Tag Archives: climate change

The Texas drought ends; climate alarmists wrong again!

Summary: The climate alarmists described the Texas drought in extreme terms, as the New Normal. Readers of the FM website saw the other side of the news — the science side — in Key facts about the drought that’s reshaping Texas. Now we see what looks like the end of the story. It’s a pleasant ending for everybody — excerpt for the alarmists (wrong, again).  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Southern Drought Animated, 21 May 2015

Texas was so over

Here are a few typical remarks about the Texas drought; red emphasis added.

John Nielsen-Gammon (Texas state climatologist and prof atmospheric sciences, Texas A&M): “This drought has almost singlehandedly put an end to the trend of reduced drought frequency and intensity that Texas had been experiencing. … The [continuing] drought of 2011–20xx has taught us something we didn’t know: Rather than being a thing of the past, Texas drought can be worse than we imagined.”  {Texas Climate News, 12 October 2013}

Texas Climate News sought out the state’s finest climatologists, oceanographers and public-policy experts. If nothing else, their responses make clear that the Lone Star State is headed for a new normal. Pretending it isn’t happening is not a viable option.”  {Dallas Observer, 14 October 2013}

Fear in a Handful Of Dust” by Ted Genoways, The New Republic: “Climate change is making the Texas panhandle, birthplace of the state’s iconic Longhorn, too hot and dry to raise beef. … environmental activists and reporters began to ask whether “drought” — a temporary weather pattern — was really the right term for what was happening in the state, or whether “desertification” was more appropriate. … ‘If climate change is the real deal then the human race as we know it is over’.

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Appeals to fear gain little support for the Left on climate change. What next?

Summary: Fear has worked wonders for the Right but despite massive investments it has failed to produce much for the Left, hence their diminished state in US politics. As their major campaign clanks on with little public policy effect, some on the Left ask questions about this tactic — and scientists’ studies give answers. Today’s post reviews the action, on which so much depends.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Few activists,Left or Right, believe John. They find FEAR a more reliable tool.John 8-32

After 25 years of fear barrages, one of the greatest efforts of the Left in recent history, public concern about climate change in the US remains low vs. other environmental risks (see this post and a 2015 Gallup poll). Now they’re beginning to ask questions about their tactics. Why has fear worked wonders for the Right but done so little for them?

It’s a pivotal moment for the Left in America. Climate change has been their key issue, one that ties together much of their work and in which they have invested massive resources. So far it has failed due to a combination of an uncooperative climate, opposition from the Right, and an unusually fear-resistant public. How they react might determine the role in US history for another generation — or longer.

For an excellent long-form look at these complex issues, see Andy West’s article at Climate Etc about “Contradiction on emotional bias in the climate domain“. He sets the stage…

Along with a great deal of subconscious or unconsidered emotive communication advocating CAGW {catastrophic anthropogenic global warming}, deliberately emotive communication campaigns have been a feature of the Consensus (in its widest sense, i.e. including government agencies, NGOs, much of academia etc.) for many years. There doesn’t seem to have been any systemic effort to hide this approach.

Quite the contrary; articles and papers discussing the various merits or otherwise of specific emotive crafting are easy to find, often with recommendations for improved efforts along the same lines. And this literature is clearly phrased in the context that such campaigns are, as self-perceived, a norm. Perhaps even more than just a norm; a gratifying achievement with an aspiration for more. Yet the relative lack of success of these campaigns (as assessed via surveys) has caused more reflection and analysis in recent years.

Diagnosis of failure

West cites many powerful articles about this. Here are excerpts from several of them. First, “The Role of Emotion in Global Warming Policy Support and Opposition“, Nicholas Smith and Anthony Leiserowitz, Risk Analysis, May 2014. What makes people concerned about climate change? Appealing to which emotion gains the most support?

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Key facts about the drought that’s reshaping Texas

Summary: The farmers and ranchers of Texas exhaust its groundwater as they suffer from a severe drought, which activists blame our burning of fossil fuels. What do scientists say? How severe is the drought? What are its causes? How will this reshape Texas? It’s another test case of our ability to see and adapt to our changing world. {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession. Above all, Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.”.
— John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley in Search of America (1962).

US Drought Monitor: March 2015

Click to expand.

Texas Seal

Contents

  1. Hysteria.
  2. Status report from Texas.
  3. Learning from the past in Texas.
  4. Let’s try science!
  5. Look to the future.
  6. For More Information.
  7. The Hydro-Illogical Cycle.

(1)  Hysteria

The media overflows with debates asking do you believe in climate change? As with evolution, much of America remains in denial. Some on the Right deny that it’s happening now; some on the Left deny that it’s omnipresent in history. Both use science as magicians use their wands: to confuse us. But we have reliable sources to guide us. How to find them is the subject of many posts on the FM website.

Today we look at the Texas drought. The New Republic gives us a well-written example of how not to do it: “Fear in a Handful Of Dust” by Ted Genoways — Excerpt:

Climate change is making the Texas panhandle, birthplace of the state’s iconic Longhorn, too hot and dry to raise beef. What happens to the range when the water runs out? … Soon, environmental activists and reporters {ed: not scientists} began to ask whether “drought” — a temporary weather pattern — was really the right term for what was happening in the state, or whether “desertification” was more appropriate.

… In fact, hydrologists estimate that even with improved rainfall, it could take thousands of years to replenish the groundwater already drawn from the South Plains.

… “If climate change is the real deal,” {Linden Morris} said, “then the human race as we know it is over. And I don’t believe that.”

Climate change is the “real deal”, but someone should tell Morris that few scientists believe we are “over”. Genoways’ confusing article mixes together several trends, most seriously conflating three important but largely unrelated trends: groundwater depletion, the current drought, and climate change.

Farmers and ranchers have been draining the Ogallala Aquifer (a finite store of water, part of a system underlying about 80% of the High Plains) at an ever-faster rate since the 1940s. In Texas they accelerated their pumping during the current drought. As scientists have warned for generations, at some point we will exhaust this great aquifer network and the Midwest economy will irrevocably change. It’s a phase in our history, like the California and Alaskan gold rushes. (For more information see this by the USGS; also seen the graph showing depletion levels here.)

But despite his apocalyptic language, Genoways doesn’t show that many climate scientists (let alone a consensus) believe that climate change, natural or anthropogenic, is largely responsible for the Texas drought. Let’s see review the evidence, and listen to what they actually say.

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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.

Noah

Everybody wants to save humanity:

Contents

  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

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

California drought

Contents

  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.

Summary

  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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