That Wicked Weather

With massive floods in Australia and Brazil, and bitter winter weather across the Northern Hemisphere, climate change alarmists have been quick to blame the severe weather on global warming. The fact that such weather is well within normal variation has not stopped the catastrophists from claiming vindication. No matter that those who study the Pacific and Atlantic decadal scale oscillations predicted a cold and snowy winter for Europe and North America, the recent blizzards are being offered up as “proof” that Earth's climate is changing for the worse. And what of the reports of widespread natural disaster from Rio, Brisbane and elsewhere? Even more global warming, of course. When it comes to wicked weather, the climate change cabal's misinformation machine is running at full tilt.

A wave of cold and snowy weather, reminiscent of the Little Ice Age, has gripped Europe and North America, grounding airplanes, trains and cars and causing dozens of deaths. Winter arrived particularly early for Europe, with November temperatures dropping significantly lower than previous lows for the month. On 28 November, Wales recorded their lowest-ever November temperature of −17.3 °C (1 °F) in Llysdinam, and Northern Ireland recorded their lowest ever November temperature of −9.5 °C (15 °F) in Lough Fea. The UK Met Office, which had predicted a mild winter, proclaimed the coldest December since records began in 1910.

It has also been reported that the Met Office warned ministers back in October, to expect an “exceptionally cold winter” but then kept the prediction secret from the public. According to a BBC reporter, the forecaster decided not to reveal the information because it was embarrassed after wrongly predicting a “barbecue summer” in 2009, and we all know how that turned out. Instead of a seasonal forecast, it offered only monthly “snapshots.”

The worst winter in 100 years in the UK. Photo Andy Rain/EPA.

December, 2010, found the US locked in the grips of a freezing winter with snow on the ground in 49 of its 50 states. The entire US Eastern seaboard was snow bound, with travel disrupted and businesses shut down. The worst blizzard in 60 years made its way across New York City, creating a nightmare for the city's commuters. The southeast, where snow seldom falls, was in chaos. According to AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi:

The southeast US is having one of their coldest winters on record, absolutely amazing giving the fact its a la nina winter and with the exception of 1918, something that has never happened in a La nina winter. In fact if we took all the first year la nina winters ( winters with at least a moderate la nina one winter and another one right after. I think the nina continues into next winter) this winter in the US is unheard of!

As this column is being written the Midwest is recovering from record low temperatures and the Eastern Seaboard is digging out from yet another major winter storm. In a region already contending with above-average snowfall this season, the storm that began Wednesday added several more inches. In New York's Central Park, 19 inches had fallen by Thursday morning, and 19 inches had fallen in parts of New Jersey. Forecasts called for up to 12 inches in the Boston area, and up to 8 inches in the Hartford, Conn., area. There are reports that twice those amounts fell, causing 1500 airline flights to cancel and leaving 400,000 customers without electrical power.

snow near New York's Central Park on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011. Photo Lorie Jamias/AP.

Flying in the face of all logic, climate cranks attempted to blame the arctic blast on global warming. At least one media quack reported that the cold snap was caused by last summer's explosion of an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, “just the place were Gulf Stream is formed.” Others claim the change in weather is connected to the speed of the Gulf Stream, “which has shrunk in half in just the last couple of years” (Note that much wide variability in the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has been reported but was found to be normal, just previously undetected). Polish scientists say that it means the stream will not be able to compensate for the cold from the Arctic winds. According to them, when the stream is completely stopped, a new Ice Age will begin in Europe.

Frustrated by the arctic conditions in the Northern Hemisphere, climate change alarmists are pointing to floods in the Southern Hemisphere to rescue their climate predictions. ABC News, quoting global warming agitator Richard Somerville, published an article titled, “Raging Waters in Australia and Brazil Product of Global Warming.” The article states, “The decade that just ended saw nine of the 10 warmest years on record, and warmer temperatures mean more moisture in the air. That moisture can fall as torrential, flooding rains in the summertime or blizzards in the winter.” Even global warming friendly NASA had to disagree.

“Although exacerbated by precipitation from a tropical cyclone, rainfalls of historic proportion in eastern Queensland, Australia have led to levels of flooding usually only seen once in a century,” said David Adamec, an oceanographer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. “The copious rainfall is a direct result of La Niña’s effect on the Pacific trade winds and has made tropical Australia particularly rainy this year.”

La Niña’s conditions that started in 2010 persist. Map NOAA.

Indeed, it looks like the “little girl” has been busy all across the world. “The solid record of La Niña strength only goes back about 50 years and this latest event appears to be one of the strongest ones over this time period,” said Climatologist Bill Patzert of JPL in the same NASA press release. “It is already impacting weather and climate all around the planet.” In other words, this is all normal.

Two facts are often overlooked by the news media when reporting on a disaster: human memory is short and there are many more of us now than in earlier times. Weather induced tragedies occur infrequently, often with decades long spacing between major events—hence the term “storm of the century.” Hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005 was called a “50 year” storm. While the Big Easy may not get hit with another such storm next year, or next decade, every year there is a 1-in-50 chance of a repeat. Given the long time spans between such disasters, people have a natural tendency to not remember past tragedies and fixate on the current one.

It is also a fact that the cost of natural disasters—both in human and monetary terms—is rising. This is because there are many more people living in harms way, and those people seem to have a lot more stuff. With rising human populations new areas are being built up that probably shouldn't be. Since really bad natural disasters only happen infrequently, there is a natural tendency to assume areas safe that will be frequented by disaster only once or twice a century. And since these areas were previously undeveloped, any modern disaster will bring higher death tolls and greater financial damage.

Thousands of homes are flooded in eastern Australia.

The devastating floods in Australia are shaping up to be that nation's costliest natural disaster ever. Three-quarters of the state of Queensland was declared a disaster zone and and in Victoria a “floodwater lake” the size of Luxembourg is bearing down on scores of towns, threatening tens of thousands of homes. Crops have been destroyed, transportation brought to a standstill and the local economy devastated.

The floods are a result of heavy precipitation caused by Tropical Cyclone Tasha that combined with the peak of a La Niña event. The 2010 La Niña weather pattern, which brings wetter conditions to eastern Australia, was the strongest since 1973 and 2010 was also Queensland's wettest spring since 1900. A tragic event caused by the coincidence of infrequent but totally natural events.

In Brazil, populist politics and lack of urban planning across much of the country has allowed the construction of whole neighborhoods in areas with high risk of flooding and mudslides. Thousands of families living on mountain slopes or on riverbanks face extreme risk of being washed away in the heavy rains and flooding in Rio de Janeiro state. The disaster in the mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro is the largest since the disaster Caraguatatuba in 1967, when torrential floods killed more than 400. Of course, in 1967 there were far fewer people huddled on the hillsides above Rio.

Flood damaged buildings in Teresopolis, Brazil.

As tragic as these events are, there is absolutely no reason to shout “global warming” as some self-serving climate alarmists have. In natural terms such events are to be expected, as are the rising monetary costs. Roger A. Pielke, Jr., explains in an AMS report he co-authored regarding hurricane damages in the United States between 1925 and 1995:

The normalized data indicate clearly that the United States has been fortunate in recent decades with regard to storm losses as compared with earlier decades. The data further refute recent claims that the rapid increase in non-normalized damages are due to climatic changes (cf. Changnon et al. 1997). When inflation, wealth, and population changes are taken into account, instead of increases, normalized damages actually decreased in the 1970s and 1980s. The 1990s, so far, are more akin to the normalize d damages that occurred during the 1940s and 1960s, and are by no means unprecedented. Thus, caution is urged in interpreting statements regarding the increasing number of "billion-dollar losses" or other such measures (e.g., Flavin 1994). With respect to hurricanes, the clearest evidence for increases in losses is changes in society, not in climate fluctuations. Indeed, a climate signal is present in the normalized data, and this is of decreased impacts in recent decades.

In short, it is where we live, how we live and our growing numbers that have increased the damage from natural disasters. Yet the alarmists blame the recent floods on global warming, proclaiming the events “unnatural” and “unprecedented.” Here is proof that they are not:

This graph above, from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) on Brisbane flooding history, was modified by Dr. Pielke, to add the 2010 flood levels to the graph, shown in red. In historical context the recent flooding can be seen to be both normal and natural, not driven by global warming. Still, scurrilous scientific crackpots natter on about climate change to the news media's delight.

There will be droughts and rainy spells—such periodic episodes have been present on decade and century long time scales since humans have been around to observe them. The multi-decade shifts in weather patterns that helped bring about the demise of Egypt's Old Kingdom, the Akkadian Empire, the Maya, Angkor Wat, the Anasazi and other fallen civilizations are still with us, governed by oscillation patterns over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans .

This is not to say that there are no other complicating factors waiting to be discovered—unquestionably there are—but scientists have recently reported that a rise in global temperature would not alter weather in the Tropics. Given the current state of human knowledge, science predicts that precipitation patterns may shift a bit but the overall weather system is quite stable in the face of temperature fluctuation. There is no scientific evidence that global warming is causing more and greater natural disasters, or that it will in the foreseeable future. Anyone who makes predictions to the contrary is simple blowing hot air.

Be safe, enjoy the interglacial and stay skeptical.

Arkansas braces for major winter storm

Just to let everyone know that we here in central Arkansas are not imune to this winter's harsh conditions, we are expecting what a local weather forcaster has predicted will be our "worst snow event of the season." According to KHTV:

    A Winter Storm Watch has been issued for Arkansas for Tuesday night into Wednesday. This will likely be upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning on Tuesday.

    Arctic air will move into the state late Tuesday as surface low pressure will move to the south of the state across the Gulf of Mexico. This will bring moisture over a very cold atmosphere.

    The snow is expected late Tuesday night into Wednesday. Beginning in Northwest Ark around midnight and moving into Central Arkansas around 6 a.m. Wednesday. Temperature profiles would indicate all snow for the state with the potential for widespread 4" to 6" amounts with some areas possibly picking up to 8 inches.

This will be central Arkansas' fourth measurable snow of the season.

Waiting for the storm

Does anyone recall the predictions for a warm, dry winter because of la Nina? If Little Rock gets ~4 more inches this year will be in the top 10 snowiest of all time. Some global warming sounds real good about now!

Punxsutawney Phil Predicts An Early Spring

The world's most famous groundhog did not see his shadow on groundhog day, meaning he is predicting an early spring.

Next US Storm

There is a major winter storm moving across the USA today. The Weather Channel guy said "this may be the worst storm of your life"!