San Francisco Chronicle uncorks a vintage climate science article

Newseum -- San Fran Chronicle July 6, 2011 Front Page

Weather Post by Dr. Ryan Maue

Those reading the San Francisco* Chronicle on Wednesday were treated to a front page story on California’s Climate:  Warmer interior leads to cooler coastline.

“Fair weather fans who believe global warming will bathe San Francisco’s Sunset District in sun or one day prompt residents of Daly City to don bikinis may be in for a rude awakening.”

Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer, in his attempt to impart levity on the very serious climate crisis issue, highlights the apparent disappointment of his readers who were expecting the Bay Area to become a tropical paradise.  He describes an important new study by meteorologist Jan Null which examined the new “1981-2010 climate normals” issued July 1 by NCDC and found proof of global warming, or something.

Weather Changes: "Monthly temperature and precipitation averages from 1981-2010 were compared to averages from 1971-2000. Here is the change between these two time periods for selected California cities." Image from SF Chronicle.

Jan Null holds a Masters from San Jose State University and is a certified consultant meteorologist.  He clearly has the expertise necessary to perform climatology studies, which this article demonstrates.  However, Null’s quotations and conclusions are not buttressed by the limited data sample he provides.  Indeed, the article is not particularly well-written as evidenced by Null contradicting himself within the span of several paragraphs.  Perhaps we should heed his parting words: “this is such a small sample that it really needs to be taken with a grain of salt.”

Null performs a simple comparison analysis for 8-stations of annual temperatures and precipitation, as shown in the map.  This analysis must have taken the better part of 10-minutes.  It simply shows the difference between the period of 2001-2010 and 1971-1980, since the period 1981-2000 is common to the most recent two “climate normals” (1971-2000 and 1981-2010):

“…average temperatures have increased since 1981 in only two of eight California cities surveyed compared with the 30 years starting in 1971. The information, compiled using National Climatic Data Center statistics, shows more annual rain has also fallen everywhere except in Southern California.

The data may appear to bolster the arguments of global warming skeptics, but Null said the findings actually fit in with the predictions of scientists who believe the climate is changing as a result of human-caused carbon emissions.

“People say, ‘Wait a minute, what about global warming? Shouldn’t it be warmer?’ ” Null said. “Well, if you have more warm days in the Central Valley, you are going to have a stronger sea breeze so you will cool off the coastal areas. That certainly does not contradict any of the models about global warming. This is what is to be expected.

Okay, let’s follow this straw man argument to its logical conclusion.  Some unnamed “global warming skeptics” may use this result to bolster their case, yet the “findings” do no such thing.  Instead, this is exactly what’s expected with global warming.  Unfortunately, this conclusion is woefully unsubstantiated with the very limited data sample, as Null states later in the article.  Yet, there it is.

“All the Northern California sites have seen a slight increase in rainfall, on the order of 3 to 6 percent,” Null said. “Ultimately, if you have a warmer atmosphere, that gives you more precipitation.”

Actually 4 of the 6 stations that have precipitation increases had a decrease in temperature.  So the connection between local rainfall must be associated with non-local changes in temperature, or due to the “warmer atmosphere”.

There is no mention of any natural climate influences on California climate.  There is a mighty large puddle of water nearby that is affected by a lot of alphabet soup: ENSO, PDO, PNA, NPGO, AO, etc.  I’m willing to bet that the climate of the 1970s and the 2000s is quite different due to a change in the second (PDO).  Null almost gets there:

He found significant change. Rainfall increased in every city, and annual temperatures were higher everywhere except in Fresno when the 1961-to-1990 period was compared with the 1971-to-2000 period. He did not include Eureka and Redding in that analysis.

Null said he believes the big storms that pounded the state between 1995 and 1998 may be causing the differences in average rainfall between the different 30-year periods.

“This decade we are losing some incredibly dry years in the 1970s and we have picked up some wet years in the ’90s,” Null said. “That may be just the randomness of climate rather than anything that is going on on a larger scale.”

Wait, how can the big storms of the 1990s result in the differences in average rainfall between the periods 1971-2000 and 1981-2010?   Face palm?  It’s really not clear what’s being compared anymore. 

Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise

The next couple paragraphs are Pulitzer quality, and were likely inspired by the recent commissioned series in Scientific American:

Still, climatologists have long said that a warmer atmosphere would mean more rainfall in certain areas, and studies have shown that the Earth has warmed at least 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900. The world’s foremost scientists, about 2,500 in all, agree that this increase in global temperatures is responsible for the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, acidification of the ocean, sea level rise and habitat destruction.

Scientists say habitats will change over the next century so fast that some plants, trees and less tolerant species will undoubtedly go extinct if nothing is done. The predictions have nevertheless done little to quell the drumbeat of skepticism about global warming, particularly among politicians whose constituents stand to lose money if environmental regulations are imposed.

Well, that’s why it’s the Chronicle.  Propaganda.

Null said his study should not be used to support either position, given that information from only eight of the thousands of cities in the database was included and snowfall levels and other factors were not analyzed.

“You see these subtle changes – warmer temperatures inland, slightly cooler temperatures along the coast, and an increase in precipitation – but this is such a small sample that it really needs to be taken with a grain of salt.” Null said. “But I think what we’re seeing is probably what we would see if we looked at a bigger sample.”

I look forward to reading the manuscript of this new study.

======================================================

*San Francisco is known as the city where liberal politicians go to collect money for Presidential election campaigns by threatening to close down or bankrupt the coal industry.

Former Senator (currently indicted) John Edwards:  March 27, 2007:   “He called Monday for a ban on new coal-fired power plants in the country, unless they could recapture the greenhouse gases they create. There are 150 coal-fired plants now on the drawing boards in the United States, he said, and they can’t be allowed to harm the country’s efforts to control the spread of greenhouse gases.”

(Then and now Democrat candidate for) President Obama:  January 2008:

…and for completeness, Vice President Joe Biden explaining his coal policy in Ohio in 2008… YouTube video…

…and what could have been…very excited & pro-coal Hillary Clinton from 2008 West Virginia campaign stop…

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42 thoughts on “San Francisco Chronicle uncorks a vintage climate science article

  1. Now I know what people mean by the Null hypothesis. Limited measurements that indicate no change either way, so it agrees with whatever theory you want to bolster.

  2. Comically, the SF Chronicle is also wondering if Diane Feinstein is too old for another Senate run…Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, and Jerry Brown aren’t spring chickens either! All are in their late 80s.

  3. Hey Ryan,
    Great Article. But I’m afraid that Pelosi and Boxer are only a little over 70. With Silicone holding Nancy together, and Hatred keeping Boxer alive, we may be stuck with them for a while. Congress needs not only term limits but age limits. And if you think Islands are “Capsizing” it’s time for a padded room at Bellevue.

  4. “Ultimately, if you have a warmer atmosphere, that gives you more precipitation.”
    Poorly thought out. It works under one circumstance, which is not all-inclusive of the possibilities.
    1.) Your region sees no change in the band of moisture that frequents it, whether cooling or warming.
    No change.
    2.) Your region was out of the path of the main band of moisture, but now with warming/cooling it is.
    You get more precipitation.
    3.) Your region was in the path of the main band of moisture, but now with warming/cooling it is not.
    You get less precipitation.
    Still, climatologists have long said that a warmer atmosphere would mean more rainfall in certain areas,
    Climatologist can long say that all day long, but it is an isolated circumstance. The statement has no global significance, and no regional one if you cannot predict who gets what when.
    The article reads like a Michio Kaku analogy.

  5. The increase in central valley temps could also be due to the Foehn effect. Is it possible that an increase in the moisture of the coastal air would bring about an increase in temp of the downwind air as it passes over the coastal high ground? In addition, as the central valley is one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world I would expect all activity in the region to have increased from water extraction to urbanisation. According to this article the greatest temp increase was around Fresno (Tulare basin) which is also where there has been land subsidence due to water extraction (see photo – slide 12 – http://www.water.ca.gov/drought/). Furthermore independent of which side of the fence one is on UHI is viewed solely as an effect of urban development, whereas any surface that is opened to the sun will get warmer / hotter than if it was shaded. However, I would expect irrigation to have a cooling effect, unless of course more targeted irrigation lessens evaporation.

  6. Ryan Maue says: Comically, the SF Chronicle is also wondering if Diane Feinstein is too old for another Senate run…
    Of course not. Blatant senility has never been a disqualifier for Senators.

  7. Sickening drivel from the home of the marijuana wackjobs. ( who now rule your world)
    All this comical rubbish needed was for a joint effort between J Null & E(empty) Void.
    Null & Void has a nice ring to the article
    regards

  8. @Carl Chapman says:
    July 7, 2011 at 12:06 am
    “Now I know what people mean by the Null hypothesis.”
    Ding! Ding! Ding! Give that man a kewpie doll!

  9. Ha haaaa! Love the comment about Pulitzer-quality writing.
    Null’s “scientific” study proves that qualifications do not a scientist make. I respectfully submit a recent “study” by Dr Herkinderkin which demonstrates that late twentieth and early twenty-first century temperature variations are indeed anthropogenic, but were induced not by anthropogenic CO2 but by variations in the numbers of domestic cathode-ray television sets: http://t.co/m4C1gNb
    It is, of course, tongue in cheek. The irony is that it is no less scientific than the subject of your post or the studies that support the IPCC (well OK, not much less). And Herkinderkin leaves an important clue – he does not attempt to secure more funding by stressing that more research is needed. That’s a dead give-away – he can’t possibly be a real climate scientist!

  10. @ Jimbo says: July 7, 2011 at 1:16 am
    “On a side note what were we told about declining US snowpack?”
    One year does not make a trend – I believe you are referencing weather.

  11. @ Jimbo says: July 7, 2011 at 1:16 am
    Those studies are not on SF fog – that is a misleading presentation of the material.
    .

  12. So the Sahara should be a veritable tropical wetland…. right?
    And the relatively cool Pacific Northwest is dry as a bone.
    “Ultimately, if you have a warmer atmosphere, that gives you more precipitation.”
    Some of the garbage out of these guys’ mouths is unbelievable.

  13. “Well, if you have more warm days in the Central Valley, you are going to have a stronger sea breeze so you will cool off the coastal areas. That certainly does not contradict any of the models about global warming. This is what is to be expected.“
    A variation on this was used several years ago to explain cooler temps in the NH inthat a hotter equatorial region sucked cooler air down from the north. And nothing “contradicts any of the models about global warming” as far as I can tell.

  14. [Null] Well, if you have more warm days in the Central Valley, you are going to have a stronger sea breeze so you will cool off the coastal areas.

    I assume:
    1) Sea breeze has had a chance to be well cooled by the Pacific.
    2) Coastal areas are close to the coast and the sea breeze won’t warm up much before getting disropted by Bay Area geography.
    3) Null’s temperature analysis focused on dry bulb temperature, not wet bulb, not wind chill.
    Which means:
    The coastal areas see no change in temperature except that which is due to sea surface temperature.
    I suppose a stronger seabreeze might affect a greater area, or it may affect more days. It’s odd that Null looks at temperature, precipitation, but not wind speed.
    In my limited exposure to California, I determined that San Jose is not a coastal area. Why did its temperature drop 0.8°F? I haven’t been there in July/August, does the great sucking effect of the Central valley occur in the south Bay area too?

  15. @ Ric – San Jose is one short range away from the coast. So not on the coast, but somewhat impacted by the weather there.

  16. @ Pull My Finger says:
    “So the Sahara should be a veritable tropical wetland…. right?”
    I don’t think these studies say that other weather/climate patterns don’t matter any more. But I think it is fairly well understood that in areas with large bodies of water nearby warmer air means more potential water in the air.

  17. So what would be the rate of climate change without anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions?
    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Ferris Bueller?

  18. Most of the maximum temperatures in California had decreased since the 1930’s. The Fresno data he uses shows no increase in maximum temperature. But it is the max temp that would create the convection needed to draw in the marine layer. Null instead uses average temperature because the minimum temps have increased and this masks the cooling of the maximum temperatures. Sometimes minimums increase only after “adjustments”. The minimums are capabl e of creating the convection to draw in the cooler air. This mis-application of average temperature is common. A paper by Moritz from UC Berkeley Vertebrate Museum was used to show how warming was driving mammals like the Pika off the tops of the Sierra and part of the petition to make the PIka Endangered.. However in Yosemite where he did his study, maximum temperatures have been dropping. So Moritz conveniently used minimum temperatures . Null’s analysis is just another blatant example of selective misrepresentation.

  19. Above should have said minimum temperatures are NOT capable of creating convection

  20. [Null] Well, if you have more warm days in the Central Valley, you are going to have a stronger sea breeze so you will cool off the coastal areas.

    Hmmmm, so sometimes the wind isn’t really blowing. Instead, there’s a place downwind that sucks? I suppose it’s only a question of perspective.
    I happen to live in the central valley. It gets hot sometimes. But it’s generally kinda nice here. And I promise you, it doesn’t suck. Since the weather here always keeps on moving downwind, and east over the Sierra Nevada. It must be the eastern states that suck. 😉

  21. The world’s foremost scientists, about 2,500 in all, agree that this increase in global temperatures is responsible for the melting of the Antarctic ice sheet, acidification of the ocean, sea level rise and habitat destruction.
    Verily, given the completely fictional results of its “audacious distortion of reality in order to reach the higher truths” above, the inexorable transcendence of Climate Science’s “method” to therefore finally lead us even beyond mere word salads, localized talking in tongues, and paranoid psychotic delusions, to a final epistemology solely comprised by pure gibberish is inevitable.
    Hear Ye, Skeptics! Bend forward and accept thy fate before it’s too late. Or else!

  22. Did Null Notice that the two places where the temp “went up” the official thermometers were by the Tarmacs at Air ports that have massively grown & expanded over that same period! In Fresno which had the greater growth the Tarmac was even actually widened. In Redding the maintenance of the station was changed & the material under the thermometer was changed to man-made material. oops!

  23. Fresno is a rapidly urbanizing city in the Central Valley of California. We know UHI effects are more prominent in daily minimum temperature than maximum temperature. If we look at daily maximum temperature over the past 25 years we find a small cooling trend in both Fresno and the 97-site composite of all California locations with a complete record from 1986-2010:
    http://www.atmos.washington.edu/marka/tmax.fresno.annual.1986-2010.gif
    http://www.atmos.washington.edu/marka/tmax.california.annual.1986-2010.gif

  24. “Well, if you have more warm days in the Central Valley, you are going to have a stronger sea breeze so you will cool off the coastal areas. That certainly does not contradict any of the models about global warming. This is what is to be expected.“
    In other words, there are strong convective negative feedbacks that influence climate. Radiative forcings are not the entire story.

  25. shiz.
    he just depth charged the ‘null hypothesis’ as a linguistically meaningful expression…

  26. The Pacific is getting colder. I thought that explained more fog, not the valley average temperature. Is Fresno really warmer during the summer days? Not for the past few summers. Didn’t Christy find less cold at night but not as hot during the day in the Summer due to agriculture and irrigation? Did Null look at the maximum summer temperature trends?

  27. “The world’s foremost scientists, about 2,500 in all, agree that this increase in global temperatures is responsible…” So, the world’s smartest people all believe in AGW?!? The rest of us are just Neanderthals.

  28. Bystander says:
    July 7, 2011 at 6:52 am
    @ Ric – San Jose is one short range away from the coast. So not on the coast, but somewhat impacted by the weather there.
    I bicycled over that range in 1974 on the start of a 2700 mile solo bicycle tour. I wouldn’t call it short. 🙂 One of my first on-trip purchases was a pair of lightweight gloves on the downhill side. Lessee, Rt 84, yeah, La Honda Rd. 1400′ of so.
    South San Francisco is somewhat impacted, the only time I’d say San Jose was impacted was during coastal storms that managed to push air over the coastal range. (I used to spend a week or so there in late February/early March, it’s the summer ventilation through the Golden Gate I have very little experience with.)
    On one trip I as I flew into SFO (the destination wasn’t San Jose that trip), I saw cap clouds on the coastal range. I saw them again from the car rental office. I had some time, so obviously I went to Palo Alto via Skyline Blvd to drive through the cloud too.

  29. San Francisco? The City that is so clean that their vehicles weren’t required to be smogged for decades?
    People on the other side of the Bay and farther inland were the recipients of their pollution all those years, and to have SF’s smugness heaped on top of that by Pelosi, Boxer, and Feinstein is beyond ironic.

  30. Bystander says:
    July 7, 2011 at 5:21 am
    @ Jimbo says: July 7, 2011 at 1:16 am
    ………………
    One year does not make a trend – I believe you are referencing weather.

    Who said anything about 1 year? And yes it is the weather just as the warmists are now talking about extreme weather events caused by Goreball warming.

  31. Bystander says:
    July 7, 2011 at 5:24 am
    @ Jimbo says: July 7, 2011 at 1:16 am
    Those studies are not on SF fog – that is a misleading presentation of the material.

    Oh yes they are concerned with fog. Read the studies carefully – fog or lack thereof is the result. Look at the area covered.

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