Tag Archives: climate change

Diabolical Wind Turbine Rays

I’d like to thank Dave Clarke for directing me to his webpage in one of his comments here…and for giving me some new terminology to use…. diabolical wind turbine rays….

Please visit Dave’s page here.

 

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Australia will pay dearly for repealing its carbon tax – environment – 18 July 2014 – New Scientist

We all know it and are struggling to understand the absolute blind lunacy of this backward, elitist, tea party government.  Abbott is basically repaying the debt he owes to the billionaires that bought him. There is nothing like setting up your own economic future at the expense of every future generation. I can only hope now that future historians will discuss Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey and Greg Hunt truthfully and honestly ensuring that their descendents are shamed beyond belief.

 

Australia will pay dearly for repealing its carbon tax – environment – 18 July 2014 – New Scientist.

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Hydrogen breakthrough

I’m certainly not a chemist so am unsure of the voracity of this but on the surface it seems like a good thing. Is the much criticised hydrogen as a vehicle fuel about to undergo a massive improvement in cost and efficiency? I hope so. It would be a welcome input into the energy mix of the future. An energy mix that if left in its current form will result in catastrophic climate change.

Read about the latest breakthrough here.

 

 

ough could be a game-changer for the future of car fuels

Jun 24, 2014 by Marion O’sullivan

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-06-hydrogen-breakthrough-game-changer-future-car.html#jCp

Hydrogen breakthrough could be a game-changer for the future of car fuels

Jun 24, 2014 by Marion O’sullivan

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-06-hydrogen-breakthrough-game-changer-future-car.html#jCp

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global warming, climate change or something else?

I am expecting a few comments to end up in my spam folder as a result of this post spouting bullshit about scientists changing the name and at least one reference to Al Gore……blah blah blah….. don’t fucking bother.

from Alexander White writing for the Guardian.

Why is climate communication so hard?

The recent debate about “climate change” versus “global warming” highlights why climate communication is so difficult.
An ice cap melting

How people communicate about controversial topics like global warming are powerfully influenced by heuristics. Photograph: John McConnico/AP

What term works better to communicate about our warming planet, “climate change” or “global warming”?

With the release of a new Yale study, the question has been rekindled, with blogs as diverse as FiveThirtyEight and Thinkprogress looking at the study and its implications.

The study, and the various commentary about it,  is interesting, not just because it finds that “the terms global warming and climate change often mean different things to Americans—and activate different sets of beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, as well as different degrees of urgency about the need to respond”, but because it highlights why climate communication is so difficult.

Just why is it so hard to talk about the climate?

Harry Enten’s FiveThirtyEight article is a good place to start, because it underscores the problem. The article explores the use by Democratic and Republican members of congress. Enten shows that despite the Yale study showing that Democratic voters responding better to the “global warming” terminology, Democrats in congress prefer to say “climate change”. In fact, Republicans were more likely to say “global warming” than Democrats, which is the opposite of what the Yale study recommends. Enten also notes that the same phenomenon is found in US television, with Democratic-leaning shows like Hardball preferring “climate change” and Republican leaning shows like Hannity preferring “global warming”.

The Yale study showed that not only did Americans use the term global warming themselves, but they heard it more in public discourse, suggesting that despite Democrats politicians and media figures saying “climate change” more, it engages them less.

Of course, there have been many studies, and the frustrating thing for climate communicators and campaigners is that they are often contradictory. For example, a study from 2011 showed that Republicans preferred “climate change” to “global warming” when endorsing the reality of the threat.

Another study by EcoAmerica from 2009 suggested “global warming” be ditched and the phrase “our deteriorating atmosphere” be deployed to better engage “soccer moms” and “environmental agnostics”. The awkward term never caught on, and neither has Joe Romm’s preferred term “hell or highwater” or “global weirding” (coined by Friedman).

Even the Australian Parliamentary Library has weighed in with a briefing paper on the topic, unhelpfully adding the UNFCCC’s use of “climate variability” to the mix.

The debate about terminology would be an interesting side note were not the issue so important. Global warming, or climate change if you prefer, is the greatest threat facing humankind this century. These seemingly innocuous phrases profoundly affect how people perceive the issues, assess the seriousness and support efforts to mitigate global warming. The complication is that although terminology is important, the manner and scale of influence is difficult to measure or understand.

Yet, commentators and communicators often firmly come down on one side or the other, with staunch views about what works and what doesn’t. (I use the terms interchangeably in this article and more generally in my articles for The Guardian.)

A significant contributor to this is the illusion of asymmetric insight, a fascinating cognitive bias that helps explain, in my view, why climate communication is so diabolically difficult.

Asymmetric insight is a phenomenon where someone believes they understand the reasons why other people do or believe things, while at the same time being skeptical that others could ever understand them.

Research by academics Pronin, Ross, Kruger and Savitsky from 2001 into this phenomenon found that not only do you believe you understand hidden states in others far better than they know in you, but when this is expanded to groups, it’s even more pronounced:

The results showed liberals believed they knew more about conservatives than conservatives knew about liberals. The conservatives believed they knew more about liberals than liberals knew about conservatives. Both groups thought they knew more about their opponents than their opponents knew about themselves.

This bias is commonplace and widespread, and definitely not confined to climate communication. During elections, we see this cognitive bias on display nightly by pundits and commentators who confidently explain that movements in polls can be explained because voters think one thing or another, or are responding to a recent event.

When you hear statements like “people support Obama’s climate change policies because…” or “Democrats prefer the term ‘global warming’ because…”, you are seeing this bias.

People, especially commentators, believe that they see the world how it really is, whereas most other people (especially those people who disagree with them) are deluded, ignorant or self-interested. The bias of asymmetric insight means that people are less likely to see others who disagree with them in nuanced or complex ways; simple things can explain complex and multifaceted changes in opinion or actions.

Tying into the difficulty of climate communications is the fact that typically the people doing research into this field – and again, the same applies to other areas – are heavily invested in the area. Climate communicators mostly care deeply about the dangers of run-away climate change. The result is that they often underestimate the extent to which most people are ambivalent or uninterested in the issue.

Because asking questions about peoples’ attitudes on an issue will generally prompt a response, the disinterest and ambivalence is hidden, and so it is easy to assume that most people have a latent interest or concern about global warming, when in fact they probably don’t. The ups and downs of climate polling in Australia for example appears to show an increase in the polarisation over the issue, but it is easy to over emphasise that when you’re asking the question compared to large swathes of the community where the issue may rarely or never come up.

The Yale study found that as many people “use neither” (35 percent) as use the term “global warming” (35 percent) and more than double that use “climate change” (15 percent). This suggests to me that as a communications challenge, regardless of the term used, the biggest barrier is disinterest, not the specific language being used.

A lot of communications is done by heuristics, but even when hard numbers, in the form of polling, is brought to the equation, there is an enormous risk that judgemental shortcuts are used to interpret those numbers. Because we believe we can understand why people believe the things they do (while at the same time not believing that others could possibly understand us), it is easy to skew or ignore the results of research like the Yale study.

As far back as 2003, Republican pollster Frank Luntz advocated Republicans use the term “climate change”, ostensibly to give the Republicans cover against the far more effective term “global warming”. The memo is worth reading even eleven years later, and the Yale study and many other studies over the last few years simply confirms much of what Luntz wrote then.

And although Luntz highlights his “words that work”, really what he does is build a context through which he can influence peoples’ attitudes. Creating this context goes beyond the “silver bullet” of a single phrase by creating shared meaning. The Yale paper again underscores this, as I noted earlier: the terms “global warming” and “climate change” mean different things to different people.

Just changing from one phrase to another without also shifting the context is unlikely to change attitudes. This would be as ineffective as the long-standing and fruitless focus on the “deficit model” of environmental communication.

The diabolical challenge for climate communications is that we often think we are gaining valuable insights from research like the Yale study, but more likely we are succumbing to the illusion of asymmetric insight.

Original article here

 

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NZ television takes climate change seriously

I’m constantly disappointed in climate change coverage in the MSM here in Australia. There are rarely any serious discussions about what is happening and what actions we might take in response.

This morning I received a dodgy comment from an anthropogenic climate change denier in New Zealand who ironically provided me with an excellent television discussion of the problems climate change pose in relation to the Antarctic. Thanks Mack.

Interview: Chuck Kennicutt and Gary Wilson

Saturday 19 Apr 2014 2:14p.m.

Chuck Kennicutt and Gary Wilson

Oceanographer Professor Chuck Kennicutt and Otago marine scientist Professor Gary Wilson

Lisa Owen: I’m going to come to you first Chuck, let’s flesh out why this matters. What is Antarctica doing for the rest of the globe?

Chuck Kennicutt: To put it simply Antarctica serves a critical role in the earth’s system and this is related mainly to the energy, the heat but also the water budget. So in areas like Antarctica that change, they affect the entire global system and this is seen through melting of ice, warming of sea water, changing of weather and also the ozone hole which has led to effects that we see around the globe.

So basically it’s the engine room?

Yes

So in light of that, the IPCC says that we’re not cutting greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to keep temperature rises below 2 degrees so what would that mean for Antarctica?

 Well, what we see and these predictions are based on the best scientific knowledge that we have today. And what we understand is that those types of temperature rises will continue not only in the trends that we already have seen but accelerate them. So there’ll be more melting of ice, there’ll be more rising of ocean water temperatures and air temperatures so we can very accurately predict now that continuing along the same path that we’ve been following will simply make the effects that we see much worse into the future.

So what are you seeing now in terms of changes?

Well what we see is loss of sea ice which is generally related to a rise in sea level globally, we see the disintegration of ice shelves, retreat of glaciers we see across the globe and also shifts in the populations of various species so it’s a real wide range of impacts across the spectrum of the physical and living environment.

So it’s the West Antarctic Ice Shelf that’s making scientists particularly concerned isn’t it? Why is that?

That’s an interesting question and what leads to that is most of the West Antarctic Ice Shelf is actually below sea level so it means that the ice is below the surface of the water and it raises a lot of questions. And we know over geologic history that that ice shelf has completely disintegrated and the question is, is that the most vulnerable part of Antarctica? As we heard there’s about 60 metres of sea level rise that potentially would happen if all of Antarctica melted and about 20 metres of that is in West Antarctica.

And what are the other consequences of that, you know, does it dilute a nutrient-rich ocean, what happens?

It fundamentally changes the heat and energy balance of the planet. The most direct connection though is the actual supply of water into the ocean. Typically you see particularly around Auckland and other major cities worldwide, they’re very close to the water so very small, literally feet, metres rise of sea level will inundate most of the major cities worldwide.

That’s the perfect opportunity to bring Gary into the conversation – what impact will it have directly on New Zealand then, starting with say the weather here?

Gary Wilson: Well I think the first point is to just go back and say Antarctica might seem like this place on the bottom of the planet but yes, it’s connected directly to here so the Antarctic Circumpolar Current washes across southern New Zealand and all the ocean fronts are kind of stacked up in the New Zealand part of the world.

So what does that mean for us – rainfall you’re talking about here?

That’s just in the ocean but when it comes to the atmosphere the same is true. That the atmosphere is subdivided so you’ve got a cold polar cell of circulation around Antarctica and that boundary and the westerly wind system comes across New Zealand and the westerly winds bring our rainfall, certainly in the South Island. But that’s the major contributor to rainfall in the South Island.

So our economy – fishing, farming, tourism – how dependent is all of this on Antarctica?

I mean most of it’s dependent on primary industries so it’s all dependent on the environment and it’s all dependent on ocean and climate and in the long term those things are connected to what’s driven out of Antarctica. In the short-term, we see some impact from the north as well and the interaction between the warm north and the cold south but in the long term it’s the Antarctic that’s driving those longer term trends.

What will those trends be? We talk about one-in-one hundred year storms – that will become potentially a storm a year? What are the consequences?

I think the contribution from Antarctica can be considered something of a baseline so if you’re raising sea level, yes you might see incremental rises in sea level of millimetres per year and centimetres per decade but as you increase the sea level the storm intensity and the ability of the storm to inundate coastal areas of course is intensified. So that’s, the two go hand in hand really.

So we know that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapsed before so it’s conceivable it could happen again. What is the best scientific guess for if, and when that might happen again?

Well rather than guessing if we look back in geological time, what we know is that the last time the Earth had a CO2 level of about 400 parts per million in the atmosphere, then that was the end solution of a prolonged earth in that state, was that the West Antarctic ice sheet retreated. In a couple of years we’re in 400 parts per million, the question then is –

So we’re heading into the danger level is what you’re saying?

We’re certainly heading into the danger level but the question is what’s the pathway to get there? Are we going to see incremental melting and incremental increase in the climate warming if you like or are there going to steps and changes and thresholds and tipping points in that so that it kind of goes up in jerky movements rather than just the straight line condition and that’s the unanswered question. What’s that going to look like.

So we have about a hundred thousand New Zealanders who are living within I think it’s three metres of the coastline and we’ve got a lot of low-lying cities, all our airports seem to be right next to the ocean. Even this week when we had a storm, a number of the roads were covered in water because they’re right next to the ocean so are we ready for the worst?

Well the short answer is no. We’re not ready. But the real question is how do we get ready? And that’s where the research comes in. It’s a question of you know, what are the timeframes on this change, what can we work out about how fast this change is going to happen. We kind of know the end game, we don’t know the rates of getting there. So really that’s where the research comes in. I’d like to think that over the next, 10, 20 years we can actually get some solid research in to be able to develop the policies and plans around it.

But what can we do now from what we know now?

I mean there’s two answers to that. And one is you know one is can we mitigate this or are we planning to adapt and I guess we’re planning to adapt. But at some point we probably want the world to take more notice because we’re a pretty small emitter here and really New Zealand can play on the international research stage and point out what it is that’s so important about this part of the world and these currents that we’re talking about, the westerly winds and what does that mean globally, so that globally people take a bit more attention, pay some attention

I just want to pick up on what you said there, you said we’re moving to adaption. So are we talking about life behind sea walls or do we actually need to make some radical changes like saying leave your car at home two days a week, cap dairying or are we just accepting this is a fait accompli and we’re just working with it.

Well, yeah, that’s an interesting question. I mean –

What do you think though?

We’re certainly committed to a degree of change. We’re certainly committed to some change at this point so it’s not good enough to just say we can now mitigate the change because CO2 levels haven’t actually leveled out in the atmosphere yet. They’re climbing faster than ever. So we’re certainly committed to seeing some change so we’re going to have to do some adapting. We’re not going to be able to maintain some of these coastal infrastructures and we’re going to have to think about how we use our land.

So what do you think of that Chuck? We’re accepting it, we’re just going to tinker?

Well essentially what Gary is saying, if we do not act we are committed to the changes not only that we’re seeing but as I mentioned accelerating changes and the only recourse at that point will be adaption, which as you say, will be moving away from coastal areas, sea walls, a number of ways of addressing the change in climate and so it really becomes a matter of public will. And are we willing to do things that really impact our daily lives but solve these problems in the long term and that’s really I think the political debate that’s going on now.

I want to pick up on willingness in the context that we know one of the biggest drivers of our problems here is economic growth. We’re getting millions of people out of poverty around the world, through development, we’re feeding them our dairy products at a massive rate, how do we balance that tension between slowing climate change and bringing people’s lot up?

There’s two assumptions there. One is that economic growth is only realised at the cost of environmental impact and I think that’s a sort of false bargain. And so the question is, is future growth going to follow the same trajectory that past growth has. A lot of the technologies we currently use were really invented in the 1950s, 1960s and as we go forward it’s not necessarily the case that future economic growth is going to follow using these same technologies and there’s a lot of effort now to really reduce the per capita consumption of energy which is the fundamental currency which drives climate change. And if those technologies are put into place you can have both economic growth at the same time as protecting the environment. So I don’t think you necessarily have to sell your future simply to have to raise the level of the economy worldwide.

I want to just touch on another issue, which is resources. We know that there’s a treaty aimed at protecting Antarctica but isn’t one of the big issues when it comes to this part of the world, mining and resources and a potential rush for those goodies?

That’s another very good question. The Antarctic Treaty has been in force for about 50 years, a little over 50 years and New Zealand has been a very active member in making sure that the Antarctic is managed in a ways, manner based on science. But going forward though is as we have this increasing demand for resources worldwide, will the Antarctic Treaty be stable enough to be able to manage those types of changes and it’s not clear.

The Chinese have already said that they’re looking at science there in order to, and this is a quote from the president, take advantage of ocean and polar resources. That sounds like more than just gathering information?

Yes, and that’s correct. If you look at the history of Antarctica, science is only one aspect of why people are in Antarctica. It’s also geopolitical as well as resource based and there’s many countries out there – China, including Russia – who have a clear eye on the natural resources not only oil and gas, fisheries and bio-prospecting and the use of other resources. So again, it comes back to the question of whether this international agreement called the Antarctic Treaty will be able to mediate those types of pressures going into the future.

Read the original transcript here.

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Euro ambassadors ‘shocked’ by Australia’s anti-climate stance

How much more internationally embarrassing can our loony right wingnut government be? Backwards thinking and arrogantly and ignorantly proud of it.

Euro ambassadors ‘shocked’ by Australia’s anti-climate stance.

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Global weather forecast isn’t pretty

by TOM MCKAY at PolicyMic

The Weather Forecast for the Rest of Year Is Out, And It Could Be Catastrophic

the, weather, forecast, for, the, rest, of, year, is, out,, and, it, could, be, catastrophic,

The news: This year’s weather might be awfully weird — and potentially very, very dangerous. Meteorologists are preparing for an El Niño that could rival the catastrophic 1997-1998 phenomenon, which the Wire calls “potentially terrifying.” And for good reason — that event killed 1,500 people and cost the globe as much as $35-45 billion. In Peru some 350,000 people were driven from their homes; in Argentina, 150,000.

The designation “El Niño,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.” Such events are responsible for disrupting typical weather patterns (often severely), and depending on where you live, El Niño can trigger anything from torrential rainstorms to severe drought. This usually happens every few years, but environmental scientists worry that climate change could increase the phenomenon’s frequency.

Data collected from a NASA satellite has seen a series of “Kelvin waves,” massive ripples in the ocean that typically precede an El Niño event. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory Climatologist Bill Patzert told NASA Science that “a pattern of sea surface heights and temperatures has formed that reminds me of the way the Pacific looked in the spring of 1997.”

Image Credit: NASA

How could it affect me? For one, it depends on where you live. While it’s not certain we’ll get hit this year, if we do, be prepared for a big one.

The 1997-1998 event caused deadly flooding and mudslides in Peru and created Hurricane Linda off the Mexican coastline — the “strongest Eastern Pacific tropical cyclone ever recorded.” Extreme weather systems fueled a mosquito boom across Africa, leading to epidemics of tropical disease. The U.S. mostly just experienced heavy rainfall. And while that might sound appealing to drought-starved states in the American West, it also means that the coming winter might dump a lot of snow and ice. In addition to the extreme weather, it also made 1998 one of the hottest years to date.

Is it linked to climate change? Environmental scientists believe so, though a definitive connection has yet to be established. A 2013 study examined 7,000 years of coral fossils and found “tentative” evidence that El Niño gets stronger with higher levels of atmospheric carbon — which, by the way, is currently at the highest recorded level ever.

If a severe El Niño hits the world and wreaks havoc, climate change could again be propelled to the front of the world’s political agenda. The New York Times even suggests it might force people to pay attention to climate change:

“The timing could provide an uncomfortable backdrop for Republican presidential hopefuls who are skeptical of climate change, like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who recently said he did not believe human activity was causing climate change. Democrats, eager to cast Republicans as anti-science or to appeal to voters in the endangered coastal city of Miami, might be likelier to re-emphasize climate change if polls show an increase in the public’s belief in global warming, which [Stanford University professor] Jon Krosnick anticipates will happen if global temperatures rise to record levels.”

If it doesn’t — well, that’s probably good news for everyone. But it will hit us sooner or later.

Original story here.

 

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100 000 000 people will die by 2030 if the world fails to act on climate change

from Reuters by NINA CHESTNEY

Rain clouds gather as a skytrain passes the victory monument in Bangkok September 25, 2012. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Rain clouds gather as a skytrain passes the victory monument in Bangkok September 25, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Chaiwat Subprasom

More than 100 million people will die and global economic growth will be cut by 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change, a report commissioned by 20 governments said on Wednesday.

As global average temperatures rise due to greenhouse gas emissions, the effects on the planet, such as melting ice caps, extreme weather, drought and rising sea levels, will threaten populations and livelihoods, said the report conducted by humanitarian organisation DARA.

It calculated that five million deaths occur each year from air pollution, hunger and disease as a result of climate change and carbon-intensive economies, and that toll would likely rise to six million a year by 2030 if current patterns of fossil fuel use continue.

More than 90 percent of those deaths will occur in developing countries, said the report that calculated the human and economic impact of climate change on 184 countries in 2010 and 2030. It was commissioned by the Climate Vulnerable Forum, a partnership of 20 developing countries threatened by climate change.

“A combined climate-carbon crisis is estimated to claim 100 million lives between now and the end of the next decade,” the report said.

It said the effects of climate change had lowered global output by 1.6 percent of world GDP, or by about $1.2 trillion a year, and losses could double to 3.2 percent of global GDP by 2030 if global temperatures are allowed to rise, surpassing 10 percent before 2100.

It estimated the cost of moving the world to a low-carbon economy at about 0.5 percent of GDP this decade.

COUNTING THE COST

British economist Nicholas Stern told Reuters earlier this year investment equivalent to 2 percent of global GDP was needed to limit, prevent and adapt to climate change. His report on the economics of climate change in 2006 said an average global temperature rise of 2-3 degrees Celsius in the next 50 years could reduce global consumption per head by up to 20 percent.

Temperatures have already risen by about 0.8 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Almost 200 nations agreed in 2010 to limit the global average temperature rise to below 2C (3.6 Fahrenheit) to avoid dangerous impacts from climate change.

But climate scientists have warned that the chance of limiting the rise to below 2C is getting smaller as global greenhouse gas emissions rise due to burning fossil fuels.

The world’s poorest nations are the most vulnerable as they face increased risk of drought, water shortages, crop failure, poverty and disease. On average, they could see an 11 percent loss in GDP by 2030 due to climate change, DARA said.

“One degree Celsius rise in temperature is associated with 10 percent productivity loss in farming. For us, it means losing about 4 million metric tonnes of food grain, amounting to about $2.5 billion. That is about 2 percent of our GDP,” Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said in response to the report.

“Adding up the damages to property and other losses, we are faced with a total loss of about 3-4 percent of GDP.”

Even the biggest and most rapidly developing economies will not escape unscathed. The United States and China could see a 2.1 percent reduction in their respective GDPs by 2030, while India could experience a more than 5 percent loss.

The full report is available at: daraint.org/

 

Original story here

 

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West Antarctic glacier loss appears unstoppable — ScienceDaily

One can only wonder at what point enough people will become concerned enough to force their governments to act. Science Daily is reporting a new study that has found the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is now unstoppable, which will result in sea level rise at the upper end of predictions for 2100.

West Antarctic glacier loss appears unstoppable — ScienceDaily.

Peter Sinclair has an excellent video which explains the collapse simply, so that even some deniers might understand it.

http://climatecrocks.com/2014/05/12/nasa-video-antarctic-collapse-explained/

 

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Evidence Linking Global Warming and Extreme Weather

from JC MOORE

All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be… Trenberth

Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, explains that asking for proof that globasl warming causes severe weather is asking the wrong question…. Read about it here.

 

 

Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explains that asking for proof that global warming causes severe weather, is asking the wrong question. – See more at: http://jcmooreonline.com/2014/05/08/evidence-linking-global-warming-and-extreme-weather/#sthash.upNujdcS.dpuf

 ”All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….  ”  – Trenberth

 

Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explains that asking for proof that global warming causes severe weather, is asking the wrong question. “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be. The main way climate change is perceived is through changes in extremes because those are outside the bounds of previous weather. The average anthropogenic climate change effect is not negligible, but nor is it large, although a small shift in the mean can lead to very large percentage changes in extremes. Anthropogenic global warming inherently has decadal time scales and can be readily masked by natural variability on short time scales.”

Scientists  have been very cautious about linking

- See more at: http://jcmooreonline.com/2014/05/08/evidence-linking-global-warming-and-extreme-weather/#sthash.upNujdcS.dpuf

 ”All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be….  ”  – Trenberth

 

Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explains that asking for proof that global warming causes severe weather, is asking the wrong question. “All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be. The main way climate change is perceived is through changes in extremes because those are outside the bounds of previous weather. The average anthropogenic climate change effect is not negligible, but nor is it large, although a small shift in the mean can lead to very large percentage changes in extremes. Anthropogenic global warming inherently has decadal time scales and can be readily masked by natural variability on short time scales.”

Scientists  have been very cautious about linking severe weather events to global warming, but the link is getting stronger each year. The Earth has warmed an average of 0.82 over the last century, which doesn’t sound like much, but it means that some places have warmed much more than in the past. Since the amount of moisture the air can hold depends on the temperature, the air can now hold about 6% more moisture. Before 2010, scientists would cautiously point out that higher temperatures lead to the likelihood of drought, and that more energy and moisture in the atmosphere was a recipe for severe weather. But how is it possible to establish that weather events were becoming more extreme?

There are many reports like the interim report by the Climate Council in Australia which found that, in the period between 1971 and 2008,  heatwaves in Australia were becoming more frequent, increasing in intensity and are lasting longer. The report said climate change was  having a key influence on a trend that has seen the number of hot days in Australia double and the duration and frequency of heatwaves increase. Reports like that were not good enough for the skeptics. By 2011 a good case was established that global warming was causing heat waves and droughts in the U.S., but the case was not strong enough to overcome the Skeptics objection, even when in 2012, a definite probability link  was established for  extreme temperatures and droughts. 

To understand whether a weather event is extreme, it must be compared to the norm. This can most easily be done for temperatures, as we have over a century of temperature records from almost all parts of the world.

Example of a Normal Distribution

There is enough data that normal distributions can be graphed for the temperature data, which allows us to quantify  the probability of a temperature event. In the example at the right, the maximum in the curve is the mean of the data. The probability of the occurrence of an event can be measured by the number of standard deviations, sigma(σ), a particular value is from the mean. The values within 2σ of the mean, blue, are considered to be in a mostly normal range. Those from 2 to 3σ, yellow, are considered to be exceptional events, and those beyond 3σ, red, are considered to be extreme. Those yearly events that fall in the yellow range are considered to be 100 year events while those that fall in the red are 1000 year event.

As an example, the normal distribution graph to the right is for the temperatures in Moscow since 1950.  The maximum in the curve is the average temperature, which is set to zero, and the temperature for other other year is described as a temperature anomaly, i.e., how far it is above or below the average value.Moscowjulytempanomaly2010 The curve approximates a normal distribution so the standard deviation of the temperature anomalies can be used to decide whether an event is extreme. The temperatures for 1972  and 2001 fall in the hundred year event range, while  that for 2010 would only be likely to occur only once in every hundred thousand years, unlikely, but still possible.

The Skeptics would still not be convinced, claiming that the link to global warming climate change causes severe weather was not proven, but proof is not necessary when probabilities for a large number of events are involved. For instance, you have only a 50% chance of calling a coin toss correctly, but you can likely guess the number of heads on 1000 flips with less than 1% error. Small differences in probabilities lead to big outcomes. The rules of blackjack give the house a 50.5% to 49.5% advantage, and though some players may win thousands on a lucky streak, considering all the bets placed, the house will make millions from that small difference in probability. And, probabilities are useful for predictions. A 0.270 hitter may get the game winning hit at his next bat while a 0.300 pinch hitter may strike out, but with the game on the line, the coach will likely pinch hit. If trying to predict the future, it is better to go with the probabilities. Though  it is not possible to prove that any one weather event is caused by global warming , scientists have observed a change in probabilities of severe weather events over long periods of time. With the thousands of weather events that occur on the Earth each year,  a small change in probability can cause an definite change in the number of severe weather events.  

SummerDist

An even more convincing argument can be made for global warming causing severe temperatures if the normal distribution is examined as a function of time. Research by James Hansen has established the link by showing that the normal distribution has changed since 1951. The curves show that beginning in about 1970, the mean begins to move to the right and the the curves flatten, showing that the probability of extreme temperatures increase greatly from 1950 to 2011.  His work shows that the probability of extreme temperatures is 10 times as great as for the 198o to 2010 years.

It should also be noted that the left side of the graph flattens, but that the probability of extremely cold temperatures is not zero. There is still a significant likelihood of cold temperatures -and a cold winter now and then does not disprove global warming.

The Skeptics are still claiming that is not proof enough, and that the data says nothing about droughts and wildfires.  There are still some Skeptics who argue that this does not mean  heat waves necessarily related to droughts or that the droughts are causing the increase in wildfires we have experienced, but their arguments seem to be improbable. It should be clear by now that no amount of evidence will convince Skeptics who wish to ignore probabilities.

(C) 2014  J.C. Moore

- See more at: http://jcmooreonline.com/2014/05/08/evidence-linking-global-warming-and-extreme-weather/#sthash.upNujdcS.dpuf

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