January 31, 2007

European Heat Wave 2003: A Global Perspective

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Heat Waves

Although the event occurred over three years ago, the summer heat wave of 2003 is still prominently featured in every popular presentation of the global warming issue. A web search of “Europe Heat Wave 2003” produces nearly 950,000 sites to choose from, and if you take that plunge, you will see estimates of 35,000 deaths directly attributed to that heat wave, although that number varies considerably from one site to the next. Although the number of deaths may vary, virtually every one of the sites mentions global warming as an underlying contributor, and statements like “even more extreme weather events lie ahead” are commonplace in the thousands of essays on the topic. Not surprisingly, many of these thousands of heat wave articles end with something like “the world must cut the carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.”

We have covered heat waves many times in the past at World Climate Report and shown that the link between extreme heat waves and global warming (or, at least, increasing death) is not nearly as strong as we are led to believe. An article in the recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters dares to ask the question “Was the 2003 European summer heat wave unusual in a global context?” We saw that title and new this was going to be good.

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January 26, 2007

Hard Facts about Tobacco

Filed under: Adaptation, Climate History, Plants

The time of year has arrived for you begin to assess how much progress you are making in your New Year’s Resolutions. Been spending time at the gym? Losing weight? Quit smoking? Believe it or not, it is possible that the increasing concentrations of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) just might be helping you achieve the latter. Read more to see how (as to the two former, you’re on your own).

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January 23, 2007

Summer Heat History

We are sure by now you’ve heard the news that global warming is causing heat waves to increase in frequency, intensity, and duration around the world, humans are suffering and dying at alarming rates in the ever-increasing summer heat, and it could all be prevented if we seriously addressed the greenhouse issue. Just go on-line and look up heat waves and global warming. Within seconds we found global warming advocacy sites claiming that “Heat-waves in Europe are associated with significant morbidity and mortality. A preliminary analysis of the 2003 heat-wave in Europe estimated that it caused 14,802 excess deaths in France, 2045 excess deaths in the United Kingdom, 2099 in Portugal.” Or, try “An estimated 15,000 people died as a result of the heatwave in France last August. Chicago’s heatwave of July 1995 killed about 739.” If you’ve not seen enough, you will quickly find headlines like “Consequence: deadly heat waves and the spread of disease” in which you learn that “More frequent and more intensive heat waves could result in more heat-related deaths. These conditions could also aggravate local air quality problems, already afflicting more than 80 million Americans. Global warming is expected to increase the potential geographic range and virulence of tropical diseases as well.”

We have addressed the heat wave story many times at World Climate Report, and we have shown research results demonstrating that the American public is far less susceptible to heat waves than at any time in the past thanks to good old technology. The last we checked, two of the fastest growing cities in North America are Phoenix and Las Vegas where temperatures routinely exceed 110°F in the summer months. These cities seem stuck for months in what the rest of the world would call heat waves, and they have clearly engineered their way around uncomfortable conditions outdoors. A normal summer day in Phoenix or Las Vegas would certainly be a disaster in many other cities worldwide (of course, one inch of snow in Phoenix would be a disaster as well). And given the apparent fact, from the internet at least, that the buildup of greenhouses is causing heat waves to increase, it is tempting to blame all recent heat waves on the dreaded global warming phenomenon.

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January 18, 2007

Half-baked Reporting on Greenland

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

In VERY large type, the New York Times of January 16 proclaimed “The Warming of Greenland.” As has become increasingly typical of their reporting on polar climate, that’s about half of the “news that’s fit to print.”

The big story, of course, is the melting of Greenland’s ice, and threats of a major rise in sea level. After all, if the entire 630,000 cubic miles of it disappeared, the ocean would rise 23 feet.

The Times relied on an off-the-cuff estimate of ice loss, given to them by Professor Carl Boggild from the University Center at Svalbard. According to the Times, he “said Greenland could be losing more than 80 cubic miles of ice per year.” Nowhere did the Times give the amount determined by meticulous analysis of recent satellite data, which is around 25 cubic miles, published by NASA’s Scott Luthcke in Science less than two months ago.

They then quoted Richard Alley, from Penn State, who reported that “a sea-level rise of a foot or two in the coming decades is entirely possible.”

Wrong. It’s entirely impossible.

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Arctic Forecast: Nordic Sea Ice Expansion

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

What’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear the term “global warming”? The most common is that of melting ice. That image is then easily cultivated by climate change alarmists who would like you to translate it into a downward spiraling Arctic ecosystem and a sputtering global oceanic circulation. (The image that comes to our mind is that of Al Gore recently pretending to be a research professor on The Oprah Winfrey Show.) What we hear little about from the global warming crusade is research findings that suggest that a measure of the recent atmospheric warming is part of a natural cycle or that the impacts are far less than what is portrayed. Well, that’s what we at the World Climate Report are here for.

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January 15, 2007

More Arctic Contradiction

Many times over, we at the World Climate Report have underscored the popular idea that Earth’s frozen realm, or the cryosphere, serves as a monitor of regional climate variability and global climate change. This idea is combined with evidence and theory that a large degree of climate warming has and will occur in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Climate variables that have been historically studied the most include air temperature, snow cover, and glacier characteristics, but in recent decades, sea ice data have been mined for use in climate change research.

While many studies have focused on trends in the characteristics of sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere over the last several decades, the ice cover of Canada’s Hudson Bay region has been almost entirely ignored. Evidence of an insignificant decrease in the spatial extent of the Hudson Bay sea ice (Parkinson et al. 1999) and an indication of earlier spring break-up and later fall freeze-up (Gagnon and Gough 2005a) generally support projections by general circulation models (Gagnon and Gough 2005b). However, trends in the thickness of Hudson Bay sea ice have not been examined in search of evidence of recent climate change…until recently. In the October 2006 issue of Climate Research, Alexandre Gagnon of the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom) and William Gough of the University of Toronto Scarborough (Canada) reported on trends in Hudson Bay sea ice thickness using data from the Canadian Ice Service.

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January 9, 2007

The Lessons of Mid-Holocene Droughts

Filed under: Droughts, Precipitation

We have been told over and over that the buildup of greenhouse gases will vastly alter climate all over the world. The planet will be warmer, precipitation will be greater, droughts and floods will savage civilization, and everything will be worse than we could ever believe. In the case of the central United States, we have been warned repeatedly that higher atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will lead to a substantial increase in the duration, severity, and areal extent of droughts in the American heartland.

A recent issue of Geophysical Research Letters includes two articles that shed light on the future (and past) of droughts in the central United States. The first article was produced by five climatologists from academic units at Purdue, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Oregon. Diffenbaugh et al. focused on the Mid-Holocene period between 8,000 and 3,000 years ago — a period for which the proxy record clearly shows drier-than-present conditions throughout the central United States. They note that “Proxy data also indicate that changes in summer precipitation played a major role in shaping mid-Holocene moisture balance in North America.” Back then, summers were a lot drier than today, despite any lack of elevated concentration of greenhouse gases.

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January 8, 2007

Antarctic Ice Shelf Melt: Remember the Holocene!

Filed under: Antarctic, Polar

The recent climate change literature contains a great deal of evidence in support of the idea that the high latitudes will experience the greatest atmospheric warming. One of the most rapidly warming regions is the Antarctic Peninsula, and it is no surprise that warming here shortens the spatial and temporal extents of snow cover, glaciers, and sea ice. Ice shelves are not immune from the effects of warming, and rather dramatic ice shelf recession has occurred over periods as short as days and weeks as apparent thresholds in the drivers of melt are surpassed. The break-up of the Larsen-B ice shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula in 2002 received a great deal of worldwide attention, as it was believed that the Larsen-B had remained intact for thousands of years. The volume of glacial melt has prompted some climate change alarmists to push the panic button on global sea level rise. At the front of this crowd is Al Gore, who loves to show images and video footage of falling glacial ice and computer generated representations of inundated coastal areas while claiming that the recent global warming is unprecedented. Such images are meant to generate shock, fear, and a desire to place blame. There is little doubt that warming has indeed occurred across parts of Antarctica over the last few decades. However, let’s consider the possibility that a significant portion of the warming may be natural, and that regions, such as the Antarctic Peninsula, are likely to have experienced as warm or warmer conditions in their climate history, before human emission of greenhouse gases.

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January 4, 2007

Global Forests Love Global Warming

Filed under: Adaptation, Climate History, Plants

Over the past 20 years, approximately 5,000 articles have been published in major scientific journals showing how plants benefit from higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) with or without elevated temperatures. As CO2 concentration increases, plants substantially increase the rate of photosynthesis, rate of growth above and below ground, the water use efficiency, the production of fruit and seeds, and resistance to a variety of stresses. Critics of this positive response to elevated CO2 claim that many of these experiments are conducted in highly controlled laboratory conditions that may have little in common with what is happening in the real world. Outdoor experiments are also conducted, but in most cases, in something far less than “real-world” conditions. In the special case of forests, researchers must create clever experiments to overcome the obvious problems of waiting around a few decades or centuries to see the outcome of an experiment.

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January 3, 2007

The Park Formerly Known as Glacier

Glacier National Park just seems to come up repeatedly in the debate about global warming. This poster child of the greenies is sacred ground, for it provides an opportunity to show the kids where the glaciers were when you were a kid, see where the glaciers terminate today, and of course blame global warming and further blame the Bush Administration for not signing the Kyoto Protocol. Many documentaries on the greenhouse effect have been drawn to the Park, and if you Google “Glacier National Park and Global Warming,” you will be directed to approximately 159,000 sites.

A very interesting paper on Glacier National Park appears in a recent issue of Earth Interactions by scientists at Montana State University and the U.S. Geological Survey. Pederson et al. begin their article noting that “Evidence from an increasingly rich paleoproxy record demonstrates that over the last millennium decadal to multidecadal precipitation anomalies have been a substantial, if not defining, component of western North America’s climates. As in the twentieth century, the last 1000 yr has experienced sporadic episodes of both persistent (>10 yr) droughts and wet regimes, though the magnitude and duration of many paleodroughts surpass those captured by the instrumental record.” The notion that droughts in the past were far worse than any recent drought brought our attention to the article, but there is far more to the story than just past droughts.

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