Weather Amnesia


Post by Dr. Ryan N. Maue

Dr. Judith Curry is quoted in a lengthy AP article connecting disparate extreme weather events into a tidy AGW-narrative: “Sometimes it seems as if we have weather amnesia.” …Judith Curry of Georgia Tech disagreed, saying that while humans are changing the climate, these extremes have happened before, pointing to the 1950s… she is correct but just who/what is she disagreeing with?

The AP article sets up a typical “arguing amongst experts” debate where the non-expert journalist assembles the narrative.

The AP article begins:

“Nature is pummelling the United States this year with extremes. Unprecedented triple-digit heat and devastating drought. Deadly tornadoes leveling towns. Massive rivers overflowing. A billion-dollar blizzard. And now, unusual hurricane-caused flooding in Vermont. If what’s falling from the sky isn’t enough, the ground shook in places that normally seem stable: Colorado and the entire East Coast. On Friday, a strong quake triggered brief tsunami warnings in Alaska. Arizona and New Mexico have broken records for wildfires.”

Of course we know that natural disasters occur globally, and are often modulated by the El Niño Southern Oscillation (e.g. El Niño and La Niña). This is not new science and it is not controversial. All climate scientists should understand this natural variability and be able to discuss the teleconnections and atmosphere-ocean feedbacks historically observed in previous strong El Niños and La Niñas since the 1950s. For instance, a major long-lasting La Niña occurred in the 1950s which left Texas with a historic, record drought. The Texas State Climatologist Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon mentions this often in his media correspondence. The strongest La Ninas lead to Texas droughts. The 2010-11 La Nina led to the Texas drought of this spring and summer. It is not immediately clear how the few tenths of a degree in global warming may have changed the character of this drought compared to the 1950s. Scientific research is required to answer this question — which should be published in the peer-reviewed literature. On the spot expert testimony often turns out to be incorrect as Mother Nature continues to operate contrary to conventional wisdom.

Dr. Jeff Masters, owner (blogger) of private weather forecasting company Weather Underground is first quoted: “I’m hoping for a break. I’m tired of working this hard. This is ridiculous. I’m not used to seeing all these extremes all at once in one year.”

I’m sure Masters is tired of the website hits and advertising revenue, but this statement is not scientific but anecdotal. To my knowledge, Masters does not generate peer-reviewed scholarship as I have not come across a paper written by him. Examining the 1910s, 1950s or 1970s for similar frequency of extreme events may surprise many including him.

The AP article continues:

“What’s happening, say experts, is mostly random chance or bad luck. But there is something more to it, many of them say. Man-made global warming is increasing the odds of getting a bad roll of the dice. Sometimes the luck seemed downright freakish.”

Who says what? I request a roll call vote. Man-made global warming has not been explicitly connected to any event of 2011. The evidence or proof of this statement has not (yet) been created, published, or disseminated. Similar statements were made with respect to the Russian Heat Wave and Pakistani Floods of 2010 as well as the record cold winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11. Again, without concrete and rigorous research, that statement is anecdotal especially with the nebulous usage of “experts say” and “many of them say”. Who?

The insurance company Munich Re calculated that in the first six months of the year there have been 98 natural disasters in the United States, about double the average of the 1990s.

How does this compare to the 1910s, 1950s, 1970s, 1980s, or 2000s? Perhaps the 1990s were especially quiet when it comes to US natural disasters. Again, a little context would help.

“I think this year has really been extraordinary in terms of natural catastrophes,” said Andreas Schrast, head of catastrophic perils for Swiss Re, another big insurer.

Yes, it has been extraordinary — but why? Is it perhaps the record strong La Niña?

One of the most noticeable and troubling weather extremes was the record-high nighttime temperatures, said Tom Karl, director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. That shows that the country wasn’t cooling off at all at night, which both the human body and crops need.

“These events are abnormal,” Karl said. “But it’s part of an ongoing trend we’ve seen since 1980.”

Dr. Karl’s quotes are likely out of sequence. Nighttime temperatures were indeed warm, but there clearly is a meteorological or climate explanation for this. Karl apparently says this: “Individual weather disasters so far can’t be directly attributed to global warming, but it is a factor in the magnitude and the string of many of the extremes, Karl and other climate scientists say.”

So, let’s summarize: if individual weather disasters cannot be directly attributed to global warming, then what on earth is causing them? Hello? Anyone?

NASA’s Dr. Gavin Schmidt to the rescue?

While the hurricanes and tornado outbreaks don’t seem to have any clear climate change connection, the heat wave and drought do, said NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt.

Well, that doesn’t narrow it down much. Some events can be attributed to global warming but some can’t. We need a list.

This year, there’s been a Pacific Ocean climate phenomenon that changes weather patterns worldwide known as La Niña, the flip side to El Niño. La Niñas normally trigger certain extremes such as flooding in Australia and drought in Texas. But global warming has taken those events and amplified them from bad to record levels, said climate scientist Jerry Meehl at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Dr. Meehl contends, according to the AP article, that AGW has exacerbated the effects of the historic La Niña from bad to worse. That is a testable hypothesis and likely further research could answer that claim. Until then, it is just that, a hypothesis. But, at least we have La Niña mentioned. However, the way the article is written, it seems as if Masters, Karl, and Schmidt knew nothing of the historic La Niña.

Now we come to Dr. Curry:

Judith Curry of Georgia Tech disagreed, saying that while humans are changing the climate, these extremes have happened before, pointing to the 1950s.

“Sometimes it seems as if we have weather amnesia,” she said.

Disagreed with what/who? Her reference to the 1950s harkens back to a time when Texas droughts and East Coast hurricanes were the norm — extreme events occurring with unprecedented frequency and ferocity. It is also a time when the Pacific Ocean was in a “cool phase” of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation [PDO] while the North Atlantic was in the middle of a warm Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation [AMO] phase. Pacific cold — Atlantic warm. It’s a story we’ve heard Joe Bastardi telling on television for months now as we have returned to such a warm-cold ocean basin asymmetry.

The final expert NOAA’s deputy chief Kathryn Sullivan provides nice anecdotes, but no substance.

Thus, as the 2010s continue on — with the winter of 2011-12 likely being at least a moderate La Niña year (and cold as hell) — expect more weather and extreme events like the 1950s.

Hopefully our weather amnesia does not cause us to be ill-prepared for winter 2011-12.

Bill Nye is the anti-science Guy when it comes to global warming and hurricanes


Post by Dr. Ryan Maue (cross posted at WUWT)

Much “debate” has erupted in the liberal mainstream media concerning the effects of global warming on Hurricane Irene. With a few notable exceptions (Henry Fountain awesome), many of the journalistsbutchered the science and generally constructed disjointed narratives that quoted a variety of favorite experts which left me wondering why they even bother (Politico). Rush Limbaugh provided a compelling alternative explanation for the hurricane hype: “Politics is part of everything. The weather’s been politicized; the climate’s been politicized…Both Obama and the media were hoping for a disaster to revive his presidency and help prove climate change theory…The New York Times is trying to say that this violent hurricane is indeed indicative of global warming. It was a tropical storm when it left New York.”

But Bill Nye takes the “anti-science” crusade to a new level by showing up on Fox Business with my KFI 640 Saturday friend Charles Payne and embarrassing the hell out of himself. Once you watch the video and watch the transcript, you will be left in amazement at his utter lack of comprehension of the topic at hand on national television! But, alas,Media Matters thinks Nye owned Payne (h/t to Andrew Revkin to Tweeted this). And CBS News headlines it as a story! Unbelievable!


The left actually thinks Bill Nye is a brilliant ambassador for their brand of global warming alarmism — a legitimate guy that understands the science and can articulate an explanation. However, Nye has no credentials or expertise with respect to global warming and hurricanes, at all. Not one iota.


Click on the Picture to go to CBS News and watch the Fox Business embedded video. “Heady stuff, but Nye receives my respect for retaining his patience in outlining a life’s worth of work in a six-minute segment.” says Andrew Nusca. He has no idea that what Bill Nye is saying is disjointed and amateurish. Intricacies? Nye got almost everything wrong.

I transcribed my own transcript from the first 3 minutes of this (all I could take).

Charles Payne: While hurricane Irene brought more than just wind damage and flooding to the east coast, it’s revived a national debate as to whether global warming might be causing an increase in hurricanes and other extreme weather. In fact a recent cover story in Newsweek declared that this kind of wild weather may be quote “the new normal”. Here with insights on this is Bill Nye, otherwise known as the science guy.

Ok Bill, I’m going to come right at you. Um…Hurricane Irene – proof of global warming?

Bill Nye: Oh, I don’t think the word proof is what you are looking for – evidence of, a result of, yeah, yeah. Now here’s what the people will tell you that run these climate models. Now everybody, the word model in this usage is a computer program. A very sophisticated computer program. So you take data from satellites about the thickness of clouds and the extent of cloud-cover over the sea. You take data about the temperature of the sea surface. You take data about the existing weather say in North America or the Gulf of Mexico as this storm moves into it. Then you compute how much rain fell out of it, how much energy must have been put into it to create that much rain. It takes many months to analyze an event like Irene. Now the climate colleagues that I have will not tell you today that Irene was evidence or a result of climate change but check in with them about March next year after they have a few months to collect all of these millions and millions of data from weather services and satellites and compile them and run a climate model and show that Irene was a result of the world having more energy in the Earth’s atmosphere.

(Ryan: First of all, charitably, I think Nye is confusing a real-time operational weather forecast with a climate model. Climate models do not assimilate satellite observations of a given event — and it wouldn’t take months and months to compile the data. I have everything sitting on my server which generates my old FSU weather map page. Check back with them in March — that’s when they’ll have their climate model results back proving Irene was the result of more energy? This is a pretty unconventional way of doing climate or extreme event attribution. Bill Nye follows the “anti-scientific” method: I’ll give you the answer now, and then in 6-months, check back when I have the proof. )

CP: But here’s the thing here bill, ever since Katrina, right, we’ve heard that every year the hurricane season is going to be more devastating and apocalyptic, and the reality is we haven’t seen that. So how can Newsweek say “hey, this is a new normal”? is that irresponsible – is there any science behind that?

(Ryan: this is a great question by Payne. Since global hurricane activity — the number of storms, hurricanes, and Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) is at historical lows — collapsing since Katrina — as I showed in my recent GRL peer-reviewed paper, how on earth can you attribute one hurricane (Irene) to climate change.?)

BN: well there’s a lot more science behind that than just saying it’s not. But, uh, that aside. That’s only 6-years – in geologic time in terms of climate events, is not very long. Furthermore there is a lot of debate about this cool thing or remarkable thing is that the Sea-surface in the Pacific gets warmer, in the Pacific Ocean! Okay, tens of thousands of nautical miles away. As that gets warmer, it will strangely serve to decapitate certain hurricane or cyclonic storms off the coast of Africa – and actually get a few fewer hurricanes.

(Ryan: no kidding Nye, however, you haven’t come up with any science. Nye then launches into a tortured explanation of the El Nino Southern Oscillation warm phase — El Nino where the waters in the tropical Pacific cyclically become anomalously warm. But, it’s not “tens-of-thousands nautical miles away” — that’s more like the distance to the moon. There is actually little consensus in the climate community about the future of El Nino as the planet slowly warms. The CMIP3 models used for the IPCC AR4 report fail to reproduce historical ENSO events or variability, and therefore are useless prediction devices for the future. We already have a pretty good handle on the “teleconnection” effects of El Nino and La Nina on Atlantic hurricane development with research pioneered by Dr. Bill Gray and furthered by Dr. Phil Klotzbach who produces Colorado State’s seasonal hurricane forecasts. 2011 is a neutral-to-building La Nina year, so we should expect weaker vertical shear in the Main Development Region of the tropical Atlantic. It’s bizarre that Nye brought up El Nino which contradicts his original assertion that Irene was evidence of global warming.)

CP: But Bill, that’s not…

BN: This is another thing that’s very hard to show.

CP: But the Pacific Ocean, getting warmer, but that’s not from man.

(Ryan: excellent point again Charles. The tropical Pacific does not have a strong global warming signal over the past 30-years, which is due to the cyclical nature of ENSO on 2-7 year time scales. Our sea-surface temperature (SST) records get worse as you go backwards from the beginning of the satellite era in 1979. Nye has no answer.)

BN: (waving hands): you’re acting that you are dismissing those things like they they are not relevant.

(Ryan: Nye is defeated, and he knows it. After wagging his finger like Judge Judy, he pretty much has spent his arsenal of facts on this issue.)

CP: I’m not dismissing it, but you have so much information, I want to get to all of it. Are you saying though that it’s manmade, though?

BN: Well the world is getting warmer, uh, everybody, the world is getting warmer. I believe the debate is whether humans are causing it…Do we not agree that the world is getting warmer?

(Ryan: The world is getting warmer — so Irene has to be influenced by global warming. Maybe Irene did NOT reach its maximum potential because of global warming — has anyone considered that. Why must ALL of the climate change effects be a certain sign? Why didn’t Irene reach Category 5? Why did it weaken so fast if the SSTs were so warm? This is where the real tropical cyclone researchers will take over from the media hacks, and, yes, they will come with an answer in March. But, they will follow the “scientific” method and not the “I’ll get the proof later” Bill Nye “anti-science” method.)

CP: I have no idea. Someone told me that it’s warmed 1-degree over the past 100-years. I’ll take their word for it.

(Ryan: Charles is right.)

Show continues to talk about racism and shows the Al Gore “racism” clip – but Nye then really goes off into a different realm discussing that. I’m convinced that Fox News booked Nye knowing that he would butcher the science, and force me to write this post.