November 29, 2006

Hurricane Update, Again

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

Who could ever forget the hurricane season of 2005 with Katrina and no end of massive hurricanes all in one tropical cyclone season? In a recent article in Geophysical Research Letters, two Louisiana State University scientists examine one record-breaking characteristic of that fateful year. Keim and Robbins note “The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season set many records including the greatest number of named tropical storms and hurricanes at 27, and the greatest total hurricanes at 15. Another record from 2005 includes 7 named tropical storms and hurricanes before 1 August. The 2005 season began early and remained active from June to January (2006).”

They gathered data on start dates of hurricanes from 1851-2005, and found that “Other seasons with storms with early dates of occurrence include 1887, 1933, 1936, and 1995.” There is no trend here with three of the five years with early storms occurring between 1887 and 1936. They made no link to global warming, but they did conclude “All of these seasons are associated with a positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation” which is the warm phase of the oscillation.

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November 28, 2006

Fires Dampen Warming Scare

Filed under: Climate History

This entire global warming – greenhouse effect crusade really got into high gear back in the summer of 1988. In case you have forgotten, that spring and early summer in the United States was unusually hot and dry, and on June 23rd, James Hansen (then director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies) reported at a Senate hearing that the world was warmer than at any time in the instrumental record and he was “99 percent certain” that some of that warming was related the buildup of greenhouse gases. Following that pronouncement, the issue seemed to gather traction, and the greenhouse train got rolling down the tracks. Once that train got out of the station in 1988, it has been gaining momentum, and with the recent election results in the United States, the train is moving faster than ever.

If anyone doubted global warming back in 1988, two other events of that summer put the nail in the coffin. Remember Hurricane Gilbert? As this storm approached the Yucatán, the central pressure fell to 885 millibars, the lowest ever recorded in a Western Hemisphere storm. Hypercanes became embraced as part of the greenhouse storyline. Meanwhile, Yellowstone Park went up in flames, as did millions of acres throughout the United States. Immediately, wildfires were claimed as further evidence of global warming, and since that time, every popular presentation of the horrors of global warming includes images of wildfires.

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November 27, 2006

Dimming Fights Drought?

A recent article in Geophysical Research Letters by Rutgers’ scientists Alan Robock and Haibin Li addresses the issue of global warming and reduced soil moisture levels in important agricultural areas. Every popular global warming presentation lays out the case that higher temperatures in the future will cause higher levels of evaporation that will overwhelm any changes in precipitation and force soil moisture levels to drop. Of course, crops will fail, we will have more frequent and severe droughts of longer duration, and it will have all been caused by elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. You’ve heard the story a 1,000 times by now.

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November 20, 2006

False Alarm

Filed under: Climate Changes, Gulf Stream

“False Alarm: Atlantic Conveyor Belt Hasn’t Slowed Down After All” is the title of a “News of the Week” piece in this week’s (November 17, 2006) Science magazine by science writer Richard Kerr (for those with a subscription, you can view the whole story, here).

Kerr’s piece starts off with the line “A closer look at the Atlantic Ocean’s currents has confirmed what many oceanographers suspected all along: There’s no sign that the ocean’s heat-laden ‘conveyor’ is slowing.”

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November 17, 2006

Cooling the Debate: A Longer Record of Greenland Air Temperature

Filed under: Arctic, Polar, Temperature History

The reconstruction of Earth’s climate history is important because it contextualizes the recent global climate for which we have direct evidence through instrumental observation. Therefore, reconstructions are an important component of the climate change debate, as they speak to alarmists’ claims that Earth’s climate has warmed to a level that is unprecedented within the last two millennia, and therefore unnatural. The natural proxies used for reconstructing climate (e.g., ice and sediment cores) must be verified through comparison with an overlapping instrumental record, and obviously, the longer the instrumental record, the better.

Contextualizing the recent climate in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere is especially important, as it is across this region that the largest increase in surface air temperature has been both observed during the 20th century and predicted for the 21st century. These ideas highlight the importance of snow cover, its sensitivity to temperature, and its positive feedback to the overlying atmosphere. Higher temperatures in typically snow covered regions may lead to a reduction in snow cover, and in turn, a reduction in the refrigeration of Earth’s atmosphere from beneath, and even greater atmospheric warming. The vision of out-of-control warming in Earth’s frozen regions makes the leap toward a breakdown of the global oceanic circulation system and global sea level rise an easy one.

Until recently, the instrumental air temperature record for Greenland, an epicenter of glacial study and climate reconstruction, was confined to the period 1873 to present. However, recent collaboration between the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) and the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (United Kingdom) has resulted in the compilation of instrumental data for 13 stations along the southern and western coasts of Greenland that date back to 1784. The data represent the addition of 74 complete winters and 52 complete summers to the previous record along roughly the southern two-thirds of the western Greenland coastline.

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November 15, 2006

Stalagmite Story

Do stalagmites grow from the ceiling or the floor of cave? Time is up – they grow from the floor of caves (stalactites grow from the ceiling), but the key is that they grow over long periods of time. Some stalagmites are thousands of years old and if they are in just the right type of cave, they can preserve a signal of temperature and precipitation levels over the time they grew.

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November 14, 2006

Darn Drought Data

Filed under: Droughts, Precipitation

We have all heard the news that droughts will certainly become longer, more frequent, and more severe thanks to global warming. Higher temperatures will surely increase rates of potential evapotranspiration, and even if precipitation patterns remain unchanged, the odds will favor more droughts in the future. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states in the 2001 Summary for Policymakers that it is “Likely” that “Increased summer continental drying and associate risk of drought” has occurred in the later half of the 20th century and “Likely, over most mid-latitude continental interiors” to occur during the 21st century.

Figure 1 below shows the current state of affairs as of November 4, 2006, and generally, widespread drought in the mid-latitude continental interior is absent. In fact, as we look at the Great Plains, we find more areas in the “Extremely Moist” category than the “Extreme Drought” category. We would all agree that one snapshot of soil moisture conditions in the United States is not an adequate way to test the idea that global warming will lead to an increase in drought in mid-latitude continental interiors. What is needed, of course, is a longer perspective with drought information over hundreds of years.

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November 13, 2006

CO2 Emissions Link to Temperature Trends: A Quandary?

Filed under: Climate Forcings

Hardly a week goes by without an article appearing in the professional scientific literature with results that show shortcomings in the numerical models of climate upon which the global warming scare is based. In many cases, the problems deal with the numerical representation of some important processes, in other cases the problems deal with assumptions of growth rates in greenhouse gas concentrations, while in other cases, the problems deal with data used to initialize the models. The problems are endless and rarely reported in more popular presentations of the greenhouse-global warming story. Another recent paper has appeared with a surprising problem to be solved by the modelers.

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November 9, 2006

Not Quiet on the Hurricane Front

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

As the very quiet hurricane season of 2006 comes to an end, two very interesting articles have appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific journals on the subject of climate change and hurricane activity. In the most recent issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Philip Klotzbach and William Gray of Colorado State University analyzed the causes of the destructive 2004 hurricane season. In case you have forgotten, Katrina and a number of other large hurricanes were part of the 2005 hurricane season. The 2004 season was also very active, but nearly forgotten given the events of 2005.

Klotzbach and Gray began their article by noting “In the aftermath of the destructive 2004 hurricane season, many individuals queried whether the landfall of four destructive hurricanes in such a short period of time was related to human-induced climate change brought on by increased greenhouse gas emissions. The Center for Health and Global Environment at the Harvard Medical School held a news conference in the wake of the four storms and indicated that humans were likely to be somewhat responsible for these damaging cyclones.” A year before Katrina and 2005, the drums of the global warmers were already beating out their message that hurricanes should be blamed on fossil fuel emissions and the resulting increase in planetary temperature. Gore and others make this theme a centerpiece in their disinformation campaign.

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November 7, 2006

No Ramp-Up in Damaging Snowstorms

Filed under: Precipitation

Global climate models – the complex quantitative representations of Earth’s atmosphere and its interaction with the planet’s land masses and ocean bodies – have portrayed a future climate that is riddled with ferocious weather. Super hurricanes, more frequent and intense drought, flooding precipitation events, and unimaginable severe weather outbreaks lead the cast of villains that will supposedly be engineered by increased greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere. An exaggerated image of a global climate gone mad is a wonderfully effective tool for climate change alarmists. Historically, severe weather has been an intrigue, as evidenced by the massive media coverage of events either in anticipation or in retrospection. Natural hazards can be viewed with guilt-free sympathy, as they are indeed natural and leave no one to blame. Incorporate weather extremes in the global warming debate and there exists an opportunity to indeed assign blame and make severe weather events less innocent. It’s the age-old strategy of making the public afraid of something before telling them who is to blame for it.

One form of extreme weather that gets little play by climate change alarmists is hazardous snowstorms. This is probably because the image of increased snow detracts from their portrait of a warmer climate. However, the increase in extreme weather predicted by global climate models “is anticipated to result in alterations of cyclone activity over the Northern Hemisphere” (Lawson, 2003), and that “a change in the frequency, locations, and/or intensity of extratropical cyclones in the mid-latitudes would alter the incidence of snowstorms” (Trenberth and Owen, 1999). In a recent article in the journal Natural Hazards, snowstorm data over the last half of the 20th century were analyzed in search of support for this theory.

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