Tag Archives: Extreme Weather

The “experts” who counted their chickens before they hatched and don’t know the difference between equal and minimum

Remember the news item from the post of last week with the story of the “experts” claiming that the “drought” of December 2016 was the direct result of climate change? To recapitulate, the VTM news brought on December 27 the story that there were only 7 days with rain in December due to a high pressure system over the European continent. The forecast was that there would be no more rainy days in December, so they declared December 2016 as the driest month since 126 years. This, together with a very wet June, warm days above 30 °C in September (1) and the current floods in Southern Spain, was evidence that climate change produced more “extreme weather”.

To me it looked like cherry picking. But there were two things that didn’t add up. First there was their claim that “we have to go back 126 years for a month of December with so few rainy days”, which is not exactly true.

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A wet/dry December because of climate change

wet dry december

The Flemish TV news (VTM) of this evening left me completely and utterly bewildered (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

December is almost over and if the forecast doesn’t change, it will remain dry for the rest of the year and then there will only be seven days with rain during this month. That is very little, we have to go back 126 years for a month of December with so few rainy days. The air quality is bad. A lot of smog is lingering. And it is yet another indication that our climate is changing.

¿Que?

There were only seven days with rain this month and that is ALREADY an indication of climate change?

Less than … one entire month?!

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The way to sustainable price increases

Previous post was about the Oxfam happening against increasing food and energy prices at the G7 meeting. In this post I will focus more on the reasons why they claim food and energy is getting more expensive for the poor.

This is how Lies Craeynest (Oxfam EU policy analyst on climate and food security) explained it (translated from Dutch):

Craeynest links that pollution with rising food prices and notes that Europe is one of the largest food importers. Climate change indeed let many crops fail. Therefor threatens to increase the cost of food and energy supplies, in such a way the poorest in Europe would have hardly any access to food or heating. “Break that addiction to fossil fuels and choose a solution that is sustainable and good for food security worldwide,” said Craeynest.

That “pollution” was not mentioned in the text before this quote, but in the video on the same page they meant: pollution from fossil fuel use. She claims that “gigantic” droughts, storms and extreme weather events (caused by our emissions) let harvests fail. So “Harvests are going down while the demand is going up” and “poor people having to choose between eating or heating”.

Let’s go back to reality. The statements of crop failure were done in the present time. As far as I know storms and droughts are decreasing, not increasing. This is logical because in a warming world where the poles warm quicker than the equator, the temperature difference will be smaller and there will be less storms. So where does she gets that data of the contrary?

Can we see a loss in harvests because of these extreme events already? According to FAO the production of foods is actually increasing. According to their latest report of May 2014 most foods are at a record or near record production. Her claim of crops failure seems not substantiated. Or does she expect the effects of climate change only in the future?

In the FAO report there are some real reasons why food prices are on the rise, such as geopolitical developments like wars (she also acknowledges this further in the interview) and the mandatory mix of ethanol in fuel (which she doesn’t mention).

But what about Haiyan or the drought in North America? These are weather events. I think she conflates climate, climate change and weather. Droughts, storms and extreme weather existed long before we were around, they are here now and without a doubt will continue to exist in the future. Whatever the climate does, we need to be prepared for them.

On the other hand, aren’t fossil fuels the reason why agriculture became MORE productive in the first place? There is a reason why our economies are “addicted” to fossil fuels. They have a high energy potential needed to support for example large scale food production. Converting to “sustainable” energy sources probably would decrease food production, unless other high density energy sources are being used (which are not available yet).

But if storms, droughts and extreme events are not the driving force behind the current price increase, then what is it? It is not Russian gas that is increasing our energy prices, it is also not the fossil fuels, not even coal. At least in this region, it are wind and solar that are very expensive energy forms in need for huge subsidies. These are adding to the energy bill in that way that poor people can’t afford energy anymore (here it is called energy poverty). For example, in Flanders we pay more than 1 billion euro per year (and increasing) on subsidies alone for inland wind/solar/biomass. For a population of about 4.5 – 5 million people. This excluding offshore wind that was directly done via our government (so this will increase taxes).

As mentioned above, there are also crops that are grown for being converted into (bio) fuels in order to make our cars drive. Making food cost higher. Clear example was the 2011-2012 price increase of maize and soybeans. Farmers switched to maize and soybeens from other crops they were growing, combined with the increasing use of corn for ethanol and a slight drop in production drove up food prices worldwide. Ethanol production for use in cars took 27% of the maize produced. The shortage is not in production, but in how it is used.

In the end she got it the other way around! It is not the fossil fuel use that is driving the higher costs for food and energy in the last years. Until now it is the cost of “sustainable” energy that did the trick…

As solid as a chaotic system can be

One of the things that stood out when reading the KNMI’14 report climate scenarios was how it was sold to the readers. The four scenarios of the report were brought as the summun of what we could get. We should have trust in them.

This new generation of climate scenarios are more detailed than ever, both in time and in number of climate variables. Data from fog, solar radiation, humidity, evaporation, drying, and air quality now are also available. Moreover KNMI’14 climate scenarios are regionalized so that the differences in the increase of the temperature between the coastal provinces and the interior are visible.

That is the first time that I heard someone praise regional circulation models! It is not because the models are made more detailed that the accuracy increases in the same way. I could agree with something like this in the hard sciences. But in a utterly complex and chaotic system like climate is, I am not really convinced. They are still trying to model an intrinsic chaotic system and by adding more details, they are also adding more degrees of freedom which make the results even more uncertain. Although the model is more detailed the issues with general circulation models still apply. The results depends on the understanding of the (many elements) of climate and their relations with each other and on the ability to correctly mold these elements in mathematical equations.

It continues:

They show how high the probability is of extreme weather conditions such as heavy rain and hail storms, heat waves and severe frost. In this way the KNMI’14 climate scenarios provide a coherent picture of climate change and the weather of the future.

Nice summery of extreme weather events. Heat waves and severe frost. Is there anything that global warming/climate change can’t do? That indeed will make it a very coherent picture…

The KNMI’14-climate scenarios show that the scientific foundation of 25 year research on climate warming seems to be solid.

Again the “our results confirm earlier research, so it is solid”. Well, yes, but with a standstill in temperature of a decade and a half, there was no increase in temperatures at all for more than half of that research period…

Weather is not climate, unless we say so

Plants in my garden suffering from four, euh, two months of "drought"...

Plants in my garden suffering from four months of “drought”…

Since about six months the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws (The Latest News), seemed to be slowing climate alarmism. I first noticed this when reading their reporting on Haiyan. The reporting on it was surprisingly balanced. But yesterday they apparently couldn’t resist. They wrote an article about our warm winter and warm spring that we are experiencing now, interviewing their (alarmist) weatherwoman (from their paper edition, translated from Dutch):

[…] The weather has lost its bearings. According to official KMI terminology, it is ‘abnormally’ warm now for already five months. And except for February there was also much less rainfall than normal since December. […]
“It is no longer news that the earth is warming”, said Jill Peeters, our weatherwoman. “But when you see these numbers, then it is only becoming clearer. The average temperatures used by KMI, are over the past thirty years. If you were to compare with the start of the measurements, then the differences would be even more extreme”. […]

What happened to global warming? Belgium is roughly a whopping 0.006% of the earth. I have to admit that there are more countries than Belgium with this weather, but she forgot to mention for example the United States, where they had their coldest winter. If our warm winter is some kind of evidence that the earth is warming, why is the current cold winter in the United States or our “winter that never ended” just from last year, not evidence that the theory is not coping well? She has no problem with that (translated from Dutch):

The earth is warming up, but within that upward trend there will always be variability.

Here you have it. When it is a warm winter, apparently it is more evidence of global warming. When it is a cold winter, it is just natural variability… In that sense global warming can never be falsifiable and is always true. No matter what the observations are.

I agree that the temperatures rose in the last thirty years and even more in the last 160 years. But this doesn’t necessarily means that humans were the primary cause or that it is catastrophic in nature. It could as well be a recovery from the Little Ice Age. Looking at the longer term datasets cycles of about 60 years become visible. So her definition of 30 years for climate is only a measly half of one cycle, more specifically the upwards part of it. When one takes the satellite dataset (that should be the most accurate globally) temperatures didn’t rise much from the end of the 1970s on and it didn’t rise at all for a decade and a half now. Although we pumped an unprecedented amount of CO2 in the atmosphere during that period.

That would let the temperature rise dangerously.

By 2100.

Or so.

There seemingly wasn’t enough hyperbole until that point in the article. This is how she concludes (translated from Dutch):

The weatherwoman hopes that the weather makes a jump again. “And I’m talking mostly about the drought. If the coming months bring so little rain, then we really will really suffer a long heat wave. We should not hope for that. Nature is in full bloom, but therefor she needs plenty of water, and there is too little of that now.

While it had rained less than normal in most of those months it is not that it didn’t rain. She said that “except for February there was much less rain than normal since December”. This gives the (false) impression that it was much too dry in this period (except for one month). This is her own data:

Month Average (mm) Precipitation (mm)
December 2013 81 77.1
January 2014 76.1 70.1
February 2014 63.1 66.2
March 2014 70 18
April 2014 51.3 20.1

December 2013 and January 2014 were slightly below average, February 2014 was above average and only the two last months rainfall were well below average (before that, November 2013 was extremely wet, almost doubling the average for that month).

A couple months with below average rainfall is nothing special in Belgium. It happened before, it certainly will happen again. That is what averages are. Sometimes less, sometimes more. By the way, most projections for Belgium are about more precipitation in the future and we are told to worry about that. Now we should start worrying about droughts in the future too? Unless climate is changing within the time span of a couple months, the chance that this “drought” will last for long is very small. Even before her article went to press, a rain zone crossed our country and even more rain is forecasted for next week. So much for the drought.

I remember vividly the times that global warmers were saying that “weather is not climate” when they got stuck for an explanation. Now they even have to resort to the variability of weather to make their case…

Everybody agrees that everything indicates that insurance companies love climate change

Saturday evening a fierce thunderstorm moved through Belgium. Locally it was very strong, especially the coastal areas were hit. A lot of damage was done by wind shear, heavy rain and lightning to properties. Fortunately the area were I live was hardly affected. Winter storms in Belgium are quite rare, but from time to time they do happen and they can do quite some damage.

My guess was that soon someone, somewhere will surely attribute this to climate change. I didn’t had to wait for long. Reading the newspaper “Het Nieuwsblad” I read what Wauthier Robyns of the insurance umbrella organisation Assuralia said (my emphasis)

Robyns says the insurance companies increasingly have to take into account extreme weather events such as this weekend. “Because everyone agrees that gradual climate change lead to more storms, and in any case to more rainfall,” he says. Everything indicates that we will face this type of storm more often in the future.

Quite dramatic, but completely devoid of observational evidence. I was very surprised to see those “everyone knows” and “everything indicates” statements when no data points in that direction. Luckily the reporter showed both sides:

But weather forecasters Dehenauw and Sabine Hagedoren don’t want to confirm that. “There is no statistical data that proves that thunder storms are now worse than before, or that we now experience more wind shear or whirlwinds than before,” says Dehenauw.

I heard the same from another weatherman, that those severe storms are not on the increase. On the contrary, we were spared in recent years. On average the frequency of those fierce storms is not higher or lower than before.

So what is this insurance guys talking about? They study the risk of extreme events, so he should know if the frequency of storms increases or not, without relying on ad populum arguments. He obviously didn’t look at the data at all and just parroted what he heard from others. It worries me to hear such absolute certainties, in the face of contrary observations, from someone who should know better.

Climate change is causing more storms, politically speaking that is

On the VRT news of January 22, 2014 there was the item of the new climate plan of the European Commission. It was brought as some kind of triumph. Although there are no binding targets to the member states, we, the European, were doing their part, now it is waiting for the rest of the world. Something like that.

New is that also some objections from some politicians were noted and there was even a representative of the industry who was asked for their standpoint. The representative was, how would you guessed it, very sympathetic to the cause, although making the remark that less binding targets is good for the industry.

But of course there was the rigid hyperbole from the environmental organization, this time from Mathias Bienstman of Bond Beter Leefmilieu (translatable as Federation Better Environment). This is what he, clearly displeased, said (translated from Dutch):

The proposal falls somewhat short. The first objective of the plan is to protect the population against dangerous climate change. Against more storms, rising sea levels. And we know from the science that these objectives being pushed forward, do not do that sufficient. So we demand a larger reduction of pollution from greenhouse gases by 2030.

They didn’t like the plan, no surprises here. The statements that the population has “to be protected against dangerous climate change” and pollution from greenhouse gases are rather dramatic. In a situation that gets better than any time before. Crying wolf come to mind. As far as I know the greenhouse gas theory is still a theory, something that is not proven yet. But yet it was stated as if it is the absolute truth with a certainty that frightens me. I didn’t expect anything else. Het probably didn’t even questioned it anymore, he took that for granted.

But what surprised me was very much was that he said “more storms”, huh, more STORMS?!?! Did he really say that? Yes, he certainly said that. But this belief that greenhouse gases create more storms has been debunked thoroughly. The observations show a decline of storm events. Even the IPCC didn’t had much faith in it.

That is not surpising. In a world where the poles warm faster than the rest of the planet, wouldn’t it be more logical that there is less temperature difference and therefor less storms?

Did scientists said that storms would be more frequent? As far as I know scientists exhaust themselfs that they can’t attribute a storm to global warming or climate change? At best they compare it to a loaded dice, but add much more studies still need to be done. Even the IPCC had low confidence in an increase in storms due to anthropogenic causes.

But maybe he meant storms not somewhere else in the world, but here in our area? So, are there more storms in our little country? Not according to Frank Deboosere (a Belgian weatherman) (translated from Dutch)

[…]

Between January 25, 1990 and March 1, 1990 our country was hit by several severe storms. Back then it was stated that there would be more such storms in the future. That has not happened. On the contrary, Belgium was spared from fierce storms in recent years.

[…]

On average, the frequency of storms is not higher or lower than before. However it is true that bad weather is now much more discussed in the media than before.

That is something I can agree with, storms do have more covearge by the media than ever in the past, therefor it could give the impression that storms are more frequent or stronger than before. This is more frequent coverage of storms, not more frequent storms. This is also true globally.

But maybe he meant there are more heavy storms in our area? I couldn’t find data from Belgium, but I did find data about strong storms in The Netherlands (Dutch). There is a list of storms with winds of at least 100 km/hour (highest value per hour):

Year Date
1911 September 30-Okt 1
1913 December 26-27
1914 December 28-29
1920 January 11
1921 November 6
1928 November 25
1943 April 7
1944 September 7
1949 March 1
1953 January 31-February 1
1954 December 21
1972 November 13
1973 April 2
1976 January 2-3
1978 March 16
1983 November 27
1990 January 25
2002 Oktober 27
2013 Oktober 28

What strikes me when looking at the numbers is that there were much more heavy storms in the first half than the second half of this period. If we calculate the number of days of storms, this becomes even more clear. This seem to be in line with global data.

vrtnieuws_donderwolk

But maybe he meant thunderstorms? The background in the newstudio was a picture of a thunderstorm. But in Dutch there is no “storm” in thunderstorm, we call it “onweer”.

But, but, weren’t there many reports and articles that stated that there would be an increase and that storms are linked to global warming? Well yes, there were numerous. Just look at the coverage of Katrina, Sandy, Haiyan. Politicians and green activists did their very best to claim this link. The climate expert from Bond Beter Leefmilieu seems to be no exception.