Tag Archives: climate change

Climate activists’ last play: attempting to start an “availability cascade.”

Summary: Both sides of the public debate about climate change long ago abandoned the physical sciences. So we turn to the social scientists to understand what’s happening. This article by climate scientist Judith Curry examines how the two fields intersect in the climate wars.  (1st of 2 posts today.)

The demand for certainty is one which is natural to man, but is nevertheless an intellectual vice. … To endure uncertainty is difficult, but so are most of the other virtues.
— Bertrand Russell’s “Philosophy for Laymen” (1946).

A climate change availability cascade

Judith Curry, posted at Climate Etc, 9 April 2015.
Reposted under her Creative Commons License.


Everybody wants to save humanity:


  1. The availability cascade.
  2. Availability entrepreneurs.
  3. About climate change & health?
  4. Conclusions.
  5. About the Author.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  The availability cascade

Climate change may exacerbate environmental problems that are caused by overpopulation, poorly planned land-use and over-exploitation of natural resources. However, for the most part it is very difficult to separate out the impacts of human caused climate change from natural climate change and from other societal impacts.

Nevertheless, climate change has become a grand narrative in which human-caused climate change has become a dominant cause of societal problems. Everything that goes wrong then reinforces the conviction that that there is only one thing we can do prevent societal problems – stop burning fossil fuels. This grand narrative misleads us to think that if we solve the problem of climate change, then these other problems would also be solved.

Politicians, activists and journalists have stimulated an ‘availability cascade’ to support alarm about human-caused climate change: the more attention a danger gets, the more worried people become, leading to more news coverage and greater alarm. From the original paper by Kuran and Sunstein:

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Climate news poorly reported in the news, about things you should know

Summary: Today we look at arctic sea ice and tornadoes. While they tell us important information about our world, how the news tells us about them tells us even more. As we become isolated into tribes our news becomes dominated by targeted clickbait. So it is with climate change, among our most serious issues but often grossly misrepresented by both Left and Right. Yet the climate agencies tell us what we need to know, if we’d only listen.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

The 2015 record low maximum of arctic sea ice

The media overflow with hype about small changes in climate metrics, often records with some combination of narrow criteria, little importance, and influenced by factors in addition to temperature. Putting big labels on these tends to mislead more than illuminate climate trends. These records produce clickbait for websites advertising to the Left, alarming stories given without vital context.

The latest story is about this year’s record low in the maximum arctic sea ice extent, producing the usual alarmist headlines. For reliable information we should first check with the NASA statement about it by scientist Walt Meier (red emphasis added):

“Scientifically, the yearly maximum extent is not as interesting as the minimum. It is highly influenced by weather and we’re looking at the loss of thin, seasonal ice that is going to melt anyway in the summer and won’t become part of the permanent ice cover … With the summertime minimum, when the extent decreases, it’s because we’re losing the thick ice component, and that is a better indicator of warming temperatures.

“The winter maximum gives you a head start, but the minimum is so much more dependent on what happens in the summer that it seems to wash out anything that happens in the winter” …

There is more valuable context to this story, as shown by a few pictures. Look at the record low seasonal maximum extent vs other years.  This shows the past 5 years; blue is 2015. A record by a small amount.

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Key facts about the drought that’s reshaping California.

Summary:  California’s drought might be to us what the dust bowl of the prairies was to the 1930s (irony: California was the big beneficiary of that drought). This post answers most of your questions about the drought, cutting through the media chaff of misinformation (but does not discuss its effects). This is an update of a November post. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher (member of Berkeley Earth; bio here), a comment posted at Climate Etc.

Agriculture & related manufacturing use ~4/5’s of California’s water use, but just 2% of state GDP and 4% of all jobs. (Public Policy Institute of California).

California drought


  1. The California drought: it’s bad.
  2. Climate Science gives us worse news.
  3. About our water stocks.
  4. Causes of these droughts.
  5. California’s mad water use.
  6. Useful Sources of Information.
  7. For More Information.
  8. The Hydro-Illogical Cycle.

(1)  The California drought: it’s bad.

It’s bad, with no end in sight. We get most of our water from the winter rain, which has been below- average so far (85% of average; rank 57 of the past 120 years; the past 12 months numbers are similar). Not what we need to refill the reservoirs. See the story in pictures below; click all images to expand.

Precipitation this winter in California

From the California Climate Tracker website. Click to expand.

How bad is it? Let’s look at the past year (the California “water year” runs from October to September). The average is 23″; 1924 was the driest year at 9″; 6 of past 8 years were dry. The previous “water year” (ended Oct 2014) was 12″ (3rd driest in the past 119). Jan and Feb were especially bad this year.

It can get much worse.  The 1917 – 1934 drought ran 17 years with only one year of above-average rainfall (including the record low year of 1924)!

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Springtime in an Era of More Extreme Weather

Summary: Journalists have discovered weather porn! News about weather provides easily written clickbait to fill the space between ads, describing the weather as regular like a metronome unless disturbed by climate change due to global warming. In reaction the Right often responds with scientists don’t know nothing. Neither is correct, as shown in this analysis by Evelyn Browning-Garriss, someone paid to give advice about the weather to businesspeople who rely on it. She describes the complexity of natural cycles running over decades and centuries, with another layer on top of that from anthropogenic influences.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

North American weather in early 2015

 Springtime in an Era of More Extreme Weather

Excerpt from the March 2015 Browning Newsletter
Posted with their generous permission.


  1. The volcanic debris from two 2011 polar eruptions are causing the extreme Arctic cold and East Coast precipitation. This should be the last year of these eruptions affecting weather.
  2. With the current long-term cooler trend of the long-term Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the warm tropical El Niño has been weakened. … It currently is in Modoki (dry) configuration, but is warming to more standard El Niño conditions (wet) for March.
  3. The current long-term ocean patterns, a warm Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation and cool PDO phase, historically produce decades of more extreme weather for North and South America. Expect 15 to 20 years of more extreme climate.
  4. Despite above-average February rainfall, the drought conditions in South America, particularly Brazil continue. Coffee, sugar cane and soybean production is reduced and Brazil’s major cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are facing potential water rationing.

The temperatures, particularly eastern temperatures, have made headlines. North America has been so bipolar that in late February Anchorage, Alaska (25°F/3.9C) was 10°F warmer than Atlanta, Georgia (15°F/-9.4°C). El Niño conditions then produced Southern rain that raced up the East Coast, creating ice storms and wind chilled enhancement of the freezing cold. … The good news is that this weather was predictable. … This winter followed the historical pattern for years with volcanically cooled polar air, a weak El Niño and hot Atlantic waters off the East Coast.

Short term effects making the Weather More Extreme: Volcanoes

As regular readers are familiar with, our current weather has been partially shaped by recent volcanic activity – specifically the large eruptions of two polar volcanoes. In 2011, Mt. Grímsvötn in Iceland and Sheveluch volcano on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. While these eruptions were not tremendously powerful, they were both large enough to enter the stratosphere. There the volcanic ash and chemical aerosols lingered for 3 years, increasingly cooling the polar air mass.

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A frontier of climate science: the model-temperature divergence

Summary: Today Rud Istvan gives us a brief tour of a climate science frontier, as seen in a hot new paper. It’s a bit technical, an unavoidable aspect of real science. It’s controversial, an ingredient that helps science grow.  Don’t let activists on either side cloud your understanding of the science. There is a strong but narrow consensus among climate scientists; move beyond that and the questions multiply.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

A challenge for climate science: model-temperature divergence:

Figure 2 from  “Why models run hot, results from an irreducibly simple climate model”.Figure 1 from MSLB. Medium-term global temperature trend projections from FAR {IPCC’s 1st report}, extrapolated from Jan 1990 to Oct 2014 (shaded region), vs. observed anomalies (dark blue) & trend (bright blue), as the mean of the RSS, UAH, NCDC, HadCRUT4 and GISS monthly global anomalies. Click to enlarge.

Lessons from the ‘Irreducibly Simple’ kerfuffle.

by Rud Istvan, posted at Climate Etc., 1 March 2015.
Reposted under their Creative Commons License.
Headings & some graphics added.

A controversial study

The Monckton, Soon, Legates, and Briggs paper “Why models run hot, results from an irreducibly simple climate model” appeared in the January 2015 Science Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Hereinafter MSLB.The paper discusses the divergence between climate models and observed temperatures, and develops the implications for climate sensitivity.

MSLB has created quite a kerfuffle. There was initial dismissal: it was claimed that Science Bulletin is an obscure journal with lax review standards, so the paper is no good. Bulletin turned out to be the Chinese equivalent of Science or Nature. Then came MSM efforts (NYT, Boston Globe, WaPo, even BarackObama.com) to discredit the authors. This has escalated into a more general attack on prominent skeptics like Christy, Pielke, and our gracious hostess. These attacks are growing ugly, for example from BarackObama.com on Feb 23: “Bad things are coming for these boys and girls. (Name list) Keep your eye on the media. Several stories.”  {Ed note: I don’t see any mention of this on at BarackObama.com or using Google.}

Dr. Trenberth of NCAR provided NYTimes reporter Gillis a MSLB rebuttal, posted at Matt Brigg’s blog.  Gillis did not report Brigg’s reply. Trenberth dismissed the simple model simply because it is simple — and said the ‘pause’ is insignificant natural variation. Yes, but the now 18+ year pause/hiatus is in very serious disagreement with CMIP5 climate model simulations using criteria set out by climate modelers themselves in 2011 [see Climate Etc]. Trenberth’s comments to the NYTimes are indefensibly misleading in my opinion, and provide a vivid object lesson about consensus climate ‘science’ and its reporting.

There was a saying among WWII Army Air Force bomber pilots: “If you are taking heavy flak, you are over the target”. What is it about this target?

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Good news: the warming pause finally appears in the news as journalists learn about science.

Summary:  Telling the public about climate change is among the most difficult challenges for journalists, ever. Complex, rapidly changing, no consensus among scientists beyond a few basics about mechanisms and history, and highly politicized. Here we look at two examples, good and not-so-good. These show progress, and also how the Left’s dogmatic adherence to its narrative has forced them to abandon science (a commonplace in history for both Left and Right).

Community Climate System Model

Community Climate System Model

(1)  Good journalism

Sample #1: “Scientists now know why global warming has slowed down and it’s not good news for us“, Jeffery DelViscio, Quartz, 27 February 2015.

They accurately report two studies. They quote scientists — not activists. They often put things in context. Most important, they break the Left’s narrative of denying the pause, which for several years been one of the hot topics in climate science.

Roberts told Quartz that this all suggests our current warming pause is unique, but, despite the low probability, it is also “very possible” that the pause could continue a few more years. And that wouldn’t be inconsistent with what we know about the effects of the heat-trapping ocean oscillations at work in the Science study.

… >Some even say that 2014, the hottest year on record, already marked the end of the hiatus. But Roberts of the Met Office advised caution before calling it officially off. “I would argue that we need a run of several unusually warm years to be able to definitively identify the end,” he said.

All of the researchers who spoke to Quartz about the two studies agreed that the warming pause was just that. “Eventually we expect temperatures to ‘catch up,’ but it may take longer than five years for that to happen,” Roberts told Quartz.

The article’s overall frame is, however, incorrect. Individual scientists have theories about the cause(s) of the pause. But there is as yet no consensus on this. See for yourself by reading abstracts of (and links to) 37 articles describing of the major 12 theories about causes of the pause, many by leaders in this field.

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Twenty stories of good news about polar bears!

Summary:  Another in our series of good news about the climate, this time about polar bears (others are listed at the end). Good news generates few clicks, so you’ll not see this info in the news. This period of good news probably will not last forever, perhaps not even long. Let’s stop the playground politics and make good use of this time.

Say goodby to the poor photoshopped bear floating out to sea; but his real cousins are doing OK (so far).

Photoshopped polar bear in Science

Pitiful but photoshopped. In Science, 7 May 2010.

Twenty good reasons not to worry about polar bears.

By Susan Crockford
From her website: Polar Bear Science.
Reposted with her generous permission.


Here’s a new resource for cooling the polar bear spin, all in one place. I’ve updated and expanded my previous summary of reasons not to worry about polar bears, now two years old. In it, you’ll find links to supporting information (including previous posts of mine providing background, maps and extensive references). Some important graphs and maps have been copied into the summary. I hope you find it a useful resource for refuting the spin and tuning out the cries of doom and gloom about the future of polar bears. Please feel free to share.  Here is a PDF of the this post.

This is the 1st anniversary of Canada providing population estimates and trends independent of the pessimistic prognostications of the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group (PBSG) — so let’s celebrate the recent triumphs and resilience of polar bears to their ever-changing Arctic environment.

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