Climate activist McKibben bizarrely blames Hurricane Irene on global warming

Photo Credit: Shadia Fayne Wood

Post by Dr. Ryan N. Maue

Update:  Andrew Revkin writes a nice piece at his DotEarth NY Times blog that “very politely” repudiates McKibben.  Remember, the NY Times editorial board completely agrees with McKibben on the Tar Sands pipeline issue.

Update: ThinkProgess spins a narrative that says Irene is worse from global warming.  (Disconnected, hand-wavy narrative)

Bill McKibben authors a bizarre piece in the Daily Beast where he not only blames the strength of Hurricane Irene on global warming but connects the storm to President Obama’s expected approval of the Keystone Pipeline transport of Canadian Tar Sands to terminals in the United States.  While the second part of his thesis is political in nature, the first part is quite easy to fact check, and comes up woefully short.  McKibben has no expertise in tropical cyclone science, and relies on the expert quotes of Weather Underground blogger Dr. Jeff Masters who has provided a laudable public service with his Irene coverage.

McKibben begins: “Irene’s got a middle name, and it’s Global Warming.”

I doubt there is a tropical cyclone scientist that would go on record and make such a foolish statement, but who knows.

Normally, says Jeff Masters of Weather Underground, it’s “difficult for a major Category 3 or stronger hurricane crossing north of North Carolina to maintain that intensity, because wind shear rapidly increases and ocean temperatures plunge below the 26°C (79°F) level that can support a hurricane.”  The high-altitude wind shear may help knock the storm down a little this year, but the ocean temperatures won’t. They’re bizarrely high—only last year did we ever record hotter water.

Sea surface temperatures 1° to 3°F warmer than average extend along the East Coast from North Carolina to New York. Waters of at least 26°C extend all the way to southern New Jersey, which will make it easier for Irene to maintain its strength much farther to the north than a hurricane usually can,” says Masters. “These warm ocean temperatures will also make Irene a much wetter hurricane than is typical, since much more water vapor can evaporate into the air from record-warm ocean surfaces. The latest precipitation forecast from NOAA’s Hydrological prediction center shows that Irene could dump over eight inches of rain over coastal New England.”

Masters is alluding to the process known as “extratropical transition” in which a fully tropical hurricane becomes enmeshed with the midlatitude westerlies and evolves into a more typical extratropical cyclone.  The “tropical phase” hurricane encounters upper-level winds that are very strong which causes significant vertical shear.  This shear “tilts” the hurricane inner-core — a situation that is not optimal for the maintainence of deep convection around the entire eye.  Also as Irene reaches the Virginia border, it will encounter cooler SSTs, almost 10 degrees C cooler than its present location in the Bahamas.  The combination of dry continental air entrainment and cooler SSTs will immediately decrease the inner-core convection and help to “poof” out the storm.

Here’s a model depiction of the rapid structure change expected with Irene:  snapshots from the simulated GOES-12 brightness temperatures from the NCEP-NAM 12 km model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update 08/28/2011:  Here’s the verifying satellite image, about 8-hour behind the third simulated panel…model did pretty good.

08/28/11 16:45Z

After 72-hours, Irene will look like a Nor’easter snowstorm on satellite with very cold cloud-tops on the NW flank or comma-head of the storm.  Considerable rain will occur before Irene makes landfall, as well as during its trip up the eastern seaboard.  However, the symmetric appearance of a major hurricane with an eye will be long gone.

Masters is quoted that “bizarrely high” SSTs along Irene’s path will cause Irene to be a much wetter and apparently longer-lasting hurricane that normal.  This assertion is true if “all else is equal”.  However, before attributing the “anomalous SST” to global warming, one must control all other variables in this complex situation.  That requires considerable sensitivity research with state-of-the art numerical weather prediction (and climate) models.  With very poor in-situ historical observations of the global oceans, it is still a quite daunting task to attribute SST anomalies in the meandering and variable Gulf Stream to global warming.  This hand-waving theory may not hold up when a rigorous scientific hypothesis is tested, yet McKibben does not provide a citation or reference aside from Masters’ quotations, which are not peer-reviewed in the slightest.

I plot up daily the current SSTs as well as the anomalies for each August 25 from 1979 to 2011 for the North Tropical Atlantic here.  The path Irene is expected to take does not go over “bizarrely high” SSTs by any stretch of the imagination.  The 26-degree C isotherm is just about at its average location for the past 30-years.

If Irene occurred in September, the SSTs would be warmer than August, which does not imply that global warming aided the storm’s development.  Thus, one must look at the variability (variance) of local and regional SSTs as well as the actual SSTs to gauge an accurate understanding of tropical cyclone intensity change.  With the current track very similar to Floyd 1999, one should expect similar impacts in terms of precipitation and wind “if all else is equal”.  However, nature rarely operates in text book manner especially in the field of meteorology.

While some tropical cyclone scientists are probably sympathetic with McKibben’s political goals, I will keep my eyes peeled for one that will go on record agreeing with McKibben’s stretched scientific logic.  In his mind, Bush caused Katrina and Obama caused Irene.  Hopefully McKibben and the media will let this crisis go to waste.

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Steeptown

Let’s face it; the world is full of nutters like McKibben. The amazing thing is that he is given any attention.

The only thing predictable here, is McKibben’s “middle name” braying. His credibility is clearly zero. I’ll bet any public ‘confirmation’ from the likes of Dr. Masters would be intellectual suicide. Nonetheless, Dr. Maue, thank you for addressing the science. Haven’t all Gulf Stream-hugging hurricanes been a pain? These are the ones that beat the tar out of the east coast all the way to Newfoundland, are they not? The New Jersey governor’s assertion that this ‘could be’ a 100-year event? Say what? Isn’t this more or less a normal occurrence for hurricanes with this track?

It would be very interesting to track/graph ACE during this storm and for the rest of the season. That should take some of the wind out of the blow-hards’ sails.

Brian H, facts don’t matter to McKibben, he’s an AGW addict, only interested in the next fix via some clueless newstype who will listen.

This is a blatant attempt to combine pagan weather gods with the Judeo Christian idea of “all sins must be paid for”.
Of course the “all sins must be paid for” …. usually meant it had to paid to the church, and the pagan weather gods were just a bunch of marauding hooligans who couldn’t care twopence about sin.
But, this new religion has some “interesting” facets.

I’ll spell it out … the weather gods were seen as gods responsible for the weather. So, the source of income for the “priests” of that religion was an endless stream of “you must pacify the gods (through me) in order that you do not have another … hurricane”.
Note the total absence of “deserving the weather you get”. In contrast religion in the first century BC took a sharp turn and stopped blaming the weather and started blaming the “sin of the individual”. This probably was to do with changes in society … less people directly connected with agriculture which was so weather depending. Growing greek influence with their philosophy of the individual and perhaps a bout of warming (Roman warm period?).
So, religion changed from “random moods of the gods who had to be persuaded not to do harm”, to “personal responsibility for sin which had to be paid for”.
Now, we are seeing a new type of religion which is “random moods of the (gaia) god, which is the personal responsibility of all those who have sinned (by burning carbon).
Our carbon, which art in heaven,
Damned be thy name,
Thy power be gone,
Emissions none,
On earth as it is in heaven,
Give us this day our daily rations,
And forgive us our emissions.
As we forgive those who emissions are greater,
For their need is more,
His name is Al Gore,
For his is the kingdom, the power and the glory for ever and ever, Carbon.

John H

Whatever happened to the ‘Its only Weather not Climate’ mantra used for cold weather events.

kadaka (KD Knoebel)

Sea surface temperatures 1° to 3°F warmer than average extend along the East Coast from North Carolina to New York. Waters of at least 26°C extend all the way to southern New Jersey, which will make it easier for Irene to maintain its strength much farther to the north than a hurricane usually can,” says Masters.
1. Where’s the missing left-side double-quote mark?
2. Why the units shift? Does “0.6° to 1.7°C warmer than average” not sound alarming enough?

Mike Jowsey

Get with the times McKibben – Climate Disruption, not global warming. If her middle name was Climate Disruption then anything goes and you might be able to bluster and arm-wave your way out of it.

Warren

@ Ryan Maue
I am tired of the rent-seeking parasites who have hijacked meteorology and contaminated it with their left-wing political agendas.
Amen to that

What’s her last name?

John Silver

Why bother with moronic trolls like this? It’s just a waste of good bytes.

Bloke down the pub

@ Ryan Maue
“I am tired of the rent-seeking parasites who have hijacked meteorology and contaminated it with their left-wing political agendas.”
Come on Ryan, stop beating around the bush and tell us what you really think.

Hi Ryan, one more chart is missing: SST record for the US eastern coast with the bizarre high SST
http://climexp.knmi.nl/data/ihadisst1_280-290E_25-35N_n_sua.png
http://climexp.knmi.nl/data/ihadsst2_280-290E_25-35N_n_sua.png
http://climexp.knmi.nl/data/isstoi_v2_280-290E_25-35N_na.png
The same area, various datasets.
Who is Masters?

To the tune of “I Believed in Father Christmas”:
They said that the world was warming
They said we were gonna fry
They gave us the direst warnings
Repent for the end is nigh
And I believed in Global Warming
I fell for a big fat lie
But listen up folks
It’s only a hoax
A joke and a pig in a poke
They priced up our carbon footprints
They filled us with guilt and sin
Indulgences sold to order
To offset the mess we’re in
And I believed in…

Lawrie Ayres

Oh for the good old days when we heard there was a storm coming and to get ready. We didn’t know what was causing the storm nor did we care. We only cared if we had prepared well enough and that we had screwed down that loose sheet of corrugated iron. Those sure were carefree days.

Jeef

I am amazed that Americans give column inches to deluded fruitbats. Has McKibben been tested for senility yet?

TWE

If McKibben has any proper qualifications in science, I couldn’t find any. Just a bunch of cheap and meaningless honourary degrees.

rbateman

Global Warming causes Hurricanes?
I thought the ocean and atmosphere was responsible for that.
Anyway, it appears that Obama has contracted a version of the Gore effect, where nature goes wild every time he reverses course. Gaian Antibodies are generated, you see, when both speak.
McKibben may be coming down with that.
Is there a doctor in the house?

Global warming, global cooling…all get blamed for weather. Here’s Time magazines take on it when the world was in the grip of the global cooling fever (June 24, 1974):
“As they review the bizarre and unpredictable weather pattern of the past several years, a growing number of scientists are beginning to suspect that many seemingly contradictory meteorological fluctuations are actually part of a global climatic upheaval. However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades. The trend shows no indication of reversing. Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age.
Telltale signs are everywhere — from the unexpected persistence and thickness of pack ice in the waters around Iceland to the southward migration of a warmth-loving creature like the armadillo from the Midwest…Since the 1940s the mean global temperature has dropped about 2.7° F.
Scientists have found other indications of global cooling. For one thing there has been a noticeable expansion of the great belt of dry, high-altitude polar winds — the so-called circumpolar vortex—that sweep from west to east around the top and bottom of the world. Indeed it is the widening of this cap of cold air that is the immediate cause of Africa’s drought. By blocking moisture-bearing equatorial winds and preventing them from bringing rainfall to the parched sub-Sahara region, as well as other drought-ridden areas stretching all the way from Central America to the Middle East and India, the polar winds have in effect caused the Sahara and other deserts to reach farther to the south. Paradoxically, the same vortex has created quite different weather quirks in the U.S. and other temperate zones. As the winds swirl around the globe, their southerly portions undulate like the bottom of a skirt. Cold air is pulled down across the Western U.S. and warm air is swept up to the Northeast. The collision of air masses of widely differing temperatures and humidity can create violent storms—the Midwest’s recent rash of disastrous tornadoes, for example.
…Whatever the cause of the cooling trend, its effects could be extremely serious, if not catastrophic. Scientists figure that only a 1% decrease in the amount of sunlight hitting the earth’s surface could tip the climatic balance, and cool the planet enough to send it sliding down the road to another ice age within only a few hundred years.”
So, global cooling also causes violent storms and tornadoes in the USA. The last paragraph is interesting in light of the CLOUD results. A 1% decrease in sunlight reaching the earth’s surface is a ‘tipping point’. All this stuff sounds so familiar: just change the odd word and it’s the global warming meme.

They will do anything to gain attention to be published. Whether it is weather or the truth about some VIP, they are a waste of time in my opinion, and only attract those who want to hear lies to comfort their own beliefs and world view. Sad really there are so many of them.

Robbie

Ahhhh … McKibben again!: Just read the June 2011 issue of the National Geographic where McKibben is faced with the truth about China’s Green Policy.
Also figure out what role Wind and Solar Power will play for the future in that country in that piece. I think it was the first eye-opener for ignorant people like McKibben that we cannot do much about CO2 reductions at this point in time.
But I guess he still hasn’t learned much about that project.
I hope Irene will not cause too much damage on the East Coast of the USA.

Actually McKibben’s “logic” is marginally better than most Carbon Cultists. Most of them are also loyal partisan cheerleaders, attributing all bad things to Satan Bush and all good things to Lord God Obama. McKibben correctly understands that Bush and Obama are 90% identical on a policy level.
This matters because his failure to play within the official chalk lines will lower his credibility among the larger number of raw partisans.
While I’m at it, I’ve got to say that far too many commenters on the non-Cult side are also raw-boned partisans, attributing all good things to Lord God Bush and all bad things to Satan Obama. This is equally invalid and equally discrediting.

Carbonicus

We’re sick with you, Ryan. Best way to beat them is with real science, which is why your ACE work is so crucial.
Keep up the good work.
And Go ‘Noles!

Wade

From the article:

Masters is quoted that “bizarrely high” SSTs along Irene’s path will cause Irene to be a much wetter and apparently longer-lasting hurricane that normal.

This is why I don’t read Jeff Masters anymore. That statement is a lie. Ocean temperatures are much cooler this year than last year! Here is the proof. Below are the sea-surface temperature anomalies, according to NOAA, from the past several years at about the same date, starting with 2011. Pay careful attention to the SST around Irene’s path
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2011/anoma.8.25.2011.gif
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2010/anoma.8.26.2010.gif
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2009/anoma.8.24.2009.gif
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2008/anoma.8.25.2008.gif
When you go through those 4 years, 2008 was the coolest by far. 2009 was second coolest in Irene’s past and future path. 2010 was, bar far, the hottest of the 4. 2011 is the second coolest of the 4. Only in the mind of a true believer like Jeff Masters is cooler ocean temperatures “bizarrely high”. If ocean temperatures are “bizarrely high”, than Hurricane Irene is “bizarrely” strong and will be the strongest hurricane to strike North Carolina and New York city ever, once true believers like Jeff Masters find a way to weaken 1954 Hurricane Hazel (strongest to hit North Carolina) which was a Category 4 and the 1938 Long Island express hurricane which was a Category 3.
The forecast kept saying this storm was going to be a Cat-4. Not once, but several times. What happened? The 5 a.m. advisory shows it became a Cat-2. I know I am no meteorologist like Jeff Masters, but I have a basic knowledge of tropical cyclones. They are tropical because they feed off warm water. So I look at ocean temperatures with objective eyes and see there is less heat for a tropical cyclone to draw from. It doesn’t take a fancy computer model to know if a storm has less energy to draw from it won’t be as strong. The storm is moving over the Gulf Stream soon, so it will likely pick up some strength. If its path holds true, it won’t lose a lot of strength moving north because it will be moving fast over water, not because water temperatures are higher.
When it has been almost 1080 days since a hurricane made a direct hit on the US, you get crazy stuff like this.

Doug ski

I live in Vermont where Bill “english professor” McKibben is from. He spoke at my wife’s school and everybody was SO excited. I told my wife to tell them that he has no qualifications in science, he is an English professor at Middlebury College. Some of the people looked it up but others would not listen , as usual.
Joe D’Aleo and Joe Bastardi used sound predicting methods and said we would have East Coast huricanes this year. My father in law lived through a huge one in the 30’s, it flooded all of New London, Conn. and there were a lot of fatalities and damage. So we had an occassional big hurricane in the East back then, too.
I love the skiing in Vermont – no better place in the East. (By the way we had our second biggest snowfall year ever last year – and you guessed it, some people around here automatically think GW.) But I really don’t like living here – it is the Moonbat and Leftist capital of the US.

Frank K.

Ryan Maue says:
August 25, 2011 at 11:40 pm
“I am tired of the rent-seeking parasites who have hijacked meteorology and contaminated it with their left-wing political agendas.”
This is the quote of the month for me! Thanks Ryan. You could probably replace “meteorology” with “science” and still have a valid statement.
Also – I’m glad to see lunatics like McKibben speaking on behalf of CAGW scientists/activists everywhere. Let him rant for all the world to see.

Ian L. McQueen

McKibben was the “other” speaker on the topic of the proposed pipeline from the Alberta “oil sands” to Texas on Friday’s “The Current”, a week-day CBC morning program (from 0900). It can be heard for a couple of hours in following time zones Friday morning via cbc.ca. I expect that it will be available on-line from early next week.
On today’s program he was giving his usual spiel about “carbon” (word used repeatedly) consumption leading to a coming climate disaster, etc, and that the oil should be left in the ground.
I will probably send reference to this WUWT posting to the program. Unfortunately, Anthony’s comment: “Brian H, facts don’t matter to McKibben, he’s an AGW addict, only interested in the next fix via some clueless newstype who will listen” hits too close to home, it being the CBC and all.
IanM

Rick Bradford

Oddly, human nature dictates that when you’re running out of ammunition, you tend to fire at anything that moves.
McKibben confirms the observation.

Nuke

Steeptown says:
August 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm
Let’s face it; the world is full of nutters like McKibben. The amazing thing is that he is given any attention.

McKibben and his rubbish are portrayed as if he and his beliefs are mainstream, to boot.

Spector

In order to be as concerned as he appears to be, assuming he is intellectually honest, McKibben must have a picture in his mind of CO2 being a thin grey infrared blanket that is getting ever darker as more anthropogenic carbon dioxide is inserted into the atmosphere and now we are on the verge of reaching a point where positive feedback will cause this process to run away out of control. Thus, it is his responsibility to do all in his power to arouse public awareness and stop this disaster.
Bill Nye promoted this very picture of CO2 in an appearance on the Bill O’Reilly show with Joe Bastardi some months back with two tubes of slightly darkened fluid.
Alarmism sells. Most articles in the popular press on the greenhouse effect do not ever mention that this is a logarithmic effect limited by a law of diminishing returns and carbon dioxide primarily effects only a short band of wavelengths around 15 microns. Except for a small fringe on either side, this band is already totally blocked by absorption in the atmosphere. Added CO2 only causes a slight widening of this band as the fringes darken. A speculation on the consequences of a runaway greenhouse effect will attract more readers than an article about thermostatic mechanisms in the atmosphere.

Alan D McIntire

As someone posting here on an earlier thread pointed out, the earth is a giant heat engine, transferring heat from the equator to the poles, producing weather as a side effect.
The maximum efficiency of a Carnot heat engine is 1 – Tc/Th
where Tc is the temperature of the cold reservoir, the poles, Th is the temperature of the warm reservoir, the equator.
Carnot heat engine link:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnot_heat_engine
With global warming, the temperature of the poles is supposed to increase FASTER than the temperature at the equator. That would REDUCE the efficiency of the heat engine, leading to less extreme weather, as this paper points out.
http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2011/2011GL047138.shtml
If the frequency and strength is INCREASING, that’s a sign of global COOLING.

amabo

Well, I blame global warming on hurricane Irene!

Kaboom

What with the low number of hurricanes and the long time one made landfall in the US, he has to grab at what he can.

Louis Hooffstetter

“These warm ocean temperatures will also make Irene a much wetter hurricane than is typical.”
Let’s pause for a moment to savor this quote…
Hurricanes are violent cyclonic storms characterized by intense, driving rains blowing at >72 mph. Does it get any wetter than that? Bill, let’s see some “typical hurricane wetness” data, and/or typical hurricane rainfall data that supports this nonsense. Maybe Kevin Trenberth has some left over from his Scientific American article: “Warmer Oceans, Stronger Hurricanes”: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=warmer-oceans-stronger-hurricanes
“Climate Experts” espouse this scientific horse poop and then lament the fact their scientific credibility with the general public is falling? Please, just keep on talking.
Willis Eisenbach recently demonstrated how cloud formation in the tropics regulates sea surface temperatures. Hurricanes are another manifestation of this same process. Warm water vapor is transferred from the ocean surface to the upper atmosphere where it condenses and releases heat.

Alberta Slim

Scottish Sceptic says:
August 25, 2011 at 11:25 pm
Re; your Gore Lord’s prayer.
Very good. You had better get it copyrighted. You may be famous.

Frank K.

Wade says:
August 26, 2011 at 5:00 am
Masters is quoted that bizarrely high SSTs along Irenes path will cause Irene to be a much wetter and apparently longer-lasting hurricane that normal.
This is why I dont read Jeff Masters anymore.

I have permanently deleted any links on my browser to “wunderground” – Jeff Masters has long gone off the deep end on Global Warming, and I no longer wish to help him with his weather business. Besides, there are MUCH BETTER weather sites – I use Intellicast.com (far superior radar summary than wunderground ever had, site layout is much cleaner too).

Pete H

We need so many more like this bloke. Nutters help the public see who the sane people really are!

Sea surface temperatures 1° to 3°F warmer than average extend along the East Coast from North Carolina to New York. Waters of at least 26°C extend all the way to southern New Jersey, which will make it easier for Irene to maintain its strength much farther to the north than a hurricane usually can,”

Of course that “average” is an extremely short period of time. We have no idea what SSTs anywhere were like 300 years ago or more.

McKibben was on MSNBC last night (I don’t usually watch that channel, but was bored and nothing else was on). He said that if the Alberta Tar Sands were tapped into, it would be bye-bye to the climate, since it’s an extremely large reservoir of carbon. He also talked about Irene as mentioned above.
No opposing view provided.

Also, the Daily Beast is blocking posts.

tom T

Funny how a couple of the biggest global warming alarmists Mckibben and Gore claim we are anti-sceince and we should only listen to climatologists, yet they don’t even have science degrees.

tom T

Maybe I am colorblind, but I don’t see bizarrely warm water in her path at all.
http://hurricane.accuweather.com/hurricane/atlantic/basin.asp?partner=accuweather

While all the hystericals are busy with Global Warming, I just got a reminder that winter is around the corner. It was 61F this morning, in late August, in my former Confederate state. The wife is miffed at me for not bringing in more wood these past couple years. Gonna have to buy some, I suppose. I’m sure 61F isn’t abnormal, but it’s sure a very welcome surprise after so much heat.
As for Hurricanes, I lived in the Tampa Metro area for 9 years, from 1997-2006. I saw some huge hurricanes pass right over my head. Other than some broken tree limbs and a few missing roof shingles, I never had any property damage. I ain’t sayin’ that hurricanes can’t be devastating! But ask any Floridian, the hype gets unbearable after awhile. People eventually just shut their televisions off. God knows I did. I once had 6 named storms pass over my house, in one season. Nothing more than sideways rain and constant wind. There was a green parrot in my 40 foot palm that stuck out an entire hurricane merely by gripping one frond with its feet and another frond with its beak. Poor guy. I checked on him regularly, He was there through the worst of it and only disappeared after it was over. Me? I had to clean up some limbs and fronds, but that was it.
I’ll watch the storm and hope for the best for those folks on the coast. I’m sure there will be damage. But that’s the risk of living on the coast. Storms.

Chris D.
Pamela Gray

I bet a poll would show that overall, younger folks march to the tune of “unprecedented” while older folks yawn at the next big thing.

DirkH

Pete H says:
August 26, 2011 at 7:23 am
“We need so many more like this bloke. Nutters help the public see who the sane people really are!”
Greenpeace membership: 2.86 million (2008)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenpeace

“Funny how a couple of the biggest global warming alarmists Mckibben and Gore claim we are anti-science and we should only listen to climatologists, yet they don’t even have science degrees.”
So very true Tom T.