Tag Archives: climate science

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

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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A key to understanding the news: the unexpected rules in our age of wonders.

Summary: We’re in an age of wonders where the news overflows with unexpected events, things not predicted by even our greatest experts. Today we discuss two common responses to this, both ineffective: blindly accepting experts’ explanations that it’s all understood, and throwing away their advice as imperfect. There is a third and better way.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“History doesn’t always repeat itself. Sometimes it just screams, ‘Why don’t you listen to me?’ and lets fly with a big stick.”
— John W. Campbell Jr., Analog Science Fiction/Fact Magazine (1965).

"Machinery of the Stars" by alexiuss

“Machinery of the Stars” by alexiuss seen at DeviantArt. Posted with the artist’s generous permission.

Learning from the past — the lessons of history — boosts our odds of success in the present. But it’s equally important to see breaks with the past. Instead of flagging these, experts tend to bury them in explanations that conceal their role as valuable markers on the road to a different future. It’s the equivalent of asking about that Detour sign on the road and getting a lecture about the Vienna Convention about Road Signs.

Instead here we attempt to isolate such anomalies, examining them as clues to possible discontinuities in the normal trends of society. It’s an unpopular message. People want explanations, however bogus, to banish fears of uncertainty. It’s one of the primary services experts sell. Unfortunately, our world cannot be understood without understanding its strangeness, especially now — since we have so much of it.

Perhaps the most obvious oddity of our time is in economics. The developed nations appear locked into a slow-growth mode since the 2008 crash (US real GDP growth of ~2.4%), despite massive monetary stimulus on a scale never before seen. Central bank assets in the EU and USA have growth to ~25% of GDP — 64% of GDP in Japan — while interest rates have fallen to zero (below zero in Europe, something considered an absurdity until it happened) and inflation rates declined below central banks’ “floor” targets (despite widespread confident predictions that they would rise).

For a rare admission of uncertainty see “It seems nobody knows what’s going on with the economy,” Andrew McAfee (PhD business, Prof at MIT School of Management), The Financial Times, 26 February 2015. This would be extraordinary if by an economist.

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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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Climate denial by Left & Right dominates the public debate.

Summary: One of the oddities in American politics is how Left and Right clearly see each others’ faults, but remain blind to their own similar faults. The mainstream media reports the follies of the Right, but less often those of the Left — which are highlighted by their increasing abandonment of science in their quest to alarm the public about climate change. For example, their long effort to hide climate scientists’ work about the pause in warming of their atmosphere since roughly 2000. It’s a kind of denial, much as we see on the Right.

“… first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” — Matthew 7:5.

Global Surface Temperature

Observed (black) and predicted (blue) global average annual surface temperature difference relative to 1981-2010. Previous predictions starting from November 1960 are in red, and 22 model simulations from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) are in green. Shading in red represents the probable range, such that the observations are expected to lie within the shading 90% of the time. The forecast (blue) starts from November 2014. All data are rolling 12-month mean values. The black line is from Hadley Centre, GISS and NCDC data. {Caption slightly edited}

Left and Right work to mislead us

During the past few years scores of polls attempted to find the source of the public’s polarized views about climate change. Perhaps there’s a simpler answer. One group knows about the pause, and so has skepticism (for some grossly exaggerated) about the certainty of catastrophic future warming. The other group reads only activists and so remains ignorant of scientists’ research about the pause. For example, Joe Romm at ThinkProgress and Phil Phait in November 2013 and  February 2014 (he’s slacked off lately).

Climate scientists speak, even if we don’t listen

Meanwhile climate scientists continue their work, while Left and Right distort their findings to manipulate public opinion. As we see in the new “Decadal Forecast” of the UK Met Office. From the summary:

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Was 2014 the warmest year? NOAA says that was “more unlikely than likely”.

Summary: To learn if 2014 was the warmest year let’s read the annual reports of NOAA and NASA. They give clear answers (different from the headlines). It might have been the warmest, but if so, only by a insignificant amount. The hysteria of activists about this is absurd. The data shows that the pause continues.

  1. Last year was 0.04°C (0.07°F) warmer than 2005 according to NOAA’s surface temperature data (0.02°C per NASA). NOAA gives it a 48% probability of being the warmest of the past 135 years (a 38% probability per NASA ). NOAA describes this as meaning “more unlikely than likely”.
  2. Berkeley Earth’s data shows it as tied with 2005 and 2010 (within the margin of error).
  3. Neither of NASA’s two satellite datasets of lower troposphere temperature show it as close to a record (data back to 1979).

Before we jump into the details, here’s a cautionary note from Colin Morice (climate monitoring scientist at the UK Met Office):

Record or near-record years are interesting, but the ranking of individual years should be treated with some caution because the uncertainties in the data are larger than the differences between the top ranked years. We can say this year will add to the set of near-record temperatures we have seen over the last decade.

Earth Burning

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Contents (1st of 2 posts today)

  1. How warm was 2014?
  2. How certain is the result?
  3. The Berkeley Group looks at 2014.
  4. Update: the UK Met Office
  5. The satellites disagree with the “hottest year” story.
  6. Conclusions
  7. Other articles about the warmest year
  8. For More Information

(1)  How warm was 2014?

The Most Dishonest Year on Record“, Robert Tracinski, The Federalist, 19 January 2015 — Excerpt:

If 2014 is supposed to be “hotter” than previous years, it’s important to ask: by how much? You can spend a long time searching through press reports to get an actual number on this — which is a scandal unto itself. Just saying one year was “hotter” or “the hottest” is a vague qualitative description. It isn’t science. Science runs on numbers. You haven’t said anything that is scientifically meaningful until you state how much warmer this year was compared to previous years — and until you give the margin of error of that measurement.

The original NASA press release did not give those figures — and most press reports just ran with it anyway. This in itself says a lot. When it comes to global warming, “journalism” has come to mean: “copying press releases from government agencies.”

That’s our journalists! But annual reports by NASA (who runs the GISS dataset) and NOAA (runs the NCDC dataset) provide the answers for journalists interested in news rather than the pack’s narrative. For answers let’s first turn to NOAA’s 2015 “State of the Climate” report. From the Global Analysis section:

The year 2014 was the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since records began in 1880. The annually-averaged temperature was 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), easily breaking the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.04°C (0.07°F).

So the fireworks are about a temperature increase of 0.04°C (0.07°F) over 7 years?

(2)  How certain is the result?

How certain is NOAA of this conclusion? We turn to the section Calculating the Probability of Rankings for 2014:

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Scientists speak to us about the warming pause, while activists deny their work.

Summary: I feel sad watching the Left liquidate its credibility by denying climate scientists’ work on the pause in warming of the atmosphere since roughly 2000. Although their voices dominate the news media, we must not rely on activists to tell us about the world. We can see the cutting edge of science for ourselves. Seeing the world clearly is a requirement for our success in the 21st century.

“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”

— From “Cool Hand Luke” (1967), said first by a prison warden and later by the prisoner Luke (Paul Newman).

World in eye

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Activists have published scores of articles denying the existence of the “pause” (or “hiatus”). That’s politically convenient — the pause contradicts their narrative of imminent catastrophic warming and arouses doubt about the computer models that create the forecasts. But it displays an astonishing disregard for the work of climate scientists, and science — just like those on the Right they mock.

Here we again we see the similar behavior of Americans on both ends of the political spectrum, obvious to all who look — except the participants themselves. It’s one of the things that gives our politics that Oz-like air of absurdity.

While activists earnestly deny the pause, scores of peer-reviewed papers discuss the pause, analyze its causes and forecast its duration. We see the cutting edge of this work at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Meteorological Society, in their two sessions about the “Global Warming Hiatus”: Part I and Part II.

Global average temperature has increased by 0.80°C over the 20th century but this warming trend has slowed or even stalled for the past 15 years. This warming hiatus has caused much confusion and debate but at the same time offers a scientific opportunity to study climate change dynamics in action. Mechanisms proposed include a slowdown in net radiative forcing, and interference by natural variability.

This session showcases rapidly advancing research on the physical mechanisms and various impacts of this hiatus event. Topics of particular interest include interdecadal variability and the interaction with forced climate change, radiative forcing and related processes, and ocean heat storage as pertinent to the hiatus.

Especially note this one, an A-team climate scientist revising the consensus: Projections of a rebound in warming out of the current hiatus, Matthew H. England, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Abstract, red emphasis added:

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Do scientists play dumb on climate change?

Summary: Both Right and Left in America show a FAILure to learn from experience. Has it become part of our national character, perhaps our greatest weakness? Today we look an example of the Left’s attempts to mobilize us to fight climate change. So far failing to gain substantial public support, frustrated by failure of their amateur predictions of extreme climate, they double down. Perhaps they believe the Green Lantern Theory works in political activism — sufficient willpower can overcome any obstacle.

This follows up on my post predicting (guessing) that in 2015 the now-deadlocked climate wars will tilt decisively to one side. Either dramatic weather will spark a change in public opinion (albeit not necessarily changing the opinion of climate scientists) or the public will tire of the alarmists’ confident predictions of future doom which doesn’t happen. Either way the tide will turn on climate change: the political debate.

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Do scientists play dumb on climate change?

I recommend reading “Playing Dumb on Climate Change“, an op-ed by Naomi Oreskes (Prof history of science at Harvard, co-author of The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future), New York Times, 3 January 2015.  It’s standard alarmist fare, of the sort fed to us during the past 25 years. The characteristics of this rhetoric reveal much about public policy debate in our 21st century New America, and points to a likely near-term future of the public policy debate about climate change (Earth’s climate will write the ending).

Excerpt, from the opening and closing:

Scientists have often been accused of exaggerating the threat of climate change, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that they ought to be more emphatic about the risk. The year just concluded is about to be declared the hottest one on record, and across the globe climate change is happening faster than scientists predicted.

… Years ago, climate scientists offered an increase of 2°Celsius (or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) as the “safe” limit or ceiling for the long-term warming of the planet. We are now seeing dangerous effects worldwide, even as we approach a rise of only 1°Celsius. The evidence is mounting that scientists have underpredicted the threat.

She doesn’t list the kinds of climate change “happening faster than scientists predicted”.  A wise decision, since most of the predicted forms of client change are not happening (such claims have less force when made only as forecasts). See the details here; also see this by Prof Botkin (Prof Ecology, UC Santa Barbara) and this recent book. The “hottest year on record” label is exciting, but less so with the vital details (lay climate alarmists tend to avoid numbers) — with the atmosphere only a few hundredths of a degree above the previous high, and only in some datasets (not the 2 more accurate satellite datasets).

Are scientists incompetent or irresponsible?

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