding, while on the other hand sceptics funded by those who have an interest in scepticism (big oil) are shouted down.
We should celebrate the great amateurs of science, Anthony included!

July 6, 2011 7:30 pm

” When they assert a linkage between recent disasters and human-caused climate change, advocates for action actually empower their opponents by giving them an easy-to-hit target.”
“This is all the more ironic because the arguments for better adaptive responses and improving our energy policies in ways that reduce reliance on fossil fuels make good sense regardless.”
Pielke Jr is often quite difficult to understand. He completely undermines the need for their to be any “action” but he pretends as though there still should be. He sees a Democrat representative spout nonsense science, then claims he is right on policy. I predict he will claim no contradiction in all of this. Hogwash. There is no basis for forcing massive changes on our economy without the various scare stories about AGW. I really don’t see what on earth he could think justifies this.

July 6, 2011 8:16 pm

In regards to the dust storm image at the top of this post, they’re pretty common in Phoenix, even if this one was bigger than most. I spent 3 years in Phoenix from 1972 – 1975 and I experienced a number of those dust storms. You knew when they were coming when you saw a brown wall on the eastern horizon. The brown wall would get higher and higher until it overtook your location. There was no wind until the dust arrived. After the dust passed there would often be a “Phoenix 6 incher,” that is a rain where the raindrops were 6″ apart. I remember using my windshield wipers to clear the dust to drive the following morning. I don’t know why this made the national news although it was a cool picture but hardly a novel event.
[ryanm: Haboob 2011 made national news because it was filmed with a cheap camera phone and uploaded to YouTube. A particularly dense reporter on CNN couldn’t come up with the scientific reason for it, just wondered if it ever happened before. Her recollection of history likely began when she woke up in the morning.]

John F. Hultquist
July 6, 2011 8:45 pm

rbateman says:
July 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm
“I would like to take this opportunity to remember . . .

The storm that put the fires out when our friends, the British, tried to burn Washington, D. C., loo those many years ago.

Douglas DC
July 6, 2011 8:53 pm

Chuck spent 10 years of Aerial Firefighting most every summer in the Southwest-yep,
seen that too. Usually a precursor to the Monsoons..
Media/Scientific hysteria benefits none…

July 6, 2011 9:25 pm

I’d rate O’Keefe a base-hit.

July 6, 2011 10:47 pm

Ryan chose the image of the recent haboob that has hit Arizona. It is interesting to know that these develop at the front of high pressure systems, here on the western side of mobile polar high of 1015hPa covering most of the US… not as written in the media during the “Arizona Monsoon”… sign that these journalists have no clue about what a monsoon is. They should read Leroux!

July 6, 2011 11:18 pm

In my history of Melbourne, there are references to dust storms back as far as 1835, before Victoria was a settled farming state and only pioneers lived there. They are regular occurrences here in Oz.
But we live in a world of instant hype and non-existent correction.

Brian H
July 7, 2011 12:27 am

Pielke Jr. just spent and blew several large handfuls of his cred. The bottom of the barrel is in sight.

Bob in Castlemaine
July 7, 2011 1:16 am

I remember my mum telling of the vast dust clouds that spread over Victoria (Southern Australia) from the Mallee in the early part of last century.
I can well remember this storm back in 1983, it certainly was eerie to watch from the 16th floor of a Melbourne office building. But 1983 was pre warming hype.
I can only imagine what my Mum would have made of the warmist rubbish, had it been apportioned the blame for the storms she witnessed back in the 1920s.

Bob in Castlemaine
July 7, 2011 3:35 am

Bob in Castlemaine says:
July 7, 2011 at 1:16 am

Herewith image omitted from above comment.

Alan the Brit
July 7, 2011 3:58 am

As I have said before, the “increase” in damage from freak weather events is based almost soley upon insurance compainies & their policy changes. In the old days, (certainly in the UK) if one made a claim because of damage, the insurance company would send round an assessor, to limit or Adjust the loss! This meant giving out a chequw for the value of the damaged item for what it was worth immediately before the damage occurred! Nowadays, it’s all new for old, so automatically the cost goes up, & loss adjusters are quite helpful at times by suggesting claiming for this or that whilst you’re about it, as it is covered in the policy, but no increase in actual damage or intensity of weather event is recorded!

Simon Wood
July 7, 2011 5:37 am

I’m confused by Pielke Jr’s stance on AGW. His scientific arguments are in general incisive, cohesive and effective, and yet he seems unable to make the final step to renouncing the AGW faith. I’d like to see his justification for his belief.
It reminds me of episodes of The Atheist Experience on YouTube – religious callers are taken through a logical argument by the hosts, step by step, agreeing with each point, until it reaches an ultimate conclusion – one that contradicts their core belief, so they just throw it out, even though they know it to be true.

Terry W
July 7, 2011 8:13 am

Ha ha. I too remember the ‘6″‘ rain falls. Are you remembering correctly on the direction? The prevailing winds in Phoenix usually come from the west. I remember those storms also. A couple of times I was on top of South Mountain showing visiting relatives the sights and watching a big dust storm like that roll in from the west. Quite impressive. Phoenix is in a desert. Dust storms happen.

July 7, 2011 8:19 am

Simon Wood and others, thanks for the comments/reactions. FYI, my views on climate science and policy are discussed in my book, The Climate Fix:
I welcome any critiques of the arguments that I make in it — it is certainly not the last word by a long stretch, but I do think that the questions raised on this thread about my views are addressed in the book on both science and policy. Thanks.

July 7, 2011 10:03 am

Terry W,
Yes, it was common for the storms to develop over the mountains to the east or so and then move down into the desert in the late afternoon or evening. The satellite loop for that day showed the storms moving east to west.

Terry W
July 7, 2011 12:58 pm

Ah yes. In July / August time frame there were systems moving in from the gulf so they would move up from the southeast, especially if there were tropical storm/hurricane action going on in the gulf or Mexico.
I think the ones I saw were in May or June when they came from the west. Any dust storm coming in with rain would end up muddying the car.

Stas Peterson BS ME, BSMa MSCE/IT and MBA
July 7, 2011 2:33 pm

Apparently the recent dust storm in Phoenix is now an officially a part of the CAGW fruit cake pseudo-Science. Sorry but we have a few dsut storms blowing in from the desert, every year but admittingly we haven’t had one quite as strong in several years.
Meanwhile the EPA dweebs are chortling with glee. Phoenix wil have had a metropolitan wide pollution of PM2.5 and PM10 for at least several hours. Of course that dust storm will be blamed on Man for the “pollution”. That will allow them to condemn the generally cleaner air in Phoenix and add it to the Non Attainment Air Quality Areas, that justify their current and future budgets and manpower.

Rational Debate
July 7, 2011 4:08 pm

re post by: TomRude says: July 6, 2011 at 10:47 pm
Naw, it definitely is monsoon – it’s here in S. Nevada too. A little earlier than normal, but only by a few weeks. Typically monsoon starts in SW USA in late July or early August.

July 7, 2011 4:41 pm

I wonder if there was greater CAPE than normal in the Valley of the Sun that day? There has been so much cold air aloft very late in the season this year, throughout the Western US. Just posing the question.
Making note of things today, the national radar on Anthony’s side bar shows lots of convection firing up all around the Western US today. That Four Corners High and SW Monsoon are really cranking up. More like what you’d expect in early September than in early July.

July 7, 2011 4:44 pm

In fact, looks like there is a super cell a couple hundred miles to my southeast, between Fresno and Bakersfield. I’m going to go over the NWS sites and check it out.

July 7, 2011 4:48 pm

Sorry, I was off a bit, not the Hanford CWA, the next one to the east – Vegas CWA:
Cranking today.

July 7, 2011 4:50 pm


July 7, 2011 6:49 pm

NWUS55 KVEF 080042
542 PM PDT THU JUL 07 2011

July 8, 2011 7:44 am

Rationale debate, of course it’s a monsoon, rain in summer… LOL
Where was the inclined meteorological equator? yep, 100 of miles south. Look at a satellite image before spewing. EOM.

July 8, 2011 7:50 am

FYI: Just because WMO calls any maritime trade from the Gulf of Mexico a “monsoon”, it does not have a crossing of the equator, is not involved in transequatorial declivity and thus is not genetically a monsoon. Ch.4, sec. 4.5 Leroux, Dynamic Analysis of Weather and Climate 2010. Springer/Praxis 2ed english
BTW the Panameam Monsoon reaches maximum 15 degree North latitude.

Steve Keohane
July 9, 2011 9:08 am

SteveSadlov says: July 7, 2011 at 4:41 pm
Making note of things today, the national radar on Anthony’s side bar shows lots of convection firing up all around the Western US today. That Four Corners High and SW Monsoon are really cranking up. More like what you’d expect in early September than in early July.

I was just thinking this morning the ‘weather’ in western Colorado is acting as if it were 3-4 weeks later in the season. We usually have nothing but a 10% chance of being under a storm cell from June first to the last week of July or the first week of August. Having these all-day and multiple days of showers seems strange. Last winter ran an extra five weeks, I hope this ‘weather’ isn’t a harbinger of an even longer winter. The water coming down the Colorado River is twice as high as it gets at normal peak at the end of May, 10,000cfs. Now running at 22,000 cfs, average is 6180 cfs. It is well above the 1983 max of 18,600 cfs.

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