Kevin Trenberth’s Climate Attribution Studies versus Useful Science – Part 1 Hurricane Sandy

Guest essay by Jim Steele

Director emeritus Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University and author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

Useful climate science helps humanity adapt to natural weather patterns and plan for future extremes. Minimizing risk would be a wise course of action, but too often humans have ignored nature’s indicators of high flood risk and continue to build on flood plains that inevitably place them in harms way. By the 1950s most private companies in America got out of the flood insurance business due to heavy losses from natural flooding. In 1968 the US government unwisely decided to subsidize flood insurance and created the National Flood Insurance Program. One unintended consequence was subsidies encouraged people to continue building in flood plains. As a consequence, by 2014 the program was $24 billion in debt. Recent legislation has attempted to raise flood insurance rates to better reflect the real risks. But raising insurance rates to reflect real risks could force many homeowners into foreclosure and thus any meaningful solution creates a political nightmare. Whatever the political solution, accurate risk assessments require hydrologists and climate scientists to determine the frequency of major flood producing storms over hundreds of years. In Attribution of Extreme Climate Events (henceforth Trenberth 2015) Trenberth suggests extreme storms are more frequent due to global warming. But from a perspective of several centuries, we know flood risks due to hurricanes were greater during the cooler climate of the Little Ice Age (LIA). So how valid and useful is the science of Trenberth 2015?

Textbooks published years before the landfall of Hurricanes Katrina or Sandy prophetically warned, “New Orleans lies below sea level. Should hurricane-driven floods top or break the protecting levees, the city would be inundated with seawater.” And “Large parts of Long Island, New York with its very large population, would be underwater if a major hurricane passed over its western end.” Simply knowing that there was a greater risk of hurricane-induced flooding during the LIA is not really useful for those cities. They already know they are naturally in danger. Those cities require early warning systems to allow safe evacuation. Accurate early warning requires useful science that can predict the effects of atmospheric circulation and determine storm tracks, storm duration and storm intensity. Oddly Trenberth 2015 argued we should separate analyses of those most useful dynamics and focus on thermodynamics (temperature) because CO2 forced circulation models do a very poor job of simulating those critical dynamic changes. Trenberth 2015 wants to focus on the effect of temperature anomalies in isolation to provide “a better basis for communication of climate change to the public.” But examining temperature anomalies separate from atmospheric circulation changes is dubious science at best and blaming global warming does nothing to improve early storm warnings or accurately assess the frequency of extreme events.

Centennial and Millennial Hurricane Storm Surge

Trenberth 2015 suggested that for Hurricane Sandy, “the subways and tunnels may not have flooded without warming-induced increase in sea level and storm intensity and size, putting a potential price tag of human climate change in this storm in the tens of billions of dollars.” [approaching 50% of the damage].But changes in sea level had little, if any, impact on Sandy’s flooding. His statement may be useful for politicking climate change but does nothing to improve early warning systems. The more useful question to have asked is why was Sandy’s storm surge double that of recent hurricanes, hurricanes that were far more intense but with similar sea levels?

Examining the graphic on storm surge (below) posted by one of Trenberth’s colleagues at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, we clearly see how extreme high water events since 1900 are broken down into contributions from storm surge, high tides and a century of sea level rise. The diagonal orange & white areas represent sea level rise since 1900. Sea level at Battery Park, NY has risen 11.2 inches over the past 100 years. Half of that rise happened naturally by 1950 – before CO2 had reached significant concentrations – and that natural sea level rise has most likely continued into the present to some degree. Furthermore due to glacial isostatic adjustments, 3 to 4 inches of that relative sea level rise is due to land subsidence on the eastern seaboard. Thus any theoretical contribution from human warming to current sea level is most likely less than 3 inches, and less than 3% of Sandy’s high-water levels. Even if we incorrectly assumed that CO2 caused the entire 1-foot rise in sea level, if we remove that sea level increase Sandy would have still flooded New York’s subways. By blaming global warming, Trenberth 2015 provided nothing useful that would have predicted Sandy’s flooding.


In contrast to Trenberth’s global warming crusade, paleo-climate studies of storm-washed sediments in New York City’s back-barrier marshes show high storm surge was more common when the climate was cooler and sea level was lower. As seen below in Figure 5, coastal flooding similar to Sandy’s happened in 1788, 1821 and 1893. The conclusions from sediment analyses are further supported by historical documentation. The 1893 storm surge was reported to have destroyed Hog Island while driving large boats 100s of feet inland.

Because hurricane caused flooding was more prevalent during the Little Ice Age when Atlantic temperatures averaged 1 to 2 degrees F colder than today researchers concluded, “The frequent occurrence of major hurricanes in the western Long Island record suggests that other climate phenomena, such as atmospheric circulation, may have been favorable for intense hurricane development despite lower sea surface temperatures.” In contrast Trenberth 2015 incorrectly argued analyzing the causes of atmospheric circulation anomalies is not as “fruitful” as analyzing temperatures.


Similarly Liu and Fearn 2000 investigated storm-washed sediments in northern Florida, concluding the region was afflicted with millennial periods of hyperactivity for extreme hurricanes that alternated with a thousand years of quiescent activity. They reported that “no catastrophic hurricane of category 4 or 5 intensity has made landfall in the Western Lake [northern Florida] area during the last 130 year documentary record” but “If future climatic changes, whether or not related to the anticipated greenhouse warming, lead to a return of a “hyperactive” hurricane regime characteristic of the first millennium A.D., then the northeastern Gulf Coast is expected to experience a dramatic increase in the frequency of strikes by catastrophic hurricanes.” Globally other paleo-climate studies found the period of greatest hurricane activity for Australia and the eastern USA both occurred during Little Ice Age times between 1400 and 1800 AD. And in Southeast Asia researchers determined “the two periods of most frequent typhoon strikes in Guangdong (AD 1660–1680, 1850–1880) coincided with two of the coldest and driest periods in northern and central China during the Little Ice Age.”

Trenberth 2015 wants to re-direct research questions and ask, “Given an extreme storm, how was it influenced by anomalous SSTs?” or “ Was the storm surge worse because of high sea levels?” Based on long-term studies the answer is extreme storms and high storm surge happened more frequently with cooler sea surface temperatures and long before rising CO2. Given that NYC experienced 3 extreme high water levels associated with hurricanes between 1788 and 1893, but only one (Sandy) since then, we can reasonably argue that climate change, whether human-induced or natural, has reduced the threat of high storm surge.

Storm Tracks and Storm Surge

Early warnings and evacuation plans critically hinge on projected storm surge, which primarily depend on the projected storm track. Perusing hurricane storm tracks since 1850 (illustration below) reveals it was Sandy’s unusual perpendicular approach to the coast that enhanced storm surge. Consider the more intense Hurricane of 1938, which made landfall on Long Island slightly north of New York City as a more intense category 3 hurricane, implying sustained wind speeds between 111 and 130 miles per hour. In contrast Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New Jersey slightly south of New York City as an extra-tropical storm implying winds speeds less than 74 mph. Yet the more powerful hurricane of 1938 only generated maximum water levels at Battery Park, NY of 8.8 feet, and does not make New York City’s top ten high water levels over the past 100 years. It was the difference in storm tracks that determined Sandy’s higher storm surge and higher costs.

Hurricanes produce the highest winds to the right of the hurricane’s direction of travel. Storms travelling parallel to the coastline don’t aim the strongest winds at the coast. When Sandy took a 90-degree turn and travelled perpendicular to the coast, she aimed her most powerful winds at New York City for a more extended period of time as she approached. Due to Sandy’s more eastward position when she started her approach, the fetch was also greater and generated much bigger swells.


The degree of storm surge also depends upon how quickly a storm moves up the coast. Sandy was a hybrid storm that had merged with a cold-core extra-tropical storm typical of winter Nor’easters. Unlike hurricanes that are powered by latent heat from warm sea surfaces, extra-tropical winter storms along the eastern seaboard are primarily powered by the pressure gradient produced by the contrast between the cold continent and warm Gulf Stream. While Trenberth only draws your attention to anomalously warm sea surface temperatures, the east coast was experiencing record cold temperatures that increased the pressure gradient. Forecasters were issuing both blizzard and hurricane watches. Furthermore extra-tropical storms are 3 to 4 times wider than hurricanes, and merging with Sandy produced the hybrid hurricane’s immense size. Extra-tropical storms and their hybrids move much more slowly up the coast than a hurricane, thus the duration of Sandy’s winds generated a much greater storm surge. As seen in Figure 5 above, extra-tropical winter storms (light gray bars) have produced the greatest abundance extreme storm surge. Apportioning partial causation of Sandy’s destruction on global warming and ignoring all else only obscures the critical dynamics required to make early warning predictions based on storm intensity.

Atmospheric Blocking

Due to the frequency of failed forecasts, the public often dismisses media hype about the dangers of an approaching storm, preferring to stay and take their chances rather than needlessly evacuate. Carelessly blaming global warming only adds to the dubious hype and mistrust of useful science. Fortunately the European ECMWF weather models accurately forecasted Sandy’s storm track 8 to 9 days in advance due to a better understanding of atmospheric blocking (in this case the high pressure south of Greenland) and the effects of the jet stream. In contrast, the American National Weather Service’s GFS models initially forecast Sandy to harmlessly head out to the mid Atlantic. Due to such poor forecasting skills, Congress appropriated funds so the NWS could adopt a more accurate weather model. Why did models differ so greatly in forecasting Sandy’s storm track? All the models had access to the same sea surface temperature data, so Trenberth’s temperature anomalies were never a critical factor that could explain model differences.

In fact Trenberth 2015 cited Magnusson 2014 (a paper Trenberth helped craft) in which a ECMWF modeling experiment compared the most recent 20-year average sea surface temperatures with a swath of the Atlantic’s anomalously high temperatures during Sandy’s northward trek. Although that experiment suggested anomalous temperatures could have possibly increased storm intensity slightly, forecasting intensity is still fraught with problems due to the complex contributions from many other variables. More importantly the ECMWF experiment found changes in sea surface temperature had little effect on Sandy’s storm track. Model runs with failed forecasts underestimated the strength of the subtropical high-pressure systems east of the storm track that had kept Sandy from harmlessly veering into the Atlantic. In contrast to Trenberth’s 2015 lament that atmospheric circulation patterns are not robustly simulated by CO2-driven climate models, predicting storm tracks and blocking are the most critical factors for providing early warnings.


Figure 1 Trend in Blocking Days from Hakkinen 2011

If researchers are interested in a link between Sandy’s storm track and climate change, then a better question to ask would be ‘have Greenland blocking events been affected by rising CO2 and climate change?” As illustrated in Figure 1 above from the 2011 paper Atmospheric Blocking and Atlantic Multidecadal Ocean Variability, the answer would be there has been no trend in Greenland blocking days (estimates in black and dark blue). Thus a CO2 global warming effect is again unlikely. In contrast, Greenland blocking and hurricane activity are both significantly associated with natural oscillations like the Atlantic Mulitdecadal Oscillation (AMO). The dashed red line represents the AMO and the solid red line represents the detrended AMO.

Klotzbach 2015 has shown that hurricane activity in the Atlantic is highly correlated with the AMO and seemingly independent of climate change. Three peaks of the AMO coincide with 3 peaks of hurricane activity centered on the 1880s, 1950s, and 2005. The oscillation of Atlantic hurricane activity is also illustrated in the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index shown below. The AMO appears to be transitioning towards its cool phase now coinciding with a period of below average hurricane activity in the Atlantic since 2013.




Storm Intensity

According to Trenberth’s 2007 article Warmer Ocean’s, Stronger Hurricanes, a one-degree increase in sea surface temperature can increase the winds of a hurricane by one category and he argued global warming will produce more intense category 4 and 5 hurricanes. But Sandy only briefly reached category 3 status as she approached Cuba. Sandy quickly lost intensity after passing over Cuba, devolving from a category 3 hurricane to a mere extra-tropical storm before strengthening again to a weak category 1 hurricane. Clearly the ocean was not warm enough to produce a higher intensity storm that Trenberth and global warming predicted. Or perhaps the dynamic factors that Trenberth downplays had a more powerful part in limiting Sandy’s intensity.

Days before making landfall, due to Sandy’s more westerly storm track, Sandy interacted with an atmospheric trough and its cold Arctic air mass that had dipped down over the eastern USA. The warm-core hurricane named Sandy, eventually merged with a cold-core extra-tropical storm generated by the jet stream. While tropical hurricane intensity is primarily driven by latent heat from warm sea surface temperatures, an extra-tropical storm is primarily driven by baroclinic processes (differences in the pressure gradient) such as the gradient due to the contrast between the warm Gulf Stream and cold continental air mass. As Magnussen 2014 noted, when tropical cyclones and mid-latitude troughs interact to form a “hybrid storm”, it has been found that cyclones are more likely to intensify than weaken. Thus it can be reasonably argued that it was abnormally cold continental temperatures that intensified Sandy.


During a hurricane’s typical cold-induced extra-tropical transition, a hurricane’s size greatly increases as observed in the extremely large radius of Sandy. As reported by Galarneaux 2013, during the transition winds increased by 20% and Sandy’s central pressure dropped to its lowest point of 940 hPa despite travelling over cooler waters. During her “second trough interaction on 29 October, Sandy turned northwestward and intensified as cold continental air encircled the warm core vortex.”

Everyone agrees that hurricanes require warm waters to form and indeed warmer temperatures can intensify a hurricane. As seen in Figure 10 below, Sandy’s storm track crossed the Gulf Stream (the reddish bands) before making landfall. As she crossed the Gulf Stream, she briefly intensified to a Category 2 hurricane before devolving again to an extra-tropical storm when she crossed cooler coastal waters (in blue and purple). But here again Trenberth’s attempt to separate the dynamics of atmospheric circulation from a thermodynamic impact of higher temperatures would be misleading. It was blocking that forced Sandy to cross over the naturally warm waters of the Gulf Stream. Sandy’s brief increase in intensity was ultimately the result of atmospheric circulation not global warming. Otherwise she would have passed harmlessly out to sea.

The attempts by Trenberth 2015 to suggest global warming has worsened disasters like Hurricane Sandy or the Colorado flooding (discussed in part 2) simply fails to provide any useful science. Trenberth 2015 did not accurately assesses risks or improve early warning systems. It simply reduced climate science to “ambulance chasing” in order to scare up support for his climate change politicking. Previously Trenberth has argued that extreme events such as recent droughts and heat waves worsened due to CO2 warming and despite the fact that climate experts found those events to be within the bounds of natural variability (discussed here). To communicate his brand of climate change, Trenberth attacked those scientists on blogs as irresponsible. And here again Trenberth has hyped global warming links to hurricane destruction in contrast to the opinions of many hurricane experts.


In keeping with the long-term framework required by climate science, hurricane experts like Chris Landsea, the late Bill Gray and Jim O’Brien have consistently reported there are no links between global warming and hurricanes. All the evidence such as the recent lull in Atlantic hurricane activity supports their claims. But despite not being a hurricane expert himself, Trenberth has been grandstanding for a decade to push a climate of fear. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Trenberth convened a press conference to leverage human suffering and blame global warming. Trenberth’s ill-informed bias resulted in hurricane expert Dr. Landsea’s resignation from the IPCC. As Trenberth acknowledged he purposefully convened the press conference to counter publicized reports by hurricane experts that there was no link to global warming. Trenberth defended his conference as necessary to “correct many very misleading and erroneous reports that global warming had nothing to do with the hurricanes in recent times.” Yet evidence of Trenberth’s links to global warming still remain elusive.

In contrast Landsea’s IPCC resignation stated, “It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming. Given Dr. Trenberth’s role as the IPCC’s Lead Author responsible for preparing the text on hurricanes, his public statements so far outside of current scientific understanding led me to concern that it would be very difficult for the IPCC process to proceed objectively with regards to the assessment on hurricane activity.” Yet here again Trenberth 2015 continues to mislead the public suggesting a storm like Sandy put “a potential price tag of human climate change in this storm in the tens of billions of dollars.”


Jim Steele is author of Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism


66 thoughts on “Kevin Trenberth’s Climate Attribution Studies versus Useful Science – Part 1 Hurricane Sandy

  1. The most climate change is in Florida because that is where most hurricanes landfall. 1+1 = orange. That is sciencism. Any further questions?

    • Paul,

      you are right fer sur. Being that I live on the gulf coast, Galveston County, I watch the weather constantly during the storm season. The most prolific issue I have seen over the last few years is the Sahara. The wind patterns has sent large dust blooms that have created a dry line right through the so called, Hurricane Alley. Most importantly is that the Amazon is highly dependent on the nutrients from the Sahars dust. Who da thunk it.

      • I’ve seen plenty of pretty pinwheel pictures of hurricanes, including of Sandy, when it was a hurricane, and I have never seen it publicized as to just exactly what is the height of those beautiful cloud tops. I know it’s not 100 meters, or 100,000 meters.

        But it’s for sure somewhat higher than the juvenile swimming pool walls around the city of New Orleans, which as they say, the French built under water. So yes it WILL go straight over the walls. Breeching of those walls is NOT the problem.

        The only thing those wall do is set a limit on how deep the water will get when the next hurricane dumps on New Orleans.

        There’s an old leaky boat joke about solving the problem, by drilling another hole in the boat to let the water out again.

        Perhaps the NO dikes should be fitted with demolition means to flatten the walls, when category (x) hurricane hits, so the water won’t rise above most of the city.

        Of course building a second ocean behind the city was a great idea, so it can get clobbered from both sides. It shouldn’t take such extreme measures to convey the message. Don’t build a city under water !


        PS I don’t know whether it was the French taught the Italians, or verse vicea, but Venice is not exactly a brilliant example of city planning.
        Europeans don’t own the patents on city flooding. There’s this place called Angkor Wat, that was designed to fail ultimately. Rather ingenious though that they could build it at all.

      • george e smith-

        Venice is situated in the Venetian Lagoon “lake” that consists of small islands in a once marshy lagoon. The water was there before the initial fishermen, and later Roman people fleeing invaders (like the Huns) were. Refugees were afforded protection from invaders from the sea because large ships could not sail in shallow marshes, and land based armies couldn’t navigate the silty bottom soil quickly enough to mount attacks on foot or horseback.

        Eventually the inhabitants of the islands began to build on those islands, and in the 15th and 16th centuries, they built incredibly sophisticated hydraulic systems that prevented the lagoon from returning to a marsh.

        Angkor Wat is a temple complex in Cambodia, not a city, and while it’s outer walls did house a “moat”, its location is inland, not near the ocean, so I don’t know why you suggest that “city flooding” had anything to do with its history, or it’s demise. I also have no idea why you claim it was “designed to fail”. It was sacked by the Chams at one point, and the next king established his capital temples at different sites rather than restoring Angkor Wat, but neither Angkor Thom or Bayon are under water either….so?

      • Well Aphan, if you get your information from Wikipedia, then it is no wonder you did not understand my post.

        You clearly are not aware of the engineering design of Angkor Wat.

        And where did you read that I called it a city ? I made no such statement.

        The ‘land’ beneath Angkor Wat is mush; pretty much the same as Venice if you ask me.

        I never asked how Venice was built: I perhaps should have asked why it was built. My criticism if that’s how you view it would be as to why it was built (there) not how.

        Same for Angkor Wat. The region was a swamp; ie, not solid ground. Common sense would say that such a structure should be built on a solid rock foundation, not on deep mud.

        But they insisted on building it there anyway.

        And the ‘moat’ as you call it, is not actually a moat at all. It is a deeper water containment lake, that holds the mush under Angkor Wat together so it doesn’t collapse. The outer perimeter of that lake is more solid ground, so the water is actually the dam that holds the mushy foundation of Angkor Wat together so they could build on it, without it just sinking into the mud.

        Well if you have an extended drought period, so the containment lake dries up, then there is nothing to contain the mush and it collapses under the weight of the structure. Which is exactly what happened, so it had to be abandoned, before it killed a lot of people.

        You need to get up early in the morning Aphan, if you want to get out in front of me.

        I’m getting tired of having to explain well known facts to people who apparently don’t bother to learn anything for themselves.

        Angkor Wat is magnificent edifice. It is just too bad that they deliberately chose to build it in a place that no rational person would choose to build such a structure. Sure they figured out an ingenious water dam to hold the mush together; but they forgot that the absence of enough water in the lake, would result in its collapse, which is exactly why it had to be abandoned.

        And no I have no notion who it was who thought a swamp on a river would be a great place to build a city like Venice. Same gose for New Orleans.


        PS such rubbish still occurs. The brand new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, was described as the worst possible kind of structure to build in Earthquake territory, as there are no solid rock buttresses to connect it to, like the GG bridge has. So the new bridge is just hanging up in the air, with one part holding up another part, and needing both part to be intact, for the whole thing to stand up. Each end is supporting the other end, with strings, and any string failure at either end can cause the collapse of the entire thing.

        They were warned by bridge experts to not do such a design for that location, and it is already falling down before they get the old one totally removed. We shall see how long it takes to get a big enough quake to take the whole thing down.

        I won’t even drive on it.


  2. The iron rule of science is, hypotheses must predict future actions or events.

    Covering up incoming data so flaws in theory can continue is criminal. Doctoring incoming data is criminal. Lying about information so as to hide discrepancies between theory and facts is a crime.

    Trying to spook people via lies and deceptions about scientific facts into destroying their economic situation or endanger lives is murder.

    • So just how does one plan to predict future actions or events ??

      Science is about observation and experimentation of the real universe. I think observation means watching what is happening now, or unearthing evidence of what did happen at some earlier time. Experimentation of course implies deliberately setting up a scenario, so you can watch what happens; if and when it happens.

      So we still haven’t got past doing ‘science’ on the now.

      So how does this prediction thing work again; you just accept on faith that you think something is going to happen sometime ??

      Well I think the sun will rise in the East tomorrow; but I won’t really know that till tomorrow.


      • george-“Experimentation of course implies deliberately setting up a scenario, so you can watch what happens; if and when it happens.”

        Prediction is part of the “experimentation” process. You cannot form a hypothesis without predicting the future behavior of something, and you cannot test that hypothesis without making predictions about what you expect to see if your hypothesis is valid.

        “This is called the Deductive Nomological Theory of Science, with Falsificationism. The underlying idea of the method is:
        *We develop a hypothesis that there are certain natural laws or certain effects of natural laws. These hypotheses must be falsifiable: they must entail predictions which are in principle testable and could be false.
        *We predict observations we can make if the hypothesis is true.
        *We check to see if these predictions come true; if they do, we know that hypothesis may be true and may continue to believe or use that hypothesis; if the predictions prove false, we reject the hypothesis.
        *We continue to try to falsify the view (that is, we continue to make and test predictions).

        Predictions are not based upon faith, they are based upon the observations made and the empirical evidence available. Like you just “predicted” that the Sun will rise in the East tomorrow.

      • Well Aphan you can play the semantics game if you wish.

        Only humans ‘predict’ that a given real system, will behave exactly like a totally fictitious model system that they made up, for the very reason that the behavior of the model is exactly calculable by mathematics, so we know what the model will do. We calculate it, not predict it.

        The prediction comes when we choose to presume that the real system will follow the behavior of our fictional model. That is an act of faith in my book.

        And no I did not predict that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow. I said I think it will. And I also said that I will not know until tomorrow.

        Calculating the behavior of a fictitious model system, is not a prediction nor is it a consequence of any natural law, whatever that means. Our model includes the assumptions of the specific laws.

        For example, the differential equation; d2y/dx^2 = -kx is simply a mathematical definition that has specific solutions in the form of sine and cosine (x) functions, that we call simple harmonic motion.

        That doesn’t involve any observation or prediction of anything at all.

        But we can then invoke Newton’s laws of motion, for example F = ma to propose a model wherein a displacement of x results in a tensile force F derived from a spring device following Hooke’s law, to obtain a restoring force F which will give the necessary acceleration of the mass of the object to obtain a model oscillator that would behave according to our differential equation (which we simply made up).

        So now we can exactly calculate the total behavior of our model oscillator. That’s not a prediction; it’s a calculation of what a fictional object does do.

        Then reality creeps in when we discover that no physical material exists that actually obeys Hooke’s Law, so our exact calculations do not predict the behavior of ANY real system, we might try to observe.

        Mathematics is an exact art, and calculations from it are exact results that can be replicated by anybody. No two practitioners can get different results from the exact same calculation. There are no approximate answers, just exact ones.

        But when we observe real physical systems, either naturally occurring or fabricated by us to try and observe some calculated behavior, we find that they never exactly match the ideal theoretical model behavior, because not one single element of ANY branch of mathematics, actually exists anywhere in the real universe.

        A ‘plane’ is not a single atomic thickness layer like grapheme. The thickness of a plane is exactly zero; and no such thing exists. No points, or lines or circles or spheres or anything else from mathematics.

        Some real things may seem to be mathematical; but none of them are precisely exact like all of mathematics is.

        Mother nature doesn’t predict anything. She just does the very next thing that can happen, and just as soon as it can happen.

        I think your college course is a bit presumptious in assuming there are natural laws.

        Certainly none of our mathematical laws are natural, we made them all us ourselves.


  3. There is strong correlation between ACE and Atlantic SST ( and by that I mean SST not a detrended AMO ) . However, warmest part of the cycle has seem a dramatic drop in ACE and this also appears to have been the case in the 1930s peak in SST.

    The common peaks in activity since WWII correlate with a periods of 60 and 9 years, the latter suggests a notable lunar influence.

  4. We are predicting an imminent return to a natural global cooling cycle, starting by 2020 or sooner.

    For many reasons, we hope to be wrong. One reason is that storms seem to be stronger during cold periods, as stated in the above article.

    Some history follows:



    On September 8, 1900, a Category 4 hurricane ripped through Galveston, Texas, killing an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people. At the time of the 1900 hurricane, Galveston, nicknamed the Oleander City, was filled with vacationers. Sophisticated weather forecasting technology didn’t exist at the time, but the U.S. Weather Bureau issued warnings telling people to move to higher ground. However, these advisories were ignored by many vacationers and residents alike. A 15-foot storm surge flooded the city, which was then situated at less than 9 feet above sea level, and numerous homes and buildings were destroyed. The hurricane remains the worst weather-related disaster in U.S. history in terms of loss of life.

    • Allan,
      great addition to this discussion. I watched the effects of the media during and after Hurricane Katrina. Their insanity caused more deaths for those attempting to elude Hurricanse since then, than I believe at any other time. The insanity of cars stuck on freeways, and the stories from a few I have talked to. explaining the stinch from the urination along the highways. I believe that the sensationalism that comes from the Media has hit an insanity level.

      • Hi Tom,

        I lived in Houston for ~9 months circa 1998, and we experienced two minor floods during that time caused by heavy rainfall. Lots of fun driving my rental car with one wheel on the curb to keep the engine from drowning, then bouncing down into the water at the intersections, and back up onto the next curb.

        Later I returned the car to the rental counter with the comment, “You might want to check the wheel alignment – seems a bit out.”

        Enjoyed my time in Houston – great people, great food.

        Sorry about your current flooding.

        Best, Allan

  5. To me, the idea that agw causes stronger hurricanes is fatally flawed. Increased hurricane strength from higher sea surface temps is only possible if all other temps ( most notably, the atmosphere) remain the same. At least according to theory, the atmosphere should warm FASTER than the sea surface if it were warmed by increasing CO2, making hurricanes weaker. This would explain why hurricanes are stronger during cool periods.

  6. To me, increased hurricane strength due to increased sea temps is a fallacy, at least from an agw perspective. Hurricanes can be stronger due to high sea temperature only if all other temperatures (esp. the atmosphere) remain the same. If the sea warms due to CO2, at least according to theory, the atmosphere should warm FASTER than the sea surface, thus decreasing temperature differential and hurricane strength. This can explain why hurricanes are stronger during colder atmosphere temperatures and why the hurricane season intensity so strongly correlates with AMO (sea temperature increase unrelated to atmospheric temperature)

  7. Good article.

    I am always surprised that when Sandy is mentioned almost no one brings up storms of the past that were even worse. One good example is the Ash Wednesday storm of 1962 which caused as much or more damage than Sandy did. Being a kid that spent my summers on Long Beach Island NJ I remember the wrecked houses very well.

    • “In New Jersey alone, an estimated 45,000 homes were destroyed or greatly damaged. In New York, on Long Island, communities such as Fire Island were decimated; 100 homes there were destroyed. Wave heights reached 12 m (40 ft) by the shore of New York City.”

      Meant to include this.

    • I am afraid in climate science the history of the planet began right about the same time we started burning coal. Regionally as in Sandy, history officially begins about 15 years prior to ones current age.

      • The planet’s ideal climate seems to always be: “when I was a kid…”.
        My theory is: growing up changes the climate.
        Where do I pick up my Nobel Prize?

  8. The US CLIVAR report (2013) on tropical cyclones found that NONE of the global climate models indicated an increase in world tropical cyclone activity in a ‘warmer world’ scenario. Most showed a decrease in such activity with the rest showing no significant change in the numbers of hurricanes and typhoons. Yet, “Trainbreath” and his ilk continue to press the false narrative that a warmer world means more tropical cyclones.
    As a side note, in the Climategate emails Trenberth told his colleagues that he thought NOAA ought to fire Chris Landsea for resigning from the IPCC and questioning his post-Katrina press conference. Good will toward men.

  9. As the article states the unintended consequence of governrnent subsidies encouraged people to build in flood plains. Without government subsidies building on flood plains would otherwise be known as stupid idea. However it goes without saying government meddling and unintended consequences go hand in hand.

    Sometimes we get lucky and the unintended consequences are actually beneficial. The flood insurance fiasco is not one of those instances and neither is Climate Change ideologies driving energy policy.

  10. Off topic, but.. There’s been a lot of posts here lately, I do have to get some work done you know.

  11. The-heat-is-hiding-in-the-oceans Travesty Trenberth claims there is a “discernible human component” to the warmer oceans. Discernible by whom, I wonder? Wait wait, don’t tell me. By CAGW snouts-firnly-implanted-in-trough Climate Gravy Train “scientists”.

    • Wouldn’t we have to actually “discern” a warmer ocean before we could “discern a human component to that warming?

  12. It is basic physics that the efficiency of a heat engine is determined by the difference in temperatures, not absolute temperatures.

    Global warming is projected to warm the poles more than the equator. This reduces the temperature difference between the Poles and the Equator, reducing the efficiency of the heat engine that is weather.

    This reduction in efficiency reduces the amount of “work” the engine can perform. And what is this work? The work the heat engine performs is the movement of air that forms storms. This must be reduced by global warming.

    • Fred:

      “This reduction in efficiency reduces the amount of “work” the engine can perform. And what is this work? The work the heat engine performs is the movement of air that forms storms. This must be reduced by global warming.”

      No not really. What is reduced is the strength of the PJS as this arises as a direct consequence of the deltaT between mid-latitudes and the Arctic.
      A weaker +ve vorticity component on the north side of the jet core will result in overall less development of mid-latitude depressions, however this is not true of Hurricanes as they weaken as the PJS is engaged.
      The main effect is for a more meandering and occasionally cut-off jet under GW. Additionally open E Arctic waters encourages this as well as the ocean absorbers TSI and sensible/latent heat is released to the atmosphere above to further distort the jet. one school of thought is that Sandy was pushed west into NY precisely because the Greenland high formed as a result of the strong ice-melt that year.

      A lack of wind shear aloft, relatively moist mid-trop air and warm SST’s force hurricanes.

    • Earth ultimately loses excess energy via EM radiation, which happens at LWIR frequencies, typically 5.0 to 80.0 microns wavelength (for about 98% of the radiated energy).

      Ergo, the hottest tropical regions cool much faster than the coldest polar regions; almost 12 times as fast in fact. The hottest dry desert regions cool about twice as fast as the global mean rate (Wm^-2) and the coldest polar regions (Antarctic highlands) cool at about 1/6th of the global mean cooling rate.

      If you know of a mechanism whereby the coldest polar regions can not warm faster than the hottest tropical regions; do please enlighten the rest of us.

      And incidently, on a real, non Trenberth isothermal planet, heat (noun) energy from the tropics gets convected to the colder polar regions (heat flows from hot to cold) via ocean currents and atmospheric circulations, so that excess energy is being transported to a location that is less able to get rid of it by radiation.
      Anyone still in doubt that the polar regions should warm faster than the tropics (when global warming happens) ??

      Why are the polar regions so cold, even though they get all of that heat from the tropics, delivered by water currents ?

      Well there is very darn little solar energy incident in the polar regions compared to what is incident in the tropics, so the polar regions would be even colder (and thus warm even faster), if it were not for the Gulf Stream and lookalikes.

      The polar regions do not cool the earth. The tropical desert regions do.


    • I don’t question the logic of this at all. However, my understanding of the engine is that much of the “work” is done via evaporation and condensation- with the actual “job” being the transport of energy received by the earth, back to space. I recently read an abstract on this site that indicated that worldwide absolute humidity levels have actually dropped over the last 20 or so years. I found this extremely hard to believe, but if it is true, I would think that this would seriously impair the globe’s heat transport.

      • Depends on the details John. Humidity is just the amount of water vapor in the air. Water vapor absorbs radiation, and according to AGW theory, it is the absorption (capture/holding/trapping) nature of CO2 and water vapor that is “warming” this planet. The planet is going to radiate energy/heat away from itself as it warms to a greater and greater degree (radiation increases to the 4th power of the temperature of a surface) no matter what is in the air surrounding it. If water vapor/humidity declines, then more of that radiation can escape to space because there are fewer molecules of water vapor in the air to capture/absorb it “prevent” or “inhibit” it from leaving. Right?

        Well, according to this map from NASA-

        There is relatively LITTLE (none) water vapor in the air over the poles, which is one of the reasons WHY those regions are so freaking COLD…..because there is no water vapor in the air to stop the radiation from leaving the surface. Another is that the poles are never directly “shined on” in an exact perpendicular angle by the Sun, always at an angle away from it. Another is that the ice reflects a great percentage of the short wave radiation of the Sun back into space without converting it into long-wave radiation that could then be absorbed by CO2 and water vapor….but can be absorbed again by clouds (clouds absorb short wave radiation coming and going).

        You can transfer all the heat you want to that region via ocean or atmospheric circulation, but once it’s in the form of longwave energy, it’s “outgoing” energy, and less water vapor means less resistance to that energy escaping from space.

  13. K.T. very underestimates the decline pressure and temperature gradients – as a result of warming.
    (I think He just does not have a good knowledge on this subject.)

    Soelen (2012, “Throughout the record, indications for storm activity can be recognized as coarser grained layers consisting of quartz sands or shell debris. These layers are rare during the mid Holocene [warm period], but between 3.2 and 2 kyr BP [cool period], their numbers increase, suggesting an increase in tropical cyclone activity in the Gulf of Mexico.”

    Knutson, (2012,
    “… intensity [hurricanes] projected for the Atlantic basin showed relatively small changes in some studies, ranging even to negative values for some individual models that were analyzed …”

  14. Here is a quote from my blog of 6/2/13

    “The basic principles are very simple. On a cooler earth the temperature gradient from the tropics to the arctic circle is steeper. This creates instability and the jet stream swings further North and South as opposed to its more West – East path during warmer periods. According to the season ,blocking highs may develop with colder dryer air penetrating further South and warm moist air reaching further North. There can be enormous temperature and humidity contrasts in the narrow boundary between these masses as warm air is sucked in from the Gulf . Conditions along such a boundary are ideal for developing the wind shear necessary for the tornado swarm development seen recently in Oklahoma. The blocking highs also push hurricanes to the east so that hurricanes like Sandy are more likely to occur. Note that Sandy was not a powerful Hurricane in fact it came ashore as a tropical storm. The big storm surge was the result of its long path over open water while a real cooling signal was seen in the development of blizzard conditions in the NW quadrant. This classic weather pattern is shown for today 6/02/13 in Figs 1 and 2 and occurs more often during a cooling phase of the PDO and is often triggered by an E Pacific La Nina cooling. as seen in the 6/01/13 SST anomaly map Fig 3
    (TOH to The Weather Channel) It is worth noting that the pattern seen in Fig 1 is also ideal for steering any Atlantic Hurricane which develops this season in a Sandy type direction.
    By contrast on a warmer world tropical SSTs are higher EL Ninos more common and more powerful category 4 and 5 hurricanes e g Katrina and Gilbert can develop .Their path is more E- W so that they more frequently hit the Gulf Coast or even Central America.

    More generally- a cooling earth is a dryer earth because the winds pick up less water vapor from the cooler oceans. In the USA the cool waters off the West Coast (fig3) will lead to more generalized droughts in the Center , West and SW and when combined with more frequent late and early frosts and snows food crop production will be threatened .What rains do come will paradoxically come from storms leading to flash flooding further restricting food production. In California itself the south will be dryer with more forest fires while in the North more of the rains will come as snow so that increasing snow pack will ameliorate the overall dryer conditions.
    Most of the ideas expressed above were included in the post “”30 Years Climate Forecast” in June 2010 on my blog at and revisited in June 2012 in the post “30 Year Climate Forecast -2 year update.”

  15. Trenberth seems to have the attitude that confusing the peasant slime, excuse me, the general public with the details of hurricane and extratropical storms like Sandy just confuses the poor dears. So what if global warming had nothing to do with Sandy–one must stay on message

  16. “One unintended consequence was subsidies encouraged people to continue building in flood plains.”

    IIRC the original bill would have charged the full actuarial rate for flood insurance in areas at risk. Thus, it would not have encouraged building in flood plains. Subsequently, the law was amended to charge affordable rated in flood plains. No doubt lobbying from those owning structures in these areas led to the amendments.

  17. Just imagine if a tropical cyclone the size and strength of the Hurricane of 1938 – The Great New England Hurricane were to strike again. The wailing and gnashing of teeth, along with smug “See? We-told -you -sos from the climate caterwaulists would be epic.

  18. KT is a perfect example of living in a concept. Lets ignore the climatic systems we cant model and focus on estimated temperatures.

    In his world that makes sense. A=B=C=Bingo

    Except it is common knowledge that the weather systems are not linear.

    As for the difference between poles and tropics, if we had the resolution we’d see the weather work everywhere moving heat around.

    KT lives in a bubble, a concept and as we know, when a concept enters the room, reality exits.
    There is no other way KT can see things, because he is trapped within the boundaries of his own concept, though he traps himself there by disingenuous science, ideology and willful ignorance.

    It’s a massive fail for alarmists to use KT as a source, I welcome it because KT’s science is so shaky and even at times ludicrous and ignorant of atmospheric and oceanic physics. I suspect this is why he is trying to pin it all on temperature data sets that are more infill and adjustment than measurement data at this point and we dont know how much is which thanks to the CRU deleting the evidence, yes, the evidence of what they have done.

    There is no reason to delete that data other than to erase from history the actual measurements. Otherwise future generations will compare the data and be skeptical.

    • That the criminals who blatantly did that are a) still at liberty and b) still in post tells you all you need to know about just how corrupt the whole show has become.

    • Andrew Freedman has been echoing Trenberth’s global warming alarmist hype his whole career and his article is 90% regurgitation of Trenberth stance.

      At least Freedman gave one paragraph to the opinion of other experts stating

      scientists said that natural variability still plays a very large role, and may have been the dominant factor with Hurricane Sandy.

      Martin Hoerling, a researcher at the Earth Systems Research Laboratory, also in Boulder, is a proponent of this view. “Great events, like this meteorological one, can happen with little cause(s). Individually, neither the tropical storm nor the extratropical storm that embraced it, were unusual,” he said via email. “What makes this a rare, perhaps once-in-a-lifetime event, is the fortuity of their timely (“untimely” as far as most are concerned who sit in harms way) intersection.” Randall M. Dole, who is a colleague of Hoerling’s at ESRL, noted that the blocking pattern that helped steer Sandy was “highly transient,” which suggests to him that it was just “random bad luck” that it coincided with a hurricane along the East Coast.

    • AGW is bulletproof mate, immune to catastrophic theory failures, empirical data, history, scientific method and honest competent peer review.

      AGW has beaten them all.

      Definition of pseudo science

  19. All of the air moving toward the center of a hurricane has to go somewhere. If you watch animations of nice symmetrical hurricanes you can see this as the highest clouds appear to move away from the center.

    Sandy was able to remain strong after leaving the warm water that drives most hurricanes because of the upper level low over the eastern states. This was drawing off the air at upper levels to the northwest. I remember how odd this made Sandy look in the animations of the satellite images as Sandy was heading toward landfall.

    • This is where the truth lies! The earth engine might transport heat from the tropics to the poles but that is just the existing heat gradient in the lower atmosphere. The real action is the transport of heat energy upward- toward space, via convection of warm, moist air. When this moisture condenses, the radiant heat goes in every direction, outward to space and downward to the cloud tops. The energy balance is always in place. Energy in equals energy out. Surface temps might be a function of residence time but the formula remains.

  20. Hurricane Hazel in 1954 did the exact same thing as Sandy for the exact same reasons:

    Look at this review of the 1954 hurricane season at the link below. If/when we have a similar hurricane season in the near future……… will be touted as irrefutable evidence of human caused climate change……..but what caused it in 1954, during modest global cooling?

  21. From the article:

    “Yet evidence of Trenberth’s links to global warming still remain elusive.”

    Nonexistent links, as far as I can see.

    I remembered that Sandy merged with another big storm during that time, so Sandy was actually two big storms. That might account for the higher storm surge, better, than claiming that humans are the cause, with no evidence, I might add.

    The Alarmist Cheerleaders like Trenberth must really believe their own hype, to be so bold as to claim a phenomenon that cannot currently be detected, CO2 warming, is causing hurricane Sandy to be more powerful and dangerous. People hang on to their self-delusions with an iron grip sometimes.

    The Alarmists must live in a really scary world.

    • Its just more revisionism, changing history to suit the present. Stalin loved that kind of stuff :D
      MWP and LIA same thing, attempts to change history to suit the current politics.

      I have read articles that claim CO2 was killing dinosaur hatchlings because levels were so high.. yet the author never considered that Oxygen was also much higher, and conveniently forgot the claim is CO2 is well mixed.

      This is the sort of garbage coming out of “educated” people.

      Now they are using the “climate change will affect the earth’s spin” nonsense.

      Most people dont care, if they did most people would look into this, and most people would think yep, it’s fantasy, the UN and EPA and so on are banking on the masses not being interested, because their story has more holes in it than a 1km block of ementhal

  22. And the taxpayers should definitely stop subsidizing insuring homes in flood plains.

    If someone wants to live in a flood plain, fine, but you should pay for it yourself.

    • The UK gov let the north get swamped by not building defences and then of course the outcome was used as propaganda for “climate change”.

      Right now the climatariat will relish any severe weather they can blame on “mm climate change”, they got so excited about Patricia, they thought they were onto the money there, “CAT 5!!!!” “oohoohh be scared” and can imagine they got gleeful in fact, which is sick, and what, it blew over some deckchairs.

      That forecast was a lie, they are either completely incompetent at NOAA or they knew it was never going to be a cat 5.

      If I remember correctly, Piers Corbyn predicted a hurricane and it’s path that would avoid the US, OBama gave the warnings “its gonna hit”.. turns out Corbyn was right, 80 DAYS IN ADVANCE path and all.
      The only thing that got hit was Obama’s carbon investments.

    • According to FEMA, my house is located on a “flood plain”; the immediate local hazard being Tulare Lake, which is the largest lake West of the Mississippi River. Right at the center of Tulare Lake, (in central California) is the City of Hanford, and also the Lemore Naval Air Station. Yes they are on the bottom of Tulare Lake, which hasn’t had any observable water in it for the past 80 or so years, because they connected it by a canal to the San Joachin (I believe) river, and drained the whole lake into San Francisco Bay, and thence out into Monterey Bay.

      So that got the farmers access to the land under the lake, to grow crops on, and run dairy cows.

      So my house is outside the lake historic high water mark, and it is conveniently four feet off the ground on a rock wall.
      Then just for kicks, the whole of the surrounding central valley, is now laser leveled, to include earth curvature, and other factors, so you could flood the whole central valley to great lake size with just one inch of water, except is soaks into the ground, rather than pools. And the LL experts even take that local soak rate into account, so you can pump water onto one corner of your 640 acres of farm, and have it flow across to the far corner, due to their lasered gradient, just about the time the last dregs soak into the soil. It’s all very high tech.

      But then I have a third line of defense. When H2O molecules are detected sitting on top of the soil in my neighborhood, somebody from Southern California lays claim to that, and they pump it into a canal, and ship it to SoCal to grow golf courses in what otherwise is a natural desert. Then for good measure, I have a moat around my slightly less than two acres, so H2O landing on my property, has to hurry up and soak into the soil, or it will fall into my moat, and get hand delivered to the SoCal water thieves.

      So that is exactly why I have to buy flood insurance from FEMA, in case Lake Ponchattrain overflows again

  23. I dared Flat earth waters a while back to see what all the fuss was about.

    I found that debate much like climate debate. When you offer a solid argument you are met with “government shill” and blocked thereafter. Deny discussion of any inconvenient fact to an opponent.
    Meet each question with an unfalsifiable claim. (So many examples, cant choose lol)
    Refusal to acknowledge empirical evidence, attack source with genetic fallacy, which rules out the ESA NASA and other space program nations and history as a source (Skpetics are mbad mmkay Oil shills blah exxonknew ect)
    Attribute all manner of things to the theory in plausible sounding but unscientific explanations (Mann’s explanation of why climate change made the Blizzards so bad, or anything Bill Nye says, Schmidt claiming to be certain AGW is empirical fact as is the effects on weather, bogus claim on TV, bogus!)

    Mann and Schmidt meet much of the above, Mann recently blocked Goddard because he posted the tide gauge data and pretended it was for other reasons.
    Schmidt makes these spurious assertions on people’s motives and is immune to reality when proven wrong, though only publicly, inside he would be seething, the ego is massive in that one, and the arrogance.

    Arrogance is a defensive mechanism, it protests the ego by elevating the ego above a perceived opponent, therefor to these people, even reading what the other person says is irrelevant, so you can tell Schmidt anything and the more unpalatable the reality the less it will penetrate. Arrogance is all too often accompanied by whinging and petulance, two things evidenced in the disingenuous communications of both, as is their bullet proof arrogant self delusional illusions of grandeur.

    (See the courtroom scene in the “Caine Mutiny” movie)

    As green house gases still accrete
    This captain of the climate wars
    Is searching for the missing heat
    That he believes the ocean stores

    He’ll prove to all humanity
    That danger in the deep resides
    The Kraken that he knows to be
    That Davy Jones’s Locker hides

    The soul’s more heavy than we think
    A truth that everyone must face
    And to what depths a soul may sink
    Oh! To what dark and dismal place

    Does Captain Trenberth understand
    That data offers no appeal?
    He tumbles in his restless hand
    Three clacking balls of stainless steel


    When silent faces stare at you
    Its always best to shut your jaw
    But Trenberth is without a clue
    As he believes they stare in awe!

  25. CO2 also apprently causes full moons in Climate Looney Land. Sandy came ashore as lunar high tides were peaking under a full moon.

  26. As a lifelong resident of Long Island I lived through Sandy. As far as I know there was a trifecta of a full moon, a king tide, and Sandy storm surge. It wasn’t a common thing.

    I watched my local news channel instead of ABC, CBS, or NBC because those stations normally focus on the city, NJ, and CT. You’d think my local station would inform me during a major storm but you’d be wrong. I never knew we were told to evacuate until I turned on a major network but by then it was too late as the water was already rising. Thanks for nothing News 12.

    We had power and streetlights as I watched the roads outside my house disappear into a big lake as far as the eye could see. I watched ducks swim down my street. Then the power was turned off, but I was prepared with emergency lighting.

    Luckily, my house was high enough that the water only came up to the end of the driveway before it receded. The tide and water went out so fast it was like watching time lapsed photography sped up.

  27. “Unlike hurricanes that are powered by latent heat from warm sea surfaces, extra-tropical winter storms along the eastern seaboard are primarily powered by the pressure gradient produced by the contrast between the cold continent and warm Gulf Stream. While Trenberth only draws your attention to anomalously warm sea surface temperatures, the east coast was experiencing record cold temperatures that increased the pressure gradient.”

    Now there is science.

  28. “Perhaps the NO dikes should be fitted with demolition means to flatten the walls, when category (x) hurricane hits, so the water won’t rise above most of the city.”

    In the Great Flood of 1927, they did blow up the berms to let the water run basically straight south, rather than to follow the Mississippi curve east to New Orleans. -per “Rising Tide,” John Berry, 1998, based on historical records.

    So, yes, its been done before.

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