August 19, 2010

The Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010 Part II

Filed under: Health Effects, Heat Waves

Last week we presented our analysis of the causes behind this summer’s record-breaking heat wave in western Russia.

We summarized the situation thus:

But global warming theory doesn’t come anywhere close to explaining why it’s so darn hot this summer in Moscow.

Long-term observations suggest a more basic cause—an unusual and unprecedented (at least since 1950) confluence of several naturally-occurring atmospheric circulation patterns that together combined to set the stage for extreme warmth. Add to that urbanization, changing forestry practices, and perhaps throw in a dash of global warming for good measure, and you take a situation that would otherwise be “very hot” and up it a notch to “record hot.”

Since then, another analysis has been released that concludes the same thing—actually, the new analysis is even less sympathetic to assigning any blame to global warming than even we were.

And surprise, surprise, the analysis wasn’t from some alleged fossil-fuels backed professional denialist group, but from the folks at the Physical Sciences Division (PSD) of the Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the Department of Commerce of the United States Government. These are folks who live and breathe atmospheric dynamics.

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August 12, 2010

The Great Russian Heat Wave of 2010

Filed under: Health Effects, Heat Waves

The longer and deadlier the heat wave in western Russia becomes, the more frequently it is being linked to anthropogenic global warming.

But global warming theory doesn’t come anywhere close to explaining why it’s so darn hot this summer in Moscow.

Long-term observations suggest a more basic cause—an unusual and unprecedented (at least since 1950) confluence of several naturally-occurring atmospheric circulation patterns that together combined to set the stage for extreme warmth. Add to that urbanization, changing forestry practices, and perhaps throw in a dash of global warming for good measure, and you take a situation that would otherwise be “very hot” and up it a notch to “record hot.”

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February 14, 2008

Few French Fried in 2006

In the history of global warming scare stories, the 2003 European heat wave was a landmark event—it was the first time that a rash of human deaths were specifically linked to global warming. Many of you probably recall that a widespread exceptionally hot and dry spell hit Western Europe in August, 2003. Depending on how you count the bodies, up to 35,000 people suffered premature death during this heat wave with the lions-share occurring in France, which happened to be heat wave ground zero. Subsequent research demonstrated that this kind of extreme heat event must surely have been caused by increased greenhouse gas levels (Schår et al., 2004), despite the fact that, when examined from a global perspective, this heat wave was very Euro-centric (Chase et al., 2006), and the last time we checked a map, western Europe doesn’t cover much of the globe (which of course is the reason for centuries of European colonialism).

Well, we bet you didn’t know that there was a very comparable heat wave in France in summer, 2006. Why no headlines about global warming’s increasing death toll? In the category of “all the news that’s apparently not fit to print,” you guessed it, many fewer people died. The 2006 heat wave is the subject of a recent paper in the International Journal of Epidemiology by a group of French researchers led by A. Fouillet entitled, “Has the impact of heat waves on mortality changed in France since the European heat wave of summer 2003? A study of the 2006 heat wave.”

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September 21, 2007

Soil Moisture Matters

For decades, climate scientists have run numerical experiments to predict the climate response to the buildup of greenhouse gases and the answer consistently falls on the side of warming on the global scale. The climate models have become more sophisticated by orders of magnitude over the past 40 years, and the prediction of warming given increased concentrations of greenhouse gases remains as the central pillar in the global warming issue. The fact that the Earth has warmed over the past three decades makes it very easy to claim that greenhouse gases are increasing, models predict warming, the Earth’s temperature is increasing, and therefore, the science debate on the issue is over.

We at World Climate Report have confessed repeatedly that some part of the observed warming over the past three decades is very likely related to the ongoing buildup of greenhouse gases. However, thousands (actually, millions on the internet) of presentations on global warming feature claims that climate models are predicting more floods, more droughts, more hurricanes, more glacial melting, more sea level rise, more species extinctions, more … anything you can possibly name (assuming what you name is potentially catastrophic). Our essays repeatedly show that (a) models really don’t make such predictions, (b) models are not capable of such predictions, and/or (c) there is no evidence that such predictions are supported by observational data.

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April 9, 2007

Canadian Heat Waves Declining?

Filed under: Heat Waves

No popular presentation of global warming is complete without images of people suffering from the effects of a heat wave. It seems so simple – the world is getting hotter, temperatures are rising everywhere, and therefore, heat waves will be longer, more frequent, and more severe. There are heat waves somewhere on the planet at any moment, so one would never run out of fresh material for such a story. Add in giant killer heat waves in Chicago and/or Europe, claim tens of thousands of deaths on those ever-increasing heat waves, and another scary global warming story emerges. Heat waves put a human face on suffering thanks to global warming, and if you include sweltering pets and animals at the zoo, the story is further embellished. Add in the familiar lines about the heat waves differentially impacting the elderly, the poor, and children, and the story is nearly complete. Obviously, blame the industrial nations (particularly the United States) for all the misery just for some icing on the cake.

We have covered heat waves many times in the past at World Climate Report, but another article has appeared in a recent issue of Theoretical and Applied Climatology that we must call to your attention. A team of scientists from various institutions in Quebec decided to examine trends in the number of summer-season heat spells and the number of summer-season hot days in southern Quebec over the past 60 years. Canada is in the mid-to-high latitudes where climate models predict enhanced warming compared to the rest of the planet, so one might logically expect to see an increase in the heat spells. The title of the article reveals that the focus is on observed changes in heat spells in southern Quebec, but the results may surprise the global warming advocates of that country.

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March 14, 2007

Lower Mortality Thanks to Global Warming?

The release of the Summary for Policymakers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sent the media into a global warming frenzy. Headlines were literally predicting “climate chaos” in the coming decades, humanity and every specie on the planet are in deep peril, and according to an international group of celebrities (the “Global Cool” crowd), we have “10 years to save the planet.”

Among the usual claims, we learn that many humans will die as the temperature of the Earth increases, and that the elderly, the children, and the poorest among us are most at risk. Throw in a few pictures of Paris during the 2003 European heat wave, claim tens of thousands died in that event, and the icing is on the cake. A Google search of “Global Warming and Mortality” will lead you to 723,000 different sites – we sampled a dozen or so, and according to these sites, you will be lucky to survive much longer if temperatures continue to rise.

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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 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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August 8, 2006

A Hot Urban Legend

According to news reports, the recent heat wave in California was responsible for about 150 fatalities. Many people including the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believe this can only get worse with global warming, predicting a doubling or a tripling of heat-related deaths in North American cities in the next decade.

Global warming or not, our cities have been warming, and will continue to do so. Sprawling masonry and blacktop retain heat and impede the flow of ventilating winds. (Here in DC, there’s an additional warming: waste heat from all the money changing hands). So, this makes the notion of increasing heat-related deaths, as cities warm, a very testable hypothesis.

The United Nations is dead wrong.

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July 28, 2005

Giving Fossil Fuels Their Due

Filed under: Health Effects, Heat Waves

When it comes to the weather, it’s time to stop global whining.

Surely it is an international pastime to complain about the weather, but making global implications out of a local hot spell is a bit much. Consider the editorial in the July 26, 2005 New York Times, headlined “A Few Degrees.” The idea is that the recent heatwave that started in the American Southwest and that has been slowly spreading eastward across the rest of the country is an example of how anthropogenic global warming, although it may only raise temperatures “a few degrees,” subtly makes life miserable for everyone.
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