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Was the “Blizzard of 2009″ a “global warming type” of record snowfall — or an opportunity for the media to blow the extreme weather story (again)?

By Joe Romm  

"Was the “Blizzard of 2009″ a “global warming type” of record snowfall — or an opportunity for the media to blow the extreme weather story (again)?"

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Drudge Report: Global Warming 'Agreement', Obama Races Home For Blizzard

Brad Johnson at Think Progress notes today:

As President Obama brokered a last-minute deal with China, India, and other nations to jointly fight global warming, American conservatives continued their assault on reason when it comes to climate science. All through the week, right-wingers from Rush Limbaugh to Fox News highlighted the fact that Copenhagen, the site of the international climate negotiations, received snow at Christmastime, which they falsely characterized as a “blizzard.” Now the Drudge Report and others are highlighting the real blizzard sweeping up the East Coast as a supposed contrast to “global warming.”

For Drudge to call the dusting Copenhagen received last week a “blizzard is, of course, laughable.  To suggest it is ironic to get a little snow in mid-December in Denmark during a climate conference is doubly laughable (see “Snow in Copenhagen: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly“).

As for the East Coast storm, my home in DC did get 18 inches of snow — although if this had been a true blizzard, I doubt my flight from Copenhagen on Saturday would have been allowed to land in Dulles airport and I wouldn’t of been able to get home 12 hours after I left Denmark.  Certainly temperatures in the DC area have been in the normal range over the past week — it’s only the precipitation that has been very anomalous (for actual data on recent warming trend in the U.S., see “Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S.“).

In any case, I have previously discussed the scientific literature, which makes clear that we have seen an increase in intense precipitation in this country, just as climate science predicted we would (see Why the “never seen before” Fargo flooding is just what you’d expect from global warming, as Obama warns).   The NOAA-led report by 13 federal agencies Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States issued earlier this year makes the same point.

I’ll review the science shortly, but first, TP points out:

Even CNN’s Ed Henry piled on, saying “DC snowstorm chills Pelosi’s global warming trip,” calling it a “strange twist.”

If having snow around the holidays on the East Coast were strange, I doubt the song “White Christmas” would have been written.  Ah, but what about record snow?  Capital Climate reports that the DC snowstorm has set multiple records (previous in parentheses):

  • National: All-time December daily (11.5″, 12-17-1932) and monthly snowfall (16.2″, 1962)
  • Dulles: All-time December daily record (10.6″, 12-12-1982) and second highest December snowfall (24.2″, 1966)
  • Baltimore: All-time December daily (11.5″, 12-17-1932) and monthly snowfall (20.4″, 1966)

That may be “strange,” but in fact it is a trend being observed around the country — predicted by climate science — with more extreme weather and a greater fraction of precipitation being generated in extreme events.

In 2004, the Journal of Hydrometeorology published an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center that found “Over the contiguous United States, precipitation, temperature, streamflow, and heavy and very heavy precipitation have increased during the twentieth century.”

They found (here) that over the course of the 20th century, the “Cold season (October through April),” saw a 16% increase in “heavy” precipitation events (roughly greater than 2 inches [when it comes as rain] in one day), and a 25% increase in “very heavy” precipitation events (roughly greater than 4 inches in one day)- and a 36% rise in “extreme” precipitation events (those in the 99.9% percentile “” 1 in 1000 events). This rise in extreme precipitation is precisely what is predicted by global warming models in the scientific literature.

In fact, the last few decades have seen rising extreme precipitation over the United States in the historical record, according to NCDC’s Climate Extremes Index (CEI):

An increasing trend in the area experiencing much above-normal proportion of heavy daily precipitation is observed from about 1950 to the present.

Here is a plot of the percentage of this country (times two) with much greater than normal proportion of precipitation derived from extreme 1-day precipitation events (where extreme equals the highest tenth percentile of deluges, click to enlarge):

cei-4-08.gif

Didn’t know that our government kept a Climate Extremes Index? Why would you? The media never writes about it.

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index was explicitly created to take a complicated subject (“multivariate and multidimensional climate changes in the United States“) and make it more easily understood by American citizens and policy makers. As far back as 1995, analysis by the National Climatic Data Center showed that over the course of the 20th century, the United States had suffered a statistically significant increase in a variety of extreme weather events, the very ones you would expect from global warming, such as more “” and more intense “” precipitation. That analysis concluded the chances were only “5 to 10 percent” this increase was due to factors other than global warming, such as “natural climate variability.” And since 1995, the climate has gotten much more extreme.

Even the Bush Administration in its must-read U.S. Climate Change Science Program report, Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate, acknowledged:

Many extremes and their associated impacts are now changing”¦. Heavy downpours have become more frequent and intense”¦.

It is well established through formal attribution studies that the global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases.“¦ The increase in heavy precipitation events is associated with an increase in water vapor, and the latter has been attributed to human-induced warming.

And yes, this applies to snow.  A 2005 study, coauthored by NCDC, “Temporal and Spatial Characteristics of Snowstorms in the Contiguous United States,” found:

The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901-2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901-2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity.

Finally, we have the 2009 government report on U.S. climate impacts, which concluded:

- “Cold-season storm tracks are shifting northward and the strongest storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent.”

- “In winter and spring, northern areas are expected to receive significantly more precipitation than they do now, because the interaction of warm and moist air coming from the south with colder air from the north is projected to occur farther north than it did on average in the last century. The more northward incursions of warmer and moister air masses are expected to be particularly noticeable in northern regions that will change from very cold and dry atmospheric conditions to warmer but moister conditions. Alaska, the Great Plains, the upper Midwest, and the Northeast are beginning to experience such changes for at least part of the year, with the likelihood of these changes increasing over time.”

- “There is also evidence of an increase in the intensity of storms in both the mid- and high- latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with greater confidence in the increases occurring in high latitudes. The northward shift is projected to continue, and strong cold season storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent, with greater wind speeds and more extreme wave heights.”

So it is inane for anyone in the media to cite this massive DC snowstorm as somehow counterintuitive or ironic against the backdrop of Obama’s Copenhagen deal.

In fact, this record-breaking snowstorm is pretty much precisely what climate science predicts.  Since one typically can’t make a direct association between any individual weather event and global warming, perhaps the best approach is to borrow and modify a term from the scientific literature and call this a “global-warming-type” deluge “” see Must-have PPT: The “global-change-type drought” and the future of extreme weather.

If you are a journalist wondering what is a reasonable way to talk about this, one of the best recent examples comes from a New York Times story on Australia made possible by our friend Andrew Revkin:

The firestorms and heat in the south revived discussions in Australia of whether human-caused global warming was contributing to the continent’s climate woes of late “” including recent prolonged drought in some places and severe flooding last week in Queensland, in the northeast.

Climate scientists say that no single rare event like the deadly heat wave or fires can be attributed to global warming, but the chances of experiencing such conditions are rising along with the temperature. In 2007, Australia’s national science agency published a 147-page report on projected climate changes, concluding, among other things, that “high-fire-danger weather is likely to increase in the southeast.”

The flooding in the northeast and the combustible conditions in the south were consistent with what is forecast as a result of recent shifts in climate patterns linked to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, said Kevin Trenberth, a scientist at the United States National Center for Atmospheric Research.

That’s how it is done.

And no, I’m not say that the media should link every extreme weather event the way Revkin did. But when we have “worst on record” type events, or 100-year floods “” and especially ones that last more than a day and/or hit a broad area “” then I think the reporter has an obligation to include the issue.

Finally, I would note that if we stay on our current emissions path as outlined in the 2009 impacts report — see Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year “” and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual! –  then indeed these storms will become incredibly rare in the East-Central part of the country, and the lyrics of the classic song will ring all-too-true:

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas  Just like the ones I used to know.

Related Posts:

‹ White House tells amazing inside story of how the Copenhagen Accord was reached

Why the newly inked Copenhagen Accord boosts the odds for Senate passage of bipartisan climate and clean energy jobs legislation ›

74 Responses to Was the “Blizzard of 2009″ a “global warming type” of record snowfall — or an opportunity for the media to blow the extreme weather story (again)?

  1. Wes Rolley says:

    I’m surprised that Inhofe has not called a news conference on the steps of the Capitol Bldg.

    He would spin anything his way because he in unconcerned with science or facts.

  2. Tom Street says:

    They really should hold these meetings in summer.

    [JR: Yes! In fact, Gore proposed in Copenhagen that Mexico City be in July.]

  3. Dano says:

    These people would assert the sky is green and the grass is blue if they thought it would have play. Fuggem.

    It’s been well over a decade for them to show something. They’ve shown nothing. It is long past time to put up or shut up.

    Best,

    D

  4. WAG says:

    Joe – I can attest that it was truly a blizzard here in DC. I’ve been stuck at Dulles since Friday night after a string of cancellations, watching snow envelop the airport. Visibility was maybe 100 yards.

    Also, was hoping you could clarify something – the first part of the post seems to argue that global warming will make huge winter storms like this more intense, but the last couple paragraphs say that they will become more rare. Are you basically saying, “big snowfalls will happen less often, but when they do happen, they’ll be huge”? thanks

    [JR: Sorry for confusion. Warming puts more moisture in the air, so that should lead to more intense precipitation, however it comes down. But warming shifts the rain/ice/snow line north over time. So in cold places, more snow, more of which comes from intense events -- at least as long as they remain cold places. In places like DC, less snow over time, but yes, "when it snows, it pours." If we hit 10F warming -- 18 F in the Arctic -- that means a lot less snow in most places.]

  5. Former Skeptic says:

    Tom:

    I pointed that out some time ago too. The best option would be to hold the meet in Phoenix in July, but it was pointed out that deniers like Drudge would childishly spin it as something else.

  6. The moisture which fed this storm was extreme. As if they needed any more flooding, New Orleans is on the verge of breaking their all-time rainfall record for any month since official data began in 1871, including hurricanes and tropical storms.

    [JR: Thanks for this. A very good analysis of what happened is Georgia -- record rainfall, but no hurricane/tropical storm -- is "Weather Channel expert on Georgia’s record-smashing global-warming-type deluge."]

  7. Gail says:

    Oh my, unprecedented snowfall in France causes underground rail beneath the Channel to shut down trapping passengers for hours of misery: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/eu_train_breakdowns

    I’m glad you got home Joe and aren’t stranded!

  8. 26″ here on Long Island. I shoveled for 4 1/2 hours. :(

    When people discuss snow to cast doubt on global warming just ask them the following:

    “Which season are we in? Does this season typically have cold weather and snow?”

    Tell them you will be happy to discuss climate (long term trends) but are not interested in weather (short-term fluctuations).

    End of story!

  9. Lamont says:

    Joe: “But warming shifts the rain/ice/snow line north over time.”

    On average it should do that, but there’s no reason why regionally wind patterns couldn’t shift and cause arctic blasts that would cause severe cold weather events (regionally). Its really fairly dangerous to assert that any particular extreme weather pattern is due to warming, or make blanket predictions about regional weather.

    [JR: Uhh, what climate models would those be?]

  10. Australis says:

    The non-blizzard in Copenhagen moved south-west the following day and led to the cancellation of Eurostar and closure of the Chunnel for an indefinite period.

    The surprising thing about precipitation over the past 2 years is that it was not predicted by climate models. In fact, they forecast droughts on the basis of precipitation only one-fifth of actual levels.

  11. Gail says:

    Never mind all that weathery stuff, it is small potatoes. Look at this:
    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2009/12/flabbergasted.html
    Massively obscured and buried evidence of threats to the survival of human civilization by short term profiteers.
    We should all be shrieking in fury.

  12. Richard Brenne says:

    Most people don’t understand climate or climate change nearly as well as they understand weather, so you’re smart to make the connection about what climate change can mean to their weather, stressing averages, likelihoods and natural variability.

    As a case in point, here in Portland, Oregon last summer we had a record 24 days of 90 degrees or above, 10 consecutive days of 90 degrees or above, and two 106 degree days and one 103 degree day (all-time record is 107 degrees).

    So we had a good cold snap ending about a week ago, with one 12, one 13 and two 14 degree lows, the coldest cold snap in maybe 20 years. Because Portland’s all-time record low is -3, to have a corresponding record cold snap we would need 24 days of 14 or below including 10 consecutive, and also including two days of -2 and one of 0.

    That would be enough to freeze over the Willamette and Columbia Rivers sufficiently to walk and even drive a wagon or car across as happened at least half dozen times from 1846 to 1930. Yes the dams change the equation, but not that much.

    Similarly in 1899 a cold snap produced below zero temperatures all the way south into Florida and the Mississippi froze solid to New Orleans and discharged ice into the Gulf of Mexico, something virtually unimaginable today.

    If natural variability or standard deviation remains the same and you raise the baseline of temperatures as we’ve done, then there will be more heat than cold records, as Jerry Meehl’s paper he’s delivering at the AMS meeting in Atlanta points out. Since January 1, 2000 there have been more than a 2 to 1 ratio of heat to cold records, and models show that climbing to a 20 to 1 ratio by 2050 and a 50 to 1 ratio by 2100.

    As temperatures have risen our expectations have changed with them. Heat waves and heat records are most comparable with cold snaps and cold records, and extreme precipitation events of all kinds (as Joe points out where it’s cold enough to snow, including snow) are expected to punctuate droughts.

    This is all simple, understandable and relevant to everyone’s life, and this is why this should be communicated over and over and more frequently than more complex or yet-to-be-decided aspects of climate change. It should also be communicated by TV meteorologists whenever there is a heat record or heat wave, or cold record or cold snap.

    The AMS has asked me to serve on their committee to better communicate climate change, and I look forward to working with anyone interested in this area.

  13. GFW says:

    Joe, I think the comment you attached to #9 was meant to be attached to #10. Of course you could just eliminate #10 as being utterly contra-factual.

  14. Walt says:

    Joe,

    Know why I stop by here once in awhile? You are always good for a laugh.

  15. cbp says:

    Funny how the right-wing press is strangely quiet about current weather conditions in south-east Australia – we’ve just come out of the hottest November heat-waves ever.

    But I guess just like how aliens always seem to land their UFOs in Alabama, the world revolves around the US.

  16. Turboblocke says:

    My son is actually a driver of the Eurotunnel Shuttle, which is the train that takes cars, coaches and lorries from Folkestone to Calias. Having heard about the Eurostar problems I called him to get some details. He told me that the Eurostar trains break down everytime it snows. It’s a known problem that has never been fixed.

    As for the extreme weather: rubbish! The situation called for an “Orange Alert”, which is the third out of four levels. Here’s a link to the French Meteo site showing the alert status over the country. http://france.meteofrance.com/vigilance/Accueil

  17. Dennis Adams says:

    Updated 5:42 p.m. ET

    Federal government offices in the Washington region will be closed on Monday

    These are the first days of winter. As power goes out, we will have more deaths. The record cold temps are the problem when power goes out.

    [JR: Where are there record cold temperatures? It's above freezing here in DC.]

  18. Brooks Bridges says:

    Rush, Inhofe, and the rest work very hard to ignore the word “global” in global warming.

    Also that so far we’ve gone up GLOBALLY like 1 deg F so viewed simplistically it’s as though average winter temperatures are 1 deg F warmer. Hardly amazing we can still have snow.

    (It’s scary that 1 deg F has already had such a big impact on our weather extremes)

    Further, they never think of the shoulder seasons – freezing temps are starting later and ending earlier – many ramifications e.g.:

    French wine growers are panicking – grapes are ripening 16 days earlier than 30 years ago – screwing up sugar and acid levels. England producing best wines ever.

    The average albedo of earth changing (to heat us up) as snow comes later and leaves earlier.

  19. dhogaza says:

    and two 106 degree days and one 103 degree day (all-time record is 107 degrees).

    There was a 103 degree day on each side of the two hot ones, actually. If I’m forced to suffer, I want a proper accounting! But, yes, that long hot stretch happened at the same time places like WUWT were flooded with “cool summer! global warming fraud!” posts from people in the midwest and on the east coast.

    To put the current cold snap into perspective, I’ve told friends (none of my friends are denialist, of course) here in SE Portland that back in the late 1970s we had a stretch of close to 30 days where it did not rise above freezing, being much colder for many of those days. The Willamette *did* freeze over, albeit just a thin and ephemeral skin on a couple of nights. The Snake up by Pasco Washington, where my folks and high-school sister were living, did freeze hard behind Ice Harbor dam and my sister and friends did drive out onto it (only telling my parents after safely returning home, of course).

    So this last cold snap was a significant one, but nothing like that one 30 years ago.

    Richard, are you aware that the Columbia used to freeze consistently enough that it supplied ice for Portland, before the refrigerator was invented?

  20. Samir Raouf says:

    We need more accurate media coverage and reporting. This is the responsibility of media personnel and scientists. The public does not deserve misleading coverage.

  21. mitchel44 says:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/20455

    Was it that nasty CO2 that brought on the series of weather events shown in this book, The True Story of Our National Calamity of Flood, Fire and Tornado, from 1913? If those events happened today, would you blame fossil fuel emissions for causing it?

    Hey, 1913 was at a low stage in the sunspot cycle also, maybe there’s some sort of link between low sunspot counts and weather events.
    http://sidc.oma.be/html/wolfaml.html

    [JR: Try reading the post before commenting.]

  22. Andy says:

    How can anybody accurately predict the weather in the future when they can’t accurately predict the weather for the next 7 days??

    [JR: Uhh, because the average temperature over a year is, like, a lot less variable -- especially when you know the forcing factors -- than, say, the actual temperature on any given day in that year. It's the climate in the future we're talking about predicting. How do we know with so much confidence that July will be so much warmer than January, while we don't know with any confidence whatsoever that January 2 will be warmer or colder than January 12.]

  23. Stijn Zwuffels says:

    “Climate scientists say that no single rare event like the deadly heat wave or fires can be attributed to global warming, but the chances of experiencing such conditions are rising along with the temperature.”

    Oh pullease. Not even AR4 says so, let alone the specialists in various fields such as hurricanes.

    [JR: Ah, people who have never even read AR4 telling those of us who have what it said. Yes, AR4, which is just a review of the scientific literature, concludes that the chances of experiencing a variety of extreme weather events are rising along with the temperature.]

    And your IPCC dog won’t run for much longer either. The longer they tolerate frauds in their midst, the sooner they will be totally marginalised.

    Remember the Himalaya glacier melt predicted by the IPCC for 2035? It was based on guess-work and a newspaper article, for Pete’s sake…

    Climate science today is just as ‘settled’ as the idea that the earth was flat was ‘settled’ for many thousands of years, or the idea that the earth has nine planets has been ‘settled’ for hundreds of years.

    Get real.

  24. robtr says:

    It’s amazing how the global warming fear mongers collectively cover their eyes and ears.

    Joe says there was no blizzard in Copenhagen, blizzard what blizzard?

    [JR: I take it you were in Copenhagen. Well, I was. And having grown up in New York State near the Catskill Mountains in the 1960s and 1970s before human-caused global warming seriously took hold, all I can say is that I doubt anybody who grew up in the Northeast would have even have mentioned the modest amount of snow that fell in Copenhagen during the entire time I was there.]

    Maybe this one.

    Winter weather whips nation

    More snow could be on the way tomorrow as temperatures are set to drop even further

    Bitter cold and steady snowfall has paralyzed the country’s roads and public transport since yesterday, and the icy cold weather is expected to get even worse over the next couple days.

    On the island of Funen up to a metre of snow fell in some places, while in mid-Jutland several snow plows were reported to be stuck.

    National train service DSB had delays on nearly all its lines, with delays of up to an hour on some routes. The S-train system and Metro trains serving the Greater Copenhagen area have also experienced considerable delays.
    No serious injuries or deaths have been reported so far as a result of the icy weather, however.

    http://cphpost.dk/news/national/88-national/47775-winter-weather-whips-nation.html

    You Warming Scare Mongers will fall for anything. Want to buy some Global Warming Insurance?

  25. Lamont says:

    Joe, re: “[JR: Uhh, what climate models would those be?]”

    see, http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/comment.html?entrynum=1398

    “Arctic Dipole blamed for colder winters in East Asia
    It turns out that the new Arctic circulation patterns help to intensify the Siberian High, a large semi-permanent region of surface high pressure prevalent in winter over Siberia. According to Honda et al. (2009), this results in increased flow of cold air out of the Arctic in early winter over eastern Russia, Japan, Korea, and eastern China, causing colder temperatures. By late winter, the pattern shifts, resulting in colder than average temperatures from East Asia to Europe.”

    Global Warming => Arctic Dipole => Arctic Warming => East Asia Cooling

    that is an example of how to get from Global Warming to regional Cooling.

    [JR: I rather think you missed the point and didn't quite read this post. I already noted what the scientific literature says is happening in the United States "The temporal distribution of snowstorms exhibited wide fluctuations during 1901–2000, with downward 100-yr trends in the lower Midwest, South, and West Coast. Upward trends occurred in the upper Midwest, East, and Northeast, and the national trend for 1901–2000 was upward, corresponding to trends in strong cyclonic activity." Washington, DC is right on the borderline of the South, of course.

    So in DC, the kind of warming we are expecting in the second half of this century "our current emissions path" will blow us way out of the normal snow line. Sure, for modest warming, it can be in some parts to make projections of the climate. But for 850+ ppm and 9+F warming, that kind of uncertainty pretty much vanishes over most of the planet -- certainly over most of the United States. Indeed, the point of the impacts study I cited is that they already made the temperature projection regionally.

    So, if you have some climate models I am unaware of that show local cooling around DC and the East Coast in, say, the A2 scenario, I'm all ears!]

  26. Thomas Harding says:

    Newsbusters and Climate Depot are covering this.

    [JR: Good, maybe some of their readers will come here and learn something about the scientific literature. They might also learn that global warming has impacts during the winter too.]

  27. Conrad Wessling says:

    Winter has just begun. Looks like droughts are rare.

  28. James says:

    Joe, you spin more than my wheels on the icy road.

    If it’s hot? Global warming.

    If it’s cold? Global warming. *rolls eyes* My bad, I meant climate change (as if there’s such a thing as “climate stasis”).

    How about this for an idea, Joe? How about you (and the UN) keep your hands out of my wallet?

    P.S. Do you think you could have Al Gore turn the global thermostat up a degree or two? You know, that thing they’re going to use over in Copenhagen to keep the temperature down…It’s a little chilly outside (which you’d notice if you’d pulled your head out of your ass for air).

    [JR: It ain't cold. It's the hottest friggin' decade on record, probably in thousands of years.

    I normally delete such nonsensical ad hominem comments, but I do think it's important for readers to see that those who have been duped by the disinformers apparently view any winter day that isn't tropical as evidence against the theory of human-caused climate change.

    For the record, for those among the duped who aren't so inanely illogical, we've only warmed in the last several decades a bit over 1°F, which isn't enough to turn December into July, but is enough to increase the incidence of extreme weather events, especially extreme precipitation events -- and that includes extreme precipitation during the wintertime.

    If we listen to your ilk, however, we're going to warm 10°F over much of the United States this century, and your children will certainly figure out just how misled you have been.]

  29. Conrad Wessling says:

    WARSAW, Poland — Snowstorms and subfreezing temperatures have battered Europe, killing 15 people in Poland alone overnight and wreaking havoc on air, train and car travelers from the Nordics to Italy on the last weekend before Christmas.

    France’s civil aviation authority ordered the cancellation of 40% of flights out of Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports Sunday through the mid-afternoon.

    [JR: Gosh. Snow and cold weather around Christmas. Alert the media!]

  30. Andy says:

    Andy Says: “How can anybody accurately predict the weather in the future when they can’t accurately predict the weather for the next 7 days??”

    Another Andy Says: I firmly predict that during El Nino episodes 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now and on and on that:

    -there will be fewer than normal hurricanes in the North Atlantic, and
    -the California coast and SE Texas and Louisiana will have a very wet winter

    See, it’s easy to make satisfactory predictions decades out. Meteorologists have been doing this regarding El Nino and other atmospheric occillations for quite some time now.

    Pull your head out of the sand!!

  31. conversefive says:

    Using the logic of the above, ANY weather condition can be justified as an indicator of global warming, whether it is anomalous or not. Rather, it is just a matter of faith. Just as religions are based in faith, so are those who are true believers in AGW.

    [JR: Uhh, no. Just the ones that are in the scientific literature AND are statistically significant. Again, individual weather events are not by themselves indicative of global warming. But climate science has been quite clear that you put more water vapor in the atmosphere because of planetary warming, you are going to get more extreme precipitation events, and statistically there is no question that has been happening -- including during wintertime.]

  32. Andy says:

    Oh yeah. And I predict the next decade will be hotter than this one. James Hansen made his predictions via a computer model in the 1980′s. And he was right. The 1990′s were hotter than the 1980′s and the 2000′s were hotter than either. He made a prediction over 20 years ago and he was right. How can anyone honestly say that climate scientists haven’t been blindingly correct in their past predictions?

  33. Ken says:

    For me, the phrase “settled science” smacks of religion.  The sneering references to “deniers” and “non-believers” conjures other periods of human history where religion and science were similarly married.  Science is supposed to be skeptical.  Remember?  You’ve lost your way JR.  You’ve transferred to the marketing department of the Climatology Corporation.  Your “science” has become inbred and self-perpetuating.  There are tens of thousands of scientists in the United States, including myself, who do not deny elements of your data, but most certainly do not approve of your method.

  34. James Allison says:

    Hi Jo

    Interesting spin you put on the current extreme cold and snowy NI weather. So if I understand you correctly global warming means more extreme drought and more extreme precipitation but not more extreme cold. Yet anecdotal evidence coming in from all over the NH via various blogs are all saying its unusually cold for this time of the year wherever the writers happen to live. Even down under in our heavily maritime influenced weather in NZ we are getting more more nights than not where the temp. drops below 10 degrees Celsius. And its mid summer. Everybody is complaining that its too cold for the time of year.

    [snip]

    [Again, there hasn't been extreme cold. And anecdotal "evidence" is refuted by actual evidence -- see the actual data here: "Record high temperatures far outpace record lows across U.S."]

  35. James Allison (#34):
    Sorry to hear you don’t like your current weather in New Zealand.
    Here’s what it has to do with climate:
    Temperature trends from raw data

  36. Cam says:

    Joe – good to see you’re true to form like all your fellow hysterics and completely ignore the Medieval Warm Period (is that ignore, or refuse to believe?!) in your musings. So when did time begin? Was it in the 1850′s when land temp data records commenced, or was it 1979 when satellite data records commenced?

    As a curious observer, it’s interesting to note that when there is a hot spell or record related to heat the hysterics are out in force with their ‘end of the world is nigh’ mantra, and yet when there is the reverse event, its largely ignored. Cherry-picking of the highest order. BTW, neither give an indication of current or future climate trends.

    [JR: What "reverse event" are you inventing -- we're at record warmth? Try reading some actual science on the MWP, too -- no evidence it was global and best evidence says we're warmer today.]

  37. Joe,
    BTW, your quote of the DC area snowfall records should have been attributed to CapitalClimate, not Capital Weather Gang. (The link is correct). You omitted the actual record amounts, which are shown at the link before the portion you quoted.

    [JR: My apologies.]

  38. Brian G Valentine says:

    Joseph,

    You’re a reasonable man, I’m sure you have already asked yourself,

    “gosh, this anti-gravity machine, ESP, UFO, global warming thing just doesn’t SEEM right to me, it isn’t making any sense, how can I be intellectually honest with myself, and continue to support it?”

    And if you haven’t done so already, then why not do it now?

    And if not now, when?*

    – *Hillel the Elder

  39. Simply amazing!

    It’s “Heads I Win, Tails You Lose!” with the True Believers of the Church of Gore! No snow? It’s Global Warming. Lots of snow? It’s Global Warming! Temps go up, temps go down. It doesn’t matter! It’s ALL Global Warming!

    You guys have bought into a false religion.

    Oh, and congratulations! Your name appears in the Climategate emails! That’s one way to get (in)famous!

  40. bobham says:

    Can we all NEVER use the term global warming again? That just gives deniers an opportunity to muddy the water every time it gets cold.

    It’s Climate Change, and it’s not a change for the better.

  41. Peter says:

    Please keep it up Joe. Say things like this more often, but please add in some more apolyptic language, and another percentage of the populations rolls their eyes and tunes out.

  42. Brian G Valentine says:

    If this “CO2 in the air is causing something to happen” idea had never taken a zombie-life of its own, where would we be now?

    People would say, “Quite a snowstorm on the Eastern seaboard,” and dig themselves out, and move on.

    “Climatologists” would look at historical cycles of the NAO, PDO, etc and provide information to agriculture, fisheries, and so forth to try to maximize yields based on known historical climate patterns

    - as they have done, in their profession, for the past 100 years

    And who knows? Maybe they would have made authentic discoveries in the process such as sub-cycles, and causes of phenomena such as ENSO.

    The UN wouldn’t be attempting to hurl billions of dollars at wasteful Ponzi schemes that will arrive at nothing but more misery for the third world, maybe the UN would actually try to elevate the condition of life in the Third World by addressing internecine war and lack of water and electricity in many parts of the world in a rational way?

    Western governments would continue to support the advance of natural science and technology, in the tried and true methods of empirical research, technological advances would come slowly and surely, as they always have, and Governments wouldn’t be attempting to lay economies to waste in unfathomable and ridiculous schemes to somehow change the weather.

    In other words, business as usual in the rational world we once knew

  43. U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI):

    The U.S. CEI is the arithmetic average of the following five or six# indicators of the percentage of the conterminous U.S. area:

    1) The sum of (a) percentage of the United States with maximum temperatures much below normal and (b) percentage of the United States with maximum temperatures much above normal.
    2) The sum of (a) percentage of the United States with minimum temperatures much below normal and (b) percentage of the United States with minimum temperatures much above normal.
    3) The sum of (a) percentage of the United States in severe drought (equivalent to the lowest tenth percentile) based on the PDSI and (b) percentage of the United States with severe moisture surplus (equivalent to the highest tenth percentile) based on the PDSI.
    4) Twice the value of the percentage of the United States with a much greater than normal proportion of precipitation derived from extreme (equivalent to the highest tenth percentile) 1-day precipitation events.
    5) The sum of (a) percentage of the United States with a much greater than normal number of days with precipitation and (b) percentage of the United States with a much greater than normal number of days without precipitation.

    * The sum of squares of U.S. landfalling tropical storm and hurricane wind velocities scaled to the mean of the first five indicators.
    # The sixth indicator is experimental and is included in the experimental version of the CEI.
    * The sixth indicator is only utilized when the period of interest includes months with significant tropical activity. For practical purposes, the CEI does not include the sixth indicator for the cold season (Oct-Mar), winter (Dec-Feb) or spring (Mar-May). It also cannot be calculated independent of the first five indicators. (Gleason, 2009)

    The figure linked below shows that in the United States, extremes in weather are on the increase since 1970. Heavier precip events are becoming more likely so storms such as this past one will increase in their frequency and intensity. Whether or not they are snow or rain storms depends on the temperature profile of the atmosphere in that particular region on that particular day.

    http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/mandias/global_warming/images/us_CEI.gif

  44. Kevin says:

    Joe -

    Throughout the entire history of planet Earth, the averge global temperatures have fluctuated greatly. In the past, it has been cooler than it is now, and it has also been warmer than it is now. All of these temperature fluctuation have taken place well before human beings started pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

    So, my question to you is: what is the ideal average temperature for Planet Earth? That is a question that I have been asking to many climate change promoters and deniers, and, so far, no one has been able to give me an answer. If we do not know what the ideal average temperature for Planet Earth is, how do we know if nature itself is not adjusting to a naturally warmer temperature? Or, maybe throughout the 80s and 90s with the increasing temperatures, Earth has now reached its “ideal” temperature, which is why there has not been any statistically significant warming for the past decade or so.

    I would really appreciate an answer to my question. Without hype. Please prove to me – actually prove – what the Earth’s Ideal Average Temperature is. Then you can tell me whether human beings are actually influencing the temperature of Planet Earth.

    Thank you for your time.

    [JR: You folks don't take scientific observations and analysis as proof, so the overall question from you is purely rhetorical.

    For the record, the global temperature has tended to fluctuate relatively slowly in geologic time, and when it does change it changes because it has been "forced" to by external forcings like greenhouse gases, changes in the orbit (which change solar insolation), volcanoes and the like. Now the science is clear that humans have overtaken the relatively slow natural forcings with a massive injection of GHGs.

    The issue is NOT "what is the ideal average temperature for Planet Earth?" That is a red herring on your part. The issue is that human civilization developed during a time when the temperature and climate has been relatively stable -- hundreds of millions if not billions of people have settled where they have because of the climate and access to water (rainfall and rivers and coasts). The radical change in the Earth's climate that humans are now engineering will be devastating to those people, many of whom will suddenly find themselves in a climate that does not sustain their population, either because it is underwater or lacks access to fresh water.]

  45. Brian G Valentine says:

    I would be satisfied if Joseph would read Gerlich and Tscheuschner’s paper, sec.8, and then report what the “Earth’s Average Temperature” is

  46. Jimmy Haigh says:

    I live in SE Asia these days. I go back home to Scotland once a year in June/July. For each of the last three years there has been fresh snow on the hills, and also at low levels in some places, when I went back home. Tell me, Joe, is this also because of man-made global warming?

  47. Interglacial John says:

    I thought you knuckleheads told us global scamming would cause droughts. And you did. Nice try having it both ways Joe.

    [JR: It does both. Read some science, not anti-science, before you post here, seriously.]

  48. Musing Lew says:

    Never will it cease to amaze me how you climate warming cultist will try to spin anything and everything to back up your disgraced idea of science. Oh yeah, Joe, I know….I just don’t understand. Or I’m too stupid to comprehend. How about this instead: You are full of BS and can’t give up on a dogma you’ve adopted no matter what the scientific evidence really points to?

    ML

    [JR: I have no knowledge of your intelligence, only your obvious and willful rejection of science. I assume you don't go to listen to "doctors" and others of their ilk too who use science.]

  49. Richard Brenne says:

    Kevin (#44), let me take a crack at your question, which I think is among the most important of all to ask. As you say and imply there is no ideal climate for Earth or the biosphere, since these are changing all the time, though rarely as quickly as the changes we see now.

    But there are ideal climates that allow the prosperity and survival of various species: Ours, for instance. The ideal temperature for our species on Earth is the one we know now, which has been close enough to the average of the last 10,000 years to allow civilization to develop.

    All our agriculture and infrastructure is geared to the current climate, including all coastal infrastructure that has been able to adapt to an 8-inch rise in sea level over the last hundred years. But we’ll have a much more difficult time adjusting to a 39-inch rise in sea level that the world’s best experts and institutions like NASA are now saying we should prepare for, with a smaller chance of two meters of sea level rise.

    Similarly, all our agriculture and in fact everything growing everywhere, either naturally or planted by humans, has adapted to the climate it has known. And it is not nearly as simple as we’d like for crops and all other vegetation to merely migrate north in the northern hemisphere.

    An example is Iowa corn, which not only has adapted to the climate of Iowa, but to their soils as well. Glaciers and wind off the glaciers deposited soil in Iowa that they had been scoured from Canada and Minnesota, and it’s problematic to expect corn can be grown as successfully in those places as it has in Iowa.

    Changing the climate that all species on Earth know and have adapted to is the most serious mistake we can make. It is your right not to believe Joe and the world’s top climate scientists. Your children and all their descendents won’t have that luxury.

  50. Orion says:

    So let me get this straight…

    - If I’m hot, it’s because of global warming.

    - If I’m buried up to my eyebrows in a snow drift, it’s global warming.

    - If my well runs dry, it’s global warming.

    - If I’m swept away by a monsoon, it’s global warming.

    “Question, class: What do you call a model that accurately predicts the weather for today, 100% of the time, as long as the predictions are read tomorrow?”

    [JR: No, you don't have this "straight." Try reading the post and the scientific literature.]

  51. Brian G Valentine says:

    Data certified from IPCC:

    Suppose that the avg CO2 concentration in the atm increased 10 PPM over 20 years.

    [Give or take, we'll fix this for the sake of discussion.]

    According to the IPCC, the human contribution of that 10 PPM increase was

    a) 0.3 PPM
    b) 1 PPM
    c) 5 PPM
    d) 10 PPM

  52. Stuart says:

    Richard Brynne @ 49 That was an excellent summation of the ecological problems we face. We all need to look at the problem of climate change through the prism of ecology – species have evolved to fit certain niches, and if the parameters that they depend on change then they will have to move or die. Animals have that luxury, trees don’t. Evolution acts slowly, but I am sure new species will evolve to fill the empty niches after this current mass extinction runs its course.

    Our descendants will curse our generations for seeing the problem and doing nothing to stop it.

  53. Brian G Valentine says:

    “… after this current mass extinction runs its course.”

    Deniers out there: This is what you are up against.

    You can just laugh it off, or you can try to think up something helpful to do with something like and God knows what that is

  54. Stuart says:

    Brian, even if we can slow the rise in temperatures to 2 degrees C in this century thousands of species are going to go extinct worldwide. Biologists have already called the event we are in the sixth great mass extinction event in the history of the planet, and climate is only one factor in it. If you don’t think humans can cause extinctions then please show me a living Great Auk or Passenger Pigeon because I would love to add them to my life list.

  55. Brian G Valentine says:

    The answer to the above is a)

    Today I heard many wonderful stories about how people helped the elderly and disabled during the East Coast snow storm, what a wonderful Christmas this is

    What a wonderful Country too

  56. JasonW says:

    Isn’t it amazing? Each year around winter time you can set your clock to the surge in moronic comments à la “Look ouside! It’s snowing! So where’s your global warming now it’s all bs etc. etc.”

    It would be fascinating if it weren’t so depressing. This discussion has been going on for over ten years and STILL people confuse weather with climate. *facepalm*

    Brian: Unless I see the IPCC source for your “calculation” I’ll file this under “invented”.

  57. Brian G Valentine says:

    The numerical value, 3.12% anthropogenic contribution to the increase, is, as you say, “invented,” sir, I couldn’t agree with you more, the term “manufactured” would also be an appropriate designation for it, sir

  58. JasonW says:

    So, non-sensical posts then?

    I readily agree with you though that stories of helping hands for the elderly and disabled are indeed wonderful. We shivered in -15°C in South-West Germany too, however, the cold spell over here is already past due to the Föhn. Pity, I was hoping for a white Christmas for a change.

  59. Brian G Valentine says:

    Doctor Romm, an authoritative source of the IPCC reports, will confirm that what I say is true, sir

  60. Logic Deferred says:

    Mr. Valentine, then why don’t you give the exact chapter and page number of that IPCC report? The whole thing is on line and anyone can then check your claim and citation.

  61. Stijn Zwuffels says:

    JR says: “Yes, AR4, which is just a review of the scientific literature, concludes that the chances of experiencing a variety of extreme weather events are rising along with the temperature.”

    Another semi-literate, I see. AR4 says there is “no trend” discernible for such events.

    AR4 only projects a likely trend for the (distant) future. And since we all know what those projections are worth…

    Of course it won’t stop the believers from claiming that every extreme event, every weather record broken, is due to global warming, just like

    [JR: Your statement could not be more false. AR4 WG1: "The frequency of heavy precipitation events has increased over most land areas, consistent with warming and observed increases of atmospheric water vapour." In the land of the illiterate, I guess the semi-literature rule.]

  62. JasonW says:

    LogicDeferred, do not feed. The IPCC AR4 synthesis report, of course, says no such thing.

    Stijn, to be more precise the AR4 mentions that the number of extreme weather events have already risen, in the “likely” to “very likely” categories and is projected to rise over the next century.

    “Of course it won’t stop the believers from claiming that every extreme event, every weather record broken, is due to global warming, just like [...]”

    That statement above is a load of bollocks (‘scuse me French). No one is doing that, just that the likelyhood of extreme weather events is increasing. There’s a difference.

  63. Logic Deferred says:

    #62. Jason:

    It is not my intention to feed, just to demand that said individual pay up or shut up.

    Mr. Valentine was making a positive statement about definite content in the IPCC report. He was not only non-specific about paragraph, page and chapter, but about the WG report and even which AR. Since proving the negative is logically impossible (under all but vanishingly rare conditions, usually related to formal logic), then the burden of proof is upon Mr. Valentine and other’s like him to demonstrate their postivie claims. I would like him to answer to that burden, or confront the vacuity of his announcements.

  64. Leif says:

    Dropped#3:
    It sure is frustrating dealing with the Anti-Science Sink Hole crowd. Trying again.
    The global temperature has risen less than a degree to date. Mankind is being cautioned to keep this increase to less than 2 degrees C, preferably to less than 1.5 degrees. You A-S folks remember seeing that? Now think for a moment. If that <1 degree is spread evenly your "today" temperature is X + a little tiny bit. However the world does not work that way with more warming at the poles as well as in the oceans. I invite you to look at the havoc that is caused by El Nino with only a degree or two above average sea temperature. So when you ask the simplistic question of seeing snow and asking "where is the global warming?" We are forced to answer. Look at the poles where a degree can change ice to water. Look at the world wide effects on glaciers where a degree can change ice to water. I cannot say to you, Look out the door at your local temperature of minus 6 degrees. It would be minus 6.5 without global warming. You must look at systems that are at equilibrium to see the effects. To get a quick estimate of the energy involved however calculate the BTUs in the top 1000 feet of ocean raising one degree. One BTU = 1 pound of water 1 degree F. (S**T pot full if you are lazy.)
    If all this is too complicated for you I invite you to GOOGLE "ocean acidification" and read. The parallel problem of CO2 buildup and every bit as disruptive. Less moving parts and should be more digestible.

  65. JasonW says:

    #63 LogicDeferred: I wouldn’t hold my breath, if I were you. In fact, in #57 he already admitted to manufacturing the number. Or am I missing something, Brian?

    #64 Leif: Ocean acidification is arguably the scarier consequence of CO2 build-up. I think it would be constructive if that took a more prominent part in media coverage. Much more tangible and immediate. And just like global warming and climate change it is happening right this minute.

  66. Brian G Valentine says:

    Source: IPCC Report The Physical Science Basis Table 7.3 and Fig 7.1

    Total soil and vegetation CO2 contribution: 119.6 up – 120.2 down = -0.6 billion metric tons sink

    Total oceanic contribution: 90.6 up – 92.2 down = -1.6 billion metric tons sink

    Total fossil fuel and industry contribution: 7.2 metric tons source.

    Contribution of fossil fuels and industry as percentage of total up = 3.1%

  67. JasonW says:

    Quick check before continuing to have a nice family Christmas Eve:

    Brian, my suspicion was confirmed. You’re a bit confused about the difference between the percentage of anthropogenic contribution to the TOTAL CO2 output and the INCREASE of that output. Either that or you’re being deliberatly misleading.

    Here’s why: Soil and vegetation contribution as well as oceanic contribution are part of the natural balance that has existed for the past several hundred thousand years – humans, animals and rotting plants exude CO2 which is in turn taken up by plants and the oceans. The MASSIVE average contribution of 7.2 +/- 0.3 GtC per year which you quote is the increase. Geddit?

    A simple analogy: Picture a barrel filled with water, ca. 280 litres (or gallons or whatever). There’s a hole at the bottom and a pump connected to it, which pumps the water that’s drained out through that hole back to the top, to be filled into the barrel again – always having some water in reserve currently flowing through the pump itself. Sometimes the flow is stronger, increasing the volume inside the barrel to 300 litres (or gallons), sometimes weaker. However, there’s another tank nearby, filled to the brim with water that’s been out of this loop for months, years, millenia. Now someone connects that tank to the barrel/pump system and ADDS water to that cycle, inexorably filling the barrel to levels not reached for ages. Today the barrel is filled with 385 litres (or gallons).

    The analogy is imperfect, because filling our imaginary barrel with more water than it previously held has little consequence, while continuing to fill the Earth barrel with CO2 to levels the entire climate and ecological system has not been accustomed to for at least 15 million years will very likely have fairly dire consequences.

    And now, merry Christmas to you all!

  68. Brian G Valentine says:

    “Either that or you’re being deliberatly misleading.”

    No one is ever wrong in their own eyes, other people are trying to trick you, aren’t they, nobody says, “I’m sorry, I was wrong,” everybody’s got an excuse about why it’s somebody else’s fault

  69. “Either that or you’re being deliberately misleading.”

    Brian G. Valentine has a long history of being wrong on this subject.

  70. Logic Deferred says:

    67. Jason,

    Thanks for that analysis (and FWIW, that’s why I was pushing for the citation.)

  71. riverat says:

    Brian G Valentine says: December 24, 2009 at 1:10 pm
    Source: IPCC Report The Physical Science Basis Table 7.3 and Fig 7.1

    Total soil and vegetation CO2 contribution: 119.6 up – 120.2 down = -0.6 billion metric tons sink

    Total oceanic contribution: 90.6 up – 92.2 down = -1.6 billion metric tons sink

    Total fossil fuel and industry contribution: 7.2 metric tons source.

    Contribution of fossil fuels and industry as percentage of total up = 3.1%

    What you fail to say is that natural source/sinks of CO2 have a net CO2 contribution of -2.2 billion metric tons while anthropogenic sources have a net contribution of +7.2 billion metric tons. Therefore by that math 100% of the net increase is due to anthropogenic sources (which is not to say in the absence of them CO2 levels wouldn’t vary some).

  72. Chas says:

    Is somebody hiding facts from us?
    “Especially astonishing are the very short times needed for major warmings. A temperature increase of 5°C can occur in a few decades.” -Greenland Ice Core Project
    An ESF Research Programme -Final Report

  73. Richard Brenne says:

    Joe’s two paragraphs below (in response to Kevin, #44 above) sum up the causes and consequences of climate change as succinctly and expertly as I’ve seen:

    “[For the record, the global temperature has tended to fluctuate relatively slowly in geologic time, and when it does change it changes because it has been "forced" to by external forcings like greenhouse gases, changes in the orbit (which change solar insolation), volcanoes and the like. Now the science is clear that humans have overtaken the relatively slow natural forcings with a massive injection of GHGs.

    The issue is NOT "what is the ideal average temperature for Planet Earth?" That is a red herring on your part. The issue is that human civilization developed during a time when the temperature and climate has been relatively stable -- hundreds of millions if not billions of people have settled where they have because of the climate and access to water (rainfall and rivers and coasts). The radical change in the Earth's climate that humans are now engineering will be devastating to those people, many of whom will suddenly find themselves in a climate that does not sustain their population, either because it is underwater or lacks access to fresh water.]“

  74. Ashford says:

    Just because we’re having a mini ice age, doesn’t mean we should forget about the environment impact of our actions. This “there is no global warming thing” is beginning to grate, in my opinion… The temperature of the Earth will naturally fluctuate, but the POINT is we shouldn’t make these changes worse, which is what will happen. It’s just that people have been so badly affected by it this year, especially the Eurostar travellers this year!

    They actually weren’t halted indefinitely over the Christmas period though. All the main stations gave out the info, and even after the after all the snow we’ve had, they were still running yesterday. They’re just reduced which makes it safer but doesn’t cancel the services altogether. The main Ashford website, and all the other station websites say all the info.

    But I digress ;)

    Jen.