Will we see the end of snow? More importantly, when will we learn to see the world clearly?

Summary:  Climate change is not only a challenge to civilization, but also a test of America’s ability to see the world, analyze it, and make appropriate decisions. It’s a test we’re failing. Both Left and Right use climate change — and climate science — like a chessmaster does pawns. We need not fall for their deceits. The major climate agencies provide clear guidance about these issues. We need only listen.

 

Seldom in human history have so few words been so greatly misinterpreted:

“It is extremely likely (95 – 100% certain) that human activities caused more than half of the observed increase in global mean surface temperature from 1951 to 2010.”
— conclusion of the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group I. See some of the research about the 1950 date here.

A Burning World

Contents

  1. NYT agitprop: “The End of Snow”
  2. A note from the past
  3. Science talks: The UK Met Office
  4. Other posts in this series
  5. Important things to know about global warming

(1)  New York Times agitprop

The End of Snow?“, Porter Fox, New York Times, 7 February 2014 — Such fine agitprop deserves detailed analysis, but time and space constraints allow only a look a few excerpts.

The planet has warmed 1.4°F since the 1800s, and as a result, snow is melting. … Europe has lost half of its Alpine glacial ice since the 1850s …

Correct and important. But misleading, as Fox does not mention that most of this warming was natural (see the opening quote from the IPCC, and the link to supporting research). Confusing the long warming since the mid-19th century with the predominately anthropogenic warming since 1950 is a staple of alarmist writers. This is a serious error. Climate change is a staple of history, for which we must always prepare. Anthropogenic change increases the danger — but no limitation on CO2 emmissions can remove the ever-present danger of climate change.

In the last 47 years, a million square miles of spring snow cover has disappeared from the Northern Hemisphere.

Although he cites no source, the 47 year period points to the monthly data of the Rutgers Global Snow Lab. The Spring months show less snow cover. A million square feet is roughly 3% (citing large numbers without context is another staple of alarmists).

Rutgers: Spring Snow Extent
Rutgers Global Snow Lab

To a skier, snowboarder or anyone who has spent time in the mountains, the idea of brown peaks in midwinter is surreal. Poets write of the grace and beauty by which snowflakes descend and transform a landscape. Powder hounds follow the 100-odd storms that track across the United States every winter, then drive for hours to float down a mountainside in the waist-deep “cold smoke” that the storms leave behind.

That seems over-the-top, and unwarranted. The new IPCC AR5 (Chapter 11 says):

It is more likely than not that the mean global surface air temperature for the period 2016-2035 will be more than 1°C above the for 1850-1900, and very unlikely that it will be more than 1.5°C above the 1850-1900 mean (medium confidence).

We’re already 0.8°C above the 1850-1900 mean; that means an increase of 0.4°F to 1.3°F from current levels. Also, Fall and Winter show slightly rising trends of snow extent:

Rutgers: Winter Snow Extent
Rutgers Global Snow Lab

The above graphs cannot be properly understood until put in a historical context, as seen in this graph from page 10 of “The Recent Pause in Global Warming“, UK Met Office, July 2013.  The NH Spring snow cover is falling — from high levels of the quarter-century long cool period after WW2. There was nothing special or “normal” about the 1970’s, any more than there is about today’s climate.

UK Met Report, July 2013
UK Met Report, July 2013

… and if climate change is not reined in, two-thirds of European ski resorts will be likely to close by 2100.

Perhaps. Fox does not cite a source, but does mention this new study: “The Future of Winter Olympics in a warmer world”, Daniel Scott et al, University of Waterloo, unpublished, January 2014. In the opening the authors remind us that the IPCC’s projections (not “predictions”) see warming of 0.3°C to 4.8°C (0.5°F to 8.6°F).  That’s a wide range, and so a weak basis for Fox’s confident alarmist statements.

Update: For another perspective on this subject see “Winter Olympics: Downhill forecast“, Lauren Morello (journalist), Nature, 4 February 2014 — “Winter sports face an uncertain future as the planet warms.” This cites most of the same sources.

(2)  A note from the past

We have heard these kind of confident alarmist songs before.

However, the warming is so far manifesting itself more in winters which are less cold than in much hotter summers. According to Dr David Viner, a senior research scientist at the climatic research unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia,within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said.

— “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past“, The Independent, 20 March 2000

This received widespread publicity in 2000. It’s falsification has been less well noted by the news media.

UK Met Office

(3)  Science talks: The UK Met Office

There is no need for journalists to feed us such one-sided analysis. There is no need for us to rely on them. The major science agencies and the IPCC prepare easily understood reports about our situation, and the risks we face.

Here is one, somewhat technical but clear:  “The Recent Storms and Floods in the UK“, UK Met Office, February 2014 — “Has climate change been a contributing factor?”  The long warming since the mid-19th century has some bad effects; how much to attribute to anthropogenic factors is difficult to compute.

About storms.

A comprehensive study of trends in storminess, for the period 1871 – 2010 from an ensemble of reanalyses by Wang et al. (2013 ) provides some important insights. They show a robust signal of increasing numbers of strong winter cyclones and with increasing intensity for the high latitude North Atlantic (Figure 21) , covering the region to the north of the UK and including Iceland. This is associated with a reduction in storminess further south and supports a wide body of evidence for a poleward shift of the Atlantic storm track.

{See graphs (a) and (b) below} Ensemble {i.e., modeled} average series of the winter cyclone count (per 1,000,000 km2) and mean intensity (10 – 5 hPa/km2) averaged over the high latitudes of the North Atlantic. Thick black curves are 11-year Gaussian filtered series. The grey shading indicates the 95% confidence interval of the ensemble spread. Red lines are the 1871 – 2010 linear trend and the dashed green lines are the 1951 – 2010 linear trend. From “Trends and low frequency variability of extra-tropical cyclone activity in the ensemble of twentieth century reanalysis“, Wang et al, Climate Dynamics, June 2013.

Winter Storm count
Wang et al, Climate Dynamics, June 2013
Winter storm intensity
Wang et al, Climate Dynamics, June 2013

.
Beyond the clustering of storms there is also the question of whether there is a detectable change in the amount of rain that the storms are carrying. Again this is a very difficult area because UK rainfall is highly variable in space and time. Changes in monthly, seasonal or annual mean amounts are difficult to detect so far …

About attribution, and conclusions.

Following on from the issues of detecting changes in storminess and rainfall discussed above, the process of then attributing even some aspects of those changes to anthropogenic climate change remains challenging. Attribution is fundamental to making the case for climate change. It is already able to provide robust and statistically significant statements about global and even continental temperature change. The attribution of changes in mean rainfall, regional climate and weather extremes is much more challenging.

…So what can be said about rainfall in the meantime? There is an increasing body of evidence that shows that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense, and that the rate of increase is consistent with what is expected from fundamental physics. Although formal attribution is still challenging, it is possible to identify a contribution from climate change for some major flooding events, as the recent paper by Peterson et al. (2013) on the attribution of extremes showed. It is worth emphasizing that there is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly heavy rain events.

In terms of the impacts of changing weather and climate patterns, the cluster of drought and flood events through the early years of the 21st century and the recent runoff and recharge patterns, are near to the extreme range of historical variability. They therefore also raise the question that they may reflect anthropogenic climate change. It is important to note, however, that differing flood types may be expected to respond differently to increasing temperatures. Tidal flood risk is increasing as sea levels rise but the outlook is more complex in relation to fluvial flooding.

…In terms of the storms and floods of winter 2013/2014, it is not possible, yet, to give a definitive answer on whether climate change has been a contributor or not.

…More research is urgently needed to deliver robust detection of changes in storminess and daily/hourly rain rates.

For more about the UK Met report see this article by Judith Curry (Prof, Atmospheric Science, GA Institute of Technology) at here website, Climate Etc.

(4)  Other posts in this series

Examples of the Left’s exaggerations and misinformation about climate change:

Here’s more speculation about the possible consequences of blowback from the Left’s crusade:

Also: the focus on climate change has diverted resources from other vital programs, such as protecting the oceans from pollution and overfishing.  The Left has placed all its chips on climate change.

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