'Extreme weather is an integral part of the Earth's climate'

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:

Dear Madhav,

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:


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Billy Liar
July 10, 2012 2:46 pm

From the article by Olson:
Insured losses from weather related catastrophes during the past three years have been near or above $1 billion.
He didn’t consider that the number is the result of the continuing devaluation of currencies, the continuing increase in population and increasing percentage of the population buying insurance.
I didn’t see any comparison in real terms of insurance losses due to weather, insurance losses on a per capita basis due to weather nor any detail of historical percentage take-up of insurance.
Seems like a case of lying by omission to me.
Extreme weather has always been incorporated into climate; the man needs to read a few old newspapers to see just how bad it has always been.

July 10, 2012 2:53 pm

Translation: Insurance rates will be going up.

July 10, 2012 2:55 pm

I hate to point out that Madhav Khandekar’s qualifications are being questioned, because of the link to the Heartland Institute. I’m just the messenger!
Verify Claims

July 10, 2012 2:56 pm

Since when has anyone listened to the advice of an insurance salesman?

July 10, 2012 3:15 pm

Minor point in the last paragraph: Assuming that he is talking about New Brunswick, it’s the “St. John river”, not the “St. John’s river”. I live 100 feet from it. It’s a mile wide here.

July 10, 2012 3:19 pm

Its really worth remember that you sell insurance not on the basses of fact nor probability but on the basis of fear , the fear of you houses burning down only very few ever do , the fear of being in accident although most been live their whole life and are never in one .
And anything that can up that ‘fear ‘ will lead to selling more things that need fear for people to want them , insurance needs fear as marketing device , AGW is just another way of playing the fear game .

July 10, 2012 6:22 pm

We understand the insurance industry and their motivations and biases. Olson is doing his job laying the PR ground work for the industries hoped for increases. Unfortunately the credibility of anyone of over 50 that has no memory of extreme weather events before 1990 should be prohibited from calling themselves a Canadian. Weather in all it possibilities is the norm in Canada. All Olson and others do is illustrate their ignorance of Canada’s vastness, variability and variety. That, by the way is my 3 Vees of Canadianism. I guess the ignorance is a result of spending a disproportionate amount of time in cities and not enough in the bush.

July 10, 2012 8:00 pm

An Insurance Executive who probably wants to go partying in Monte Carlo with the big boys is airing his whis for a really grand disaster , to boost his business . Nothing new in that.

July 10, 2012 8:08 pm

Even a cursory review of recorded history will depict a generally benign set of climatic and meteorological conditions during the great boom period between 1850 and 1995. Obviously the LIA was rife with extremes and destructive events. And so on. We now appear to be leaving the great 20th Century Warm Period behind and of course with it, an environment of progress.

Mindert Eiting
July 11, 2012 1:19 am

We are talking about extreme weather events. The question is of whether these events have become more frequent. Since when? Let’s say year y. Ok, let’s take temperature. Tell me first what’s the variance of temperatures over the whole earth upto year y. Tell me next what’s the variance after year y. Next, compute the F-ratio of those variances. Null hypothesis: F=1, whereas the variances are computed in random samples. This is one approach. Another approach is the TV show of running behind extreme events. In The Netherlands we have had a show around the first price in a lottery. Every month we have had a show about those extreme events. Impressive but it was one show a month and for some reason it remained one show a month during the years this program was broadcasted.

Avril Tyrell
July 11, 2012 2:49 am

Talking of “climate alarmists selectively using extreme weather events to sell a climate catastrophe from carbon dioxide”, an ‘expert’ was interviewed on Russia Today to give his ‘scientific perspective’ about the Floods in Southern Russia.
Step forward, Professor Chris Williams of chemistry and physics from Pace University. During the course of the interview, Professor Williams assert that the current events are due to global warming. He says:
“There’s a pattern starting to develop where you can say that, extreme weather events that happen every decade or every twenty years are now starting to happen with increasing frequencies, so you’re getting it every two to five years.”
In response to the asked question from the news report to whether global warming was created by man or, just a natural trend and whether anything could be done about this, the Professor goes on to say:
“I think that there are enormous things that we can do about it. I don’t think it’s a technical problem, we have the answers. We need to move away from fossil fuel derived fuels and move toward alternatives. I think what’s holding us back is a political and social question, which we can solve, but we have to do it very quickly because we’re certainly destabilizing the environment and climate. If you don’t know what’s going on with the climate then how are you going to have agriculture? So longer term planning and a switch to alternative fuels is absolutely essential.”
I have paraphrased Professor Williams’s comments, but you can watch the 4 minute interview here (I’ve booked marked the place where the Prof begins):

So there you have it, another ‘expert’ not passing up the opportunity to resuscitate the dead horse that is climate change/ global warming. Surely people like Professor Chris Williams who continue to peddle this Sesame Street science, should be considered a climate change collaborator? After all, they’re all collaborating in the biggest lie ever perpetrated on the general public?
Incidentally, I googled Professor Chris Williams for some more background and found this at http://blip.tv/lannan-foundation:

Chris Williams is a long-time environmental activist based in New York City. He is professor of physics and chemistry at Pace University and chair of the science department at Packer Collegiate Institute. Williams is also a frequent contributor to the International Socialist Review (ISR).”
I also found this article on Watts Up With this: Socialists of the World Unite for Youth Climate Conference
A Chris Williams of the International Socialist Organization is cited in the article.

July 11, 2012 5:49 am

In theory, when Anthropogenic Climate Change Alarmists discus weather extremes do you think they realize that as weather extremes go, a pleasant day with perfect weather conditions can also be considered as an abnormal weather extreme, as it is an unusually rare event to have a day with perfect weather conditions.
And if, as Alarmists are now declaring that abnormal weather extremes in the coming decades will increase, wouldn’t the same logic if applied suggest that statistically in the coming decades we will also see an increase in pleasant days with perfect weather conditions.
All this “extra” weather equates to a climate with more of the same.

July 13, 2012 2:16 am

This appears to be at the bottomof the Guardian report cited above – perhaps you already know this if so apologies for repetition

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