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.

Continue reading

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?!

Continue reading

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.

The polar Vortex doesn’t disprove global warming. Sure, but that is no big deal actually.

There was lots of talking about the polar vortex this week. Even in this tiny country, which wasn’t affected by the freezing temperatures (yet), the media was full of the polar vortex that made the freezing temperatures in Northern America possible. The media was assuring us that this cold snap was the result of global warming (but a lot carefully avoided calling it global warming and diplomatically called it climate change).

This is basically how the media said it works: it is the result of the rapid melting of Arctic sea ice because of climate change. This decreases the albedo of the Arctic region and as a result it heats up faster than other parts of the Earth. The temperature difference between the Arctic and the southern regions determines the strength of the jet stream. If the jet stream is strong, it isolates the cold Arctic from the warmer mid latitudes. But because of this melt the jet stream becomes weaker and more wavy, allowing cold air (usually confined to the poles) to reach further into the mid latitudes. Et voilà, global warming/climate change caused the severe cold snap. John Holdren, the science advisor of President Obama, even went that far to state that because of this process those deep freeze cold snaps will occur more frequent in the future.

But in general, I can agree with the statement that current cold wave doesn’t disprove global warming. Yet, while it is a nice explanation of the assumed mechanism, it doesn’t prove global warming either. It only proves that media and scientists are creative in finding new ways to fit new events into the theory. AFTER the facts, that is. That’s not difficult, that is what humans are good at, finding connections between seemingly unconnected things.

But deep freeze winters due to the weakening of the jet stream is nothing new. In the 1970s it was used to explain the coming of a new ice age. Younger people may think the weather we see now is unprecedented, but it is not that extreme, nor unprecedented when looking at it over a larger time frame. Remove the hype and there is not much of a story left. Holdren, as a crusader of the coming new Ice Age in the 1970s, should at least recognize that.

How much of this is due to anthropogenic causes? The theory seem to rely on polar amplification. That is a real process, but it doesn’t prove anything about the anthropogenic nature of the warming. Any warming would have that effect, whether it is natural, anthropogenic or both. By the way, the outbreak of cold is also part of the negative phase of the Northern Atlantic Oscillation, which is a natural pattern.

To me it seems yet another patch on a wound of a heavily bruised theory that continue to limp further. I didn’t hear anything about having a higher frequency of very cold winters as a result of global warming/climate change until recently. On the contrary. I heard a lot about more heatwaves, higher temperatures at night, more droughts, more storms, less to no snow,… sure, but very cold winters? No. When it started to snow massively in 2010, suddenly snow became a result of global warming or at least not impossible in a warming world. It seems the same with the cold winters due to the melting ice. Just adding to the possible explanations and covering an additional hole without elimination other ones.

I would be more impressed if scientists came with new falsifiable hypotheses/predictions (based on the global warming theory) about these snowy winters. Now we only hear after the facts that this is not impossible in a warming world or doesn’t disprove global warming. Which is not a big deal actually.

The need to compensate for hurricane damages caused by imaginary increasing temperatures

Last week this tweet caught my attention.


20131011breakitfixit_hurricanes

It goes back to the article: You Break It, You Fix It: Why Carbon Polluters Should Pay for Hurricane Damage.

On the one hand I can image what they are talking about, but on the other hand I think it is not as simple as they show it.

This is what I can understand: if I go to a china shop and break a vase, then I will have to dig up my wallet and pay for the damage. The price tag of the vase at that time is the amount of money that will go off my bank account. If I bump into the vase and it falls down there is no doubt that I was the culprit. Action and reaction. Action and direct reaction. But in the real world this is not as sharply aligned as in above example. With hurricanes things are a lot less clear. This direct action/reaction is absent.

This is how the article puts it: the emission of CO2 drives the temperature rise (they call it with its name: “global warming”) which raises sea level rise and this makes hurricanes stronger (because of a higher surge).

There are some problems with this. Although CO2 is increasing and at the highest point in the last century, there is a pause in global temperature of a decade and a half. So much for CO2 causing global warming. Also hurricanes seem to be declining. Sandy and Irene were hyped big time and no attention that they became rare examples. Compare that with the end of last century when CO2 levels were much lower.

The sea level is rising, at least in most places, but it was already rising before CO2 got traction in the 1950s-1960s. What part is natural and what part is anthropogenic?

Even the IPCC was not really confident about attribution of hurricanes and climate sensitivity. Although they didn’t say it with that many words, they lowered the climate sensitivity (the warming we could expect for a doubling of CO2 levels). If this is much lower then previously assumed and no warming was observed in the last 1.5 decade and hurricanes are on the decrease, how can this CO2 then be the main culprit of those hurricane damages?

The example of the china chop was not really a good one. It would be a good analogy when man is causing hurricanes. Even the article doesn’t say that. They say man makes it worse. So, suppose the vases in that shops fall to smithereens on a regular basis for whatever reason. If the person now comes into the shop and a specific vase drops to the ground, how much was the person responsible for the falling of that specific vase?

Now more philosophically: assume that CO2 is really linked with hurricane damages and carbon emitters have to pay for the damages. What if there are less (stronger) hurricanes. Do they get a, ahem, refund?

When thinking about it more deeper, the link between CO2 and hurricanes is not clear as the writers of the tweet and the article want us to believe. It involves lots of assumptions and ignoring observational data. Saying “carbon polluters” should pay for the damages of hurricanes implies a clear connection which just is not there. But it sure sounds nice and powerful. Let’s say this is more a political message rather than a scientific one.

Connecting the dots of a vicious circle

It is amazing to see that we exactly get what we were hoping for all along, but yet scientists and the media always seem to find new causes for alarm. No observation seem to sooth the alarmist mind. Now they don’t have that much ammunition (low storm frequency, pause in global temperatures, colder winters, more snow,… despite the “unprecedented” amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere) they seem to go for more virtual treats. The media, gullible as ever, reports on it without questioning it and even takes it a step further. This post will look into an instructive example of such a synergy between science and media…

It was an item on the VRT (Flemish Radio and Television) news of August 15, 2013 called “Global Warming – Vicious Circle”. I did miss it when it appeared on television, I was still bickering on one of previous posts at that time. Later when it caught my attention, it was already removed from the VRT newssite, but the link to the video was still available on other news sites. For example Het Nieuwblad or De Standaard (video is in Dutch, but translation in English is below).

I found it was related to this press release and based on a Nature article from which this is the abstract. The article had a whopping 18 authors.

This is how the news was presented:

[News anchor]
Due to climate change there will be more and more intense heat waves, bigger droughts and severe storms and the consequences will also further accelerate climate change. According to research from which the results are in Nature today and in which the University of Antwerp also cooperated.

Wow. That’s quite a misrepresentation. Unless the scientists did an entire parallel investigation which they didn’t feel necessary to put in the abstract, this was NOT the object of the study at all. They studied the effects of storms and heath waves on the CO2 uptake of the ecosystem in a climate model. They didn’t study the effect of climate change on heat waves, droughts or severe storms. In fact, it was the other way around. It was their assumption that those events would increase. Everything else follows from that assumption.

[Journalist, about the images of someone working in dusty, dry soil, cueing into the back of two legs on a cracked soil]
We see these images more and more worldwide: drought due to global warming.

Vicious Circle: Back of legs of someone walking over a cracked soil

Vicious Circle: Back of legs of someone walking over a cracked soil

Sure, but we got also a lot more communication tools than ever before. When I was little we also got loads of images of drought in the Horn of Africa. Now there are much more images of course. Not necessarily because there is more drought, but because we get more media coverage than ever before.

[Journalist]
And that warming is caused in part by CO2 we emit. Up to now nature could save a part of these human emissions.

“Up to now”. Meaning not anymore???

[Scientist: Sara Vicca]
Previously, the ecosystems served as a buffer for CO2 emissions. Without this buffer, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere would much higher than it is now.

[Journalist, again the back of two legs over a barren soil]
An international team has now discovered that nature is losing the possibility to buffer, as a result of global warming.

Vicious Circle: Again someone walking over barren land

Vicious Circle: Again someone walking over barren land

“Discovered” is a strong term for what was investigated, from the Nature abstract (my bolding):

But evidence is mounting that climate extremes such as droughts or storms can lead to a decrease in regional ecosystem carbon stocks and therefore have the potential to negate an expected increase in terrestrial carbon uptake.

That is a lot of if’s and but’s. That is not even close to “discovering”. To me, discovering means finding something new, not mounting a bunch of possible outcomes on a stack.

[Scientist: Sara Vicca]
When it is too dry, plants will close the stomata (the leaves have small holes which absorbs CO2, but also loses water) and when it becomes too dry then that stomata will close and CO2 uptake decreases.

But, but…the last years climate scientists in the media have exhausted themselves in explaining us that a warmer world means a wetter world. The science was soooo incredibly clear. Higher temperatures means more evaporation, more evaporation means more clouds and more clouds means more precipitation. That also what we see in reality, you know, the real data. Didn’t those guys and gals received the memo? Or did the science suddenly changed and are they the first to report it?

[Journalist, with dramatic images of a forest fire threatening a house, cueing into an image of a storm]
Beside this there will also be more forest fires due to the drought and more storms due to climate change. And yet another loss of nature and buffer. Scientists fear that the damage is irreversible soon.

Vicious Circle: Forest Fire threatening a house

Vicious Circle: Forest Fire threatening a house

Vicious Circle: Storm

Vicious Circle: Storm

[Scientist: Sara Vicca]
This means that the ecosystem itself will increase the CO2 concentration in the air and that man really can not intervene anymore. So that the ecosystem itself stampedes out of control.

There is that pesky death spiral again. By growing older, I became more familiar with it. About any climate scare had it, the coming ice age, the ozone hole, acid rain, now global warming a.k.a. climate change or climate disruption has many of those death spirals. At their time they were taken seriously, but after the scare they were only ridiculed.

[Journalist]
And then we better get used to a more extreme climate and this kind of images of the Belgian coast.

Vicious Circle: Thundercloud over the beach

Vicious Circle: Thundercloud over the beach

vicieuzecirkel12_small

Vicious Circle: Storm at the coast

That is a rather weak ending compared to the graphic images of the rest of this item. They could at least show some real extreme events in stead of a rainy cloud at the coast and happily strolling people. I have no idea why they do it like this, but I have seen this before (reporting of global warming mostly somewhere else).

In conclusion they said that climate change will increase the number of droughts/storms/forest fires and the ecosystem that takes up an amount of CO2 will be less able to do so and even contributes to the CO2 output (forest fires means more CO2 in the air and less carbon sequestered in the ecosystem). If I would hear this as an unprepared layman, I would certainly connect the dots and think this is yet more evidence building up that we humans are causing all these events.

The question to ask of course: are droughts, storms and forest fires actually increasing? We hear the media breathlessly reporting that they are increasing without a doubt and we are the ones responsible for it. With every storm we hear the media using it as an example of extreme weather and we hear these types of events are on the increase because of global warming. The same with droughts. They are connected to global warming/climate change due to greenhouse gases and we should do something about it. We hear a lot about forest fires, also in connection with these “increasing droughts”. They are being reported as more frequent and over a larger area than ever.

According to the special report of the IPCC “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” (2012), there is not much confidence that droughts and storms are increasing. In their press release they don’t even mention droughts or storms!

That is exactly what the real world data seem to say. The global tropical cyclone frequency seems to go slowly downwards. The Accumulated Cyclone Energy decreased tremendously in the last seven years. There seems to be a small decrease in frequency over time and a large decrease in intensity. We are at the bottom part of the observed trend.

From Tropical Cyclone Activity Dr. Ryan N. Maue


Global ACE

Global Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE)

What about the forest fires in North America that are on the increase? Contrary to the common perception North America’s forest fires seem to decrease in frequency as well as in area. When one looks at the data this seems to be a perception problem rather than a forest fire problem. Most probably because of more people living in the areas prone to forest fires and more media attention.

The same with drought. We hear from the media that these forest fires are increasing because the drought is increasing, but when we look at the data there is not much of a trend. If there is one it is slightly becoming wetter. Also here, more a perception problem than an increase in drought problem.

Via the GHCN viewer (negative values mean dryer conditions, positive values wetter conditions)


Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI)

Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI)

But how do we known then that these events will increase if it is not from the observed data? Not everybody checks the data. The journalists of the VRT news obviously didn’t and assumed that what most scientists and activists said must (still) be true. Not much people do their homework and the same things are perpetuated in the media. Which makes other people get the impression this is ever increasing mounting of evidence. Another reason could be the models, something that is not understood well by the layman. The output of climate models is not “evidence” as we assume it is. Models offer “what if” scenarios on the assumption put in by the scientists. The results are various “scenario’s” of things that could happen (if the assumptions made were correct).

This story illustrates the issues with not checking facts. Scientists ran a climate model, took some scary scenarios, brought it to the media that didn’t even questioning it and dressed it up a bit with emotional charged images. I found this example from the VRT news rather extreme, but that is how it works.

What is the result? The public has again a doses of global-warming-is-caused-by-us-and-getting-worse meme, although this is not suggested by the observational data. That is how the momentum is (still) being build. And that’s the REAL vicious circle…