Blog Archive

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spencer & Christy's model not working again: "A Comparative Analysis of Data Derived from Orbiting MSU/AMSU Instruments" by

Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, Vol. 34, No. 1 (2017) 225-232; doi

A Comparative Analysis of Data Derived from Orbiting MSU/AMSU Instruments

a  (Warrensville, NC, U.S.A.)

Received June 14, 2016; final form October 3, 2016; published online January 16, 2017.

Spencer and Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) recently introduced a new method to process MSU/AMSU satellite brightness temperature data with their version 6 (v6) data. A comparison of UAH v6 north polar lower stratospheric (TLS) data with that from Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) is presented, indicating a possible bias between 1986 and 1988. Comparing UAH and NOAA Center for Satellite Applications and Research (NOAA) TLS data produces a similar result. An additional analysis utilizing midtropospheric (TMT) data also found a similar bias. Comparing the NOAA TMT data for the May 2016 release against UAH and RSS TMT evidenced another excursion, dated at the middle of 2005, that was corrected in later releases. These comparisons reinforce the concerns expressed by other analysts regarding the merging procedure for UAH v6, repeating similar concerns regarding the earlier UAH v5 products. Any biases in the UAH, RSS, or STAR products would impact the trends calculated for these products and could explain the differences between these trends. Biases in the UAH series would also impact the UAH TLTv6 lower-troposphere product, which is a linear combination of the UAH TMT, tropopause temperature (TTP), and TLS series.

a Retired.

© 2017 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (

Corresponding author e-mail: R. Eric Swanson, 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Nick Breeze interviews Christiana Figueres: Does Figueres interview give clues as to why we went backwards from Copenhagen to Paris?

David Tattershall commenting on Christiana Figueres
Comment by Nick:  Watching our recent interview with Christiana Figueres, David Tattershall (Envisionation Limited) responded with considered concern with respect to her answer to the question on the reduction of emissions from the aviation industry.
Just to recap, here is the transcripted answer with Tattershall's response below.
Nick Breeze: The 2020 report highlights the challenge posed by transport. If you take aviation as an example, you see that we’re still building runways, we’re all flying further for less money. Surely, to hit these goals, we just need to take some individual responsibility and fly less?

Christiana Figueres: “The fact is that you cannot exempt any sector of the economy from these efforts. So you can’t say ‘We’re not going to fly because aviation is too high emitting.’ That is the wrong approach. The approach is: aviation and maritime and land transport, all three of them have to come down in their emissions.
And it’s very interesting that in the last two weeks we have had an announcement from a very small start-up, as well as from Siemens, that aviation is moving in the direction of electrification. So Siemens was the last company that just put out last week that they foresee that ten years from now, they will be having airplanes that are fully electric with clean energy and they will have a thousand-kilometre range.
So you already have in a very short time span, you already have flights that can be clean, certainly the short flights, and then we have to look at the longer ones. But it is not a question of changing one mobility for another. For the time being if you want to be responsible, yes, definitely go for the mobility with the lowest emissions, but that cannot exempt any sector. Every sector has to bring down its emissions… and aviation is coming!"
David Tattershall replies:
Overall I have great admiration for Figueres in relationship to her objectives and some of the things she has done but having watched this video I now have deep concerns.

In the middle of the interview Nick asked a very important question about airline emissions. Quite frankly the response Figueres gave alarmed me! Rather than deal with reality she puts a positive spin on that situation with the news that in ten years there could be short-haul electric aircraft; after that she implies that long-distance aircraft will be developed. How much time do we have?

Setting the stage for this she has commented that business will act in self-interest rather than be stimulated to save the planet.

And yet, her answer to the airlines emissions problem is completely devoid of any understanding of the airline industry. The business model of the airline industry has critical aspects that contradict her optimism. For instance what about the fleet turnover rate? What about maximizing air time? What about existing, and in the pipeline, efficiency developments that are yet to deliver returns?

At the top end of the industry the fleet turnover average rate is in the high teens [years]. Aircraft are not sent to the scrapheap when replacements are introduced, they are sold down the food chain, and at the bottom of that food chain there are many aircraft over 40 years old. This is one way the low-cost short-haul carriers can make a profit because the invested capital in operational equipment is much lower than at the top end.

Aligned with this reality are the operating characteristics of the major carriers. Their objective is maximum airtime because when equipment is on the ground it is not considered to be in earnings mode: that’s assessed as during flying to destinations. Little can be done to improve the cost from point-to-point, but a lot can be done to improve the cost between flights. Over the last couple of decades, the way flights are scheduled through a sequence has become a major source of increased profitability. UPS knows an awful lot about this and has complex algorithms controlling the entire system.

Short-haul carriers, which would fall into her 1,000-km range, normally have the oldest fleets, and turn-around time is critical. I find it hard to conceive that these operators will convert on the basis of business self-interest, even if the super-capacitor or advanced batteries prove viable.

Developments in weight reduction (particularly carbon-fiber bodies), and thus fuel efficiency for long-haul aircraft, will dovetail, but the inventory of machinery and equipment to produce engines is considerable and writing it off will not be short-term.

For me that interview is more of the same: loaded with wishful and unsubstantiated thinking. Figueres is not short of staff and has access to immense resources. Could she not have asked for an overview of this critical aspect of transitioning? Absent that, it is the usual positive spin based on defining at best a future defined on spurious reasoning.

What are we going to do about the airlines because the situation defined in the attached graphic indicates that absent appropriate action this element alone will take us over the edge!
And, what are we going to do about the oceans? Hopefully Nick can ask her next time he sees her.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

WaPo: By 2030, half the world’s oceans could be reeling from climate change, scientists say

More than half the world’s oceans could suffer multiple symptoms of climate change over the next 15 years, including rising temperatures, acidification, lower oxygen levels and decreasing food supplies, new research suggests. By mid-century, without significant efforts to reduce warming, more than 80% could be ailing — and the fragile Arctic, already among the most rapidly warming parts of the planet, may be one of the regions most severely hit.
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications uses computer models to examine how oceans would fare over the next century under a business-as-usual trajectory and a more moderate scenario in which the mitigation efforts promised under the Paris Agreement come into effect. In both scenarios, large swaths of the ocean will be altered by climate change.
Nearly all of the open sea is acidifying because of greenhouse gas emissions. But the researchers found that cutting greenhouse gas emissions could significantly delay future changes, giving marine organisms more time to migrate or adapt.
“Things that live in the ocean are used to regular variability in their environments,” said lead study author Stephanie Henson, a scientist at the National Oceanography Center at the University of Southampton in Britain. “It gets warm in the summer and it gets cold in the winter, and species survive that kind of range in temperature or other conditions perfectly well.”
But she noted a warming climate could eventually cause changes in the ocean that have never happened before — hotter temperatures, lower pH or less oxygen than have ever naturally occurred. When this happens, some organisms may no longer be able to tolerate the changed conditions and will be forced to migrate, evolve as a species or face possible extinction.
There’s a large degree of uncertainty in the scientific community about how organisms will react. But there’s evidence to suggest major challenges ahead. Mass coral bleaching events in the past few years have been largely attributed to unusually warm water temperatures. Large-scale coral death on the Great Barrier Reef last year is thought to be strongly linked to climate change.

“So we wanted to know when will climate change actually push the system outside the range of natural variability that organisms are used to,” Henson said.
The researchers focused on four specific climate-influenced “drivers,” of marine ecosystems: temperature, pH, oxygen levels and “primary production,” or how much food is available to a community.
Some parts of the ocean are already experiencing certain climate-driven changes beyond the limits of their natural conditions. The researchers note in the paper that 99% of the open ocean is experiencing a climate-driven change in pH, or ocean acidification. The subtropics and the Arctic are also experiencing sea surface temperatures beyond their natural ranges. And these changes will only continue to spread.
Under a business-as-usual climate scenario, the researchers found an alarming portion of the ocean will be affected by changes in multiple drivers at once. By 2030, they projected, 55% of the world’s oceans will experience changes in more than one of these factors — temperature and pH, most commonly — beyond the range of natural variability. By 2050, this number rises to 86%.
The researchers focused on areas where multiple changes are occurring at once. “We think that multiple different factors occurring at the same time probably have different responses in the marine environment than just one factor at a time,” Henson said. “So, for example, the combination of warming and ocean acidification may be even more detrimental than just one of those factors alone.”
The projections suggest climate mitigation can stall these effects — at least for a little while. Under the moderate climate scenario, the researchers found, 34% of the ocean will be affected by changes in multiple drivers, and 69% by 2050. In general, they concluded that climate mitigation can delay the onset of climate-influenced changes by about 20 years.
“Mitigation doesn’t stop the emergence of multiple different stressors in the ocean, but it does slow things down quite significantly,” Henson noted.
This delay could buy time for organisms to move or adapt to their surroundings, the researchers said. Fast-moving fish may be able to migrate to more hospitable waters, while organisms with speedy generation times, such as plankton, may be able to quickly evolve to their changing environments.
On the other hand, organisms in places with very stable environments and low natural variability in their conditions — the subtropics, for instance — may be especially vulnerable to future, climate-driven changes. Certain parts of the world are also likely to see more rapid changes than others. Their projections suggest that the Arctic will be a particular “hotspot” for changes in temperature, pH and oxygen content.
Scientists are still struggling to figure out which organisms are mostly likely to adapt or move — and which are most likely to die. But they do know there are bound to be winners and losers and that some changes to marine communities are likely to be long-lasting, if not permanent — long after greenhouse gas emissions have been curbed.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

MUST READ: Farms can slash pesticide use without losses, research reveals

Study shows almost all farms could significantly cut chemical use while producing as much food, in a major challenge to the billion-dollar pesticide industry

Many farmers want to reduce pesticide use but do not have good access to information on alternatives, scientists say. Photograph: Remy Gabalda/AFP/Getty Images

by Damian Carrington, Environmental editor, The Guardian, April 6, 2017

Virtually all farms could significantly cut their pesticide use while still producing as much food, according to a major new study. The research also shows chemical treatments could be cut without affecting farm profits on over three-quarters of farms.
The scientists said that many farmers wanted to reduce pesticide use, partly due to concerns for their own health. But farmers do not have good access to information on alternatives, the researchers said, because much of their advice comes from representatives of companies that sell both seeds and pesticides.
The work presents a serious challenge to the billion-dollar pesticide industry, which has long argued its products are vital to food production, especially with the world population set to grow to nine billion people by 2050.
However, this was dismissed as a “myth” in March by UN food and pollution experts, who said pesticides cause “catastrophic impacts on the environment and human health” and accused pesticide manufacturers of a “systematic denial of harms.” In a further blow, The Guardian revealed in March that Europe is poised to ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields.
The new research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Plants, analyzed the pesticide use, productivity, and profitability of almost 1,000 farms of all types across France. By comparing similar farms using high or low levels of pesticides, the scientists found that 94% of farms would lose no production if they cut pesticides and two-fifths of these would actually produce more.
The results were most startling for insecticides: lower levels would result in more production in 86% of farms and no farms at all would lose production.
The research also indicated that 78% of farms would be equally or more profitable when using less pesticide of all types.
“It is striking,” said Nicolas Munier-Jolain, at France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research, and one of the team who conducted the new study. He said the results show that pesticide reduction is possible today for most arable farmers, without losing money: “Our results are quite consistent with the UN [myth] report.”
“But [the research] does not mean pesticides are useless or inefficient,” he said. The farmers using low levels of chemicals employ other methods to control pests, he said, such as rotating crops, mechanical weeding, using resistant varieties and carefully managing sowing dates and fertiliser use. “It’s a big change, but not a revolution,” he said.
“If you want real reduction in pesticide use, give the farmers the information about how to replace them,” said Munier-Jolain. “This is absolutely not the case at the moment. A large proportion of advice is provided by organisations that are both selling the pesticides and collecting the crops. I am not sure the main concern of these organisations is to reduce the amount of pesticide used.”
Prof Dave Goulson, at the University of Sussex, UK, said: “While we have a system where farmers are advised by agronomists, most of whom work on commission for agrochemical companies, then inevitably pesticides will be massively overused. Even the few independent agronomists struggle to get independent information and advice to pass on to farmers.”
“Despite evidence that much pesticide use is unnecessary and a big European Union initiative to encourage sustainable use, farming continues to be dominated by pesticide use,” said Matt Shardlow, chief executive of Buglife.
France’s deadline for a 50% cut in pesticide use was meant to be 2018 but has been postponed to 2025, with use actually rising not falling. The UK’s action plan for the sustainable use of pesticides contains no targets or timetable. “Financial advisors and doctors cannot profit from their advice to individuals and it is time that this market failure was corrected for pesticide sales as well,” Shardlow said.
Graeme Taylor, a spokesman for the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA) which represents pesticide manufacturers, said: “Characterizing it as an argument between using more or less is unhelpful as it ignores the reality that any genuine commitment to sustainable agriculture means giving farmers access to a variety of tools. Pesticides are not a panacea, but are one of the most important tools available to the farmer to fight pests and diseases.”
He said a recent consultancy report commissioned by the ECPA indicated that French farmers would lose €2bn of grape production without access to certain pesticides.
The new research showed that the type of farms most sensitive to cuts in pesticide use are potato and sugar beet farms, because they use high levels of pesticides and are highly profitable. But it showed that most arable farms could cut pesticides by over 40% without losses. The researchers wrote: “The reduction of pesticide use is one of the critical drivers to preserve the environment and human health.”
“Farmers are doing their best to use fewer pesticides,” said Munier-Jolain. “Many are motivated because they are thinking about their own health.” He said that there was a perception among farmers that cutting pesticide use increases the risk of poor harvests, but that those diversifying their crops actually decreased such risks: “They sleep better than the other farmers.”
  • This article was amended on 10 April 2017 to clarify that lower levels of insecticides would result in more production in 86% of farms and no farms at all would lose production.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Northern Hemisphere jet streams stumble as the world warms

The warming of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases is slowing the jet streams which drive the Northern Hemisphere's weather, scientists say. 
by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, April 9, 2017

 – Researchers have once again linked a sequence of devastating climate events to global warming fuelled by prodigal human use of fossil fuels. And this time, they believe they have identified the agency
 behind the blazing summers that have claimed lives and destroyed livelihoods repeatedly during this century.
They argue in the journal Scientific Reports that human impact on the climate now reaches high into the stratosphere, to influence the behaviour patterns of the giant jet streams that carry heat and moisture around the Northern Hemisphere and keep the weather on the move.
Warming driven by carbon dioxide emissions from car exhausts and power stations, they argue, tends to make these giant oscillating waves stall in their journey around the hemisphere – to create enduring episodes of high and low pressure and lingering hazards of drought and flood.
“The unprecedented 2016 California drought, the 2011 US heatwave and 2010 Pakistan flood as well as the 2003 European hot spell all belong to a most worrying series of extremes,” says Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University in the US.

“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity”

“The increased incidence of these events exceeds what we would expect from the direct effects of global warming alone, so there must be an additional climate change effect. In data from computer simulations as well as observations, we identify changes that favour unusually persistent, extreme meanders of the jet stream that support such extreme weather events.
“Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity.”
Professor Mann has repeatedly confirmed the link between human action and climate change. His co-author Dim Coumou of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and the VU University in Amsterdam in the Netherlands has separately linked storm tracks to surface temperature extremesmade a connection between torrential rains and planetary warming, and confirmed too that less stormy weather is not necessarily a good sign, because it could be the harbinger of heat waves.
And the researchers now have support for their their suspicions: the jet streams that sweep the hemisphere in huge atmospheric waves, plunging between Arctic and tropics, bring changes of weather.
If they should stall, one region may be committed to long drought, dangerous hot weather (as in Russia in 2010 and Texas in 2011) and even forest fires as in California in 2015) – or, in some cases, catastrophic and sustained rainfall of the kind that flooded Pakistan in 2010.

Questions remain

No single extreme event could ever be satisfactorily and conclusively linked to a long-term trend like global warming. But once scientists register an increasing frequency of such events, they can start to use climate simulations to see if such events become more likely in a warming world.
“The more frequent persistent and meandering jet stream state seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, which makes it even more relevant," said Dr Coumou. “We certainly need to further investigate this – there is some good evidence, but also many open questions.”
And Professor Mann said: “The warming of the Arctic, the polar amplification of warming, plays a key role here. The surface and lower atmosphere are warming more in the Arctic than anywhere else on the globe.
“That pattern projects onto the very temperature gradient profile that we identify as supporting atmospheric waveguide conditions.”

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Farming becoming riskier under climate change

URBANA, Ill. - Scientists the world over are working to predict how climate change will affect our planet. It is an extremely complex puzzle with many moving parts, but a few patterns have been consistent, including the prediction that farming as we know it will become more difficult.
Scientists infer the impact on agriculture based on predictions of rainfall, drought intensity, and weather volatility. Until now, however, the average farmer may not have been able to put predictions like these into practice. A new University of Illinois study puts climate change predictions in terms that farmers are used to: field working days.
"Everything else flows from field working days," says U of I and USDA Agricultural Research Service ecologist Adam Davis. "If you're not able to work, everything else gets backed up. Workable days will determine the cultivars, the cropping system, and the types of pest management practices you can use. We're simply asking, 'Can you get in to plant your crop?'"
In a previous study, the group developed models that reliably translated past climate data into field working days for Illinois. In the new study, they coupled those models with climate change scenarios to forecast field working days into the future.
The group ran the models for nine crop districts in Illinois for two time periods, mid-century (2046 to 2065) and late-century (2080 to 2099), using three climate scenarios ranging from mild to extreme.
The models suggest that the typical planting window for corn will no longer be workable; April and May will be far too wet to work the fields in most parts of Illinois.
"Going forward, we're predicting warmer and wetter springs, and drier, hotter summers," Davis says. "The season fragments, and we start to see an early-early season, so that March starts looking like a good target for planting in the future. In the past, March has been the bleeding edge; nobody in their right mind would have planted then. But we've already seen the trend for early planting. It's going to keep trending in that direction for summer annuals."
Those drier, hotter summers are likely to change farming practices too, particularly in southern Illinois.
"Drought periods will intensify in mid- to late-summer under all the climate scenarios. If farmers decide to plant later to avoid the wet period in April and May, they're going to run into drought that will hit yield during the anthesis-silking interval, leading to a lot of kernel abortion. That second planting window is probably pretty risky," Davis says.
Risk is the key word. If farmers bet on the early planting window and get hit with a frost or more March precipitation than expected, are they out of luck? Davis says they will have to choose to mud the seed in, plant a different hybrid, or even scrap corn and go for winter wheat later in the season. But given that many farmers choose hybrids and purchase seeds the previous fall, they're unlikely to have that kind of flexibility come spring. Any miscalculation will be incredibly costly.
"It will come down to whether crop insurers will move planting dates earlier in the spring. They're going to need enough years of empirical evidence that this early window exists before they are likely to make that change," Davis notes.
The researcher suggests three strategies to cope with the changes. Farmers could plant early with long-season cultivars to maximize yield potential, betting on a pollination window to open up before the drought kicks in. Or farmers could choose shorter-season cultivars, planting early and then harvesting before the drought, possibly sacrificing yield.
The last strategy will require a more radical shift.
"Create cropping systems that can deal with increased volatility by conserving soil moisture. Most of the effort in yield stability and resilience focuses on genetic improvement of crops. That's good, but I think we've fallen behind in the cropping system management side. If you've got an elite cultivar that's drought resistant in the same old cropping system that's not shifting with environmental changes, then we're not doing full justice to that cultivar," Davis says.
Given the weather in Illinois this late winter/early spring, this work seems particularly timely.
"All this weird weather? It's part of a trend," Davis says. "Now is the time to prepare, because the future is here."
The article, "Changes in field workability and drought risk from projected climate change drive spatially variable risks in Illinois cropping systems," is published in PLOS One. Lead author Bradley Tomasek is at Duke University. Marty Williams and Adam Davis are research ecologists with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, and faculty members in the U of I crop sciences department. Funding was provided by the USDA Agricultural Research Service.

CO2 levels heading back to days of dinosaurs

Scientists predict that continued burning of fossil fuels could return CO2 levels and temperatures to heights not seen in hundreds of millions of years.

by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, April 8, 2017

LONDON – If humans burn all the fossil fuels at their disposal – and this could happen in the next two centuries – researchers predict that the planetary atmosphere would match the one that witnessed the days of the dinosaurs at the dawn of the Jurassic period, around 200 million years ago.
By the 23rd century, planetary temperatures would be as high as those at the end of the Silurian, 420 million years ago. In this baking environment, plants had yet to begin to colonize the land, and almost all life was concentrated in the oceans.
This torrid forecast is not based on any one piece of research: it is the outcome of an analysis of 1,200 estimates of ancient atmospheres, based on evidence of fossilised plants and shells, over a timespan of almost half a billion years.
The consequence is that, if humans exhaust the resources of coal, oil and natural gas, conditions will follow that have no precedent in 420 million years of evolution.

Planetary temperatures

And the agency at work is the ratio of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which has hovered at around 280 parts per million (ppm) for almost all human history.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that was once present in the atmosphere at far greater levels.
Once humans started to burn coal and oil – based on plant material sequestered during the Carboniferous era – they also started to return ancient COto the atmosphere, to create a heat trap. Carbon dioxide ratios have risen to more than 400 ppm, and planetary average temperatures have risen by almost 1 °C.
The latest research, published in the journal Nature Communications, contains a grim warning for humankind – but it was driven at least in part by curiosity about the coupling of atmosphere and evolution during the emergence of complex life.
“We cannot directly measure COconcentrations from millions of years ago,” says Gavin Foster, professor of isotope geochemistry at the University of Southampton in the UK, who led the study. “Instead we rely on indirect ‘proxies’ in the rock record.
“In this study, we compiled all the available published data from several different types of proxy to produce a continuous record of ancient CO2 levels.”
During the half billion years, planetary temperatures alternated between extended cold snaps with low CO2 levels, and intense “greenhouse” temperatures at which CO2 levels rose to 3,000 ppm.

“The resultant climate change will be faster than anything the Earth has seen for millions of years”

But these changes were immensely slow, and the study emphasizes the speed of human impact in what geologists would like to call the Anthropocene period.
Research like this is fundamental: it tells climate scientists something about the dynamics of atmosphere and sunlight over the millennia. And one of the puzzles of evolution is that, in the early days of life, the Sun must have been fainter than it is now.
“Due to nuclear reactions in stars, like our Sun, over time they become brighter,” explains Dan Lunt, professor of climate science at the University of Bristol, UK, and a co-author of the report.
“This means that, although carbon dioxide concentrations were high hundreds of millions of years ago, the net warming effect of CO2 and sunlight was less. Our new CO2 compilation appears on average to have gradually declined over time by about 34 ppm per million years.
“This may not sound like much, but it is actually just about enough to cancel out the warming effect caused by the Sun brightening through time, so in the long term it appears the net effect of both was pretty much constant on average.”
So the coincidence of a greenhouse atmosphere and a cooler Sun created conditions in which life emerged, evolved and adapted to its environment. Plants consumed and sequestered carbon dioxide, and animals benefited from the oxygen released in the process.

Future CO2 levels

Planetary temperatures began to stabilise – until humans launched the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s. The world’s nations, meeting at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015, pledged to cut fossil fuel use and contain global warming to a maximum of 2 °C.
The past enshrines a horrific warning. The return of all that prehistoric carbon − preserved in fossil fuels − back into the atmosphere would mean that, by 2250, CO2 levels would reach 2,000 ppm. This has not been seen for 200 million years.
“However, because the Sun was dimmer back then, the net climate forcing 200 million years ago was lower than we would experience in such a high CO2 future,” Professor Foster says.
“So not only will the resultant climate change be faster than anything the Earth has seen for millions of years, the climate that will exist is likely to have no natural counterpart, as far as we can tell, in at least the last 420 million years.”

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Peter Sinclair: If You’re Losing Fox News, You’re Losing

by Peter Sinclair, Climate Denial Crock of the Week, April 2, 2017

Even Fox News can’t believe that the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, doesn’t accept the basic scientific finding that carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to recent global warming. 
To promote President Trump’s disastrous plan to gut the EPA and U.S. climate action, Pruitt has been pushing his dangerous beliefs on all the major networks. 
Pruitt may have thought the Murdoch-owned network that has led the way on attacking climate science for two decades would be a friendly audience. He was wrong. 
Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace thoroughly debunked Pruitt for defending his absurd claim that CO2 is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” 
Wallace will have none of it: “Mr. Pruitt, there are all kinds of studies that contradict you.” He quotes the conclusion of the world’s leading climate scientists in the U.N.’s 2013 assessment of the scientific literature that there’s a 95 to 100 percent chance “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” 
Pruitt hems and haws and tries to gloss over his statement. Wallace then blasts him for “sugarcoating what you said,” and reduces the question to its simplest form. “What if you are wrong?” asks Wallace. 
“What if, in fact, the earth is warming, what if it is causing dramatic climate change and we as humans through carbon emissions are contributing to it? Simple question, what if you are wrong?” 
Pruitt can’t admit that possibility, so he hides behind the tiny mistake Wallace makes in an otherwise outstanding grilling of Pruitt. Wallace only asks what if humans are “contributing” to climate change, rather than hitting Pruitt on his denial that humans are the “primary” contributor. 
This allows Pruitt to concede CO2 makes some contribution, assert “the issue is how much we contribute to it,” and sidestep the fact that the overwhelming majority of climate scientists — over 97 percent of them — understand that humans are the primary cause of climate change and thus are the primary solution. 
As an important aside, the UN assessment of climate science that Fox News cited states clearly, “The best estimate of the human-induced contribution to warming is similar to the observed warming over this period.” That is, the best estimate by scientists is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950! Every major government in the world signed off on this finding. 
Still, kudos to Chris Wallace for dismantling Pruitt’s lies. What a topsy-turvy world it is where Fox News takes on the role of defender of climate science. It seems even they draw the line at certain alternative facts.

Climate Code Red: Climate change pushing floods, cyclones to new extremes, with worse to come

by David Spratt, Climate Code Red, April 1, 2017

With Australia experiencing the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie and record-breaking rains and severe flooding in southeast Queensland and along the north coast of New South Wales, here’s a look at how global warming has, and will, push floods and cyclones to new extremes.

Flooding extremes

Warm air can be more humid than cold air, that is, it can hold more water vapour in absolute terms. And atmospheric water vapour content increases 7% for each 1-degree-Celsius increase in global average temperature, establishing the conditions for more intense rainfall events. 

Flash floods are likely to sweep across the Australian landscape with increasing intensity, particularly in urban or residential areas. Peak rainfall is predicted to soar with rising surface temperatures as Australia experiences ever greater extremes of heat.  

The frequency of major flood events (defined as events which caused extensive flooding within 50 kilometres of the coast, or inundation that extended 20 kilometres along the coast) along Australia's eastern seaboard has doubled in last 150 years, with climate change one of the possible factors, senior Bureau of Meteorology researchers say. 

Record-breaking heavy rainfall and a clear upward trend in downpours over the last 30 years fits in with global temperature rise caused by greenhouse gases. Statistical analysis of rainfall data from 1901 to 2010 around the globe, shows that from 1980 to 2010 there were 12% more of these intense events than would be expected in a climate without global warming. Wet regions generally saw a bigger increase in deluges and drier regions a smaller one. In southeast Asia, the observed increase in record-breaking rainfall events is as high as 56%.

Giant air streams pushing new extremes: The increase of devastating weather extremes in summer, including floods, is likely linked to human-made climate change, mounting evidence shows, with the recent discovery of giant airstreams circling the Earth, waving up and down between the Arctic and the tropics. These planetary waves transport heat and moisture. When these planetary waves stall, droughts or floods can occur. Warming caused by greenhouse-gases from fossil fuels creates favourable conditions for such events.

 “The unprecedented 2016 California drought, the 2011 U.S. heatwave and 2010 Pakistan flood, as well as the 2003 European hot spell, all belong to a most worrying series of extremes,” says Michael Mann, a lead author of the study. “The increased incidence of these events exceeds what we would expect from the direct effects of global warming alone, so there must be an additional climate change effect. In data from computer simulations as well as observations, we identify changes that favour unusually persistent, extreme meanders of the jet stream that support such extreme weather events. Human activity has been suspected of contributing to this pattern before, but now we uncover a clear fingerprint of human activity.”

Attribution studies show how the risk of a particular event may have changed due to the human influence on climate. Some attribution results surveyed by the World Meteorological Organisation include:

  • The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration determined that human-caused climate change increased chances of the fatal and record rains in Louisiana by at least 40% and could have nearly doubled the odds of such a storm.
  • A scientific analysis of devastating 2014 floods in the United Kingdom, which cost an estimated $646 million in insurance losses, found that human-caused climate change has increased the chance of the extreme rain event by 43%.
  • In May–June 2016, portions of northeast France received 6 full weeks of rain in 24 hours. A formal attribution study released June 9, 2016, found that such extreme rains are at least 40%—and as much as 90%—more likely in some areas of France.
Cyclone extremes

Cyclones, in part, draw their energy from the temperature of the ocean's surface waters, so a warming climate and ocean puts more energy into storms, including cyclones, loading them with more rainfall, and stronger winds pushing more of a storm surge.
The recent Climate Council brief notes, “Increasing temperature of the surface ocean affects the intensity of cyclones, both maximum wind speeds and in the intensity of rainfall that occurs in association with the cyclone.”  The force exerted on buildings and structures when cyclones make landfall increases disproportionately with wind speed.

The Council also notes that: “Tropical cyclones form most readily when there are very warm conditions at the ocean surface and when the vertical temperature gradient through the atmosphere is strong. As this vertical gradient weakens as the climate continues to warm, it is likely that fewer tropical cyclones will form.”

Whilst the best evidence scientists have suggests cyclones are unlikely to increase in number, a 2013 study challenges the status quo, suggesting they will occur more frequently, as well becoming more intense. 

In 2013, researchers reported that the stronger hurricanes in the North Atlantic, the South Pacific, and South Indian Oceans have become more intense.  The same year, the UN meteorological agency concluded that climate change is making super typhoons worse. 

In 2015, an international research team found that a warming planet is already stoking the intensity of tropical cyclones in the northwest Pacific, and their ferocity will continue to increase even with moderate climate change over this century.

More broadly, a 2010 study found that "future projections based on theory and high-resolution dynamical models consistently indicate that greenhouse warming will cause the globally averaged intensity of tropical cyclones to shift towards stronger storms, with intensity increases of 2–11% by 2100...higher resolution modelling studies typically project substantial increases in the frequency of the most intense cyclones, and increases of the order of 20% in the precipitation rate within 100 km of the storm centre.

Recent records

With sustained wind speeds of more than 310 kilometres per hour, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November 2013 was the most powerful tropical cyclone to make landfall in recorded history. The previous record was held by Hurricane Camille, which in 1969 hit the state of Mississippi with wind speeds of just over 300 km/h. Data compiled from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows sea temperatures were about 0.5
1.0 degree Celsius above normal in the waters to the east of the Philippines as Haiyan began forming. The waters cooled in the storm's wake, an indication of how the storm sucked up energy.   

Hurricane Patricia which hit Mexico in October 2015 achieved a record peak intensity with maximum sustained winds 345 km/h, making it the most intense tropical cyclone on record in the Western Hemisphere, and the strongest globally in terms of 1-minute maximum sustained winds. Cyclone Winston in February 2016 was the strongest tropical cyclone to make landfall in Fiji and the South Pacific Basin in recorded history.

Attribution studies 

  • Superstorm Sandy which hit the northeast coast of the USA with devastating effect in October 2012 was made worse by unusually warm waters which increased the hurricane’s intensity. As well, human-caused sea level rise added to the storm surge, and on the stretch of the Atlantic Coast that spans from Norfolk to Boston, sea levels have been rising four times faster than the global average. Researchers say that “It is possible that subways and tunnels may not have been flooded without the warming-induced increases in sea level and storm intensity and size.”  More broadly, the authors say that “‘snowmaggedon’ in February 2010, superstorm Sandy in October 2012 , supertyphoon Haiyan in November 2013, and the Boulder floods of September 2013 were all influenced by high sea-surface temperatures that had a discernible human component.
  • The Climate Council reported that climate change exacerbated the damage caused by Cyclone Pam, which left a trail of destruction across Vanuatu in 2015.

Reinsurance giant, MunichRe, says that "nowhere in the world are weather risks changing faster than in Eastern Asia," and concludes that "as a result of climate change... the intensity of typhoons will increase" in Eastern Asia.  On 11 November 2013, in the aftermath of super-typhoon Haiyan, MunichRe surveyed losses:

Eastern Asia has been hard hit by weather-related loss events in the past three decades. Their number has increased by more than a factor of four, causing overall losses from weather-related events of some US$ 700bn during this period. The insured losses of US$ 76bn amounted to only around 10% of overall losses, with 62% of these attributable to Japan. Floods caused 56% of the overall losses in Eastern Asia, but only 30% of insured losses. The number of floods has increased strongly and is expected to increase further in the coming decades. With insured losses of US$ 16bn, the 2011 Thailand floods caused the biggest-ever weather-related insured loss in the region. After floods, it is typhoons that cause the greatest weather-related losses. New analyses indicate a clear cycle of activity for typhoons, and increased typhoon activity is expected over the coming years..."
And in Australia, The Age reports that new modelling has shown that a cyclone the size of Debbie could have catastrophic consequences on the Gold Coast and as far as Brisbane, with winds of 260km/h, in areas where many homes and towers do not meet cyclonic safety standards. As climate change pushes cyclones further south, tens of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure is at risk. Actuaries, who predict and model scenarios for banks and insurers, have warned properties could become "uninsurable" as premiums rise up to 250% to meet this global warming challenge.